Mamut Limited Vol.1 pop-up, the first exhibition of the Mamut Art Project team's Mamut Limited (Artist Editions) project, which aims to meet all creative people working in different fields and techniques from visual arts to design, music to fashion, took place at Yapı Kredi bomontiada between September 16-October 1, 2023. We are introducing the artists of this year's Mamut Limited, which will present special selections throughout the year on its online platform mamutlimited.com. Our twelfth guest is Edze Ali.
Let’s start by talking about your artistic journey. You studied sociology at Mimar Sinan University, and art history at Cyril and Methodius University respectively. What inspired you to became an artist and how did you start making art?
I just felt that I had merged with this form of expression in the pursuit of my curiosity and interest in understanding things. I usually go with the flow in my life, without any plans. When I was graduating high school, everyone knew what they wanted and which area they would pursue. I couldn’t decide until the very last moment. I thought that studying art history would be good for me, so I chose that department.
I have been interested in photography since my childhood, but I could not convince my family to buy a camera. Studying art history was an advantage for me because I told my parents that I had a photography class and convinced them to buy a camera. That is how it all started. With that, my camera became an extension of everything I’ve been through. Since then I've been exploring and recording things that have come my way. During the first months of taking pictures, I was offered an exhibition, which was something I never expected.
When I came to Istanbul, I was actually planning study photography but than I came across Zygmunt Bauman's book Thinking Sociologically and an interview of Sebastiao Salgado. “If you are young and have time, study sociology, anthropology, geopolitics. Why do you really take photos? Read to understand. Read to understand what you can photograph and what you should photograph” says Salgado. It was a turning point for me. Instead of learning techniques, I preferred to understand conceptual structures and express myself better.
People go on vacation to get away from their problems and stay with themselves. But no matter how hard we try to get away, I feel like we can't escape the existential anxieties. I usually photograph those moments on the beaches.
How does your local culture and environment influence your artistic work? Do materials and techniques find an echo in this network of interaction?
I am a Macedonian born and raised. I moved to Istanbul in my 20s and lived there for 10 years. When I decided to return to Macedonia for a while last year, I understood better the impact of the local culture and environment on my work. Even though the Balkans seem to be a warm and friendly culture, they are inherently conservative, and I grew up in that culture. When I moved back to Macedonia, I realized more that I was a bit reserved and shy when expressing myself. When I returned here, I focused on my own story and recently opened the exhibition Somewhere in Between: A Journey to the Unknown in the house where I was born and raised. This was an incredibly difficult process for me. I completely transformed my childhood home into a field of experience.
The exhibition consists of three parts: photos I took, family photos from the archive and video. By adding videos, I went a little beyond the technical field I expected from myself. On this occasion, it was good for me to see that I could create new ways of expression for myself by accepting the influence of local culture and environment and adding different materials and techniques that serve the story.
Edze Ali, Life in beach series, Fine art print, 34×60 cm, Edition of 7+1
I'm curious about the story of the Life in Beach series that we saw in Mamut Limited. This series appears in black and white. Is this a choice or a core element of your practice?
I can say that black and white photography is the basic element of my practice. I think old family photos and seeing my dreams in black and white have an effect on this. While I was doing research on dreams, I learned late that not everyone dreams in black and white.
I'm not someone who takes a lot of holidays. More precisely, I prefer to visit different places and see different cultures rather than beaches. The Life in Beach series developed while observing people on the beach and trying to understand what they were experiencing. It's an ongoing series. People go on vacation to get away from their problems and stay with themselves. But no matter how hard we try to get away, I feel like we can't escape the existential anxieties. I usually photograph those moments on the beaches. The girl surrendering herself to the waves, the boy covering his face with a t-shirt… The reason why I prefer wide angle on the beach is to show people or remind myself how small we are in huge spaces. It seems to me that black and white photography also has a sense of timelessness. I too sometimes feel like I'm living out of time. Thus, over time, shooting in black and white evolved into my practice.
“You see an angle of about 135 degrees with your eyes, but you should not think of it as a static field, because your perceptions are not independent of each other.” you say. What attracted you to photography?
The element that attracts me most in photography is the existence of a captured moment, but the unknown of before and after. When I look at another photo, I wonder what happened before or after it. If this is a portrait, I am curious about the person's story and I try to understand what they are experiencing at that moment. I love the way a person looking at the photo an experience it through their own experiences. This is why I avoid naming my photographs, I prefer the person to create their own story rather than giving directions.
Edze Ali, Life in beach series, Fine art print, 34×60 cm, Edition of 7+1
Every artist has something they want to tell the world. If you were to express what you are trying to say with words, what would you say? Are these ideas a central part of your understanding of art, or is it a focus that can change over time?
I have difficulty expressing myself with words. Therefore, I will quote Josef Koudelka: “I want to see everything, look at everything, be the image itself.” As I change, my thoughts and perspective also change. In addition to the departments I study giving me different perspectives, each project is a different experience for me. I have to take different approaches in every project and I learn new things every time. First of all, because I had been keeping my distance from my own story for years, I realized that I was also keeping my distance from other stories, and I faced my own story. I am always discovering new things for myself in photography through the use of photography in life.
Is producing a successful work for you a matter of personal satisfaction or appreciation from the art world? Can you elaborate on this topic?
Before being appreciated and personal satisfaction, the basis of producing a successful work lies in the search for self-expression and meaning. The way you express yourself helps the audience find their own expression, too. A successful work appeals to many different people for different reasons.
I love the way a person looking at the photo an experience it through their own experiences. This is why I avoid naming my photographs, I prefer the person to create their own story rather than giving directions.
How do you balance the artistic and technical aspects of photography to get the results you want?
I can say that I don't care much about technical details in photography. I proceed with focus on the story. I am experimenting with new technical methods during the exhibition phase. For example, in the A Latent Empathy exhibition I was in last year, I had a jellyfish photo called Sleeping Medusa printed on a thin fabric. The fabric's ability to transmit light matched the transparency of the jellyfish. I balance my practice with technical demonstration methods like these.