Ksenija Orelj

Contact of Objects and Collision of Realities

Exhibition catalogue preface, Project: Delta (w/ Branka Juras), Marganovo / Hartera (former paper factory), Rijeka, Croatia, June 19, 2008


Present relationship between Rijeka and its surroundings, water and sea, is based on the stranded remains of the past, the waves of sentimental memories and rarely on progressive flows. One of the ghosts of the city, Mrtvi kanal in Delta, lies hidden in crowded busy everyday life. Various historic changes were flowing through the former bed of the Rječina River, the river port was controlled there, it was a boundary line between two cities, two state territories. Nowadays, it is a stale place of big inedible fish and small motor boats that are approached over individually constructed ladders.

Branka Juras, an architect and Viktor Popović, an artist have recognized this location as a particularity of the urban landscape, a borderline between two worlds interesting for the investigation of the contemporary identity. Whatever the mode of interpretation may be, this well-observed border area of the contrasting images of urbanity also indicates the present situation in the city in transition, in slow changing of the past, future and the postponed, into the solving of the present.

Through the heterogeneous urban aspects and social constructions in between reality and fiction, we come to the latest work of Viktor Popović, a prominent author of younger generation. The site specific looks industrially beautiful. By its spatial, visual and tactile quality it fits perfectly into the industrial setting of the former Paper Factory, into the huge, cold, empty hall of Hartera. It engrosses the mental consciousness by questioning the conventions of public visibility at several levels; in spatial, sociological, ecological, cultural as well as artistic systems, by specific transposition of the work outside (still the most common) institutional status and more or less the same gallery audience. By the width of the interpretational possibilities indicated also in the refusal of naming the works, characteristic for the author, this aesthetic whole, clean in its form, surpasses the local story. This divided and ambivalent field condition is transferred to the general level of doubt, within the field of the visual and visual representation, constructions and mediations of meaning, values.

Adoption and alteration of everyday life, the beauty of the third area,1 is done through the use of the extended ready made methods and the aesthetics of astonishment, noted also in other works.2 In conceptual terms ladder is the subject, in visual terms it is the notion of ladder, the simulation of functional objects and usage of recycled things in the permeable area of reality and art. The game of twisting the stereotypes, started by Duchamp, is multiplied and hybridized in the area of postmodernism.

We enter the retro-futuristic passage, a symbolic cleft where boundaries of real and imaginative, of the original and copy, outer and inner space disappear. The view is on one side directed by the photo documentation – the reproduction of the ladders, and on the other by their reinterpretation in the new architecture - the object installation. Dual characteristics of the starting point, border – passage, centre – margin, standing – moving, are conveyed through the dichotomy of colourful reflections of the photographs that collect the visual data from the field and the monochrome multiples that assemble the space around the objects and within them. Contrasting relations keep moving on, between the unique, heterogeneous, manual work – unified, identically produced, prefabricated product.

Thought-out inversion of expectations – witty game of paradox is intensified by the multiplied, ironically dysfunctional objects. They consist of metal ladders and round pool filled with used motor oil. Specific quality of the used liquid – petroleum product, opens up multiple levels of interpretation, as content-related feature of the city, locally noted in Mrtvi kanal, as global vision of polluted environment and consumer society whose future uncertainly floats dependant on big businesses and available energy resources.

Tensions and commotions are continued in the visual registry of the pools. Dark mirror (similarly to the dematerializing effect of light used in some former pieces) focuses the tricks of perception, the illusionistic relations of object and image. With its density and disorienting shiny surface it takes away the feeling of depth. Simultaneous to capturing the flexible reflections of the surroundings, it also simulates the continuance of the object itself within the actually very shallow pool. The dynamics of dissolving positive into negative, present and absent space, constant redefining of two and three dimensions, activates the fourth one, the time dimension that reaches across the object/reality, towards the unreal irrational spaces. Contemporary post-industrial aesthetics, within the network of individual standpoints and possible meanings, through its cold design-like manifestation influences the appearance of the contents beyond the material world, widening of perception and understanding the other and the surroundings. In spite of boundaries of perception and borders of consciousness.
  1. Danto, A.C., The Abuse of Beauty: Aesthetics and the Concept of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, 2007
  2. Štefančić, Klaudio. Sublimni postmodernist [A Sublime Postmodernist], Kontura art magazine, Zagreb, #82, year XIV, October 2004;
    Babić, Jasminka. Simulacija, provokacija, posudba [Simulation, Provocation, Borrowing] Kontura art magazine, Zagreb, #94, year XVII, October 2007