In stark contrast to the work of Marianne Lindberg De Geer, whom we wrote about in the last issue, is the quieter, meditative work of Cana Bilir-Meier. Bilir-Meier’s work grapples with the ethical dimensions of archiving and researching family histories. Drawing heavily from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s 1999 book Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Bilir-Meier asks questions about who owns a family archive and who could benefit from the dissemination of it.
Bilir-Meier’s video Semra Ertan (2013, 7:30 minutes) is a visual poem that seeks to “respectfully hand[le]” the tragic life of Semra Ertan, a 25-year old Turkish poet, draughtswoman, and interpreter who set herself on fire in Kiel, Germany, in 1982. This act was done in protest against the racism Ertan and other migrants experienced in Germany. The film contains fragments of her poetry, footage of interviews with her, as well as more personal artefacts such as images from her funeral and details of rental contracts.
Meier’s second installation, Audio Tape Index (2016, 10 minutes), presents the audience with a computer desktop. Here, a narrative is gently revealed through an exploration of the various windows and lists found within the interface. Audience members are privy to everything from personal postcards, to newspaper clippings detailing the story of Gani Bilir, a man who demonstrated immense generosity in the face of adversity.
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 won the 2016 Birgit Jürgenssen Award for her video works. Since 2016, she has been a member of the selection committee for short films at the Kassel Documentary and Video Festival.
Semra Ertan and Audio Tape Index – Cana Bilir-Meier,
Tensta Konsthall. On display until 24 September.
Guided tours are available every Thursday and Saturday at 14:00.
Words: Daisy Fernandez