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Jan Bejšovec & Anže Ermenc: The Other Self – A Textile Perspective on Exploring Identity and Belonging

29 November 2016 > 16 December 2016 Kindly invited to the opening of the "The Other Self – A Textile Perspective on Exploring Identity and Belonging" exhibition by Jan Bejšovec & Anže Ermenc, on Tuesday, 29th November 2016, at 8 pm, at the Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova.

Textile art has regained the attention of artistic public in the past few years. Guerrilla knitting and production of authentic textile designers are present at numerous outdoor and indoor public spaces. Even though textile crafts are still understood as a domain where women traditionally prevail, a closer look into the past reveals quite a different story. Several textile professions such as carpet-making are mostly performed by men. Closer to glory and fortune we come across tailors and male fashion designers today. The presence of male textile artists in the contemporary art should thus not surprise us. We can, however, ask ourselves whether male artists perceive working with fabrics and the use of the needle in a different way to female artists, when what we should actually ask ourselves is if they wish to become familiar with working with textile precisely because it is generally perceived as a female domain, therefore of lesser value and crafty. Perhaps they are reviving it simply because it enables creative work in a manner that other, more contemporary artistic practices cannot compete with.  None of this changes the fact that the introduction of contents and the twisting of meanings and the common usage of the products actually mean an important artistic contribution.

The conceptual outset of the exhibition of textile portraits of Jan Bejšovec and Anže Ermenc is based on their differences of experience and interests. The artists are of different nationality and age. On top of that, they have never met each other. At the time when Jan Bejšovec, from Berlin, first arrived in Ljubljana, Anže Ermenc was leaving Ljubljana for Manchester. Despite numerous differences they are related by their mutual interest in contemporary textile arts, so they have both accepted the invitation of the Alkatraz Gallery and joined their efforts in a way we had not expected. Initially, the exhibition was conceived as a group exhibition of two artists who approach the idea of textile in their own, different way. However, the artists got connected and prepared their own concept in a mutual dialogue that was not only artistic, but actually also curatorial. So the exhibition is now somewhere between a group and a solo exhibition, for they have become a tandem - for this project – complementing each other in the way they carry out their joint authorial setting. The main motif of the exhibition is textile portraits with a twist.

Namely, while discussing the exhibition, they have undertaken an experiment: the artists have exchanged their facial templates with the purpose to explore the identity of the other one only upon their publically accessible works, thus creating a textile portrait of the co-author. They have come to the agreement that they would not be exchanging any information about the work in progress, so at the moment they are not aware of the results of their partner’s efforts. It will be only at the exhibition opening when they will be faced with their own portraits. We can ask ourselves: what will actually come out? Perhaps they will have – via their portraits – created a mere projection of their own ideas. Here, the other one could actually be a mere filter by the aid of which – instead of reality – self is shown.

The exhibition will be the scene of confrontation of different beliefs and views on textile arts, at the same time also a kind of a dialogue of the two artists of different experiences. The audience will hence have an opportunity to observe two very different styles of textile arts. While Ermenc employs his embroidery as a tool when dealing with uneasiness and the reflection of his own personal experiences with the aid of satire and in his wider (fashionable) scope questions social determination of the value and visibility of unfashionable and unpopular individuals, Bejšovec prefers to focus on portraying controversial personalities from the history and politics in hope to set up conflict situations in political, and not personal sense. The attempt of Bejšovec and Ermenc displays an unusual versatility of contemporary textile arts.

The idea of connecting an already established artist, representing defined principles and an artist of a younger generation who is active in different fields and in his practice does not represent any ideology-wise clearly defined orientation, raises questions. Is the project of co-operation at all reasonable, considering the fact that Bejšovec advocates an aggressive performance and encourages dispute, whilst Ermenc chooses subtle images related to smaller formats? Perhaps both of them made an indiscretion by creating an image of each other on the bases of media publishing with an incomplete means such as a contour of the face. What message do they really want to convey through a public projection of their own ideas of the other, by a pompous unveiling of their view of the other at the time of the opening? Perhaps they wish to confront us with the question of what do we really know of the other that is not biased with our own imagination?

Jan Bejšovec is an artist, historian and a journalist, born in 1975 in East Germany, known by his artistic label Konfliktstoff. His artistic creation is devoted to textile arts and installation. The main subject of his art revolves around political or historical issues. His graphical or occasionally provocative depiction deliberately contrasts the majorly textile medium, consisting of an authentic textile, military clothing camouflage patterns, or vintage garments. Beside numerous political statements the artist’s works draw on the old tradition of textile arts and crafts within the contexts of their usages by the state, the army or propaganda. Through his textile installations in public spaces the artist attempts to point to the urban spots that he considers historically significant. Jan Bejšovec has had several solo exhibitions and has participated in numerous group exhibitions at home and abroad, e.g. Berlin, Chemnitz, Halle, Germany; Miami, U.S.A.; Nočna izložba Pešak Gallery, Ljubljana. He was also a curator of the 77-13 Political Art and Resistance in Turkey exhibition. More about the artist on:

Anže Ermenc (born in 1992) graduated from the Faculty of Design, Ljubljana, in 2015. As part of his bachelor dissertation he explored embroidery and sewing in an illustrative and visual way, upgrading his computer sketches with different needlework techniques. Recently, he has completed his postgraduate study of fashion graphics at the Manchester School of Art, Great Britain (2016). Ermenc is especially interested in fashion as a visual language. He likes fields that challenge a traditional view of gender, debating between professions in fashion direction, textile arts and design through creative management and styling. Anže Ermenc is the fashion editor of New Edge Magazine. His work was published many times (in Elle, Modna and Marketing Magazine). Not long ago he began to work as an assistant of undergraduate studies of fashion and artistic management at the Manchester School of Art. Last year he introduced himself at his first solo exhibition at the Centralna postaja (Central Station) café, in Ljubljana. He has also taken part at several exhibitions in Great Britain.

Additional programme: 8. 12. , at 7 pm: guided tour with Jan Bejšovec.

Photos from the opening: Sunčan Stone.

Konfliktstoff, Sem močna a nisem iz jekla, 2016 Konfliktstoff, Dr Goebbels, 2012 Konfliktstoff, Murder of the Despot Gaddafi, 2011 Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12. photo by: Neža Petrele Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12., photo by: Neža Peterle Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12., photo by: Neža Peterle Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12., photo by: Neža Peterle Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12., photo by: Neža Peterle Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12., photo by: Neža Peterle Guided tour (by Jan Bejšovec) for the class of Prof. Devetak from the Faculty of Design, 1.12., photo by: Neža Peterle