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The Ego of the Artist

05 November 2021 > 25 November 2021 Kindly invited to the opening of the"The Ego of the Artist" group exhibition curated by Petja Grafenauer on Friday, November 5, at 7 p.m. to Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova mesto.

Participating artists: Nika Autor, Viktor Bernik, Eclipse, Ištvan Išt Huzjan, Sanela Jahić, Žiga Kariž, Zvonka Simčič, Andrej Škufca, Tomaž Tomažin.

The exhibition is curated by: Petja Grafenauer.

Creativity is a trait that is extremely important for human development and synergistically joins many sectors. From art, which is one of its domiciles, to economy, which, in neoliberalism, successfully adopted and perverted certain methods and patterns that art invented and turned them into financial gain. Today, when this trait with most of its laws is, so to say, copied from the world of artistic creative freedom to the organised world of capital and its goal has changed from free activity to an activity that brings money, art has remained on the second track. In a society where capital is a value, the understanding of the view of art as a carrier of deeper messages and its intrinsic value is being lost.

Art needs freedom, or better, artists need an environment of freedom to be able to express their own creativity and intervene outside the established patterns of the world. This interference outside of the everyday life and decline of the status of art in society, but mostly ignorance, since our country has not developed a good pedagogic basis for children and youth, and, recently, the attitude towards certain expressions of art was deliberately degraded on the outside, lead to the point that people see artists as worthless, slackers without regular working hours, and especially different from normal people. Such periods have been known in recent history in Germany or even before in Russia, whereas periods when art was valued depended on a social moment and the positioning of forces on a timeline of openness or totalitarianism in society.

Artists have always been accompanied by a reputation of difference, extravagance, inability to handle material goods and administration, melancholy, emotionality, and the like. In some periods, their behaviour and creativity were a matter of admiration, while in others, they were not appreciated and were even prosecuted. Like today, when even the minister does not distinguish between social support and support of artists. Is there anyone who, amidst all politicisation, still pays attention to the real meaning of works of art and the necessity of conditions for their emergence?

There is no denying that among mentally ill population in history, there have been artists, but we were familiarised with their diagnoses, unlike everyone else's, through derivatives of popular biographies and semi-scientific field, pathographies, which explore pathology in works of art. However, a list of successful artists that were at the same time struggling with illness should raise hope for what a person can achieve despite illness, rather than confirm a connection between mental illness and creativity.

Clinical studies have not shown any link between mental illnesses and creativity. A Harvard psychiatrist, Albert Rothenberg, argues that such unwise analyses occurred because neither general population nor professionals distinguished between creativity and mental disorder, since they both include deviations from normative ways of thinking. Differences are of key importance, as symptoms of mental illnesses are mostly similar in stereotypical and often banal ways, whereas creativity includes unexpected and rich results. Creative acts are deliberate, illness is involuntary. What they have in common is suffering, but for artists it is usually a result of success or failure and its consequences, rather than a cause from which creativity would be born.

In addition to three cognitive processes Rothenberg defined as component parts of creativity, the factors that contribute to creativity include: aversion to dogmas, flexibility, and love of change and novelty. And such is the creativity represented by this exhibition: a free and uncapitalised artistic creativity.

The work of Nika Autor, titled For Glory (2013), is based on museum documentation of The Museum of National Liberation, Maribor, about Slava Klavora. The installation touches upon an attempt to search for the almost non-existent personal history of a heroine of the National Liberation Movement (NOB). The motif of Slava Klavora, a Slovene member of the uprising against the occupier, who was tortured and executed in Maribor by Germans in 1941, cannot penetrate us emotionally without her personal story. Nika Autor literally kidnapped her from archival material as a person, a fearless girl, to bestow us with the power of feeling.

The biography which at the top of the page reads 'Viktor Bernik, visual artist' contains a surprising number of outstanding exhibitions, awards and other surpluses, then continues with a series of artistic creations that constantly surprise and impress both the world of art and general public more broadly. The work at the exhibition The Ego of the Artist, entitled 'Hello, I am Bernik, Viktor Bernik', is equally transcendent.[1]

Sanela Jahić's miniature bricolage, Deregulated Version (2013) — old glasses with one kaleidoscopic lens focused on coins — with its simplicity, might be surprising, as the artist's oeuvre is characterised by complicated analyses and complex machine compositions, which expose ideologies of capital and their perfidious intrusion in all pores of our society. But this is precisely what Deregulated Version does in a sophisticated and aesthetic way. When we look through the glasses and the coin is scattered into an opaque multitude of equals, we see the essence of late capitalism, marked only by financial affairs; the multiplication of value, which has no real basis.

