ARCHAEOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE
BLACKBOARD I, 2016, BLACKBOARD II, 2016, BLACKBOARD III, 2014
Dimensions: 46 x 70 cm
DESTRUCTION, SUBTLE AND ABSTRUSE
Since 2003, I produced an array of works related to the area of village Ervenik, which is situated in Dalmatia, southern costal region of Croatia. Before the civil war, that took place in the 1990s, there were around 3,000 people living in this village. There was one factory, one hospital, two inns, a few stores, one cinema and one school with 400 students. After the civil war, area was almost completely devastated and the village became completely deserted. The majority of houses were havocked, and then burned. Today, this region has lost its particular purpose and is a “no man’s land “. Only 182 people live there. Average age is 72. The other former inhabitants have either migrated as refugees to other countries or were executed during the civil war. This area became a nature reserve and was completely forgotten from the state officials. Also, there is no cultural initiative connected to it.
Ervenik obtained a symbolical character. The fact that I spent time there and I knew how very different it looked before, had a crucial impact on my perception of it after its destruction. It is the absence of human beings, the savaged surrounding nature with the river, trees and animals which remained, burned houses, empty deteriorated roads, empty school with no children, that turned into a noise of signs which I tried to re-read and to re-connect. My works related to Ervenik developed out of the need to make history and relations in this area visible again. My intention was to make the connection with this, through the society, demolished world rehabilitated. It was in this process that the whole new territory appeared in front of my eyes, a “place within a place”, a volcanic mental terrain, shifting towards a metaphysical realm. Those kinds of territories, metaphysic in their subtleness and abstruseness, show up sometimes in the places devastated by humans such as this one.
Ervenik is a vulnerable, melancholic place with no visible future. Roland Barthes says that photography is melancholic too and that it’s pathos lays in the fact that it has no future. That it is the “emanation of the past real”, the ectoplasm, a ghostlike image, of that, what has been, and which cannot be touched anymore*. Being an artist who deploys different media throughout her works, this explains why medium of photography plays a major role in my artistic involvement with the metaphysics of Ervenik. On one side, the photography is capable to preserve the social, political and historical importance of this place from oblivion, by documenting the artifacts that I have found there after it’s destruction, as well as by constantly making record of artifacts connected to it’s process of slow decay. At the same time, the photographic medium is crucial in giving sense to the state of chaos being a consequence of this place’s severe destruction. Besides that, in my efforts to reestablish the connection with this demolished world, in my early works related to this area, such as “Poetry of Violence”, “The Roof is Open” and “Departure”, I used photography as a final media for different artistic interventions which took place in Ervenik. In this process the photographic media was indissoluble from the media of performance and installation. Together they generated the final concept of each work. Therefore the photographic medium was the method in all the works related to this area, used for the universalization of the artifacts, a tool for transformation of this place’s reality into a metaphysical, mythical realm.
Series of four photographs demonstrate this metaphysical dimension of the place. Photograph “The Parcae“ was taken in a burned and demolished dining room in one of the residential houses in Ervenik. It shows a patinized wall with the remnants of the three burned chairs, which had been leaning on the wall when the fire took place. The photograph shows the transformation from a chair into a trace on a wall, thereby unveiling a metamorphosis from something factual into something close to mythical. While this process was caused by a relatively recent warfare on the European territory, „The Parcae“, exposing the implications of such a destructive act questions the borders between imaginary and real. “Specter” was also taken in one of the destroyed homes of the former village’s inhabitants. Again, it shows the remnants of a burned object on a patinized wall, which was probably a hanged frame with a picture or a mirror. Scrutinizing gaze discovers a puncture, an incision on its harsh surface – a ghostlike eye appears – gazing back at the beholder. “Persephone’s Hands” are grasping toward us from the same unveiled, mythical realm. Finally, photographical series titled „Blackboards“ was taken in the havocked classrooms of the local elementary school. It shows the empty spaces of once most focused place in the room – the place where once the blackboards use to be hanged. The absence of blackboards makes an incision in the wall again – creating an immaterial, inverted place, a puncture in the world of disordered reality.
I was struck discovering a strong and unique bond between this medium itself, photography, with the respective content in my photographic works. Both the content and the medium, underwent the same process of transformation and they share the same sense of time, as they underwent the same process of temporal transformation. The chosen contents underwent the transformation caused either by fire or by destruction. The same process of crucial transformation – giving the sense to the content it comprises – is caused by the fundamental character of the photographic medium itself. Together, the content and its medium, create an image which indefinitely glimmers somewhere between the factual and the fictive. This is an image of a metaphysical realm, subtle and abstruse, withheld in its mythical time dimension. This temporal transformation is taken trough an incision in time cut by the photographical medium. Its final goal is the same as the attempt of my work in Ervenik – to overcome death and oblivion.
*Roland Barthes, La chambre claire. Note sur la photographie, Paris 1980