Bodies and Things, Lost and Found

Bodies and Things, Lost and Found
Installation view
French Pavilion, Zagreb
A collaboration with Ben Cain and Alexis Taylor
Photo: Damir Žižić, Ben Cain and Nikola Kuprešanin

The installation is composed of 6 paintings on canvas (Tina Gverović, 200 x 300 cm, acrylic and gouache on canvas, 2016), and an audio element sung by Alexis Taylor which is presented on single channel speakers placed within the installation. The paintings and the audio piece are installed together within a series of sculptural interventions composed of building material (gravel, concrete blocks, plastic tubes) and outdoor lighting (industrial lights) conceived jointly by Ben Cain and Tina Gverović.

The starting point is a series of 6 large-scale paintings developed in relation to the historical context of the gallery. The work is concerned with processes such as repercussions, sedimentations, accumulations, the history and materiality of particular traded elements and valuable goods, as well as issues related to migration, surplus of production, bodies in transit, and bodies in transition. The paintings are composed of body parts, parts of objects, developed from fragments of intertwined histories, frottage marks, shapes and forms which are bodies, or tell stories about bodies, their movement and exchange. The surfaces of the paintings are gestural, but not expressive, perhaps mimicking an aged or ruined wall. The ground of the paintings has been applied with a roller fixed to a long pole, and therefore is in some way closer to mechanical or industrial production rather than craft. The painted body parts and objects are accompanied by their own shadows, however there’s something of a gap between the two, so that one might appear to be disassociated with the other, one more solid and the other more of an immaterial presence. Sometimes more like two flat surfaces rather than the shadow revealing or describing the 3D physical form of the object. There are 3 intervening and alternating colours – concrete, sand and skin. Both the paintings and the sculptural elements suggest archeological research or the construction site, and so there’s a combination of looking back in time and looking forward. In either scenario there’s a sense in which people are treated as bodies, as objects and things, bodies as a labour force, as material with which one barters or bargains, rather fellow beings. Nevertheless the delicacy with which the objects and body parts are painted, and the warmth of the colours suggest a great care for those parts, and a live-ness which contradicts the flatness of the images. So in this scene there’s some oscillation, between warm/cold, corpse/animate body, object/human. How we engage with those objects and bodies is crucial.

The audio element deals with the articulation of history, a particular narrative in which the voice (Alexis Taylor) is singing a text that loosely connects to one migrant story. There is an interest in the idea that the elements of the work are not easily place-able, i.e. that the media, colour, quality of voice does not necessarily describe or reveal a specific cultural or historically-specific identity.

The work is considered as an island, both physically and in terms of time. The sculptural interventions serve as a backbone, the landscape of the work, a shell, a vessel – but also as a drawing in space, a connector of thoughts. Both paintings and audio are placed within the landscape of these sculptural interventions, found within heaps of gravel, seen through the insulation pipe or behind a pile of concrete blocks. They suggest different moments and different vistas or viewing points captured within the processes of making, constructing, building – histories, narratives, identities or possible futures.