Andrej Škufca's video installation Gesture (2015) in an endless loop, uses a moving, although rather static image as a medium for the exploration of the emptiness of a gesture, for the feeling of alienation (German: Entfremdung). The image shown by the video implies that the image understands and accepts us, but with repetitions without information that was supposed to encompass the missing transfer, all we feel is distance, emptiness, coldness, and impersonality (German: Unheimliche) of contemporary neoliberal capitalism.

Ištvan Išt Huzjan in his work Everyone Is a Work of Art (2021) explores what happens to an artist if they become a work of art. Huzjan undergoes a process of hypnosis, performed by an expert, a therapist of medical hypnosis, Mitja Perat. What happens is unbeknown, documented by photographs and presented at the exhibition. Only the person who experienced what happened when he himself was a work of art can attest to it.

Žiga Kariž, who with a group of fellow painters introduced painting of an extended status of the visual into the Slovenian space, in the last period (2020-2021), again returned to the two-dimensional portrayal in painting and drawing. Although the works are close to the so-called autonomous art, they cannot be read only as such, since the author's oeuvre confirms the fact that behind the apparent openness, there is always hidden a precise conceptual plan.

Tomaž Tomažin's video titled Who's There? It's Me! (2007) was created over 13 years ago, but it is still relevant today. In the videos, he puts his own image into culturally recognisable patterns. In them, he plays the roles anew and his head replaces the existing heroes on the screen. In the era of visual manipulation, Tomažin's video is an excellent early answer to the situation that today controls the society of the self, search for identity and inability to escape one's own.

Because of exceeding the established norms, years ago, the artistic duo Eclipse even received (an unsuccessful) criminal complaint of the Catholic Church. In 2007, in the Kapelica Gallery, they made a performance 11 (In emotion we break) and used also the motif of Marie, who offers shelter to the believers under her cloak. With their characteristic soft-pornographic approach, they portrayed Marie from Ptujska gora, with one of them performing as Marie and confessing her experience of searching for love and offering shelter to her former lovers under her cloak.

Zvonka T. Simčič exhibits a life-size photo on canvas entitled Corona Queen / Queen of Peace (2020). She explores the depth of inactivity and rest though immobility, seeks a contact with herself that is hard to afford in hyper-production and is sometimes buried so deep that it is almost impossible to reach. She executes the performance numerous times by sitting completely motionless for several days in a row. And this is also what Covid-19 has done to us. It has stopped us, like Z. Simčič with her image invites us to stop too and positively experience the feeling and peace it brought, at least here and there.

Each work of art featured at the exhibition transcends the everyday norms in its own way, be it religious images, illness, politics, capitalism, the world of art, neoliberalism, the way of life or understanding of one's own identity. They show us images that are already in us, reflections on issues about which we sometimes cannot talk about even with our loved ones. They open the way to contemplation, experience, look at the world from another angle. Here is real, yet uncapitalised creativity, a space of freedom of view, thought and depiction. How, as society, could we allow this place to lose its value, when it is the foundation of our existence as human beings?

Petja Grafenauer

[1] Viktor Bernik's art piece is an intervention into the text which you can see in the Slovene version.

The exhibition is a cooperation of KUD Mreža/Galerija Alkatraz and The Public Institute Ribnica Handicraft Centre (Miklova Hiša Gallery) and is supported by: Ministry of Culture of Slovenia, Municipality of Ribnica, City of Ljubljana, Riko d.o.o.

Design by Vasja Cenčič

Photography by Mitja Ilc

Sanela Jahić, Deregulated vision; old glasses, kaleidoscopic lens 11 x 4 x 13 cm, 2013. Photo by: Janez Pelko Nika Autor, For Glory, 2013 Andrej Škufca, Gesta, video (5'05), loop, 2015 Tomaž Tomažin, Who's There? It's Me!, video (3'46), 2007 Žiga Kariž, Cross, World, Shot, Petrovich; acrylic, gouache and ballpoint pen on paper, 2020/21 Ištvan Išt Huzjan, Everyone Is a Work of Art, photo documentation of the performance, 2021 Zvonka T. Simčič, Corona Queen, photography on canvas, 2020 Eclipse, 11 (In emotion we break), dibond, 2007 Eclipse, 11 (In emotion we break), dibond, 2007