Balkan Art Scene
Kemil Bekteši - Criticizing the Attitude of Tradition Towards the Naked Body
Photo: Ajla Salkić
Could you tell us something about your education background, and beginning of visual arts career? I decided quite early on what I would be doing my whole life. I think that’s very rare, so in that sense I’m very lucky. When I was in elementary school I didn’t have stages where I wanted to be this or that, I always knew it was going to be art. So I think it’s more like art chose me, and not that I choose art. I finished art high school, and after that I received my bachelor and master's degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo. Also, I am very happy that my parents supported me, because I know many young and talented people whose parents did not allow them to be educated in art. For that reason, I wrote that my father loved me so much that he allowed me to be an artist. I think that is the greatest proof of love for me.
As a student in Portugal, in Academy of Porto, you focused on "Balkan Erotic". How did you develop the idea? Portugal was very refreshing, for my art especially. I started experimenting in my art practice there and I really liked the relationship I had with my professor. He helped me a lot. I started listening to sevdah and the lyrics inspired me for my works. In one text, a woman offers her body for gold coins because her lover has no money. That’s intrigued me. I wanted to criticize the tradition of Bosnia and Herzegovina with my work, especially the fact that it is misogynistic at the root of it. I criticized the attitude of tradition towards the naked body and the constant need to cover and censor it. I wanted to talk about taboo topics and initiate a dialogue that will lead to a solution. I think a very important aspect of that series is the fact that a man talks about feminism. We’re kinda used to only women being feminists, but that doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the case. What was interesting to me was that I had to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina to see the problems in society. I feel like that sometimes that's the best way, you need distance and then you realize what needs to change when you get back.
I žene to rade
You participated in many solo and group exhibitions. Would you highlight your favorite ones? I did and I am very grateful for each one of them. It is always difficult to highlight out just one exhibition as my favorite, but I think that my first solo exhibition, which I named after my surname "Bekteši", is very special. With that exhibition, I wanted to introduce myself both metaphorically and literally. The show is very intimate and private, because I talked about the history of my family, about myself, about how I came to where I am now and why I have a strange name and surname. After that exhibition, I experienced a kind of relief, because now I think that all the people who visited that exhibition really know me. That was the point and I think we succeeded. My curator Adna Muslija did a great job at that exhibition. One work of that series was presented in my hometown of Belgrade. That was very important to me. The work was presented at the Youth Biennale. That exhibition is very dear to my heart, everything was wonderful and I met many colleagues who are now my friends.
Any collaboration in your past work that made an impact on your future choices? I think that every collaboration leaves a certain impact on you, you find out what you like and what you don't when you work with someone. I am very happy to have people I can trust and who are always ready to collaborate with me. I work with Adna Muslija often, I call her my mind reader. Also, collaboration with Đenita Kuštrić, who was my mentor when I studied. I am very grateful and happy to have had the opportunity to work with her. I think it’s rare to have a mentor like her. When I first told her about Etnos and Eros, she immediately knew what I wanted to do. She taught me a lot, even when she wasn’t aware that she was teaching me. I told her once and I will say it again - she is my art mom. I also like to talk to Bojan Stojčić and Alma Gačanin, they always listen and give the best advice. Any advice for multimedia artists just beginning their art journey? Hard work is your best friend!
Author: Hana Tiro