Petar Vranjković at Spot Gallery
Spot Gallery and Office for Photography announce the opening of an exhibition Ich vermisse dich / Das sind alles meine Freuden by Croatian artist Petar Vranjković. The exhibition opening and artist talk will be held on Monday, 16 March at 7 pm in Spot Gallery (Čanićeva 6, Zagreb).
You have to be able to tell a story. The author’s method of unravelling narratives, which he continuously builds through his artistic practice, is revealed in this statement as well as in his ambition to be a storyteller. Petar Vranjković’s artistic work is intermedial in character; strung between photography, graphic design, designing and conceptual art, with the archive as his organisational and thematic linchpin. The personal archive he constructs is part of an intimate delving into his own history, the painting of an emotional and psychological family anamnesis of sorts and the creation of a new historiography out of the fragments of his family archive. The author stresses the intimacy of the revelation. He weaves his work around this topic, forming a flexible system whose structure rests on emotional relationships, but also on his systematic, patient and thorough research and archivistic efforts. The research and the process themselves hold far more significance than being mere aesthetical or technical components. While stressing the importance of sincerity in the process, the author simultaneously successfully avoids falling into the trap of sentimentality or that of an overly confessional tone, precisely because the material is not overly rigidly defined while still clearly outlining the concept. The viewers are able to insert themselves, their own interpretations, thoughts and emotions into the archive.
At the heart of the exhibition there are only two elements – a photograph of the artist’s mother and a quote taken from her journal. The way the exhibition space has been cleared takes a step back from the oversaturation that archive topoi are so often accused of. All the elements can be analysed through the microscope that is the deep submergence in one’s own family history, the history of the region the author hales from and which he leaves behind (Osijek), thus in a way feeding into the cycle of his mother’s confessional practice. His mother’s words float through the space. Originally written in Croatian, Vranjković has translated them into German, and by doing so hinting at the latent bonds to his birth place’s history, as well as taking a step back from his mother’s writing – which in the altered framework becomes open to new interpretation. The translation happens on two levels: literally, through linguistic tools, and through the re-contextualisation of the statements. The quotes also include the artist’s brother – the two of them being their mother’s two joys in life. We as the audience “read” the mother, but also “read” the author himself reading the mother, for he is the one who chooses and extracts the exhibited text fragments. The choice of serif typography (font Georgia) is not arbitrary and the discomfort, which is the initial reaction to the gaudy and overly expressive quality of the type font, gradually turns to affinity.
The mother’s face transferred to cyanotype, a technique mostly associated with the purely scientific approach of blueprinting, gives the whole process an ethereal quality. The choice of cyanotype might be interpreted as a sort of homage to Anna Atkins, the author of the first published book to ever use photography for scientific purposes. The approach the author took in the research of his family history is in itself almost scientific. By creating a complex organisational and interpretative system and feeding it through an emotional prism, he relativises the dichotomy between the emotional and the rational and by doing so puts pay to the scientific imperative of objectivity. He is simultaneously objective and subjective in the extreme and his work is the result of his dialectic relationship towards the subject matter.
The photograph gives of the air of a religious icon, but lacks the fetishist aspect precisely because of the personal space generated by the text – which allows us a peek into the very person of the mother. She has not merely been left hanging in a blank space, but has been given both autonomy and a voice. The treatment of the exhibited materials is neither exploiting nor sensationalist in nature, establishing a sort of reciprocity instead: He is the object of her journal entries and she the object of his art and the two processes are conscious, deliberate, consensual and in constant, fluid flux and merger. The author doesn’t interpret his mother’s statement; in this he is beyond scientific, because she herself always lapses into interpretations even under the guise of absolute impartiality. By deconstructing and reconstructing the “verbal” aspect of her person, the author gives his mother the three-dimensional substance of a living being.
The mother’s face looks directly out of the portrait and down on the viewer, initiating a relationship between them that can never be fully established. This forces the viewer to face a sense of awkwardness and unease. We are the ones intruding on her (and his) private sphere, the open invitation we have received notwithstanding. Ich vermisse dich (I miss you) doesn’t only refer to the act of longing for someone, but to the person literally missing, that is to say, the artist’s inability to truly capture and contain the essence of his loved one. The other person is always epistemologically just out of our reach, whether they are physically present or not. They are the object that slips beyond the borders of the knowable. While the author may invite us to participate in this intimate mystery, he never completely reveals it to us. That which we attempt to grasp, to abstract, from what we are shown, inevitably leaves us with unattainable “remnants”. Because we cannot fully comprehend her, she is perhaps best depicted through her own writings – for she can never be fully expressed through the inconsistent and insurmountable entity of language. We remain trapped in this half-participation, standing with one foot in someone else’s mental and emotional space, but remaining forever beyond the borders of knowing this person. The same is true for the author, though he doesn’t even attempt to know her in the first place, letting her speak for herself instead.
We keep re-experiencing the thought process of the author’s mother through the visual representation and the written, or rather re-written statement – both in the moment when it was written and in the here and now, the moment of her memory’s reproduction. This instance of remembering and re-living is crucial to this project. For that is the very essence of archives; the memory and its inevitable inconsistency, or rather the attempt to capture and anchor memory. The focus of his mother’s blunt and forward journal entries, which are reminiscent of Anaïs Nin, is on the mundane and the minimalistic, on the agambenesque small steps. Her son is allowed into her intimate sphere because he is already a part of it; he is the subject of her expression and she of his. The taking of someone else’s memories and making them one’s own, their mixing and merging, the impossibility of keeping and telling them apart….
The mother is the text; we read her out her journal, out the portrait, out of the blank spaces which we fill with our own texts. That is how we read the artist as well; through the presented work and his own reading of his mother, that is through a dual lens. Who speaks? Who writes? Which one of them is the true author in the end?
The key to interpreting it all lies beyond our and possibly even the artist’s reach. He is recorded within the very materials of the archive; in this particular case within a single living person. The mother is both the owner and the interpreter of her archive, her wondrous book. Through psychological exegesis the viewers insert themselves into the piece, into the person beyond the picture frame. By attempting to read her, we in fact read ourselves.
Preface author: Ana Bedenko
Petar Vranjković (born 1997) is a young transmedia artist, who uses objects from (family) archives, photography, graphics and design in his creative process. Vranjković is a third-year student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, at the Department of Graphic Arts. He exhibited at several group and solo exhibitions both in Croatia and abroad.
The exhibition remains open until April 3rd.
The exhibition is supported by City of Zagreb, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and Kultura Nova Foundation.
Opening hours of Spot Gallery:
Mon – Fri / 4 – 8 pm
This post is also available in: Croatian