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


RASTKO MOČNIK The Loving Sights

There has always been something irritating for me in the artefacts playing with iconographic elements of the ancien regime: even if the association with the ‘post mortem anticommunism’, the horrendous ideology of the new classes, has been severed, there still remains the feeling of an aesthetic bad consciousness that hovers somewhere in the background of such procedures. Artistic practices that ‘opposed’ the old domination did not use this kind of charade: maybe because they did not oppose the powers-to-be in the first place. Once the ‘art’ had acquired ‘autonomy’ by emancipating itself from ‘other’ ideologies, after the modernist turn had promoted the ‘art’ itself into the status of the ideological background of ‘artistic’ procedures, - aesthetic practices have had better preoccupations than to persiflate or ‘subvert’ the visual jargon of oppressive regimes. The confrontation was being fomented by the other side - and it aimed precisely at the arrogant ‘indifference’ of aesthetic practices, at their refusal to establish a relation with ideology that purported to cover all horizons and all possibilities. It was this sovereign persistence at non-relation that was the most deadly ‘critique’, for it pulverised the totalitarian project with an off-hand gesture of irreverence.

The posthumous fascination with iconic paraphernalia has, for me, been too close to the current ideological construction of a phantom ‘communism’ which, by producing an historical amnesia, presently paves the way to the new domination: it hardly amounts to more than an aesthetic footnote to a historical defeat. More importantly, this kind of artistry fails to confront the necessity that drives the production of the ‘effect-society’ by the means of extra-economic constraint, to invest the aesthetic domain: it thus misses one of the specific features of the presumed ‘totalitarian’ construction of the Social, and forsakes the possibility of an at least retrospective analysis which, reaching beyond current stereotypes, could contribute to fight the present, almost ‘vampire-like’, survival of the ‘bureaucratic’ modes of domination. The ‘real-socialist-post-mortem-pop-art’ does not even consider the problems posed by the aesthetic pretension of iconographic trivia it appropriates: so much less is it able to elaborate upon the sinister process in which, as their historical background withers away, what once used to be simple propagandistic artefacts, slowly acquire the status of ‘aesthetic objects’. A good reason to question the foundations of our aesthetic ideology, and to be wary of any attempt towards the ‘aesthetisation of politics’, be it as ironic and agonistic as the current ‘real-socialist-trivia-art’ purports to be. We have never been so close to understand the ways in which every monument of culture is also a monument of barbarism: it would be irresponsible to miss the intellectual chance offered by a historical disaster.

Marko Kovačič’s productions are different: they look upon the past with love, not hatred. The procedure that provokes this impression is twofold: Kovačič’s ‘peeping devices’ make the viewer assume either the perspective of a giant or that of a dwarf. By the transformation of his and of her sight, the viewers are made either ‘bigger’ or ‘smaller’ than themselves. Not only does this procedure make the viewers ‘see themselves seeing’, a shaking achievement in itself - it also relativises their ‘normal’ stance, temporarily lost in between the imposed points of view. Within the parenthesis of the ‘too big’ and the ‘too small’, the viewer is thus detached from his or her routine and everyday posture: seeing what he or she does not, ‘normally’, see, the spectators can take the measure of the blindness of their ordinary lives.

One of the striking features of Kovačič’s exhibitions is the lust for looking regularly aroused in his guests: it is rare to see the pleasure of the gaze (or is it the mythical Lacanian jouissance?) so passionately experienced, and so candidly admitted. What is finally exhibited in Kovačič’s presentations is the ‘sight’, le regard itself. Not that one can really grasp it outside the lonely experience of one’s own ‘peeping’; one does nevertheless read its mark upon the illuminated faces of the public, surprise its trace in the joyous movements of the crowd, one can feel it palpitate through the agrement of the affranchised conversation.

For the two displaced perspectives both belong to the world of infantile fantasies: the all-encompassing giant’s outlook, the secret dwarf’s participatory view, the two avenues to the world of wonders and of puzzlement we have all indulged in, and which we all have equally lost. A world we can only nostalgically recollect - until Kovačič makes us recapture it, together with the sharp consciousness of its irretrievable loss. We not only see, again, the illusion - we also ‘see’ the sight that contrives it and is charmed by its own product. And if, amongst the trivia of our childhood, we come across the red star of the daring hopes of past humanity, the historic shades of its tragic abuse comfortingly blur with the shadows of our own idiosyncratic traumatisms, the distantly aching companions of our childhood - the solid rock of our present subjectivity. And we know: we will never come to terms with the tears of the child within us - while it is precisely this incapacity of ours that makes us humans who we are. We will never consent to the treachery of history - and it is this very resistance that makes us face the treason we have to live.

(text on Chair-View project; from the catalogue of the exhibition Urbanaria – Part Two, OSI-Slovenia (SCCA-Ljubljana), Ljubljana, 1997)

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