A kaleidoscope, much like human identity can be misleading.
What seems to be— to the naked eye— an outwardly clear-cut cylinder object is anything but with a closer look. Inside, a world of beautiful patterns and images awaits to enthrall the beholder. Every turn of the kaleidoscope is a new journey. Unusual designs take shape as a variety of colourful objects dance in the middle of an arranged audience of mirrors. These mirrors reflect, from their vantage point, collectively but uniquely the different angles of these dancing pieces in an overall but ever-changing ensemble, projected in the core of this three-dimensional object.
With this striking analogy, Sevin sets the backdrop of her upcoming exhibition, Passengers of a Kaleidoscopic Journey, where she will bring together, at the end of October, thirty-three artists from Los Angeles, Berlin and Istanbul to demonstrate their kaleidoscopic vision on the human disposition. Supporting open-minded creativity, her exhibit will showcase the performances, paintings, photographs, sculptures, projections, as well as the installations of the invited artists to celebrate diversity in all its interpretations.
Being a child of diversity herself in Germany, with Turkish immigrant parents, and a cross- continental career taking her to Berlin, Paris, Istanbul, L.A and back, Sevin learned relatively early— like philosopher Wolfgang Welsch— that traditional ideas of identity do not respond to the complexity of our modern world.
My whole essence is focused on overlapping boundaries, and presenting the other dimensions of the human experience, not visible to the common eye.
We live within a European Union where its inhabitants are still defining themselves by their nationalities, while, at the same time, their globalised economic context exposes them to new cultures, values, habits, and people. As this unyielding understanding of identity comes across other identities, this creates confusion, even fear of the other.
Today, Sevin is witnessing first-hand the transformation of major European capitals such as Berlin and Paris into globalised hubs in perpetual movement, integrating at an intimidatingly swift pace new faces, cultures, and perspectives. Her vision, presented in her Reflexion Cities series, portrays the ephemeral moments of cosmopolitan cities such as Paris, Berlin, Rome, Istanbul, New York, San Francisco and LA, and their evolving landscapes through the perspectives of its various residents.
Each of these cities are moving differently in our current context, and these movements are beautiful. However, they have also created complicated situations.
Refocusing her attention on her home environment, Sevin feels like Europe is going through a dangerous identity-crisis.
As the effect of cultural globalisation speed up, and manifests itself in European cities, I feel like the traditional idea of identity is becoming more rigid, more uncompromising… and the growing populist movement in Europe is quite telling.
Sevin wants to change this fear of the “other”, by uncovering the beauty of “otherness” in us all. She believes that human identity has always been, throughout history, multi-dimensional and ever-changing. For instance “even before Germany had an influx of immigrants, there was a sense of ‘otherness’ when a Bavarian would move to Munich. We don’t realize it, but this is still the case today.” Sevin does not view her German culture as frozen, she understands that it has multiple layers and is perpetually evolving. And identifying oneself beyond the German culture does not make any German less German.
You don’t have to be an immigrant to have multiple layers. If we go beyond culture or ideology, our identity is also impacted by our gender, sexual orientation, age, etc. But I think a lot of people are not fully aware of this.
In her series of photos, Sevin has delved, not only in the movement of cities, but she has also used the power of her lens to portray a different vision of urban artists, immigrants, body types, and alternative fashion trends. She does this while taking into account three factors: her subject’s bodies and respective aesthetics, their personalities in conjunction with their work and upbringing, and the environments in which they thrive.
The patterns of a kaleidoscope are very much dependent on the way its body turns, the composition and dance of the lose pieces from within, and the variations of light provided by its surrounding… and the beauty of this is that no single pattern produced resembles another. For me, humans are the same.
As a photographer, Sevin trusts that she can capture the vast beauty of all human beings in the glory of their complexity, within this very new frontier of globalisation.
You should know that I have always been a dreamer of beautiful things… beautiful realities. For me, it was a means to survive. Coming from a migrant family of labourers lacking education… well… growing up, aesthetics in my life was limited. I had no room for myself, no fancy trips, or even cultural activities. To top it off, fights between my parents were a constant. Having a controlling father, after a certain age, I couldn’t just leave or escape from time to time. Dreaming provided that escape. I could imagine another lifestyle, another reality. I know this might seem like a sad story to some… but, I feel like this experience gave me superpowers! It allowed me to sharpen my ability to imagine, be visionary, and make things beautiful. And beauty has power.
Sevin believes that if our effort is to better understand each other and our changing identities, we need to foster at the core of every citizen values of humanism, universalism and tolerance, so that the “other” does not scare, but instead inspires. And to Sevin, beauty inspires, and could perhaps move those clinging to their increasingly static vision of identity.
As an artist, I see the world differently. It is my responsibility, my calling even, to capture the mysterious or misunderstood parts of the turning kaleidoscope, and render it accessible and beautiful to others.” Sevin considers that all humans have a fundamental role to play in translating the human kaleidoscope. “Sure, maybe my personal engagement might not seem so significant in this great big world. However, if everyone viewed their role as insignificant, then change would never be possible.
And to Sevin, if all artists foster this collective consciousness, then just maybe this change in minds-set can happen sooner than we expect. With her exhibition in October, Sevin hopes that this shared effort can counter the hateful populist rhetoric vis-à-vis immigrants, and any form of otherness, by staging the positive impacts of diversity in our fast-moving societies.
My goal is to make people understand that ‘the other’ can be found in all of us, and that ultimately everyone is turning in their kaleidoscope. Not just Semra Sevin!
PASSENGERS OF A KALEIDOSCOPIC JOURNEY curated by Semra Sevin
PRESS PREVIEW: September 27 | 5PM | light refreshments
OPENING: September 28 | 7PM
AFTER PARTY: 22.30 – Open End
EXHIBITION PERIOD: September 28 –October 06, 2018 HOURS: 3–8PM
ADDRESS: Ehemalige Tabakfabrik Heidelberger Platz | Forckenbeckstr. 89 | 14199 Berlin | Germany
Author: Emeh Jailani