03 Jul, 2010

Chance encounters

Posted by: admin In: Guardian

A Dutch artist who enlists snails, smoke and water birds to make disorder look beautiful

From Leonardo’s experiments with flight to Damien Hirst’s Pharmacy, art and science have a long history. In the hands of young Dutch artist Semâ Bekirovic, however, this double act seems an endlessly fascinating, human quirk.

The 32-year-old Amsterdam-based artist tackles the ongoing struggle between culture and nature with wit and offbeat intelligence. Though her work includes sculpture, video, photography and drawing, it often feels more like an experiment with chance. She’s made a sculpture from smoke contained in a glass box, and she’s used snails to mess up the simple order of a geometric drawing with a random trail of slime. What looked like a series of abstract geometric spray paintings were actually incinerated wooden shelves, rescued from a house fire.

Bekirovic brings a touching sense of futility to these attempts to harness disorder, summed up in her photographic series, Maps. This depicts large paper maps crumpled into the shape of mountains, or draped like waterfalls – their cartography an even paler imitation of the real thing than the artist’s ad-hoc sculptures.

Ideas from the realm of physics have recently caught Bekirovic’s interest. Her current exhibition, at London’s Hayward Project Space, riffs on the relationship between matter, space and the friction between the two. Here those classic instruments of chance, white dice – fresh from the factory, paint-free – have been configured into an ethereal-looking sculpture, hanging from the ceiling like a wisp of cloud or an atomic model. In one of the show’s video works, a man dressed as a black hole walks towards the camera until the big circle of nothingness on his chest seems to swallow everything. The world might be chaotic, she suggests, but that doesn’t stop us trying to give it shape.

Why we like her: In Koet (2007), an ingenious piece of animal art, , Bekirovic collaborated with coots, coaxing the water birds into building their nests with her own possessions. Realised as a photobook and slide show, the work shows the birds making off with money, bits of comic book, pink ribbons and photos, and weaving them into hippyish, ragtag nests. It’s an endearing experiment in letting go – both of your material belongings and artistic control.

Daddy cool: Bekirovic says her romantic image of science goes back to her dad: a trained physicist and backyard inventor. His greatest creation was a magic carpet, which he explained to his children in a series of highly detailed diagrams. If challenged on its veracity, he would claim that the only thing preventing him making it were the materials – far too expensive.

Where can I see her? Semâ Bekirovic: Matters in Space is at the Hayward Project Space until 25 July 2010. It’s part of See Further: The Festival of Science and Arts celebrating 350 years of the Royal Society.

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