Šejla Kamerić, What Do I Know, 2007, HD video transferred to 35 mm, color, sound, 15 minutes 51 seconds.

Šejla Kamerić, What Do I Know, 2007, HD video transferred to 35 mm, color, sound, 15 minutes 51 seconds.

Šejla Kameric

Šejla Kamerić, What Do I Know, 2007, HD video transferred to 35 mm, color, sound, 15 minutes 51 seconds.

Šejla Kamerić’s solo show “When the Heart Goes Bing Bam Boom” was packed with more visitors than you might expect at a nonprofit art space; perhaps the title struck a chord with the people of this nervous city. Placed at the building’s entrance, the giant teddy bear BFF, 2015, made of secondhand clothing, fur, leather, fabric, and used plastic bottles, and Liberty, 2015, an installation using Plexiglas letters, LED lights, and metal spikes, probably helped attract curiosity-seekers from the streets. The teddy bear is out of all proportion to genuine love. Liberty is basically an old store sign (the spikes are to keep birds off): Consumption affects everyone and is easily mistaken for freedom.

Adding to the interest in Kamerić’s work is the fact that she is a Bosnian who has experienced the atrocities of war and a sense of “otherness” in the middle of Europe—major issues of concern today, especially in Turkey. Many works on view addressed these subjects: The hauntingly beautiful four-channel video installation What Do I Know, 2007, the HD video 1395 Days Without Red, 2011, and the powerful public project Bosnian Girl, 2003 (represented here by a 2007 silk screen on canvas), are all about Bosnia and were produced on location in Sarajevo, but their appeal is universal because they convey a sense of ruin and threat to which many can relate. Whispers of dead children or the face of a woman in constant fear of being shot by a sniper—such sounds and images are especially accessible for audiences in countries at war or threatened by terrorism. Kamerić continues to explore fear and the experience of loss via indirect references and lapses in time in other works such as Remains, 2006, about a Bosnian woman, Ferida Osmanovic, who hung herself after she was raped during the war. The work is composed of a two-channel video installation and a vintage dress—which, through its hollow shell hung in space, expresses the body of a woman through that body’s nonexistence—surrounded by a woman’s soft voice reading a text projected beside dreamlike images of a forest. Another work that communicates sorrow is Dream House, 2002, a looped video projected on a white curtain, based on a house built by the United Nations Refugee Agency. Here again there are no human figures, but an aura of pain and loss looms heavily.

The sufferings of war—both its immediate and later effects—are continuous references in Kamerić’s works. Many of her installations include charged objects reminiscent of personal and communal pain, such as bullet marks, canned goods, pillows, and used clothing. The condition of being a refugee and social conflict are themes in her public interventions as well: She questions the divisions between people in EU/Others, 2000, which entailed the placement of street signs reading EU and OTHERS in Ljubljana, Slovenia (and also in Klagenfurt, Germany, in 2011), and Closing the Border, 2002, in which the border between the municipality of San Leo, Italy, and Chiesanuova, a township of the Republic of San Marino, was closed for thirty minutes. Documentary videos on these two projects were shown back-to-back on a small screen.

Not all of the thirty-six works presented in this exhibition were equally strong. At times Kamerić’s personal objects, self-portraits, and takes on popular images can become too obvious—for instance the light-box photograph Sorrow, 2015, based on a famous drawing by van Gogh, or Embarazada, 2015, a photo of the artist wearing a Pierrot mask. Kamerić doesn’t need repetitious, trendy material to reach a broader audience; the crowds already appreciate her more intricate and soulful works.

Mine Haydaroglu