The main theme and focus of this year’s 7th edition of Almissa Open Art Festival is spin . The term is synonymous with rotation, revolution, and it was appropriated from sports – croquet or table tennis, for instance. It is a technique used to change the course of the ball and fool the opponent.
Lately, the term is becoming increasingly related to politics, i.e. political marketing, and is generally considered pejorative. Political spin is often recognised as a variety of methods and manipulations used to cover up bad results, people or events. An example would be feeding people with inaccurate information that is supposed to make a situation seem better than it is in reality. The extent to which these techniques are used nowadays is reflected in the fact that spin is almost exclusively interpreted as a falsehood.
This selection of works by Croatian contemporary artists will attempt to demonstrate that spin should not always be regarded as something entirely negative, and that manipulation and construction of a new image does not always equal lie.
Alongside faithful representation, i.e. reflection or interpretation of the real, visual art since its very beginning has provided (an)other view of the reality; it departed conventional frames of (re)presentation, making the hidden visible… In this case, spin is a creative method – a turn aiming to provide a new perspective, not to deceive; to entice senses and intellect, not to restrain them.
This catalogue and the following text should foremostly provide key for the ‘interpretation’ of the displayed artworks to audience unfamiliar with contemporary art.
Everyday situations and scenes are the focus of Marko Ercegović’s artistic activity. His approach, based on documenting events and situations, oozes with unpretentiousness. In the era characterised by overload of larger than life or too beautiful to be real photo material and imagery; in a time when many real and fake paparazzi prey upon picant or exclusive stories in order to take advantage of them economically; in a time marked by various celebrities whose every move needs to be recorded by camera, Marko’s eye/camera catches unique, small, anonymous moments. Taking a picture is a testament to the presence of the author here and now. Marko is a keen observer who brings to us excerpts from the spectacle known as the ‘real life’.
Ordinary and underappreciated images that are often taken for granted and almost invisible to the eye of a common observer are documented in Boris Cvjetanović’s Nature and the City photography cycle. City is the set and nature is the agent. We are witnessing cohabitation of these two protagonists through a series of photo frames. Similar to any relationship, this one also brings about states of harmony and chaos, codependency, contact, rejection, conflict… Seemingly insignificant frames showing this cohabitation are caught by the master observer’s experienced and vigilant eye. Besides this, it takes a poetic soul to notice an irremarkable scene. Although human figure cannot be seen in any of these photographs, the presence of women and men and the consequences of their activities are visible in every frame. The city is created by humans; it is a usurped piece of nature they tried to control. In this case, the identity of the Great Manipulator is obvious.
At a first glance, we may not be able to recognise motifs presented to us by Darko Škrobonja. Regardless of the high probability that we would, after a brief observation, figure out what they represent, Darko’s “visual rebus” actually does not seek for a solution. Details, such as building façade in the rain, section of pavement, neon reflected in a puddle of water, or a simple bush, are initial impulses/inspiration for creating a work that is not just an ordinary copy of reality, but an artwork in its own right. By using/manipulating photo techniques, such as pronounced black-white contrast, photographs start to resemble drawings or prints. The amount of light is a constructive visual element that reveals only as much as Darko wants to show us.
In Ivan Faktor’s movie Wasteland, the light is the narrator. It reveals characters and objects. It unveils the plot. It gives insight into one of the last examples of unique type of households typical for the 18th and the 19th century Hungary, Slavonia and Baranja. Wastelands were owned by rich families populating the plains of Slavonia. Built on pastures, they served for raising cattle, horses and pigs in the open. Autonomously organised and planned, these communities were inhabited by their owners, as well as wanderers, adventurers and the landless in some cases. Today, there are only two residents left. Wanderers and the others decided to consider new life opportunities a long time ago. The only thing left is the silence that will become even stronger when the last light goes out. Wasteland is a testimony about a way of life disappearing; preserved on a film tape lasting only 26 minutes.
