Laterna magica
BOGDAN LEŠNIK Ambi(val)ents of Marko Kovačič
BOGDAN LEŠNIK Visions of Ordinary Life
JURIJ V. KRPAN The Lost Horizon
RASTKO MOČNIK The Loving Sights


BOGDAN LEŠNIK Visions of Ordinary Life

It would be a mistake to take the part of Marko Kovačič's work infested with socialist symbols as a kind of nostalgia for the old times because it contains a heritage which some people would rather deny. Yet, can it be denied? Haven't we survived it, that is, hasn't it become ours for all times, as it were? In a modified form, of course, somewhat like the red star, with Kovačič's intervention, became black.

The Prophecy of Zeus is everyday life: a living room which is also a children's playground, a small library and a television corner. Its style and contents belong to the time when socialism was still eternal, and to the childhood of a whole generation. It might as well have been exhibited in an ethnographic museum under the title The setting of everyday life in late Socialism.

The only object reworked considerably in this setting is the television set, reminding us of Edward Kienholz's own 'ethnographic study' The Beanery in which only the faces of people are transformed (into clocks). In both cases, the intervention works as interpretation, but in contrast to the abstract idea of (wasted) time in Kienholz, Kovačič opens for us a very concrete new space with wholly new dimensions. The chair in front of the set evidences that it is being watched, although, as a consequence, the spectator is necessarily facing away from the rest of the place.

This spectator, however, is absent from the Prophecy. The place is filled with signs of life but abandoned. Only in the television set, there are some beings, fantastic, yet alive. As if the actual life were taking place there and not in the ordinary living-room. However, even that life is frozen.

We have learned that television is first of all the surface of its programme, then the box of the set, and Kovačič opens up the latter into yet something else, a setting within the setting, the world of 'the people in the box' - spearheaded by a partisan throwing what very much resembles Zeus's lightnings.

This is certainly not unrelated to the place obtained by television in everyday life. What place is more ordinary and yet more obscure? Television is one of the great devices without which there is almost no life any more, to the extent that 'actual life' may be said to take place precisely on television, on the level of spectacle which arranges inconsistent everyday life into a series of tellable tales.

In the Prophecy, this spectacle takes place in the set, as an interrelated play of technology and mythology, and there is but one tale, unchanged, fixed. To watch television in this setting is to eternally observe a one and only scene, just as the whole Kovačič's ambiance is frozen in time.

In describing the ambiance as unpeopled, we neglected a small detail: that it is peopled by us when we enter it. Thus the spectator becomes part of the scene, inhabits it and participates in it as its integral part. Just as in Kienholz, time stops for the participant, even the time that normally flies across a television screen. The spectator takes part in the scene which is undoubtedly historically determined yet eternal, just as neither the whole technological progress (i. e., always new types of TV sets) nor always new (or re-made) stories don't move for an inch the constant in this scene, which is the position of a spectator in front of a television set. This is the reality of the spectator's - our - situation, our fate; thus, upon becoming a spectator, one ceases to be alive and becomes a mere place in the relation with the observed object, represented in the Prophecy by the empty chair in front of the set.

Bogdan Lešnik
(text on The Prophecy of Zeus ambience; from the catalogue of the exhibition Media in Media: SCCA-Ljubljana, City Gallery, Ljubljana, 1997)

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