Branka Benčić. Text for the exhibition Horison of Expectations (Croatian Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennial)

Ruins make us think of the past that could have been and the future that never took place, tantalizing us with utopian dreams of escaping the irreversibility of time.[1]

Structured as a fragmentary narrative, the exhibition Horizon of Expectations at the Croatian Pavilion brings together two artistic positions that deal with issues of uncertainty, tension or collapse, and how they relate to different conditions and contexts. Following the idea that underlying various forms of interruption is the issue of temporal discontinuity[2], Tina Gverović and Marko Tadić engage with conceptual procedures and subjective imagination inscribed in spatial and temporal discontinuities, in a process that encompasses contingency and actively engages our perceptual space.

There is an unintentional way of capturing what eludes us in the noise of time…[3]

Fractures or cuts enacted in physical and discursive spaces, objects and images appear as moments of interruption and breakage, and articulated both as sites of potential collapse and crash, as well as sites of potential transformation and imagination. To achieve this, Tina Gverović and Marko Tadić delve in processes of accumulations – of materials or images, and their effects.

In their own way, be it accumulations of material and materiality, layers of construction material or layers of history, accumulation of capital, archaeology of the present, the artists’ interest focuses on the concept of accumulated temporality. Within the context of examining different temporalities, as perspectives of the notion of time, different measure and different duration, which sometimes takes thousands of years, manifesting as shapes of larger and smaller geological formations, creating landscapes or continents, or are only (temporary) clusters of worn out transferred material, all the way to the intricate fabric of mutual relationships and measures of individual notions of space and time. This is how, in the sense of epistemology of oblivion and reconstruction of the horizon, the archaeology of the present reflects itself – as accumulated remains, images, objects and time. The artists bring in different scenes, framing the processes of creating, of constructing, of building. Together they form a type of ruined, abandoned archaeological site, oscillating between deconstruction and construction[4].

What connects the works, what is common to the background idea sustaining these works, are different processes and forms of accumulation, such as materiality and methodology, as tool and language – the processes of stockpiling, gathering, collecting materials, images and events. In Tina Gverović’s works one encounters focus on different processes, such as sedimentation, building up of history and materiality of certain goods relatable to trade, economy, exchange, migration, of both people and goods, production surpluses and bodies in transit, as shattered debris of fragments of intertwined histories, reminiscent of the historical context and recent events in the Mediterranean geopolitical space. Marko Tadić’s found images, as a specific vernacular archive through an interest in critical practices of found footage and collecting, put in action different processes of reproduction, de- and re-contextualisation and appropriation of images. Retaining traces of their previous histories even as they are re-inscribed and dissolved into a new context, in the process, the method and materials the artist selects are transformed.

Materials themselves generate associations that, together with the forms into which they are shaped, establish the subject or content of the work of art[5].

Using different media, painting, drawing, installation or text, Tina Gverović creates works in the form of disorienting installations that engage with the space, territory and identity, and how these concepts are bound to imagination. Her images are fluid and fragile, suspended between different conditions. In Phantom Trades: Sea of People, a multifaceted installation based on paintings, video and objects and text, she continues to explore processes and accumulations, history and materiality, bodies in transit, as moving masses or geopolitical entities. Body outlines, clothing garments, gestures of materiality and traces of presence are inscribed onto canvas surfaces that constitute intricate layers. Surfaces of paintings are rendered through careful placing of pieces of clothing onto the wet pigment/paint – so that they in places bare outlines/traces of bodies (shirts etc.) and in places achieve a mottled, fractured effect, claims the artist[6]. Such appearances of the body, not only as a subject to be represented but also as an absent instrument made evident through a mix of traces and objects, registers the physical presence[7].

Paintings are positioned as self-standing objects, panels, screens and barriers or are laid horizontally forming bulks and stacks, becoming objects and becoming metaphors of different possibilities and perspectives. The constellation of paintings and objects, seen as layers and sequences of conditions, potentialities, positions and movements, constitute a fragmented, fragile and uncertain space, the landscape of the work, focusing on the ephemeral and transient, devoid of coordinates. The gestural and procedural repetitiveness accentuate this fragmentation, suggesting different moments and different vistas or viewing points captured within the process of making, constructing, building – histories, narratives, identities or possible futures[8].

