Petra Mrša at Spot Gallery
Spot Gallery and Office for Photography announce the opening of an exhibition Killing, Arranging, Walking by Croatian artist Petra Mrša.
The exhibition opening and artist talk will be held on Monday, 9 September at 7 pm.
Millennia-long history of man’s relationship with his surrounding and environment based on a — more or less successful – conquest, occupation, appropriation, cultivation, management, as well as on fatal interferences in processes to which we do not belong, on acts of destruction and contamination unencumbered by consequences, undoubtedly shaped a unique awareness of man’s absolute dominance over nature. Today, more than ever before, we are alienated from nature though we are frantically striving to go back to it, trying to find solutions for not entirely foreseeable consequences of its destruction brought by human hand. Michel Serres, a French philosopher who recently passed away, upon alarmingly recognizing the ensuing global ecological crisis that marked the last decades of the past millennium, called for the signing of “the natural contract” (the title of his 1990 book The Natural Contract). History is often viewed as a collection of stories about conflicts and wars between nations, peoples, thereby leaving out the entire history of man’s aggression against nature. However, “(…), earth, waters, and climate, the mute world, the voiceless things once placed as a decor surrounding the usual spectacles, all those things that never interested anyone, from now on thrust themselves brutally and without warning into our schemes and manoeuvres”, Serres writes. The dismal colonial rhetoric that still drives us to perceive nature as something not only separate from us but also subordinate. By no coincidence, the term used for subjugating nature to man’s pursuits — cultivating — contains the root word culture; an attempt at understanding nature is, above all, a cultural act that entails an entire array of mental processes whose goal is to “translate” natural phenomena, creatures and laws to the world of culture, the world that we can understand because we created it.
Adopting the language of “culture” in her work Killing, Arranging, Walking, Petra Mrša approaches nature based on the binary opposition between nature and culture not to affirm this opposition but rather to subject it to a thorough critical re-evaluation. She photographs plants and animals, collected – plucked, killed – removed from their natural habitat, against a neutral backdrop. Each photograph is accompanied by documentation about the plant, that is, the animal; they are all encased in a white box, an album of sorts, which evokes visual codes and terminology inherent to official sources of knowledge about nature: encyclopediae, herbaria, exhibits in natural history museums. At the same time, she marks the locations from where these “exhibits” were taken with “flags” of sorts with photos of each plant or animal and thus returning them to their natural habitat but only on a symbolic level – as a form, image, symbol. In a semi-fictional video journal, Mrša explores the extent to which our experience of being in nature is marked by a previously adopted imaginariumabout the world of nature; ironically “supporting” the narrative about traversing the unknown forest terrain (filled with at times idyllic, peaceful experiences, and at times, with images of violence and inhospitality) with its “cultural” counterparts – drawings, photographs, models, encyclopaedic definitions and animal-shaped toys – the author eschews the romanticized, pathetic image of nature. On the contrary, she questions the existing images (concepts) of nature, uncovering within them the simplified persistence on one entirely mythologized vision which does not go beyond nature as a mere decoration (as Serres would say). Doing away with the supposed neutrality of the usual representational models and uncovering the hidden violence inherent in seemingly harmless acts, is one of the basic preconditions for a profound and needed change in the way we approach nature.
Petra Mrša (1985, Rijeka) graduated Photography at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, Sociology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Psychology at the University Department of Croatian Studies at the University of Zagreb. Her artworks are included in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb and the City Museum of Zagreb, and were exhibited at numerous solo and group shows. She has published artist books New School(Pazzini Editore) and Rehearsing family(Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka). She worked as an assistant at the Hoxton Gallery in London and for the last four years has been employed as an assistant at the Department for photography at the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka. The primary field of her artistic work lies in researching the way how acquired constructs shape the lives of individuals.
The exhibition will remain open until 27 September.
The exhibition is supported by Zagreb City Office for Culture, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and Kultura Nova Foundation.
Opening hours of Spot Gallery
Mon – Fri / 4 – 8 pm
Or by appointment