Irgin Sena’s work invites us to take a closer look, to slow down and pay attention to the details of his videos and sculptures and the space that surrounds us. In his videos, the artist uses repetition, close-range and abstracted shots, and extended durations to expand time and create a space for contemplation. In the Hunter College MFA Spring 2012 Thesis Exhibition, Sena’s individual works explore language and its ability to translate meanings, systems of organization, and mental and visual processes. The works are linked by their ability to bring viewers into the present moment, in a heightened state of awareness.
Upon entering Sena’s installation space, one can hear the audio from his video, which features a twenty-something woman reading a book on the subway with a female narrating. She wears headphones and glasses, which obscure and conceal her identity. She never looks up at us, completely consumed by her book. Sitting on the bench in the exhibition space, we feel as though we are on the subway, sitting across from her, reading her book with her. Sena chose an English translation of an Albanian book to examine the ability of multiple languages to transform into sounds regardless of meaning. We hear the Albanian version of a passage followed by the English translation of the same sentences. The viewing experience is different for each person based on his or her language comprehension. For those of us who only speak English, our attention fades in and out as the Albanian translation takes over. The interruption of train noises also makes it more difficult to hear the narration and to focus on its message. Instead viewers are taken away from the female’s world and become more aware of the setting. Clocking in at thirteen minutes, the video is long and steady. With no view of where we are going, it asks us to concentrate on listening.
Another of Sena’s videos was shot through a car window, recording a trip from one city to another—which border he crossed is unclear. The road signs and storefront lettering pass too quickly to register, but although it is impossible to pinpoint the location, the setting feels familiar. The artist is interested in how to organize information and to recreate an experience for someone that was not present originally. He creates an archive of footage and refers to image frames as bits of sortable information. Twenty-four frames per second in a fourteen-minute video comprise over 20,000 frames of reference for the entire trip. Sena uses a number of organizational principles to select frames, which when pulled out of their original context and presented anew create an altered experience of the original. This video highlights the inability of attempting to translate a personal experience.
Sena’s video The Father’s Cabinet (2011) is a stunning study of light and texture, in which a blurry, abstracted image slowly comes into focus. The camera explores the exterior of a locked cabinet, and its slow and steady progression into sharpness is rewarding when the grain of wood is finally discovered. Sena’s sculptures similarly draw viewers in from afar with their beauty and simplicity, and reveal more when approached at close-range. His untitled soap sculpture hovers in an aura, lit against a stark white wall, set on a carved soap dish, inviting viewers to approach and examine the special object. With a pencil, Sena carved words into the soap bar that viewers will never know, for they have been washed away through repeated usage. The ritual of washing away words brings to mind ablution and an interior shift, a private experience with which the artist tempts visitors. Two pedestals support greeting cards whose messages have been similarly rubbed away. By concealing aspects of his work, Sena entices viewers and leaves the door open for slow and thoughtful interpretation.