As opposed to the story from Slavonian plains, Lana Stojićević reminds us of everyday, familiar images. Dalmatian landscapes, impregnated with tradition, and Mediterranean as it once was, the pride of every local patriotic story, have been contaminated by phenomena exposed by Lana in her Villa Roza Project. Humorous image of house a la cake, i.e. house-shaped cake, is used by the author to point towards the epidemic of kitsch, visual rape of space and egotistical need to accentuate one’s living space. Spiritual poverty looks for a substitute in any form of uniqueness. Spectacle is self-sufficient, and the material excess camouflages the lack of content.
Diametrically contrasting image of reality, in a narrative where material extravagance is exchanged with a lack of it, is apparent in Working Day, artwork by Milijana Babić. The artist spent an 8‑hour work day collecting returnable bottles. It ended by cashing in on the bottles at a local shopping centre. Today we are witnessing small armies of reusable packaging collectors. We can see them in our neighbourhoods, in the streets, whille passing by… People digging through garbage. Twenty years ago it was a rare sight, but today, we take it for granted. Legitimate introduction of payment for returnable packaging, i.e. payment for waste collected, provided many people with at least some kind of chance to make money. The collapse of state social conscience compelled numerous people to choose between begging or this way of earning money in order to survive; it is the way that forces them to suppress their pride, but enables them to keep their morale – the only thing they have left. Milijana performed the action while wearing a T‑shirt with the Croatian Freelance Artists Association logo printed on it. As its member, Milijana’s health and retirement insurance is covered by the association. She is aware that the act, embedded with irony, may some day become her reality. Then, like so many others, she will only have these two options, mentioned above, left. During 8 hours of collecting reusable bottles, Milijana earned 26,50 kuna (less than four Euro).
Existential reasons are pretext to Đorđe Jandrić’s work. The author lives in Zagreb and works as a professor at the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka. He drives to work every day. During 2014 he decided to film his journeys to work and back home. HRPA ZgRiZg is a compilation containing almost infinite number of driving hours. Camera placed behind the windshield takes us through different places, situations, weather conditions and seasons. We share co-driver’s perspective, witnessing journey. Only relaxed driving, devoid of physical engagement, can ensure carefree enjoyment in surrounding landscapes; in relaxed moments of overtaking heavy trucks; in feeling safe regardless of sunshine or snow, unconcerned by the state on roads or tire pressure. This kind of situation gives us enough time to focus on the details we normally would not detect. However, after some time, we lose concentration and interest in the road ahead. As the road and time pass by, we start to become conscious of the author and his year-long adventure; of the trips back and forth, reaching the finish line, only to set another one just after. Movement points to the author’s position, as well as ours beside him. If there was no movement, that position would be meaningless, with the view through the windshield only confirming that.
Vertigo is based on motion, more precisely, rotational movement. In his video series under the same title, Toni Meštrović takes panoramic views of the places he visits and exhibits his art in. Spinning the camera over his head, Toni makes dizzying landscape scenes that remind us of carefree moments of children’s carousel rides. However, it can also cause nauseating effect. During violent rotation, the point of view is lost. Solid ground disappears under feet. Moving in circles is no solution. Schizophrenic way of life just received its visual equivalent.
Perspective and point of view are the main preoccupations of Igor Eškinja’s artistic oeuvre. His two photographs, Project Room 1 and Project Room 2, were taken in gallery space. What we perceive as an image of water surface is actually a drawing on the floor. Seemingly! As opposed to regular drawings, this one is made using iron shavings piled up on the gallery floor. Using optical illusion, the author did not merely create a drawing, but a complete painting. However, if we move slightly to the left or to the right, or take a step forward or back; if we leave a specific observation point, the picture will be lost and the illusion will disappear. Another shift in Igor’s work is evident from his choice of motifs: image of water surface is created using iron shavings from the foundry neighbouring the gallery. While creating the imitation of water, the artist purposefully used the material that sinks in the water most quickly.
So far, the presented artworks were mainly anchored to reality. Abundance of imagery, storytelling and narratives offered by reality is countless. If there is a broader space than that, it may only be found in imagination.
The power of imagination and dreams is restricted only by us. We may find creative images in the series of works by Marko Tadić. Project entitled We Used to Call It: Moon is a story about another Moon orbiting around Earth. This fabricated story brings forward testimonies about random appearances of the second Moon. There are photographs, postcards and documents that have evaded censorship. The second Moon is here, glides above us, in spite of efforts to conceal it. The second Moon is present; we just need to let ourselves see it.
