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Tina Smrekar / Anti-stress Techniques

08 January 2009 > 31 January 2009 Curator: Alenka Gregorič

In art it somehow works that the titles of art works, exhibitions and projects quite often represent an important integral part of the work itself or its presentation; or their importance can be so great that they become an indispensable segment of the art work as such. But here this is not the case. The exhibition’s title is a word association speaking most directly about the art works presented at the exhibition. No fear! The female artist does not talk about a new way promising you a better life and does not offer you a product that you can, if not satisfied with it, return in fourteen days and get a refund. Tina Smrekar’s art project only shows various ways and methods through which the artist relaxes in different ways, inviting the spectator to actively participate in the gallery’s space, potentially releasing some of his or her negative or simply excessive energy. In a humorous way while exploring daily situations she offers us methods of relaxation without any expensive gadgets. She employs objects, substances and situations that you can use any time and almost anywhere when you feel the need to relax. Join us, perhaps it will benefit you, too!

The works presented at the exhibition were created for her independent presentation in the Viennese gallery Siemens Artlab Gallery last year.

In her project entitled Sur*viver, ongoing for several years, Tina Smrekar never ceases to question the role of an artist in society, the evaluation of his or her work, and, consequently his or her survival. Evaluation as one of the basic social preoccupations, ranging from personal to wider social items, determines and enables positioning of an individual within the social environment where he or she lives, works or creates. The comprehension of the words like “work” on the one hand and “creation” on the other hand represents the first obstacle we come across when – in compliance with some commonly accepted social norms - labelling different occupations.

A factory, an office, a shop, a building site and similar are the spaces where creation does not take place, but work/labour does. Work as such is socially beneficial and has to be - without any doubt - rewarded with the earned payment. There’s no dilemma about that. An artist, however, most often equated with the term “creator” is also the one most often faced with embarrassment. The society often places the so-called “creativity” within the frame of social activities that bring no surplus, and represents a part of personal relaxation, satisfaction, consolation, exploration of one’s free time or a hobby. The usefulness/profitability of creators has got, as described, questionable parameters, so why should the work that is not linked to something tangible - the generally socially accepted as a useful product - be paid at all?

This is most often followed by a “logical conclusion” that an artist should take on some socially useful job – the kind of a job socially evaluated as payment worthy, and should not expect to live on the shoulders of the state.

In the works created three years ago Tina Smrekar exposes the topic that we could sum up in the words artist-creator-social case through puns originating from the English word “work”. She uses various prefixes or combines it with other words making the word work assume various sur-, sub- meanings, or synonyms, and then she acts them out. In her work she places herself in a somewhat waggish way at the frontal line of the project itself, thus showing the line that peaks with the works united under the title “Anti-stress Techniques”.

The mid-steps, as we could call the mid-phases between the first project from the series Sur*viver and the Anti-stress Techniques project are international group exhibitions at which, upon her invitation (there, acting as a curator or co-curator) there are other authors participating and through their works we can sense a similar orientation of topics as Tina Smrekar deals with. As already mentioned the artists re-question their own positions within the art system, the evaluation of their work and within the given frames the possibility of survival.

In the project Anti-stress Techniques, Tina Smrekar puts herself at the forefront once again when testing different ways of relaxation through various daily chores, showing to the public in a rather humorous way how they can release their negative energy or just the excess energy. Via her video and photographic works she addresses the public, gives people suggestions or instructs them by showing them possible ways of relaxation that require no special devices, knowledge or any greater efforts. These are fairly simple activities that we can do almost anywhere and anytime. There are no apparent cynical undertones that we could make out at the first sight, even though just a bit under the surface and with superficial notion of her artistic and social engagement, we can quickly notice a great deal of cynicism or put better: auto-irony. However, it is important to accentuate that her works do not contain any self pity despite the fact that Tina Smrekar, like most Slovenian artists, beside her artistic practise devotes most of her time primarily to the work the society evaluates as “payment worthy” as it enables her to survive. On the contrary - we can state that she invites the spectators in a playful way to start releasing their excessive negative energy right on the spot - at the gallery - where there are different devices available to them. We can read the video and photographic works as visual instructions for the performance of the anti-stress techniques that we can practise in the gallery as well as at home.

Text: Alenka Gregorič.

Tina Smrekar (born 1978) is a visual artist with a Master’s degree in photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig, Germany, she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljani, department of industrial design. For a year she took part in advanced studies at the University of Art and Design Helsinki, Finland. She presents her works in various media like photography, video, installations, research projects as well as performance. She has exhibited in various spaces in Europe, e.g. Germany, Austria, Lithuania. She has been given several scholarships and awards like from Museumquartier Wien, Vienna, DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst), KulturKontakt Austria, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, Bauhaus Dessau and Vermont Studio Center. She lives and works in Ljubljana.

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