Sena Başöz: The Box

Sena Başöz, The Box, 2020, Single channel video, 4 mins 31. Selected by Istanbul Modern.

2 February – 28 March 2021

Sena Başöz (b. 1980, Turkey) explores gestures of care and compassion in The Box (2020) as hands gently stroke a woman’s hair revealing symbolic objects hidden in her locks.

The film consists of a sequence of various objects hidden inside thick, dark, long hair being picked over, sometimes by a male and sometimes by a female hand. In the video, compassion and care trigger phenomena in contrast to concealment and revelation, holding on and letting go, death and life.


Artist Q&A

Where are you from and how did you become interested in moving image work?

I am from Turkey and I live in Istanbul. The departure point of my practice has been the friction I was feeling between my body and the immediate space I lived in. Feeling a strong alienation to the office space of the 9 to 6 job I was working at right after finishing my undergraduate degree, I started making a series of performative videos expressing my fish-out-of-water status in a business plaza. I bought a camera just to document my life in that corporate environment. It worked like a visual diary. I was holding on to the transformative healing power of expression.

What inspired/influenced you to make the work?

The Box consists of a sequence of various objects hidden inside thick, dark, long hair being picked over sometimes by a male and sometimes by a female hand. In the video, compassion and care trigger phenomena in contrast, such as concealment and revelation, holding on and letting go, death and life. My work focuses on healing processes after cases of trauma, evolving out of the importance of care, the ways nature self-regenerates, creating a balance in the long run and the organism’s capacity to repair itself. The hair is dead tissue extending from our living body, so I see it as a space in-between life and death just like soil. In the video the hair looks like an uncanny landscape. I thought about and experimented with what this landscape can host. Human hair is also similar to animal fur and reminds me of our creature-hood. Thus, it makes me question our relationship to nature and each other as human beings.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently I am working on the publication of my artistic research and recent solo show in Basel. Towards the end of 2020, I spent two months in Basel as a resident artist. I focused on what the city holds in its archives and what flows through without being archived. I conducted interviews with archivists of important archives of the city and people with immigrant backgrounds to explore transnational cultures of memory that extend from Basel to Turkey. I took the Rhine river as a metaphor and created an installation and a new video piece. The book will bring together the interviews.


Sena Başöz (b. 1980, İzmir, Turkey) is an artist and filmmaker living and working in Istanbul. She received her BA in Economics from Boğaziçi University in 2002 and MFA from Bard College Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts in Film and Video in 2010. Her recent solo exhibitions include Ars Oblivionis, Lotsremark Projekte, Basel (2020); A Consolation, Krank Art Gallery, Istanbul (2020); Hold on Let go, MO-NO-HA Seongsu, Seoul (2020) and On Lightness, DEPO Istanbul(2018). She has participated in group exhibitions such as Transitorische Turbulenzen, Kunstraum Dreiviertel, Bern (2020); Studio Bosporus, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2018); Quiet Dialogue, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum (2018) and Sharjah Biennial Offsite Exhibition: Bahar, Istanbul (2017). She participated in artist residencies at Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris (2017), Atelierhaus Salzamt, Linz (2010) and Delfina Foundation, London (2020).

Sena Başöz’s artwork focuses on healing processes after cases of trauma evolving out of the importance of care, the ways nature self-regenerates creating a balance in the long run and the organism’s capacity to repair itself.