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Digital Film

Project Who was I really? .Next Project...
Who was I really?
Digital Film
Duration: 11' 15

Text by Joanna Sandell

Following the rhythm of music and sound your senses are heightened with fear. Selda Asal portrays women living under physical and psychological terror in the video work Restore Hope: See me! As a viewer you slowly become part of the stories told by the women. Your breath shortens, you touch your own hand as if you have unconsciously copied the woman's movements, her angst thrown into a gesture, soon a part of your own movements too. Emotions wanting to creep underneath your skin, you are entering the pain of the soul.
Selda Asal gets me thinking of a book by the Swedish writer, psychiatrist, and researcher Ċsa Nilsonne. The title of the book is The Bodyminder. It tells of a woman who has the extraordinary skill of entering the bodies of other women, who has the skill of carrying their pain. Selda Asal also has the knowledge and the will to carry the emotions of others. Where nobody else roams you can find Selda Asal. Earlier among youth who have lost all hope, young suicidal girls and glue-sniffing boys of the streets, and now in dialogue with hidden women who are living under death-threats. The work See me! is the fifth part of the large-scale project Restore Hope, creating an overall picture of an artist defiant in her will to research life's fragile boundaries and a darkness most of us will never need to venture into. In contrast to most of us, Selda Asal moves freely in these dark landscapes, like a runner at night, equipped with a light attached.
When I first met Selda Asal she was exhibiting in a prominent gallery in Istanbul. Fragile, green flowers of glass traveled organically from the library of the space. I was in Istanbul in search of an exhibition space. Was there by any chance a possibility of borrowing Selda Asal's exhibition space Apartment where she, together with other artists, musicians, and actors had held workshops and presented interdisciplinary exhibition projects? Selda Asal had already promised the space to others during the Istanbul biennial, but in the matter of seconds she had chosen to divide the day into two so that we would use the exhibition space daytime and another curator would show video art towards the street at night. That Selda Asal was to say 'no' to a request in terms of art production is unheard of, she is one of the strongest threads in the art network of Istanbul. Throughout the years the exhibition space Apartment and her work studio has attracted other artists and organizers within the cultural sphere. Today the area of Tünel, earlier dangerous to roam at night, is an exciting 'must' when wanting to experience the cultural diversity of Istanbul.
When I, a few years later, wanted to create a synergy between the public space in the municipality of Botkyrka, south of Stockholm, and the institution Botkyrka konsthall, Selda Asal was my first choice. She was the right person to find energy in places where I myself would never had thought to go looking, and to create an organic video work with elements from both Istanbul and Botkyrka, Sweden. She, together with the artists Ceren Oykut and Gül Kozacioglu, using the group name 3Tip, furthermore introduced a dialogue with the audience through ongoing digital diaries and a performance consisting of fortune telling in coffee grind.  Neither sooner nor later has Botkyrka konsthall been as dynamic, beyond the scope of what an institution in the beginning of its career might manage to accomplish. Selda Asal and her group 3Tip worked day and night during several weeks with an almost dangerous fervor. Later, Selda Asal, was able to succeed with what most artists within the field of relational aesthetics do not manage to do, she was able to transfer her methods into other institutions, into other cultural spheres and other countries. Teenagers rap in art videos that borrow their structure from music videos, political questions are given a foundation of contemporary expressions and Asal's unique ability to combine her own skills of listening and her immense energy with the expressions of others.

Now she has succeeded in getting hidden women living in Sweden under death-threats to confide in her. When we met during the summer of 2008 she was still in the midst of one of these interviews, the room was full of condensed energy remaining from their talk. Later, when I was given the chance to see the first film about these threatened women I searched for the woman I had met. Was that her, or maybe her? The many private stories were skillfully restructured in order to protect the identity of the women, their stories came forth as one voice, one saturated feeling. Restore Hope: See me! may borrow its syntax and stance from the world of media  through dramatic soundtracks and a play of documentary and dramatized sequences. But the effect is by contrast something else. The stories of the women walk into your being and Selda Asal´s listening becomes an echo within you too.

Joanna Sandell, Director Botkyrka konsthall

Restore Hope: 'Who was I really?' has been produced by Swedish Travelling Exhibitions as part of a project entitled Home not Home which is the Swedish contribution to the European year of intercultural dialogue (2008). The project is a collaboration and exchange between Sweden and Turkey and is one of seven EU profile projects that is also receiving support from the Swedish Ministry of Culture.
Many woman in Sweden are obliged to live in hiding for fear of violence, threats and harassment from men in their vicinity. In Selda Asal s video we meet the women s stories through their own words and images.