“Imaginary remains of imaginary airplane from my imaginary house yard” is a text inscribed on the artwork Airplane by Ivan Tudek. A piece of tin sheet metal carelessly left on the floor is enough for us to imagine any airplane or a house yard. There is no need to add additional elements to construct a story. We can determine ourselves what kind of airplane it could be: a sport aircraft, a military aircraft or an airliner. The house yard can be large or small, maintained or not. The question is: how did this piece end up in the yard? What are the reasons and the consequences of it? Story can move in indefinite directions. Tudek’s airplane can take us to innumerable destinations.
Unlike Tudek’s airplane, Tina Vukasović’s escalators will not take us anywhere. Nine drawings on paper show different escalator types. They share inability to connect stories. Their non-functionality, however, does not prevent us from imagining them, building them in our imagination as objects. Every model works perfectly and we would enjoy taking a ride on them.
The Factory is Following Me is an enigmatic, peculiar sculpture with an even more peculiar title, created by Igor Ruf. Recently, I have attended the presentation of this artwork and followed people’s reactions. Almost no one had the same view on the sculpture, or the opinion about what it actually represents. My friends, curious as they are, asked me to talk to the author and find out why he made it. When I was young, started Igor, my parents used to scare me that, if I was not studying enough, I would end up working in a factory. Factory, and working in it, symbolised a punishment for everything you should have done in your life but you have not. Or what you have done, but should not have. As a result of these ‘threats’, I tried my best at school, and was diligent and polite. I completed secondary education, followed by the graduation from art academy. Today, I am set to complete my doctoral dissertation and every, yes, every day, I have to give it all in my studio. Despite all of my efforts and studying, factory and manual work follow me constantly.
Plastic raft, cake and hoisted flag with red cross and Arabic lettering comprise floating object Do Not Lose Hope, located in town harbour. Vojin Hraste uses humour to talk about current traumatic moment in history. “Do not lose hope” is a quote 14 15 (and motto on the flag) by Pope Francis directed to Syrian, Middle Eastern and African refugees. Every day we witness the arrival of ships carrying desperate people who are on the run from war and famine, searching for a new life and happiness. Colourful cake represents a false image of hospitality, more so if we remember another quote, by Marie Antoinette, directed to the poor people pleading for food: “Let them eat cake”.
Intercorrectly is a title of the project by artists Dražen Budimir and Tihomir Matijević, tandem known as Kamarad Kunst Workers. Poster series, visually based on social realist propaganda, involves questions of homophobia, terrorism and family values. In contrast to regular posters that try to make us aware of specific social problems, Tihomir’s and Budimir’s ones are utterly notorious. Giving cigarettes to children or enjoying beer in front of TV screen displaying demolition of the New York Twins is socially unacceptable. By employing tactic of moral inversion, they make the themes of their work more visible, at the same time uncovering the emptiness of official state/social attitudes.
Ivan Tudek’s Marionette Speaker is a subtle artwork dealing with manipulations by tools accessible to positions of power. The speaker is an object, albeit a cardboard one. Despite physically resembling the original, it is perfectly clear that it cannot perform the intended use. Alongside its inability to fulfil the purpose of the original – emitting sound – this speaker is additionally tied by strings. The puppet is on the strings; ready to be mastered by someone else.
Television is another instrument of propaganda. This electronic box constantly bombards us with information, images and opinions. Hrvoje Cokarić’s visual collage is displayed on television and comprises various political speeches, PR information and manipulations. Image on the TV is accompanied by the sound of a heart beat. At the beginning, rhythm is slowed down only to a few beats a minute, but gradually accelerates to a state preceding myocardial infarction. The artist himself is also object of audiovisual abuse transmitted by cathode ray tube. He sees the exit from this position through abrupt interruption of current situation. Violent act of crashing, destroying the TV represents the execution of the media. Purification of televised content, spins, lies and hypocrisy lies in zero tolerance. Revolutionary resistance is a method of unveiling manipulations.
