Venturing into a fantastical world
If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet these BEBEs, now’s your chance. Ruud (also known as Kim Berly) and Mert are lovers and partners who work together in perfect symbiosis. They’ve created Bebe Books, their own independent publishing house, and are now artists-in-resident and curators of all kinds of queer BEBE events at DOK, Ghent, this summer.
Interview by Laura-Andréa Callewaert
Photos by Tiny Geeroms, shot in Ghent
It’s like a paper Tumblr page sometimes
Where does the name BEBE come from?
Mert: We always call each other ‘baby’. We’re somehow obsessed with this word. We actually don’t call each other by our names. Just ‘baby’. If you call each other by your name in a relationship there’s something wrong [Laughs].
Ruud: No, but sometimes we say each other’s names, like when breakfast is ready or if we’re angry. So we used the Turkish translation for ‘baby’: ‘bebe’. That’s when ‘Bebe Books’ was born, it just sounds so great.
Why did you start Bebe Books?
R: It’s an independent publishing house we started a year ago. Mert was already making fanzines. I found it very interesting and wanted to learn more about it. I was making a lot of collages and did performances myself, and fanzines were the perfect way to show my work. Mert’s zines address very random topics – Turkish wrestlers, for example, and other stuff that’s pretty much unknown to people.
M: It all came from the idea to spread our interests to people in a more visual way.
The main idea is to give a voice to queer artists
R: There are no limits, actually. Nothing needs to be censored. You’re your own publisher, graphic designer and editor
M: Nowadays, in times of the internet, you have access to everything. But we still want it to be authentic in a way, that’s why we combine our techniques. We use the internet to find content but we use an old copy machine to make the magazines.
R: It’s like a paper Tumblr page sometimes.
You guys have a residency at DOK in Ghent this summer. What’s happening?
R: We are going to organize all kind of events and invite mostly queer artists; exhibitions, movie screenings, workshops, concerts and parties. M: DOK is a very utopian and progressive space with a tight community. It’s a very gay-friendly and open space but there was one thing missing: a queer representation. BEBE is in a way positive discrimination, we want to give a chance to people who really need to be represented. All our events are open to everyone. There are also people performing who aren’t queer, but the main idea is to give a voice to queer artists.
Do you feel like there’s a big queer community in Ghent?
R: There’s a big community but there aren’t so many queer events. Less than in Brussels or Antwerp for example. Here in Ghent it’s a missing thing.
M: There are some parties but we don’t always need parties. It’s more than that.
R: It’s our first year now, so we’re going to see how it works out because organising events isn’t really our specialty. But we are learning and we just want to have fun. That’s the most important thing.
Are you working on other projects as well?
R: It is a very busy BEBE Summer but in the time that’s left, I’m doing performances as Kim Berly.
M: We have a group exhibition coming up with Bebe Books at Bozar. You should come!