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Lene Lekše: Whistling Strategies

05 November 2020 > 30 November 2020 Kindly invited to the exhibition "Whistling Strategies" by Lene Lekše. The date of the exhibition depends on government measures – the exhibition programme and news regarding the possible viewing of the exhibition will be available on the websites and social networks of Alkatraz Gallery.

‘The world is divided into two types of people:
Those who whistle, and those who have tried.‘
(2005, film, Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling)


The Alkatraz Gallery presents a solo exhibition of Lene Lekše, an artist of a younger generation, who has already brought attention to herself with her complex fictional worlds. Not only that these worlds are vivaciously mischievous by themselves, but they were also conceptualised by way of playful connections between numerous individuals, experts, and artists. The charm of the artist's creative process thus lies in that the initial idea is constantly evading, which is a characteristic of her completed artistic works as well. Content-wise, they are filled with questions, whilst physically, they are completely elusive. Moreover, during imposed draconian measures to stop the epidemic, they are practically thwarted. Especially so since they focus on the act of whistling, which nowadays became an almost subversive act.

In the Whistling Strategies, likewise, including others — whistlers — as constituent parts of the artistic process, forms a special moment, which is at the centre of the artist's exhibited piece's concept. On the one hand, the gallery space would be filled with material objects, and on the other, by the non-material presence of sounds (and the accompanying feelings of community), produced by the participants of numerous workshops, meetings, and trainings. Unfortunately, whistling, as a live artistic means of expression, is de facto prohibited also during the time when cultural institutions are open for visitors, therefore we shall execute this part of the exhibition in the summer months next year. As we are used to with regards to the practice of a versatile, young artist, Lene Lekše, a part of the exhibition will again leave its designated time and space, in order to be heard in the future.

Lene Lekše perceives whistling as a genuine and very personal means of expression, as well as a sculptural material, which decisively penetrates a space, albeit for a short time, so as to create an evasive sculpture that is one of a kind. The emphasis of the exhibition shall lay on the sound, with a pinch of narration, collages of photos and found images, and whistling animation. In the concrete example and as always, with playfulness and building of tension between what is serious and what is not, as well as through the placement of an unexpected element or artefact (a whistle) into the gallery space and wider, the artist predominantly touches upon the deconstruction of the concept high contemporary art and its informal rules.

In her research, the artist defined whistling as a spontaneous and coincidental performative act that usually happens during other activities. This universal form of non-verbal communication, which is typical of all cultures, generations, and genders, is surrounded by an aura of triviality, although it is faster, stronger, and penetrates deeper than a spoken word. 'Homo habilis may already have used it while hunting or scavenging, and the first pastoral communities used it to signal their flocks and sheepdogs. Whistles are easier to hear than words, because they concentrate sound energy into a narrow segment of the frequency spectrum instead of spreading it. Generally, they occur in the frequency range of 1000 to 4000 cycles per second, to which the human ear is most sensitive.'[1]

Whistling and art thus have something in common. Namely, insightful art was supposed to be piercing, loud, and far-reaching. Whistling as art, furthermore, can be (or used to be) [2]  an expression of freedom and, as hissing, a gesture of rebellion. In the public space, whistling is perceived as an unnecessary, banal act, whereas, nowadays, art is too frequently presented as something gratuitous and unproductive. Lene Lekše wonders what happens if she connects both and uses whistling as a performative and sculptural practice. Can whistling be an artistic practice, or is it just another of the 'pointless' things the artist does? Lene Lekše hisses the neoliberal value system by — only rhetorically — questioning whether productivity really is what art everything is about. Already over 40 years ago, Mladen Stilinović, in his Artist at Work, showed us that, in fact, the opposite is true.

Ana Grobler


Lene Lekše (1995) is a final-year student of sculpture at The Academy of Fine Arts and Design (ALOU), the University of Ljubljana. In 2016, she participated at the exhibition ALOU LXX; The Past, Present, and Future in Jakopič Gallery. She was an Erasmus exchange student at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, the Netherlands, for a year. During her stay in the Netherlands, she was a part of a group project Minerva's Next Storage Wizard at Corridor Project Space and Kunst huis SYB.  In addition, she co-created an exhibition entitled When the Camp Is in the Dining Room, which was featured in Vrijdan Gallery in Groningen. Her work Greenberg was displayed at Youth Biennial in Osijek and in Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana. With her works Siesta and The Unstoppable Shoes, she participated at the festival DA! in Zagreb. Lene Lekše is also a recipient of two ALOU awards and of the Municipality of Ljubljana's scholarship.

[1] Ostwald in A. V. van Stekelenburg Whistling in Antiquity (p. 68, 2000)

[2] 'Scholar-recluses in the Han and Six Dynasties often employed whistling to display their disdain and contempt towards worldly affairs or to show an attitude of absolute freedom and unrestraint (…)'. Source: Whistling and Its Magico-religious Tradition: A Comparative Perspective, Juilung SU (National University in Singapur), p. 31, 2006.

Translated from Slovene by: Ana Makuc.

Thanks to: KUD Franc Kotar Trzin.