Borderless, dr. Stefanie Dathe
They are to the International Danube Festival as the Minster is to Ulm. Equally beloved by guests, locals, and petty thieves alike, are the bright flags that, in a biennial rhythm, line the banks of the river like a colourful parade. On each occasion, they are designed by selected artists from the Danube countries, and the waving pennants, visible from far and wide, mark the site of a significant creative cooperation and intercultural exchange. This year, the popular Danube ensigns appear in a flag design. While flags – often with rich, decorative symbolism and heraldry – have developed throughout our cultural history into landmarks of identification or victorious trophies for corporations, soldiers or military units, flags have always been a visual method to transmit information, often over a great distance. In the interests of easy identification and rapid readability, the design of flags was and is marked by the abstract two-dimensional arrangement of colours, surfaces and symbols and reduced into a strictly geometrical form.
Flags have occupied visual art since the moment in the twentieth century when, through abstraction, a formal connection to fine art was recognized. Lying behind the iconisation of the Black Square by Kasimir Malevich (1879-1935) there is both an acknowledgment and an urge to use the form as an ensign. While concrete art and minimalism, constructivism and colour-field painting are aimed at dispelling the symbolic meaning of art, they always speak the language of flags and comparable carriers of meaning.
The two artists chosen this year are Ana Petrović, who studied at the Academy of Arts in Osijek, Croatia, and Bosiljka Zirojević Lečić, who teaches at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, Serbia. Representing a younger generation, these two artists come together in Ulm, beyond the images of civil war and religious enemies, to create a work of cul tural understanding. For their flag installations, both have used language and aspects of our complex system of global communication as their theme.
On a daily basis, we encounter letters, words and texts in combination with images, in a variety of forms. Ever since the avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century,there has been an increasing infiltration of literature, applied art, the visual arts, writing and language, and letters and numbers as artistic material and elements of creativity. As a result, the boundaries between the visual and the verbal have dissipated, with text becoming an independent pictorial medium, artistic gesture, comment or symbol.
“Typography can, in certain circumstances, be art”. Without a doubt, this proposition made in 1930 by the fine artist and graphic artist Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) applies to the project concepts of Ana Petrović and Bosiljka Zirojević Lečić. Their artistic contribution to the International Danube Festival draws attention to the diversity of peoples along the river – both linguistic diversity and the possibility of non-verbal, visual communication.
Ana Petrović uses her painted flag cloths in a wide range of 17 different colours, depicting 309 times the term “borderless” in the different languages of the Danube countries, the Danube river basin, as well as in English, as a global language. Whereas, on her 351 flags, Bosiljka Zirojević Lečić employs a combined system of colour sequences and the name of the Danube, Danube countries and cities, translated into Morse code.
As a waterway and transport route, the Danube passes through different countries and landscapes, as if without borders, from its source to the Black Sea. Overcoming the power of the river and building bridges between shores posed a great challenge to the people of bygone eras. Today, the Danube stands as a European symbol for overcoming national and cultural borders. In this regard, the multi-lingual flags of Ana Petrović send out a signal, which is visible from far and wide, and appeals to our similarities. Borderless – this word extends like a mantra, in new colours and languages, stretching over a kilometre on the Neu-Ulm riverbank, between the two Danube bridges. As much as the billowing cloths are exposed to the uncertainties of wind and weather, just so sensitively must the international achievements of our time be protected from political-social uncertainties and hardships.
On the Ulm side, the festive flags with the designs of Bosiljka Zirojević Lečić employ a surprising amount of symbolic abstraction. Out of her graphic play, with its ciphers of Morse code – dot, dash, pause, the artist develops 330 flags, using the respective national colours in a vertical arrangement, representing the names of the Danube, its riparian states and cities, each using one letter, and arranged in eleven groups. Here, typography becomes a sensuous structure made up of predominantly geometric surface areas. In their formal aesthetic appearance, the series of Morse code flags with their sharply demarcated, stencil-like, flat paint work can be compared to the Hardedge painting of the late 1950s. The content of these purpose-oriented compositions sensitizes us to the complexity of communication strategies in the past and present; to the possibilities and impossibilities of language and its essential meaning in life.
dr. Stefanie Dathe
Nothing to All - All to Nothing, Dario Sošić
During the mid-1960s, conceptual art started with artworks where wordplay dominated or thought was above aesthetic pleasure. Ana Petrović chose that kind of artistic expression, showing it in her works in the earlier years at the group exhibition “Art Colony Rovinj,” and confirmed it with this solo exhibition. The title of the exhibition itself shows and proves us that; with its beauty of thought, it permeates and competes with the aesthetic beauty of presentation of the same thought. The thought that is the title of the exhibition is the exhibited work at the same time. The thought that can be translated as: From nothing to everything – From everything to nothing, or simpler as: Nothing to all – All to nothing. The same phrase also imposes itself as the often present paradigm: Nothing or all – All or nothing, in the description of the mental state and attitude of certain people.
