They were, those people, a kind of solution

The project They were, those people, a kind of solution is funded through European Union’s Creative Europe program.

Semra Ertan and Audio Tape Index

Cana Bilir-Meier
Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm
05/07/2017 – 24/9/2017

Semra Ertan and Audio Tape Index by Cana Bilir-Meier. In 1982, a 25-year-old poet, draughtswoman, and interpreter from Turkey set herself on fire in the German city of Kiel. This violent act was a protest against the racism that she and other migrants where experiencing in Germany. Many of them were guest workers who, in the words of the poet, were used by her old as well as her new homeland: "my country sold us abroad". The suicide was reported by the media in both countries and triggered the composer Enjott Schneider to compose an octet in memory of the young woman. As part of Tensta Museum Continues.

Semra Ertan’s story is the starting point for Cana Bilir-Meier’s video Semra Ertan (2013, 7:30 minutes), which can be described as a filmic poem. Fragments of Ertan’s 350 poems, footage from interviews with her, glimpses from the funeral, family photographs, and details of rental contracts are interwoven with "visual pauses"—empty images which help prevent the impression of a seamless story. The film is not a portrait or a biography, but rather an attempt at "respectful handling of her-story", according the artist herself. Ertan’s poetry, Bilir Meier’s images, and Schneider’s quietly dramatic music remind us of the life and work of a young woman.

Interspersed are questions that anybody dealing with research, whether an artist or not, is familiar with: "whose research is it?", "how will its results be disseminated?", "who will benefit from it?", and "who owns it?". The questions are quotes from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s 1999 book Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, which likewise pointed to crucial issues when regarding a family archive.

Cana Bilir-Meier lives and works in Vienna and Munich. She obtained her art degree from Vienna Fine Arts Academy, the Department of Media Arts and Arts and Education, and Sabancı University in Istanbul. She has worked as a teacher, as a guest lecturer in different universities, and in a yearlong artistic-educational based research project of HKW (Haus der Kulturen der Welt) in Berlin from 2016–17.