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21st City of Women Festival: Aprilija Lužar & Lela B. Njatin – The Trails of Dematerialised Bodies

08 October 2015 > 15 October 2015 Kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition "The Trails of Dematerialised Bodies" by Aprilija Lužar and Lela B. Njatin on Thursday, 8th October, at 8 pm, at the Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova. The exhibition is a part of 21st International Festival of Contemporary Arts - City of Women. Exhibition will be open each day between 7 pm - 10 pm.

Are trails of dematerialised bodies at all possibilities? How to see, touch, taste or smell their trails if the bodies are absent? Do non-bodies leave trails? Is this not the world of metaphysics? These and similar questions are addressed by the exhibition which presents actual, material and bodily objects and sounds when we see in the display case two pairs of worn, rather similar women shoes, and hear the sound of a woman's walking every so often interrupted by a woman's speech. What we see and hear invites other questions: Who are the women only present as traces left in the shoeprints or the echo of a shoe striking the floor? What are they like? What do they want, think, feel? Where have they gone…walked? run? What have they seen and experienced?

Aprilija Lužar and Lela B. Njatin exhibit the portraits of women expressed through personal, sensorial, emotional and intimate stories. They construct these stories through minimal use of elements – a pair of shoes in wooden frames under the glass of a display, recordings of a woman walking and her encounters with other women in the feminist community. Lela B. Njatin makes a portrait of her mother and herself. They both wear similar comfortable shoes because they symbolically and actually made a long sojourn together - the artist's shoes are less worn and a bit more fashionable. When not exhibited she still wears them. The portraits discuss a complex relationship between a mother and a daughter. Aprilija Lužar, on the other hand, makes a portrait of a woman who could be an artist…or any of us. Her walking is trapped in a snare, it rigidly resonates against the floor, echoes unstoppable. A woman was hurt and shouldered to the margin of her society.

Both works are facets of contemporary art building on the tradition of the European historical avant-garde and the global neo avant-garde and conceptual art practices in the second half of the 20th century. As a matter of fact, portraits and self-portraits are somewhat anti-portraits moving from the characteristics of classic portrait art. The art forms of ready-made and concrete music immerse the human's individuality in a culturally constructed “production.”

The artists belong to two different zones within the world of art. Aprilija Lužar works in the field of activist feminist fine art and contemporary art expressions, whilst Lela B. Njatin doesn't see her work –which nonetheless disintegrates a woman and her positioning in art and society – as a feminist practice. The similarities between these works despite their different creative positioning imbue this exhibit with a surprising piquancy.

Culturally constructed “production” transforms personal biographies into broader cultural meanings and the actual bodies disappear in this process of transformation. The exhibit turns into its opposite: what is corporeal becomes immaterial, discussing transformations and relationships. That’s why there are only shoes and the sounds of walking, with no body. The trails of dematerialised bodies are the processes of excavating from the real/material world more profound essences of art and human existence.

Lilijana Stepančič

The exhibition consists of following artworks:

Traveller 1001 x 1 Red Shoe A (Popotnica 1001 x 1 rdeči čevelj A) - Aprilija Lužar, 2007, sound installation

The installation is a mix of sounds of walking recorded between 2005 and 2007, mainly in 2006 in the building on the Ulica Kralja Držislava 2, Zagreb, where the offices of ROSA (Centre for the Women Victims of War), Women Support Centre and Kontra lesbian group were located. Other recordings were made in Ljubljana, Dolnja Briga and New York. The infinite “wavy sea” of the sounds of women’s walk is interrupted by the voice of Zagreb’s years long feminist activist cursing: “Fucking hell. Another kick in the teeth.” Meanwhile, there is a recording of a brief introduction of two people. The first, Nela Pamuković, who opens the door, says: “Nela,” to which the artist answers: “Aprilija.”
The installation fills the gallery with repetitive and rhythmic sounds that grow into contemporary concrete music. The sounds are made upon the contact of a foot with a floor - i.e., a shoe striking the floor when a body moves in a chosen direction. Shod feet are a legacy of civilisation whilst particular shoes represent cultural, gender and class identification.
Although the sounds are recorded at real and known places, the work has anything but a documentary character. It is general, abstract and eternal; the audience doesn't know where the woman is headed, where she is and who she is talking to. It is a contemporary sound piece in the field between experimental composition and immaterial sound installation. What is particularly exciting about this piece is the minimal use of construction elements. The installation is a story about a woman and her embeddedness in the environment which has for years been a focus of the artist's activity in the field of feminist art practice.

