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Tejka Pezdirc: Silent House

14 December 2018 > 11 January 2019 Kindly invited to the exhibition opening of Tejka Pezdirc entitled ‘Silent House’, accompanied by Vesna Godler’s performance, on Friday, 14 December 2018, at 8pm in Alkatraz Gallery, AKC Metelkova mesto. The exhibited project was formed in dialogue with the artist and architect Polonca Lovšin.

The exhibition was formed in the framework of Alkatraz Gallery’s new project Mentorship+,which is enabling the establishment of connections between artists of different generations and their continuous work during a longer period of time. Mentorship+ is, in fact, a partnership collaboration or mutual mentorship, intertwining visions, perspectives, experiences and artistic approaches of its participants. With this project, Alkatraz Gallery aims to establish and support the creative transfer of ideas among individuals holding up different positions within the artistic system, in order to encourage intergenerational networking and cooperation. Whereas the exhibition presents the final, tangible result of the collaboration spanning over months and of the establishment of a new platform for cooperation, the project itself poses numerous questions – from the question of authorship rights to the challenges of collective collaboration, which did not emerge spontaneously, etc.

This time, the artists Tejka Pezdirc and Polonca Lovšin chose a format with which an idea for an exhibition of one of them will materialise. Tejka Pezdirc is a young artist, who, in her work, explores questions of identity construction in connection to memory and absence. Often, she stems from the personal and transforms it into an artistic message by means of the tactile and material. She develops her content with the help of designing objects and spaces, to which she ascribes a special intimate focus. The author emphasises, though, that she does not separate creative processes from other non-artistic activities – the dynamics of the making of her projects is intertwined with happenings in other areas of her life, just as her individual art works remain mutually connected.

Tejka Pezdirc was most active in the artistic world a few years ago, while lately she has been dedicating herself to activities in other areas.She passed through a period of evaluation, which began when she decided to stop her physical connection with artistic production, so as to ask herself some fundamental questions about the meaning of artistic creation. Now she is returning with fresh energy, with a project that is opening a new chapter on her artistic path. The project has been in the making in her mind for years, and her collaboration with Polonca Lovšin was the cause for its physical realisation. It was the dialogue between the artists that enabled the project to become concrete and to develop; in this way, the exhibition represented an opportunity for the idea to come to life.

The artist got the idea for the artwork while working in her hometown as a headstone engraver. According to the local tradition on both sides of the border in the area of Obkolpje, when a person dies, his or her information as well as the name and surname of his or her still living marital partner are engraved in the headstone (mostly, it is female companions). The latter also chooses a photograph that will decorate the tombstone already during the time of her or his life.

As a part of the project, the artist conducted over 50 interviews with people who, often for years, look at their own graves, and thus acquired a personal insight into a peculiar human situation of being confronted with the necessity of one’s own death. Or in her own words: ‘I am interested in the story of a person who seems forgotten and fights for his or her posthumous life.’ Caring for memory is one of the most important elements of awareness of the people she was conversing with. The presence of the inevitability of death is a constituent part of their lives and it considerably changes the fundamental understanding of what is important. It turns out fear of being forgotten is present also as care for what happens after death. The joy of life here and now diminishes, the focus becomes the management of the image of posthumousself. In this way, the existence is always located at the divide betweenlife and death, as a lot of attention is given to the symbolic building of a gravestone.

The aim of Tejka Pezdirc’s project is not to reveal touching personal stories of people who found themselves in unusual situations or to incite compassion in the spectator. Rather, with minimalistic setting in Alkatraz Gallery, she tries to stage a situation without a sentimental charge; the exhibition is thus not focused on an individual story, but rather on the arrangement of the space, characterised by refinement, a constituent part of which is emptiness. This is almost necessary, since the building of stories of aspirations of the interviewed mimics the building of monumental artistic artefacts, which need enough time and space around them for retreat and reflection.

Tejka Pezdirc will upgrade her exhibition in cooperation with the performer Vesna Godler, who will, on the day of the opening, carry out aperformance connected with exhibited objects and videos and non-exhibited video interviews. The exhibition constantly oscillates between contradictions, such as life and death, mental and emotional,emptied and fulfilled. The decision to present portraits of heroines and heroes of her stories as photographs of gravestone ceramic portraits, hidden in a light box, is also revealing. The images are accessible only through a peephole, which enables the artist to face an unprepared spectator indirectly with the subject of death and transience.

At the level of content, Tejka Pezdirc’s exhibition opens up a perspective of life with the presence of death, which is causing us great uncertainty and anxiety, as we realize that an ideal of our society – the final escape from death – is not attainable. By being located at the contrasting poles of emotional and cognitive,the exhibition is stirring uneasiness. This is also the reason why it opens up a possibility for reflection and does not force an interpretation. At the symbolic level, the spectator therefore gains the needed space to transform the artist’s storytelling into something subjectively, personally meaningful. The ability to build refined gallery settings alongside dexterous manipulation of subtle content is a proof that we are dealing with an original artistic expression and a promising visual potential of a young artist.   
                                                                              Ana Grobler, Sebastian Krawczyk

Tejka Pezdirc (1985) graduated in Painting. In the study year 2008/2009, shereceived an award for special achievements of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana (ALOU). She has participated at numerous group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad, which include: The Art of Daydreaming (Umetnost sanjarjenja), Gallery Mikolova House (Galerija Miklova hiša), Ribnica, Slovenia (2012); 4.4., Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana (2013); Bearers (Prenašalke), Gallery Srečišče, Ljubljana (2014); 3.Triennale of Young Artists – Premiere 2015; Time, Mood, Identity(3. trienale mladih umetnikov – Premiere 2015; Čas, razpoloženje, identiteta), Gallery of Contemporary Art Celje (Galerija sodobne umetnosti, Celje), Slovenia (2015), and Personal (Osebno), the final exhibition of the 15. year of the school for curators and critics of contemporary art, The World of Art, Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana (2016).

Polonca Lovšin (1970) holds a BA in Architecture and Fine Arts. In 2015, sheobtained her PhD in Visual Arts at the University of Bauhaus in Weimar. She is an active member of KUD Obrat, a group that has been nurturing a community garden, named Beyond the Construction Ground (Onkraj gradbišča), in Ljubljana, for years (2010-today). She has exhibited independently at numerous exhibition at home and abroad. Her important exhibitions include: Stories from the Edge, Kunsthaus Graz (2016); Crises and New Beginnings: Slovene Art 2005-2015, +MSUM, Ljubljana (2015); U3, 7. Triennale of Slovene Art, +MSUM (in collaboration with KUD Obrat, 2013). Polonca Lovšin was awarded numerous scholarships, residencies and awards: Rihard Jakopič Award (2018); Maribor Art Gallery's public call for a project in public space (2015), Golden Bird Award (Zlata Ptica, 2011). She participated in numerous artist-in-residence programs abroad and in Slovenia.

Translated from Slovene by: Ana Makuc.
Photo from the opening: Nada Žgank.