Actually, we could also put it this way: From eternity to the infinite – From the infinite to eternity, where nothing is as infinite as eternal is equal to everything! That mind game of words in a sentence determines the aesthetic beauty of an artwork, especially when we realize that the artist succeeded to visually present those thoughts and words, to merge everything into one artwork where all the elements together are summed up and merged into one. It’s a difficult task considering that in a complex process the thought is followed by words and words are followed by the thought. A complex process that is incessantly and infinitely going away and coming back in a spiral motion. That kind of constant rummaging of thought into one knot and simultaneous disentanglement from the knot, is converted to communication with the help of words. Primarily communication of us with ourselves; we learned language and adopted ways of thinking in the same way when we were kids, when we would tumble a certain word back and forth until we finally learn it, accept it and understand its meaning. A parallel and simultaneous process of exercising self-consciousness that helps children to discover and learn spoken language and thought skills.
However, that internal speech, our thoughts, need a link to the outside world, although not explicitly and always through spoken words and sentences. Regardless that the whole work i.e. thought could have been presented as a written and spoken sentence, the artist wanted to transfer the meaning of thoughts with the help of the painting medium. Ana Petrović then turned to the visual presentation of signs and symbols in a contemporary way. A heritage from the New Tendencies period can definitely be recognized, as well as the cultural conventions in understanding the film medium, but the technique used by contemporary computers prevails. Numerous layers of canvases on which the image is projected in the gallery space are a link to the expression of the 60s, while the flow of time is emphasized by the filmic component of video necessary for the sequence of displays that are used to create an image of the word and sentence. The assemblage of combinations of symbols (letters), discontinued by partial or total disappearance, without any particular meaning, is synonymous with the messages we handle daily in the digital world. With that, the artist puts technological characteristics of the electronic video image in the core of the context of her artistic expression.
Ana Petrović filled the Gallery space with projections of videos on canvases that are hanging from the ceiling. She transformed the whole of the interior architecture into a space-time box. She chose light and darkness as basic elements she uses and that can express – everything! The images are built from many symbols of unrelated meanings and they mirror today’s tablet screens and messages created in them. The combination of darkness and light creates a special structure we progressively adjust to. With that space-time installation, she is offering a complex view of the world and communication. Communication is manifested through double projection that has a source from both opposed sides of the room, each projection has its sentence of opposite meaning. That sentence can be decoded only if the viewer carefully and patiently participates in the whole time frame of the projection. While doing that, he/she has to carefully watch everything from different positions in the space. The projection shows letter by letter that is moving on the screen in the dark.
With the use of letters, the two-dimensional surface of the transparent projection screen is transformed into a playful, multidimensional space with unusual kinetic energy, obtained by a small movement. The movement of light in the dark looks like a ballet dance, slowly, continuously moving in all directions the light is sifting through the layers. Losing strength in remote places where it’s interwoven, it gives place to a stronger light, with the projection of the letters with the opposite sign. Simple forms, with the help of movement and light intensity, are used to create complex forms. The letters rise or disappear, as though they come from somewhere or go away somewhere. They are visible to the viewers only individually and repeated through several layers, each time bigger and less clear, fuscous. There are different degrees of visible and invisible in the Gallery space, depending on where the viewer is positioned. All of the invisible parts of the video projection with the visible assume real shapes in our imagination with the help of memory. We have to remember what we have seen to connect it into one thought.
The viewers of the exhibition become the participants, pulled into another world, esoteric and secretive, a world outside ordinary life, a world of self-consciousness and thoughts. The Gallery becomes a place where a thought dialogue occurs through the remembrance of past and future time. A dialogue with the present time that becomes the past while at the same time, the future becomes the past, with the parallel exploration of being and consciousness through artistic interpretation. The exhibition includes the viewer in its ludic process where games like hide and seek and rebus prevail: insensible, invisible with visible, initiate the complex processes in our consciousness, it awakens our imagination…Light determines existence but also the disappearance of projected shapes, signs, and symbols that are all actually letters. On the projection screens, the light and darkness make the elementary component of shapes and the gallery space represents the space for thinking about relations between space, time, memory, and identity. The absence of color or the monochromatic component of light is in service of the artist’s reduction of artistic expression. A sophisticated dialogue with visible and invisible, space-time form and memory with a few simple signs. Order and chaos in our time thinking process and consciousness that is constantly exchanged through meaningless layers of complicated and unrelated meaning, actually says that the present is a barely visible moment!
No name text, Luka Kuveždić
The works of Ana Petrović from the cycle LIFRAM are performed in various media (video, installation, photography, drawing), or rather on the borders of this media, they possess expressed awareness about media in which they are performed, and in all works the author deals with – doing it form different media and means of that media – questioning of film media and generally, the role of the light in them.
In approach to the cycle of works LIFRAM perhaps it would be the most meaningfully to begin with the explanation of the headline which gathers and defines them. The compound “LIFRAM” originated by shortening the English words “light” and “frame”. Encyclopedic footnote defines frame as a single static image “in the sequence of the same kind, from which the film tape, respectively projected film, is made of.” The Film Lexicon explains further: “Particular stringing of those images results with illusory movement, respectively the effect of the film projection.” If we try to define general characteristics of the works exhibited (Non Visual Film, LIFRAM1, the series of the photos Without Title, LIFRAM Daumenkino) we see that they are (with centeredness of all works on the questioning of the film media): reduced and clearly defined method, consistent application of that method, the repeating structure and minimalist aesthetics.