Vanja Pagar uses minimal painterly gesture to intervene in the photographs, applying colour over the eyes on the portraits of the organisers of this exhibition. Among them also is the artist’s self-portrait. Colloquial phrase used to express this kind of manipulation is: ‘to pull wool over one’s eyes’. Ironyimbued work makes us wonder if the people on the portraits are the victims, objects of other people’s deception, or if they themselves used this exhibition to somehow trick the audience, to pull wool over their eyes.
Performance Bravo! is focused on the audience. The author is located in the sea, more precisely, under its surface, while the audience is standing on the shore. Only the artist’s arms are visible; they are positioned above the sea level, applauding. The applause usually comes at the end, as a reward for a successful performance. In the case of Gildo Bavčević’s Bravo!, the roles are reversed and situations interchanged. The applause is the only part of the spectacle, its beginning and its end. However, it remains unclear for whom it is intended. The audience is a passive observer, and the author is invisible. Even if we wanted to applaud, the person to whom the applause is dedicated would not be able to hear it. If the applause is intended for the spectators, it is undeserved. Absurd situation of divided roles – us and them, ours and others – is additionally accentuated by a clear boundary between the land and the sea. It is also the line that physically divides different positions.
It is today’s imperative to have a good social status and occupy an important position. Unfortunately, there are a small number of such positions and they are mostly taken. In most cases, the struggle to obtain them is mostly futile, fruitless activity. Like Sisyphus, who was constantly pushing his rock up the hill, Goran Škofić aims to push the gallery wall away. It is the image of a small man trying to achieve his dream. A dream gave up by many, without even trying.
To engage in a struggle without options of retreat or surrender is a familiar motif of Božidar Jurjević’s performances. Tied to a large rock by elastic rope, Božo is aware of his inability to move the rock. Despite this, he will not give up on his goal. Using extreme physical effort, after innumerable failed attempts, he will ultimately achieve his goal; pushing himself to the edge by using both his arms and legs, with a piece of coal in his mouth, he writes down the word ‘ART’. This term does not only stand for his profession, but also for why he does it. Art is an infinite space of freedom. This argument is powerful enough for him to give his best to reach it.
1st person narration is a frequent mode of articulation in visual arts. Self-portrait is one its essential motifs. There are many reasons for creating an artwork in which the artist is both the main motif and performer. Sometimes it is for the sake of documentation of scenes and changes in one’s personal life, similar to autobiography. Often, it is about professional and stylistic exercises in which the model is always available. Occasionally, self-portrait is an ode to oneself – a hymn to one’s own existence. Performance, entitled Ego Trip, was performed by Tomislav Brajnović in Venice, New York and Arctic, just to name a few locations. Dressed in black suit, the artist motionlessly stands in one place, illuminated by small electric lights installed on the suit. Occupying special position among the crowd is a narcissistic, prounounced act; triumph all should witness, because there is no greater reward than being in the centre of attention. Tomislav decided to end his Ego Trip cycle in Omiš.
In the artwork entitled Pendulum, Ivana Jelavić talks about the complex role and position of women. The artist is dressed into a wedding gown. Two women are getting her ready for the wedding, giving her a silk veil. As the story unfolds, the starting image of a bride is swapped with that of Virgin Mary. Finally, her entire body is covered with veil, with the exception of her eyes. This subtle artwork has very little going on in terms of action and story; however, it manages to show the changes in perception of women and their respective roles. Artwork symbolism changes in relation to the context of different cultures. References to Christian and Islamic customs regarding women’s clothing (imposed by men!), i.e. their presentation, collide with modern way of life, freedom of choice, emancipation etc. On the other hand, we may ask ourselves if agreeing to marriage means giving these freedoms up, in other words, accepting to play a traditional role.
Petar Brajnović is an unconventional archeologist. He explores history and many of its layers. His work intertwines traditions belonging to various time periods. Occasionally, the very same narrative comprises elements typical of both classical age and industrial revolution, co-existence of Christian and pagan elements, as well as those of Communist propaganda. The amalgam of meanings is not an istrument of superficial visual attractiveness. Behind every Petar’s work there is a deep and precise thought. Nothing is taken for granted or liberated from critical analysis. Tradition and contemporariness exist together in the same way we do, over all historical layers.