The Promise of Truth. The Portrait of a Mother / The Path of All Living. Self-Portrait -  Lela B. Njatin, 2014, installations

A duo of similar, but not identical, pairs shoes in the middle of a low-edged wooden rectangular tray, an allusion to the actual urban rectangular fountain with a modernist sculpture Deklica s piščalko by Stane Jarm (from 1963) located on the square in front of the block of flats in Kočevje where the artist and her mother lived. However, these completely ordinary pairs of shoes, placed in two wooden frames, cannot be touched in the gallery’s glass case. A visitor can't help but think of the Duchampian approach which the artist firmly opposes: “In art, the representation of the reality is an attempt to dig deeper in its essence. Such an attempt is a promise that art will deliver truth about the world. This is not my authentic personal belief but has to do with the culture I’m born into. This body of work isn’t a reflection on that belief; I simply take it as a common cognitive frame which attunes me with the rest in the field of art.”
Therefore, the diptych is a narrative of a personal biography with a broader cultural meaning that the artist touches upon with subtle portraits of her mother and herself; the portraits illustrating what was different and the same about them, their gender and cultural formation. The artist points to the cultural, psychological and physical bonds formed between them which are personified by a pair of shoes; walking, movement, moving each of them alone and the two together. Walking which cannot be interrupted by her mother's death. That's why there are just shoes and there is no body; the body is present in the footprints (Lilijana Stepančič).

Exhibition will be open until October 15th each day between 7 pm - 10 pm.

Curated by: Lilijana Stepančič.
Organised by: City of Women Festival, Institute for Culture 21 (Zavod za kulturo 21).
In cooperation with: KUD Mreža/Alkatraz Gallery.
Technical support: Slovene Etnographic Museum.

Aprilija Lužar (1963) is a socially engaged feminist artist whose works to tackle violence against women, the position of women in society and lesbian activism. In 1987 she completed the study of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo and Ljubljana. Aprilija has collaborated with Škuc LL and women’s centres both in Ljubljana and abroad since 1988 through exhibitions and artistic workshops. Her art is expressed through portrait realism, abstraction in a highly modernist style, performance art, sound, multimedia and participatory projects and installations. She won Best Painting Award at May Salon – POP (2004) and participated in the 2002 edition of the City of Women Festival with Women’s Taxi.

Lela B. Njatin (1963) is a publicist, writer and visual artists. Between 1975 and 1985 she was a member of the art collectives of conceptual and mail arts Westeast, Maj 75 and Signalizam. Since 2010 she has been working with interdisciplinary projects, installations, performing and participatory art, anti-monuments and fine art. Her first exhibition was DASEVIDIDASENEKIDELA in Likovni salon, Kočevje (1980), whilst her first solo exhibition entitled I Didn’t Want to Know, but I Have Since Come to Know was held in the Vžigalica Gallery/MGML in Ljubljana (2013). She has written several literary works, including Nestrpnost (1988), Velikanovo srce (1996), Zakaj je babica jezna (2011). She participated at the City of Women's international panel on women's literature (1995) and as a dramaturge in the Mindful of Loneliness with a solo poetic short piece Loneliness (2003).

Photos from the opening.

Aprilija Lužar, Traveller 1001 x 1 Red Shoe A (Popotnica 1001 x 1 rdeči čevelj A) Aprilija Lužar, Traveller 1001 x 1 Red Shoe A (Popotnica 1001 x 1 rdeči čevelj A) Aprilija Lužar, Traveller 1001 x 1 Red Shoe A (Popotnica 1001 x 1 rdeči čevelj A) 21. mednarodni festival sodobnih umetnosti Mesto žensk/21st international festival of contemporary arts - City of Women Mest žensk - logotip/City of Women - logo