In the text, I will focus on the last works from the upper line. The series of the photos Without Title consists of five photos of the projector light during film projection. All five photos of the projector light were filmed in the same way: the projector and the projection surface are outside visible field, observer’s distance and (horizontal) camera angle are identical. As an interesting thing, I will say that the film was projected at the time of photographing of famous work of Stanley Kubrick Barry Lyndon from 1975. But the motive of the photos is exclusively the light as a structural material of the film. So this phenomenon, which typically doesn’t attracts attention, which is somewhere in the background of our attention during film projection, is brought to the focus of interest, respectively made the only and central, so that its autonomous existence is noticed. Inconsistently and in other circumstances hardly intractable beams of light on the five photos, taken in dark room, become accessible to the view in some moments of its fluctuation, getting its own visual qualities. So light itself, respectively its spreading between projector and projection surface, becomes the content of the picture, so we see, because of the seriality of the photos, changes of its forms and colours, depending on various scenes from the film. The impulses for focusing on the light of projector could be the works of the British-American artist Anthony McCall, who does the researches of sculpturality of light in time, using projectors in dark environments, starting from the first installation of the kind Line Describing a Cone from 1973. Though, with approaching to the works of the mentioned predecessor on this (partially different) principles, researches of the nature of film images by Ana Petrović in the cycle LIFRAM, are originally and moving in other ways.
Series of works LIFRAM Daumenkino starts from discovery which belongs to the film prehistory, therefore to the time of film nonexistence. German word “Daumenkino” doesn’t have equivalent in Croatian language, and its literary translation would be “movie for a thumb” or “thumb movie”. Series of works LIFRAM Daumenkino is performed in the form of simple little booklets, with drawings on their pages, made in little shifts, which make an illusion of movement when we quickly leaf through them, respectively an animated sequence is made. Many know such booklets as a toy from childhood, but what makes difference from three exhibited booklets of Ana Petrović to the ones we know is that we will not find some moving figures; namely, „main character“ in them is a light. There are reduced black and white geometric drawings made with marker and corrector on the pages, whose repeatedly variations simulate different light effects. Each one of the three booklets is exhibited without the title, and visual phenomena which we follow in them are the effect of turning off the TV as it shows on the screen, cars headlights passing from the opposite direction on the unlighted road…I leave the detection of the content of the third booklet from the series to the visitor. Exhibited on the pedestal with remark to the visitors to leaf through the pages, the booklets invite to be taken into hands, to be felt under the fingers, to be viewed according to own wish and in individual way.
Pay, Vladimir Frelih
When Ana Petrović Invites us to pay to touch her painting, she does not mean that there is a fine if we touch it. However, the artist is literally playing with our imagination and the conventional rules of behavior towards an art work, for example in a museum or gallery. It is not even an invitation but an order from which we cannot deviate. Namely, if we don’t touch it, we cannot experience the work, and if we do so, we must pay. Cynicism as a concept. The cynicism (Greek: κυνισμός, Latin: cynici) of today sometimes only has few arguments. Anisten, the founder of cynical philosophy never student of Socrates and Diogenes unencumbered of religious platitudes, despised the general opinion, social conventions and material wealth, which the regarded as the source of all human misery. Live like a dog, in accordance with nature, exercise their basic needs. The modern cynic has a more negative perception of human beings that is arrogant, coarse, indecent and he frankly warns of imposing its position. He is above all, unpleasant. The society of freedom and untruth cannot stand to hear the naked truth. Do we really not care about the truth? Most would say that they do, but gently, at selected times and with words carefully chosen and maybe not the whole truth. Last month on Croatian national television, on the TV show ”Sunday at two o’clock”, the host Aleksandar Stanković asked young politician Marijana Petir if she is a honest politician. We can guess the answer. We are a society of sweet lies, in which social norms and laws are based on a lie. Lying is an instrument that works. Is the democracy of the beginning of the 21st century more equitable than that of Greece from the 5th century BC?
Who needs cynics in our time? Pay to touch this painting , Ana Petrović painted conceptually dealing with the problem of painting itself and extension of the series Pay to touch this drawing from 2010. The artist takes us back to the very essence, to the structure of the artistic message, that does not necessarily exist. On one level it is a painting without dramatically, even though we are asked to act and are cautioned that without acting we do not fulfill the only functionality of the primary experience of the art work. On the second level of interaction of the picture, I begin to take action. The cynicism of the art has a healing effect on our over- standardized personality. Without the deception it is easier to ignore the cynical art then human beings, but art has a longer shelf life, we can ignore it and return to it optionally and it still awaits us mercilessly fresh.
Let the transition last at least as long as evolution. Art of geographical boundaries of art is even worse fiction. Pay to touch this painting is also an intellectual message of the whole social transition spectrum of us here and us there