Neli Ružić

The emergency is an imposed form of time, but also a call to awareness. In a state of emergency, there is a feeling that we are out of time, that there is no time or delay. At the same time, paradoxically, the perception of time is expanded and splintered into its tiniest parts, nanoseconds that become a fractal infinity. The interior of the time machine is open wide, and at any rate, it stopped being mechanical a long time ago, the symbolic copy of universal rotation, but is instead its electronic translation into a line composed of zeros and ones.

The emergency is, therefore, not only related to the speed of reaction, but also to changes in the perception of time. Even though we can prepare for it in advance, plan, and develop procedures, the experience of such reactions points to the space of synchronicity, coincidence, or loss of control, will, or apathy. Adrenaline instantly increases strength, perception, and intuition. As we extinguish the fire, another space opens up within us, the power of humanity, community, and empathy. Suddenly we know that we are not alone.

I proposed the theme of this year’s Almissa Open Art Festival as early as last year. In the meantime, the imperative of emergency caught up with us and almost overtook us, and its presence in our everyday life became obvious. The state of emergency and urgency have always been a part of contemporaneity, as W. Benjamin writes in 1940, in his eighth Thesis on the Philosophy of History: “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not an exception but the rule.”1 The state of emergency that is now only concealed with the urgency of the pandemic. This year’s Almissa intends to portray this globally imposed concept, its implications in contemporaneity and our lives, as well as the uncertainty as a lever for strategies of political and economic manipulation.

The experiment of isolation and the experience of external silence facilitated the focusing of attention on internal spaces of duration. At the same time, acceleration and an unstoppable penetration of the external happened through virtual windows. Now, even more than before, while being virtually connected and physically distant, there are new levels of public encroachment into private space. Different rhythms and perceptions of time, opposite and conflicting temporalities became a deeply personal experience: slowing down, accelerating, waiting for results, time of illness and uncertainty, exhaustion, and inability to project the future.

More than ever before, the emergency of others has also become ours, clearly demonstrating the interconnectedness of everything on our only planet. It is as if this chiaroscuro scenario illuminated and accented the shadows of dust accumulated under the carpet.

We have long been witnessing the breakdown of tissue on all levels. The health crisis has already been well-primed by the ecological crisis and climate change, as well as the exploitation of natural resources, including that of humans. Even though the halting of activities momentarily froze the picture of the downturn, likely, this virus is also the consequence of disturbed ecological systems in the Anthropocene era. For a moment, the invisible virus stopped the machinery and brought connectivity, fragility, as well as the emancipatory power of vulnerability to the fore. But it also threw inequality into painfully stark relief.

Symptoms of the chronic model of the neoliberal capitalist disease became more visible: growing poverty and inequality; the dysfunctional business model of healthcare; racism and xenophobia; violence against the most vulnerable – such as women, the elderly, refugees, and migrants; the rise of nationalism and populism, perfidious forms of colonialism, tourism – autism of the world, the gentrification of cities that is swallowing public spaces and communities.

The future could become a terrifying dystopia with deep socio-economic problems, the threat of techno(logical)-totalitarianism that relies on already established dynamics of control, and the abolition of freedom. We find ourselves neck-deep, it has long been too late for anything, but it is also too late to give up. Do we have a plan for yesterday? How can we prepare the terrain (even if it is only one square meter in size) without allowing for the return of the old tomorrow?

Almissa Open Art is heading into its 11th edition, which we renamed as the number of the emergency services 112, to emphasize two things – dissecting the concept of emergency, but also the ability of art to diagnose and initiate processes in the pulsating present. Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio anticipates that “one day, perhaps, we will find out there was no art, but only medicine.”2

Through interventions, actions, performances, and projections, as well as other hybrid forms, we will address the public, accidental passers-by in the town of Omiš, speak loudly and whisper about the dysfunction of the world, and try to find new directions of movement, and challenge the existing structures. To relate artistic practices of direct action in public space and the poetic pushing of limits of time, the necessary, futile, insane, somersault that could change the order, and alter the system that is collapsing on concrete and invisible levels, collectively, individually, and subcutaneously.

This year’s Almissa will call for the recapturing of personal space, but also the common public urban space, pointing to care as a form of resistance and solidarity as a necessary precondition for community development. It will caution against the narrowing of personal freedoms, temporality as permanence, the unreliability of support, and the certainty of an avalanche as a metaphor for the times we live in.

I am convinced that art as the field of sensibility and solidarity can contribute to the culture of tenderness and strengthen the bonds that hold us together. To the feeling of community, “a new sensory fabric in which prosaic activities acquire poetic dimension through which they create a common world”, which Rancière calls “redistribution of the sensory”.3

In the time of emergency, it seems even more important, as Rancière says, that the question of the relationship between aesthetics and politics be raised at this level, the level of the sensible delimitation of what is common to the community, the forms of its visibility and its organization.4 Perhaps precisely in the time when an emergency is overriding contemporaneity, it will be possible to anticipate the new fabric of the community?
  1. Benjamin, Walter, Eseji, Nolit Beograd, 1974, p. 83
  2. “Jednog dana ćemo možda saznati da nije postojala umjetnost, već samo medicina.”, Le Clézio, Jean-Marie Gustave u Deleuze & Guattary, Što je filozofija?, Sandorf & Mizantrop, Zagreb, 2017. p. 134.
  3. Rancier, Jacques. Politike vremena, Novi osvrt na modernost, Sveska br. 6, mjesto izdavanja i godina p. 7
  4. Rancière, Jacques, 2004, The Politics of Aesthetics, Distribution of the sensible, London, New York, Continuum International Publishing group. p. 18
11th Almissa Open Art Festival: Emergency

group exhibition

Health Center, Omiš, Croatia
August 21-26, 2020

Neli Ružić

work exhibited:

Untitled (Archive Omiš: Health Center), 2020
fabric, light, 410 x 595 cm
intervention on the façade of the building

photo credits:
Viktor Popović