Selma Selman is one of the youngest and most exciting flag bearers of critical and political art in the former Yugoslavia, working in performance, video, photography, drawing and painting.
Seeking forms of powerful contemporary political resistance, her artistic practice draws on her personal experiences of oppression on different scales and in different directions, both embracing and exploding stereotypes surrounding Roma, while also focusing on her own situation as a young Bosnian woman artist of Roma origin.
Given the complexity of the oppression experienced by Roma, the ultimate goal of her activism and artistic practice is to protect and empower women’s bodies, but also to take a non-scalar approach to the collective self-liberation of oppressed women.
Within the framework of what she calls ‘layered intersectionalism’, the artist synthesizes the overlapping and intersecting forms of discrimination faced by people and minority groups around the world. Selman is also the founder of Get The Heck To School, an organization that aims to empower Roma girls who are struggling with poverty and social ostracism.
In her third exhibition at acb, the artist will present her latest large-scale project Motherboards, which debuted at the Rijksakademie Open Studios in June 2023 and was shown at the 4th Autostrada Biennale in Kosovo.
The motherboard is the element that provides the connection between the hardware components of a computer – processor, memory, hard disk, video card – and thus acts as the “mother” of the components connected to it. This metaphorical approach unfolds in the portraits of four Roma women painted on bonnets, a reference to the first wedding in the artist’s family after the Bosnian war.
As wives and mothers, these women belong to men and remain invisible in society, like the motherboards inside computers. Yet they appear as heroines of strength, endurance and survival.
The tiles also serve as raw materials; after two years of research, Selman has found a non-toxic way of extracting gold from motherboards, thanks to a millennia-old process called metallurgy. The gold-coated nails on display, extracted from 200 base plates, symbolise the essential role, yet invisible status, of Roma women. The artist wants to pass on this knowledge of gold extraction from scrap metal to her community, to lift them out of poverty and at the same time make their stigmatised work valuable.
Selma Selman’s artistic practice explores issues of work and the economy, particularly through the recycling and use of scrap metal, referring to the source of income that has sustained her family for generations. In his performances, he usually destroys metal goods, entire cars or household appliances with an axe to collect their valuable contents.
The artist systematically recycles these discarded metal parts and paints on them, questioning the ways in which society assigns value to material objects and labour, and how we relate to both.
Selman’s paintings on scrap metal form a personal visual diary, consisting of self-portraits, often symbolic, portraits of his family, impressions of everyday life in Bosnia, harsh and ironic reflections on his place in the vortex of global capitalism, sensitive and eerie textual confessions, disturbing representations of women’s bodies, and references to the art history that defines him.
By using scrap metal components in her works, the artist not only alludes to her family’s struggle to survive, but also symbolically transforms this seemingly useless surface into a vehicle for her message, which transcends misery, discrimination and stereotypes.