Aleksandra Saška Gruden will take the visitors high up. Four projections with a joint title The Third Eye of Consumption
will be screened from the ceiling down to the gallery’s floor. The viewers will ascend onto a scaffold, constructed of metal poles and wooden planks, and look down, into the depth. A recording of footage the artist has filmed in shopping malls with technological devices shall await them there. These handy digital gadgets with inbuilt cameras are actually evolving into extensions of human limbs. Due to their small size they enable numerous manipulations, impossible prior to the expansion of mobile telephony.
Video recordings of Aleksandra Gruden follow the rhythm of life in big, air-conditioned halls from the bird’s perspective; we see manicurists at work, a young couple, resting on a bench, activities at a goldsmith’s... Even though the video does not disclose people’s faces, the activities of the filmed ones are exposed before our eyes. The author shall re-construct the situation to the viewer from the angle he or she usually unconsciously observes the pulse of a shopping mall beneath her or him from. By showing only the gestures of the filmed ones without their wider surroundings, she will eliminate the hissing of the centre and face the viewer with the voyeur within her or himself. The visitors will – independently or in small groups – observe the shootings that interfere into private space, and they will initiate them into the role of secrete observers. They will, actually, not be doing anything that could be considered extraordinary; in shopping malls they can do that live, in “yellow” magazines they do it through paparazzi photographs. Social networks enable access to photographs of people, acquaintances of our friends, that we actually do not know, anyway.
An even more simple way is to switch on a television reality show. A media corporation Endemol started producing the first one in 1999 in the Netherlands, and later on in about 70 countries around the world. The programme’s name Big Brother
had been inspired by the famous novel by George Orwell 1984
, descripting the omnipresent monitoring system mechanism called the Big Brother. Big Brother
is one of the first elements of mass culture with a new tendency: the main character of reality shows has become a commoner the viewer can identify with. The programmes are realized in premises, isolated from the outer world, they are populated by several ordinary
people, exposed to continuous filming, continuously fulfilling the requirements of requested tasks. The participants in the programme are under the pressure of film shooting, the pressure of successful fulfilment of the tasks, usually followed by a prize, or if not fulfilled, a punishment. Artificially created circumstances and the lack of contact with the outer world create conditions of psychological overwhelm-ness, often leading to emotional assaults of participants. Programme producers wish to convince the viewer that the actors are leading a completely normal life and that they overreact, their reactions are strange and incomprehensible. The power and satisfaction the viewer senses because of that are the drug, confirming again and again, that she or he is smarter than the actors on the screen. At the same time there is a reverse process going on, making the viewer identify with the actors and - as social psychologists claim - enable substitutionary experiencing of what is happening to others. That is why masses cry after deceased stars of pop culture, or celebrate sports victories. The experiences from the TV screen enable participation in the world that can substitute real experiences. From the perspective out of a domestic armchair we watch the footage that virtually passes into our consciousness like in a Hollywood film Surrogates
(2009), trying to show the consequences of the evolution of this contemporary trend. The film shows a near future in which there are remotely-operated multi-purpose humanoids, enabling everyone to live in an ideal mechanic body, and simultaneously in a safe embrace of fireside. The avatar is protected from injuries, does not feel any pain, but enables the experience of a wide range of desired emotions. Flawless androids take on the life roles of people who remain hidden in their bodily shells. Human lives are operated by their improved, mechanic variety. The pre-condition for realization of this screenplay has already been fulfilled by contemporary culture in the Second Life, a virtual world, accessible online since 2003.
Voyeurism is a sexual inclination to observe sexual intercourse of other people1
. The mass culture has, with the help of programmes like reality shows, spread this idea into a socially acceptable fetishized inclination towards observing everything and everyone. Everything can be interesting if recorded in secret, and enabling us the illusion of an insight into real
life, even if it is through the work of employees behind the counter, like in the recordings/footage of A. S. Gruden. While an artist, scientist, and writer Trevor Paglen deals with secretive activities of American army and secret agencies, photographs top secret
areas and uses the data of amateur satellites to disclose the obsessions of observation and control, executed by the men in power, then Aleksandra Saška Gruden undertakes the delights of observation from the perspective of a commoner. Even more so: she links the look of a voyeur with consumer society, and therefore places it into the contemporary rhythm of life. She is interested in the insight into the consumer “ritual” unfolding in the intimate relationship among seller – buyer – object. With her look through the camera the artist records the activities around her, extracting the essence of the particular activity within the relationship among the seller, buyer and the objects, without distracting the rhythm of the place they are in, while – with the help of her recordings offering a mirror to the visitors. By looking through the eye of the continuously shooting camera we can observe ourselves. What does the image we see tell us? What do the things we watch or film tell about ourselves?
Ana Grobler, Sebastian Krawczyk
Aleksandra Saška Gruden has studied at the Faculty of Education in Maribor. In 1998 she enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, Department of Sculpting and has completed her studies in the class of prof. Lujo Vodopivec. All this time she has been working as a journalist at the Cultural Department of the National radio and television company, Radio Slovenia, and teaching sculpting at the Famul Stuart School of Applied Arts in Ljubljana. Since 2005 she has been the head of the programme of the festival of performance, contemporary dance and theatre Performa. Since 2006 she has had a status of an independent worker in culture. In the period between 2007 and 2009 she was the artistic head of the art colony Muzika, Bašanija, in Croatia, and since 2010 the head of the programme of the Video Dinner and the Shop Window at the Cultural Incubator as well as the programme of the Mobile Presentation within the International Festival of Computer Arts (MFRU), MKC Maribor. In 2006 she received the 2nd
prize for her work for the Slovenian photography of the year, EMZIN, and the 3rd
prize for her video, A Man-Monument (Človek-spomenik) in Velenje.
Special thanks to: Miha Vipotnik, STIPANIČ CONSTRUCTIONS, Andreja Stipanič s.p., Spodnje gameljne 2g, Janez Marolt, Tomage Dolenc, Goran Vračevič, David Jankovič, Robertina Šebjanič