The Most Beautiful Place in the World
Marija Borovičkić about the exhibition of contemporary Slovenian photography, The Most Beautiful Place in the World
Contemporary Slovenian photography, or at least the selected fragment of it was presented to the domestic public in another exhibition of the Croatian Photographic Union, this time held in KlovićeviDvori. The curator, Sandra KrižićBoban moves the focus from the domestic art scene to the neighboring scene, the Slovenian scene, creating a collaboration with Gallery Fotografija from Ljubljana and the curator and leader of the gallery, Barbara Čeferin.
In the introduction of the accompanying publication, the curator accentuates the idea and meaning of the arbitrage, which is gaining multiple layers in Croatia when it comes to Slovenia; it is political and territorial, something in our daily lives through which we express our relationship and interest in someone else. Or there is the artistic, curator level, where we pick, separate, define and negotiate with ourselves and others. Insomuch the exhibition itself is presented as an attempt at establishing a dialogue and moving away from the political or the stereotype-induce conflict zones of the two neighboring countries.
Unable to create a common name for a heterogeneous photography scene of Slovenia, the concept of the exhibition relies on some current issues and the border areas of both countries, on “us” who interpret and evaluate “them”. The name The Most Beautiful Place in the World presents an auto-ironic positioning of the curator who evaluates. The exhibition also deals with the term of photography itself, which they attempt to define as a topic of conversation and not of conflict. In that way the formal starting position and the conceptualization of the exhibition wants to morally oppose various forms of physical and mental borders.
The exhibition starts with a large series of photographs by authors Matjaž Rust and Robert Merin, titled The Most Beautiful City in the World. That title, an ironic borrowed quote from the mayor of Ljubljana, served as the basis of their work and in a transposed way of the exhibition in its entirety. It also presents one of the most specific series of this exhibition; the quantity of photographs in LCD production, de-aestheticizing and a complete subservience to the scene. Even though it encapsulates numerous urban and street constellations, the most striking motifs are those of the completely wild night life and extreme intoxication, youth obscurity and deviation, which can justify the movement of the focus from technical quality to quality of meaning. However, it is hard to get away from the feeling that the provocative and (anti)artistic work in this series often crosses over into a (self)explicatory, attractive scene.
We can view as divergent forms of photographic practice the work of RadenkoMilak and Roman Uranjek. Their series of multimedia compositions titled Dates is on the fringes of drawing, painting, watercolor, photography, archive, fiction and document. Historic and private, objective and subjective, rational and irrational, it is consistently connected with the obsession of artistically distorted marking; interpretation, revolving and repositioning, during which we can most often recognize “maljevič’s” iconography.
On the trail of “borrowed” motifs and documents – tourist brochures, is a series of works by Tanja Lažetić, Nine Swimming Pools Behind Broken Glass. The idyllic photographs of times past, tourist destinations, hotels, pools and socialist resorts seem to flirt with the currently popular and very established retro-aesthetics, as well as build a second layer of meaning through a symbolic performanceact of the author – the act of breaking and gluing together of glass. A scar becomes visible and full of meaning about something – memory, myth, time, nostalgia, ideology?
On the other hand, several author remain within the confines of somewhat traditional photography – often depicting landscapes with good technical skill in large dimension, which without an exception also have a human presence.
Amongst the more notable names of Slovenian photography there is Jane Štravs, represented here with his series of photographs Dahab. The village of an Egyptian province in which we sense the processes of the transformation of the specific ambient of the desert landscape, caused by human intervention. Štravs approaches this professionally and minutely, carefully picking how full and effective the shot will be, the lighting, colors and the scene – however reduced it might be in content.
Anthropomorphic trails in the landscape are also recorded by EminaDjukić, the author of a photographic series Coexistence. The trail of humanity can be recognized in the forms of red marks on a tree, wooden planks for climbing which are attached to the bark of a tree trunk or objects left in an empty field; objects whose perfect geometric structure and white color is additionally in opposition to the organic nature and nuance of the surrounding plants, shrubbery, grass, branches and clouds.
Jaka Babnik’s series Jebodrom (Lover’s Lane) rerepresents places wich are borders in numerous ways: urban and rural, tamed and wild, intimate and public, hidden and open. Those are places where it is written, more or less discretely –behavioral, social and utilitarian – the fringe practice of human sexuality. Thus we imagine the parallel realities and functions, private lives and situations, only by creating a different, mental dimension of the photograph with an added meaning.
The series of photographs Rub (Edge) by young photographer Aleš Rosa also belongs to the landscape photographs. The clean, almost meditative, barren and velvety surface of the ochre hills and glades at first site have nothing to do with humanity. Only one discreet horizontal line of a freight train denotes the presence of someone else. Even though it is not pointed out in the author’s statement, what is specific in his work is the way he chooses sites. During his first visit to these places he finds potent photographic locations through a virtual satellite search over the screen, which he then later physically visits.
Within the context of motifs where there is an overlap of the natural and human, wild and urban, we should also mention the series of photographs Peripheries byTomaž Gregorič. Cultivated forms of nature where huge trees mix with signs of architecture are intentionally reduce to nuances of gray in this case. Although his goal is a bit unclear, let us paraphrase the author: through a conformist black and white aesthetic the viewer is diverted from thinking about the possibilities of the media and is left to the dry ontology of each individual picture.
On the other hand, the cruelty and force used in cultivating the animal kingdom is portrayed with a physical and psychological “shoving” into architecture and in the expectations of visitors to the zoo. Tanja Verlak, in the series of photographs ZOO, uses the portrayal of two huddled wild cats behind glass or an elephant in the corner of a low-lit room to testify about the horrifying forms of human “vacuuming” and instrumentalisation of the living world.
Some other, at first glance completely different, yet also conformist forms of human needs were touched upon by BoštjanPucelj, in his series Missing in Action. There are various places and forms in which the author finds the protagonists of his photographs in the city and in nature – shopping carts. This banal and endlessly used not only object but also a symbol of consumerism, is almost subjectivised and victimized by the author who accentuates the frailty of its meaning, the radicalism of the numerous ways it can be used or not used, created and thrown away.
Finally, let us return to the first work described – The Most Beautiful Place in the World:we can draw a long line towards a completely different dimension of content and history, but also notice the parallels with the fact that another series is outlying in a way. The series of black and white photographs YU & me by BojanRadovič, was created in the 80s in Yugoslavia and it contains a series of various completely different fragments of life, everyday living, people, situations and the personal memories of the author. Their common denominator is not clear and is held together more by the facts from one decade than the cohesion of content present in most other works. Here, however, we can sense some practices or fashions of newer photography, which are more often crowded into the homogenous and articulated photographic series and researches, than it is used to capture an individual fragment, one photograph – one story.
The search for a common idea of the mentioned series, particularly within the context of the beginning of the arbitrage and the moral poetics of this exhibition is without a subject and difficult to glimpse. Through the exhibition The Most Beautiful Place in the World, both in name and in deed, the level of the curator’s gesture is accentuated – it produces neighborly thoughts, activities and calls for collaboration which reveal to us some very interesting similarities and differences. They do not manifest only on the level of contemporary photographic practice,where it is intriguing to comparatively recognize some of our own authors and which show oscillations in the previously mentioned selection, not only in approach, content and quality, but also at the level of being contemporary and the “shared” life itself, which is portrayed as the most relevant arbiter of photographic and other dialogues.
Photographs by: Marko Ercegović