25 January 2021 > 12 February 2021 Kindly invited to the exhibition "Interference" by Nika Erjavec from 25th January from 11.00 a.m. The exhibition was created in collaboration with Maja Smrekar, as part of the Mentoring + project. The duration of the exhibition depends on government measures taken against the covid-19 epidemic.
The exhibition entitled Interference was produced within the framework of the newer Alkatraz Gallery project Mentorship+, which supports the establishment of connections between artists and enables their continuous work over longer periods of time. It is not about mentorship per se, but rather about intergenerational collaboration on a non-hierarchical basis, a kind of mutual mentorship, so to say, where both parties can assume roles of an advisor, mentor, (co-)curator and creator in any given moment. In the context of the project, two persons, holding different positions inside the artistic system, are thus given the opportunity for collaborative partnership, in which their approaches meet in dialogue through the intertwinement of visions, perspectives, experiences, and artistic procedures. The project encourages a creative transfer of ideas among individuals outside of established channels, and is conceptualised with the purpose of encouraging intergenerational networking and cooperation. The exhibition presents a visual, physically tangible result of an annual work and a consequence of the establishment of a new platform for mutual learning and collaboration. Although the project asks numerous questions, it is up to the artists themselves to answer the questions of authorship, to design contents of a common project, and to find a way to confront the challenges of collective collaboration, encouraged by the gallery.
This time, we invited Maja Smrekar and Nika Erjavec to participate. During the working process, they decided to be dialogic partners in the process of the realisation of Nika Erjavec's solo exhibition. The artists, though, already know one another, as Maja Smrekar was Nika Erjavec's supervisor at The Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana. Their artistic works research and treat similar topics referring to the contemporarity, whereas in their artistic practices, the stress is on the in-depth exploration of theory, observation of social processes, agile adaptation to the circumstances, and processuality as a strategy. This is the reason why we found it meaningful to encourage them to further connect by participating in the project Mentorship+.
The process of the making of the exhibition was obstructed due to the governmental restrictions pertaining to the Covid-19 pandemic, and as such it was being executed with uncertainty, without knowing when and to what extent it would be realised. It was prolonged for more than a year. Meanwhile, the concept of the exhibition was being built gradually and by means of deliberate dialogue, which again, like in Nika Erjavec's previous works, uses sound vibrations as a peculiar sculptural material. This time, passively and actively triggered vibrations echo in the Alkatraz Gallery. With the author's visually fascinating balloons from the series /in/visible, the viewer unconsciously, through sensors, acts as a trigger of the installation with massage vibrators. The viewers' reactions are so limited to the response that triggered the interaction, which will perhaps inadvertently put them in a defensive posture. The second part of the installation consists of vibrational objects, which the viewer will trigger by means of consoles, and thus as a result, bring acoustic, visual, and tactile disturbances into the gallery space.
In addition to the fact that some vibrational objects touch and influence one another, the system of communication between the consoles and motors that run vibrations is determined beforehand. The visitor is therefore put in a position where their activity triggers only a seemingly autonomous action, which through playful interaction offers just an illusion of power. In fact, however, the viewer acts only as a user, as a part of a beforehand set system. The other fact that stresses the apparent power (of choice) is the central positioning of objects between four gallery pillars. In this way, the installation tries to stress the false foundation of (neoliberal capitalist) system and challenge the glorification of power of the user's (consumer's) experience also spatially. Contradictory ways of interactivity simultaneously hold the viewer in tension, as the installation places them in a state of a feverish search for meaning among visually-acoustic disturbances, which are incessantly eluding the ability of understanding, and encouraging the feeling of orientation loss regarding decision-making (in the space). In this way, the artist warns us about the unpredictability and precariousness of the social system constantly-collapsing-into-itself, and anthropocentricity, patriarchy and alienation (between individuals, humanity and nature) it causes.
The omnipresent whirring of vibrations, meanwhile, also alludes to hyperobjectivity, this spacial and temporary property of objects, a coinage by Timothy Morton,  by means of which he wanted to describe pollution. At this point too the viewer easily draws parallels between vibrations that saturated the gallery space and the omnipresent pollution of the environment, including all the implications the humanity inflicted on the planet with its unstoppable desire for hyperproduction (of profits), encouraged by multicorporations and governments, which yield under their pressures and consequently contribute to inequalities in numerous areas. The irony of the situation – which the exhibition splendidly illustrates by creating tension among the included elements – however, is that the presence of humanity in itself changes the environment, and vice versa, that (altered) environment affects people in return.
The use of materials additionally strengthens the author's representation of a wider picture of existence and human influence on their surroundings as well as tensions in our social system. Vibrational objects steered by users are, among other things, composed also of plants found in surrounding urban areas, where invasive species thrive in abundance. To achieve a better visibility of displayed situation governed by tensions, the artists juxtaposed them with produced materials, such as artificial plants imitating the reality. Diaphragms of her balloons are made of latex, which she poetically calls 'tree wounds', and they combine consumerism lightness and human relationship to the environment. The external balloon contains water, whilst the internal, smaller balloons contain elementary cornerstones of the Earth, such as silicates, water, and elements of our living and material culture (concrete and plastic). Inside them, materials are combined and mixed, which increases the risk of emptying or collapsing. Allusion to unsustainable social system is hidden also in the temporal aspect of balloons. On the basis of external factors, they slowly disintegrate and change from transparent to opal, which obstructs the viewer's ability to have an insight into interior activity, the essence, more and more.
The artist conveys her message in a tactful way, without imposing and straightforward references to catastrophic dimensions of environmental destruction. In this sense, her strategy reminds us of Olafur Eliasson's approach, although he has incomparably more resources and means at his disposal for the realisation of his artistic works. The artist thus rather gives to her viewers time and space for contemplation about feelings and experiences that emerge during their immersion into the mixture of both conceptually and aesthetically deliberate artistic work she prepares for them. This combination will undoubtedly linger in visitors' memory, since it offers questions without giving answers and, at the same time, a space for one's own reflection, which will prolong the release of effects of the exhibition on the viewers.
Ana Grobler, Sebastian Krawczyk
Maja Smrekar (1978) graduated at the Sculpture Department of Academy of Fine Arts and Design in collaboration with the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and holds Master of Arts in Video and New Media. Her work has been established in the international art and science milieu by interdisciplinarily researching ideological structures in society. Her work has been exhibited and presented at fine arts and media arts museum contexts, among them Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Slovenia; ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany; Musée de l'Homme Paris, France; MAK Vienna / Vienna Art Week, Austria; Het Neuwe Institut, The Netherlands; Latvian National Arts Museum, Latvia; art spaces Kapelica Gallery, Slovenia; Hyundai Motorstudio Beijing, China; Zuercher Gallery / Frieze New York, USA; RMIT Gallery Melbourne, Australia; and festivals Ars Electronica, Austria; Click festival, Denmark; Transmediale, Germany; Rencontres Bandits-Mages, France. She has been an artistic associate of various production platforms, such as Kapelica Gallery / Kersnikova Institute (SI), The Culture Yard (DK), Aksioma Institute (SI), Quo Artis Foundation (ES), etc. Among other awards Smrekar received the Golden Nica Award in the Hybrid Art category of the Prix Ars Electronica in 2017 and Prešeren Foundation Award, the highest national award for artistic achievements in Slovenia in 2018. Her work is part of Arteast 2000+ collection of Museum Of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM), Ljubljana, Slovenia and Palazzo Taffini Museum, Savigliano, Italy. Maja Smrekar lives and works in Ljubljana