Despite their unearthly, supernatural appearance, Beryl Bilici’s digital artworks are all about exploring what makes us human. She’s always been intrigued by our relationship with technology; how it can change the way we perceive the world and the way we understand ourselves. Here, the “Mother of Cyborgs” tells Alix-Rose Cowie why her response to that curiosity was to create a universe where robots and humans live in total harmony.
Through her otherworldly digital artworks, Turkish artist Beryl Bilici explores cyberculture to find what it means to be human. Described by her followers as the “Mother of Cyborgs,” she creates human-cyborg hybrids or interactions to hone in on the duality and struggle between our physical and virtual identities and experiences. “I was captivated by the way technology intertwines with our identities and reshapes our perception of reality,” she says. “I fell in love with a world where humans and machines coexist harmoniously and envisioned a future where the boundaries of the physical form are transcended, where robots and humans merge not only in body but also in spirit.” Her beautiful, ethereal characters are a clash of warm flesh and cold metallic machinery.
“No matter what the medium is, I must exist as an artist to be able to feel alive,” Beryl says. This began, like many kids, sketching the characters she loved from Anime, and progressed to painting, writing short stories, learning musical instruments and even shooting two short movies which then brought her to video editing and 2D animation. “But at some point, I felt that these were still not enough for me,” she says, and that’s when she discovered the infinite possibilities of 3D in 2018. She began to teach herself—“It was the only way to reflect my imagination fully and in detail,” she says.
Studying Stage Design and Management of Performing Arts at university, Bilici became involved in planning stages, creating visual content for screens at events and festivals and controlling them live. One of her biggest motivations was to see her own 3D characters on the huge screens. “Watching my works live on stage and syncing them with the music was so enjoyable and one of the things that pushed me to improve myself,” she says. Her audio-visual works have since been showcased in exhibitions in 11 countries and 18 cities around the world and counting, and are sold and auctioned as NFTs.
When Bilici first discovered NFTs in 2020, she quit all her client work to get to know the new medium and community. She’s sold every piece she’s minted since. Her NFT artwork “Dreamers” was auctioned through Christie’s. It’s been possible to make a living this way and has also given her freedom and agency. “I still accept client work but I do it only if I love the concept, get positive vibes from it, or build a connection with it,” she says.
Bilici takes character development further than what’s seen in the final works. “Each character has a backstory, personality traits, motivations, and relationships,” she says. “I believe that well-rounded characters enhance the depth of a story. By understanding a character's past experiences, desires, and conflicts, I can better shape their journey within the narrative. I don’t picture these details in my artworks directly, but they certainly are there behind the curtains.”
“I strive to create graceful, emotional, beautiful, and strong multidimensional female characters,” Bilici says of her Sci-fi women. “I portray women as empowered and complex individuals.” Her decision to depict mostly female characters is because she sees the feminine body as a work of art in itself. She creates male characters from time to time for freelance projects, “But I simply don’t enjoy working on it,” she admits. What they wear is inspired by her research into both cyberculture and fashion history, blending high fashion with futuristic styles.
There’s a perfection to Bilici’s hypnotic, looping works that takes months to achieve. She becomes obsessive, working long hours until she’s finished, usually from sunset to sunrise. “I lose the sense of time and obligations of real life while I’m creating,” she says. “It is meditative and nourishing for me.” Just as our virtual experiences can be a welcome departure from daily life, the making of Bilici’s alternative worlds is her escape path.