The catalogue Thing that featured
Marko A. Kovačič’s art production in the period between1981 and1994 was
published on the occasion of the 1994 exhibition Forward
to the Past in the Škuc Gallery. Here, I will use those segments
of the text that discuss the exhibition as a retrospective view that enables
the move forward.
Marko Kovačič’s works exhibited at the
exhibition Forward to the Past presented
the eighties in a head-on confrontation with the nineties. The exhibition
was saturated with memory: personal (the artist's production in the span
of several years) and collective (found, assembled, transformed and shaped
objects, signs, symbols of the socialist past), both of which inseparably
overlapped and aroused myriads of references and associations. The old
and the new, something which may be called the past and the present, were
placed side by side. We were confronted with both - the collective history
and the imagery from the author's youth and personal mythology. Forward
to the Past spoke also about the perpetual transformation that doesn’t
necessarily lead to the future.
Most frequently, the exhibits in Kovačič’s
museum are seen through various optical devices or the screens of his
TV sets. They are not presented directly, but through a medium. In this
way they evoke the idea of the significance of spectacle as a functioning
form of our civilisation. They also speak about television, which is becoming
a way of life and our window to the world. But Kovačič’s museum is not
an analysis or a critique of a particular choice of collection, i.e. of
a point of view of the world. It is a kind of deconstruction, very close
to the meaning of Derrida's term.
Kovačič’s installations - even the minutest,
the most intimate, those removed from the hated box into a kaleidoscope,
camera lucida, the roundabout of gadgets or memorial cabinet - are not
merely deconstruction, dismantling, derivation of some concrete TV set,
but also construction, assembly, the synthesis of some abstract TV set.
As such they are a museum of all those autobiographies which in this electronic
era were changed into a mass of material(istic) dimensions. Marko Kovačič
is a sculptor who has bypassed the traditional figure and the spiritual
plastic in order to preserve the full figurativeness and plasticity of
the spirit. He is our most abundant television station.
Following that complex exhibition, Marko A. Kovačič was facing the time
of reflection. The representation of that reflection is a chair, the element
that has had an important role already in his previous projects. Namely,
M. Kovačič has included various produced chairs in his ambiences, 'living
rooms', loaded with artworks, such as 'TV objects', the objects of gaze
since 1989. He had invited the spectator to have a rest and observe and
also to contribute and reflect (The Prediction
of Zeus, Boxman, Disinfected for Your Protection). With time, the
chair has become a constant element in his ambiences: a folding (rex)
chair, an old armchair, a footstool, a kitchen chair, all from the time
of the artist’s youth.
Later on, M. Kovačič made his own chair-sculptures, for instance during
the international sculpture symposium in Luxembourg or for the exhibition
project Urbanaria - Part Two. The
first (Chair for Two) was an iron
construction placed on a crossroad in a park in the miner’s city of Esch-sur-Alzette.
That site was determined as a decision point that leads to various directions
with social and symbolic meaning. The other five chairs (Chair-View)
were made of wood and were installed in five former carting inns replacing
for a time the regularly used chairs. In the old times, inns were an important
social-cultural place, particularly along the five radial roads leading
to the city of Ljubljana that form the five-point star. There, the visitors
of the city, mainly merchants, could take a rest, socialise and make decisions.
The tiny objects, which the artist had found and collected in the vicinity
of each respective location, were installed into those chair-sculptures.
The play between the artistic and the applied function was ultimately
condensed in the middle of the seat - in the optical device - magic box
that offered to the gaze that which was hidden or overlooked in the frame
of everyday perception. Those residues of civilisations were there to
function as the witnesses of historic memory, alluding to some archaeological
Those chair-sculptures were recycled in his later projects (Catastropolis
2227, The Lull before the Storm) in the years 1995 and 1996. Similar
to that, he recycled some other objects from the artistic city of Catastropolis.
In the years to come, Kovačič further built the city and put it on display,
along with bringing into it creatures from the previous/past Plastos civilisation.
With the help of collaborators from various scientific disciplines (anthropology,
archaeology, ethnology, geography, history…), he implemented witty solution
by combining real spaces and human figures with staged sites and mechanical
creatures, thus providing this civilisation a wholesome context and history
(for instance, the magazine Plastos and an expert symposium in the Kapelica
Gallery in 2000).
Perhaps this is the place where we could paraphrase Rastko Močnik when
he writes on Claude Levi-Strauss’s departure points in the foreword of
the Slovenian edition of Race and History,
Totemism Today (Race et histoire, Le Totémisme aujourd'hui): In
his argumenting (representing) Kovačič first introduces time - not - ‘historical’
time but a cyclic time of ideal social reproduction. Then he abolishes
that time as well by translating it into a place (an installation).
This path is not without digressions and constant quest. It is all along
in relation with the ‘real’ situations that evoke doubt and uncertainty.
The time of the great stories is over and it is the time for searching
the sense. The ‘spirit of time’ manifests also in the artist’s high-risk
exposure of his own works (sub-auction of works from the installation
Europe in frame of the exhibition
This Art is Recycled in the Škuc
Gallery in 1997), where Kovačič also tested out the spectators and their
aggressiveness. He was placing himself into system relations and demonstrating
distinct oppositions. The more the signs and effects of collective amnesia
were manifest, the more he dedicated himself to archiving the memory and
real situations (The Lost Horizon, Lost
Time, Lost Image, Lost memories, Dossier 83:03, In Memoriam to Metelkova
93-98, The forgotten Five-Year Plan, Flash Back, Loss of Desire).
The artist therefore must first test everything piled up before he rejects
anything or go forward. Hence we can move once again forward to the past,
to Kovačič’s museum that shows us an artist as a collector, a bricoleur,
where the act of collecting has become an important aspect and a constituent
part of his artistic practice. Collecting, however, is just one part of
the artist's work. The basic distinctive traits of M. Kovačič’s projects
are complexity, interdisciplinarity and polymedia. The limits between
particular practices and languages have become obsolete. Kovačič is using
methods, strategies and procedures deriving from various artistic practices,
as well as the tools and languages of several media and means of expression,
thus establishing an active and direct contact with the viewer. This sort
of artistic production could be characterised as a contemporary, witty
bricolage (in sharp contrast with
narrow orientation, strict specialisation, or proficiency in only one
métier), where art does not speak the language of the past but instead
functions as a virus modifying all further messages. The task of the artist
as an individual in the politically, economically and symbolically unstable
world could be to explore the capability, power and weakness of old and
new systems, signs and rules, and to seek new forms of communication.
This is a high-risk walk on the edge. What is important is the connectedness
and the interweaving of all wondrous senses and surroundings. The artistic
practice of Marko A. Kovačič - which, of course, is not disconnected from
past achievements, and mainly close to the historical Avant-gardes and
individuals who stubbornly persisted in the realisation of their utopian
and prophetic visions - is perhaps one of the unorthodox approaches in
the contemporary artistic practice.
Further on, we shall present Marko A. Kovačič’s artistic production in
the period between 1994 and 2006 through selected texts. Some of them
have been already published, some were written especially for this occasion.
They are divided into three segments: ‘Museum’, ‘Lost Images’ and ‘The