Marko Tadić continues to explore his long-term interest in the legacy of modernism and the actualisation of its utopian potential. His works represent a look back at the recent history as a visual narrative of obsolete remains and elements of visual arts, architecture or everyday imagery, building up an unusual atmosphere of oblivion, highlighting the possibilities of re-reading the relationship with the past. Establishing in this way a link with the past, mostly through images as tools of memory, the artist attempts to understand and define the time in which we live. He de- and re- constructs a modernist vocabulary from a formalist perspective, using it as the research polygon for a new genesis: looking awry into a vast pool of ruins as well as seeing new potential constructions[9]. This entails opening up new perspectives and constituting new meanings, dealing with the past through different forms of archives as tools to re-imagine history.
Using found images and animation techniques to stage a narrative oscillating between document and fiction, Tadić unfolds a series of haunting visual sequences, based on a series of projected images. Like images of disappearance, they represent a trace of unknown events that fade out and vanish before our eyes. Frozen in time, we witness the passage of time inscribed in those ‘found’, old projected images engulfed in the atmosphere of melancholy. Marko Tadić places the appropriation of existing images, their transfer and the processes of their re-contextualization and re-mediation, at the centre of his interests. The work that represents an image of an image, a representation of a representation, explores preserved scenes – such as the photograph itself – and is based on the appropriation of still and moving images. Conserving the image, at stake is the process of conserving time. Events Meant to Be Forgotten is shaped as an installation including slide projections, 16mm film transferred to video and drawings. It is based on a series of projected images of vintage imagery – found slides as found images intervened on by the artist with drawing and scratching, i.e. grattage, peeling off the skin of an image. Regardless of the medium, his works can be seen as a continuous effort to initiate a potential new beginning, often building on the ruins of times past. Therefore, Events Meant to be Forgotten act as a panorama of achronological time, suspended between history, memory and future projections.

The exhibition is a constellation that unveils itself, opening different vistas, perspectives, horizons of works that take shape by our movements through the exhibition space, inviting the observer to connect different fragments, narratives, experiences. The space is arranged in order to explore structures of exhibiting and the perception of the observer, articulating its fluid, almost performative character of moving through space. As a self-reflexive gesture it is a form of colonizing the space. This is meant to point to tensions between the space, the observer and the observed – as spatial gestures focusing on examining relations and interactions between the objects and the subjects. The displayed dispositions are the means of unfolding the space, exhibition, artworks, (hi)stories and bodies as place for the inscription of different ideas and positions, often left inconclusive or unresolved. Such space, contouring the idea of ‘in-between’ is the space in which the common experiences and loose associations are joined and new meanings are created, which brings the exhibition space close to the idea how theatre functions … to force the passive observer to occupy the position of experimenter who observes phenomena and seeks for their causes[10].

Avoiding a fixed narrative that defines a certain content, the exhibition instead takes part in creating a series of gaps, ruptures and interrelations, that contour renegotiations and fractures as places of potential transformation and imagination, staging mechanisms of visibility – framing of space and time, place and identity, of what can be seen and heard in the public field, and of what is invisible and unintelligible, marginalised or shut out. In this way a ‘horizon of expectations’ takes into account both, our individual and collective experiences we share as audience, framing local hi/stories into global contexts. Borrowing the title from H. R. Jauss’s reception theory, the shifting ‘horizon of expectations’ points to a platform of common experience, knowledge and understanding of things, framed by renegotiations and uncertain possibilities of identification.

 

[1] Svetlana Boym, Ruinophilia: Appreciations of Ruins, www.monumenttotransformation.org

[2] Marta Buskirk, Contingent Object of Contemporary Art, MIT Press, 2003

[3] Annie LeBrun, Perspective dépravée: Entre catastrophe réelle et catastrophe imaginaire, 1991

[4] Tina Gverović, notes/transcript, Artist Practice Video

[5] Buskirk, ibid.

[6] Gverović, ibid.

[7] Buskirk, ibid.

[8] Tina Gverović and Ben Cain, Bodies and Things, Lost and Found, (exhibition catalogue), Zagreb, 2016

[9] Ana Dević, exhibition essay, Laura Bulian Gallery, 2016

[10] Jacques Rancière, The Emancipated Spectator, 2009