Besides societal, there are personal histories, private memories and experiences. Some of them we fondly remember, some are supressed, and most of them have been forgotten. Loren Živković Kuljiš remembers the beginnings, the period in which he fell in love with visual art. As with so many people, comics were his first contact with the world of art. Stories told in sequences of images. Drawings talking more than words. Today, as an experienced protagonist of the art scene, Loren has returned to his old love. His drawings, Reconstructions, are a tribute to his beginnings. Sections of comic book pages are presented in the manner of still life, traditional motif in fine arts.
Dino Bićanić’s photographs can be regarded as still lifes in some way; tomatoes planted in small tin cans originally used for conservation of vegetables are a familiar motif often found in gardens and balconies. These images possess a dose of humour and accentuated irony, as well as the sense of awkwardness. Although these scenes may symbolise perpetual circle of life, where the living is born from the dead, at the same time one cannot escape disturbing cannibalism analogy. It is enough just to remember recent events, for instance mad cow disease, caused by food, more precisely, processed bone meal produced by slaughterhouses. Absurdities may take on the form of messages. They point to irregularities. Even food becomes distasteful if we oversalt it.
Predrag Pavić exhibits two of his works. Bacon is a traditional, still life motif. Like in Bićanić’s case, this work is also imbued with a dose of humour. The artist decided to add some bacon to spice up his artwork. A passionate lover of this meat delicacy, he pays tribute to it and elevates it to a pedestal. His other work is homage to a tool he often uses. Restored, Previously Depleted Pencil is exactly what the artwork title describes. The artist tried to return sharpened pencil into its original state by attaching its parts using glue. A drawing tool became a sculpture. Two artistic disciplines are conjoined: painting and sculpture simultaneously exist within the artwork.
There is flat, two-dimensional and spatial, three-dimensional manner of representation, talking in pictures. However, there is also mental, intellectual way of conveying visual content; constructions in the conscience of some idea or an impression. Momčilo Golub uses text and objects to give instructions and guidelines for the sake of visualisation. Displayed elements are tools for establishing a vision. Remarkably vivid and erotic visual systems may be real or imagined stories. The author intelligently leaves us somewhere in the middle, with a question mark over our heads. Could these images be actual events from Golub’s life or perhaps his obscene fantasies? Is it possible to find ourselves in all of this? If yes, are we going to turn red from embarrassment or remember these feelings with nostalgia sometime in the future?
Light, sound and smoke-filled ambient is a place of meeting oneself. Solfeggio for Color Harmonies by Davor Sanvincenti is an audio-visual experience. Our senses and physical presence are completely immersed in colour and sound frequency transformations, the latter originating from Gregorian chants. Meditative atmosphere of the exhibition space is totally contrasted to its surroundings, city centre during peak tourist season. This work of art offers shelter, a place to escape the schizophrenic environment.
It is summertime, a period of year reserved for relaxation, amusement and leisure. Play, i.e. playing, is an integral part of spending one’s free time. Vlasta Žanić enables us to experience this activity; we are invited to take part in a volleyball match that does not require knowledge of the rules of the game, skill or great physical condition. It is enough to join in. The rules do not actually exist. Number of players is not specified, there can be more than one ball in the field, and the boundaries of court are not strictly set. Net is replaced by a metal sheet – physical barrier between two teams. Shiny like a mirror, it does not allow us to see the opponents, only our own reflection. We do not know where the ball is coming from, or how many of them are there. Uncertainty is a key element of the game, and entertainment is only an illusion.
We defined the term spin as a deceit, a fraud. A fabricated story based on manipulation of facts. Spin and How to Avoid It is a text by Ante Kuštre. An experienced journalist, familiar with the techniques and ways in which propaganda machinery operates, he approached the theme of spin radically; Instead of using some of the tricks known to him, Kuštre gave us sincere confession. He did not try to make the described situations beautiful, nor did he try to make himself look better than he actually is. He created a spin by using truth only.
As opposed to distorted images forced upon us by the structures of power or, even worse, obvious lies served by corrupt media; manipulations of every kind aiming to stupefy people and make them spiritually and emotionally empty, works at this exhibition show that spin situations can actually be procedure of making oneself and others better. Spin may (also) be a method of revealing the truth. Artists remind us that we need to live with an op
Vedran Perkov, curator