In the studio: Özgür Kar

With a string of recent museum and Biennale shows in 2022, the young, Amsterdam-based artist Özgür Kar is working at an impressively prolific rate. Kar’s non-linear video works function as ‘expanded theatre pieces’ where they mirror our collective anxieties and fears. We spoke with the artist about his work Bearer of bad news that is part of our group exhibition 24h, early artistic influences, what he is currently working on and the ‘death’ character that reappears in his work.


Özgür Kar 📸 Gina Folly


SSM: Where do you most feel at home?

OK: Wherever I'm with my dog.


The artist's dog


SSM: What was the first work of art that influenced you?

OK: I remember seeing the "Rubber Johnny" music video, when I was a teenager, and being super confused, scared, and amazed by it at the same time. I thought it was the coolest thing, and I wanted to make stuff like that. It is a music video made by Chris Cunningham for Aphex Twin. I still think about this video a lot, it's just amazing.



SSM: Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

OK: I'm working on a choir piece, for my show next year at The Renaissance Society in Chicago. It's becoming a very intense and sad and dark work. I'm into it.


SSM: Death is a character that frequently appears in your work. How did this come about?

OK: I started working with the death character during the COVID lockdown. I was looking at a lot of medieval manuscripts, such as “Danse Macabre”, and I was very intrigued by this skeleton character used to personify death in these manuscripts. I thought it would be interesting to bring this character back to life. But instead of dancing in the streets, this time death is coming to us through the screen.



SSM: Does your chosen medium limit your artistic output each year?

OK: No. There is a lot to experiment and play with when it comes to "time-based media". I work with video, sound, writing, drawing, animation, installation etc etc. There is nothing limiting about it.


SSM: You’ve had a busy few years! Participation in shows at institutions such as Fondation Louis Vuitton, Palais de Tokyo, and the Stedelijk Museum. How has your work adapted, or possibly changed as a result of shows in museums or larger spaces?

OK: The work didn't change, but the audience did. You get to show your work to a broader audience when you show in bigger museums. I like that. A lot of “non-art world” people go to these bigger museums. I sometimes get emails saying; “I hate going to museums, but your work really touched me” and that makes me really happy. To me that is a big accomplishment.


SSM: Sculpture or installation?

OK: Sculpture. I have a soft spot for grand monolithic sculptures.


Gustav Vigeland Man Attacked by Babies (Photo: Espen Grønli)


SSM: What was the source of inspiration for your work Bearer of bad news that is part of our current show 24h?

OK: My own debilitating fear of death, and existential crisis.


Özgür Kar
Bearer of bad news, 2021
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SSM: The skeleton shows us a type of fragility and cramped physical discomfort in the work. Are the motifs self-portraits in a way?

OK: I guess so... I do feel somewhat fragile and cramped sometimes. Don't you?


SSM: Is there a video piece from art history that best describes your personality?

OK: Not sure if it describes my personality, but I really really love "Cat Soup". It is a short animation film by Tatsuo Satō. It is a very surreal film. The whole thing is on YouTube, I watch it frequently, and find something new each time.