Kindly invited to the opening of the group exhibition "Terra inhabitabilis — Life after the End of the World" by artists Rok Mohar, Danilo Milovanović and Uroš Weinberger, on Thursday, 8 September, at 6pm, at the Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova mesto. The exhibition is curated by Anabel Černohorski, Ana Grobler and Sebastian Krawczyk. The opening is a part of the 29th anniversary of Metelkova mesto.
Guided tour with the artists (in Slovene): Thursday, 29. 9. at 6 pm.
Group exhibition at the 29th anniversary of the AKC Metelkova mesto
Artists: Rok Mohar, Danilo Milovanović, Uroš Weinberger
In 2017, an article entitled 'Uninhabitable Land' was published in New York Magazine . At that time, it was declared one of the most read articles in the history of the magazine. On the one hand, the above-average interest of readers can be interpreted as genuine concern for (our) future and the environment, while, on the other hand, human nature has always been attracted to dark scenarios. But the fact is that the consequences of global warming affect and will continue to affect the earth's biosphere. Human is actively involved in the transformation of the earth, but political influence and capital must by no means be taken out of the equation.
In the song Last Great American Whale (album, New York, 1988), Lou Reed sings that, to sum up, Americans care very little about everything, especially about land and water, even animals and people: 'Americans don't care too much for beauty, they will shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream, they'll watch dead rats wash up on the beach, and complain if they can't swim.' Despite the rise of various environmental movements, green politics and greater awareness of people, we can discern from the highlighted verse the general attitude of humankind towards the environment and nature, of which we are, in fact, a part.
The exhibition in the Alkatraz Gallery brings together a selection of works from the period of the last seven years by three 'local' artists, namely: Danilo Milovanović, Rok Mohar and Uroš Weinberger. Within AKC Metelkova mesto and Alkatraz Gallery, since the very beginnings of exhibitions and established creative activities of numerous artists, we have been wondering what connections between them are dictated by the microspace in which they work and whether there is such a thing as, something that we could call, 'Metelkovian art'. It turns out time and time again that it is mainly about the coexistence of an incredible diversity of approaches to art. Artistic practices of each of the selected artists at the exhibition are quite different from one another. The selection was guided by the search for intersections, common points in the form of related themes and common sensibility, which is reflected in the exhibited works with reference to reality.
Through many years of creative practice, each of the invited artists builds a recognisable artistic expression by choosing typical motifs or a specific way of artistic activity. In their work, everyone, in their own way, draws attention to the inequalities of the imperfect world we inhabit. The red thread of the exhibited works are ecological themes, which are of central importance for modern times. In the name of the profit, ecology is ignored by capital and its building block – consumer society; it is commodified and then enmeshed into the mechanisms to produce profit. The hegemony of neoliberal market fundamentalism blocks any serious reforms to stop climate change and prevents radical protection of the environment. For the sake of maintaining social status quo, it is not really possible to stop the mechanisms that are destroying the planet. The artworks at the exhibition, which show these connections from several angles, reveal the activist attitude of each artist, each of whom conveys information to the viewer in their own way. This can be done with the help of interventions in the public space that involve the audience (Milovanović), by developing a world of metaphors that through satire address current social issues and ecological dangers as well as their potential consequences (Mohar), or by creating visually saturated narratives that are like journeys into a near post-apocalyptic future, full of vague, glowing and anxiety-inducing images (Weinberger).
In his artistic practice, Danilo Milovanović combines street art and conceptualism. Most often, he interferes directly with the space, the environment that surrounds him at a given moment. The optimal habitat of his interventions is the city or public space, which enables a peculiar intervention, as it affects the passers-by the moment they encounter them. The transfer of a work into a gallery is almost never just a bare documentation or presentation of a past implementation, but rather always also its upgrade. The exhibition features the work Plastic Makes It Static, performed in 2017 in Novo mesto. The artist emptied the fountain in Novo mesto's town square and returned its content, liquid water, filled in found plastic bottles. With a seemingly simple work, Milovanović addresses important issues concerning natural resources, warns of their depletion on behalf of profit and challenges the increasing privatisation of them as well as, ultimately, their finality. Although the work primarily refers to the hydrosphere, this idea can be further developed to include other natural resources as well. In this regard, Uroš Weinberger's small-format painting from 2018, My Private Air 3, which depicts a girl with a gas mask, is interesting. In a specific way, Weinberger's works ask us questions about what the reality of the future will look like. Moreover, they challenge the very perception of reality, which is increasingly mediated and anchored in the digital, as well as the role of the capital and the growing surveillance over the individual.
Like Weinberger's extraordinary visual stories, the Chernobylians series by Rok Mohar, which has been in the making since 2014 and is still ongoing, is a peculiar fantastic story that presents his commentary on radioactive pollution. The works refer to the transformations, mutations and death of life forms after one of the biggest environmental disasters linked to nuclear energy in 1986, which has also largely characterized the former Yugoslavia. It is an extremely numerous collection of sculptural works that form an unusual mythology with an ethical moment, behind which lies a broader reflection on our existence and the mechanisms that have subordinated us. Rok Mohar and Uroš Weinberger create their own universes, the former mainly in the medium of sculpture and the latter in the medium of painting. Regardless of the difference in their artistic expressions, they affect the viewer in a similar way. In them, we can discern postapocalyptic scenarios, which, as a result of human activity in the world and especially our relationship to the environment, increasingly resemble the approaching future, rather than fiction. In truth, we are already living in a greatly transformed reality, resulting from environmental overload of (heavy) industry, intensive farming, pesticide use and other key sources of acceleratingly adverse environmental impact.
Many of Uroš Weinberger's paintings appear toxic, just because of the use of colour, like worlds unfriendly to humans, in which they persist nonetheless. It is our presence that poisons the earth, water, atmosphere and leaves its garbage even in the space. The title of Uroš Weinberger's large-scale painting Escapism from 2021 raises awareness of our escape from reality. If we take the image literally, it increasingly seems that, at some point, escape will no longer be possible, because we will not be able to find shelter. The only question is whether we will be aware of this point or whether it will pass by us and we with it.
Precisely this question or the worry it causes motivates all three exhibiting authors to make viewers aware of the problems of the present, which still concern them a great deal. With his visually corrosive colours, Uroš Weinberger instantly arouses feelings of anxiety and nausea, like those caused by a small dosage of radioactive radiation that came to our region thirty-six years ago, whereas Rok Mohar addresses the viewer with his manifesto-like Charter of the Chernobylians (2016) through fictional characters that formed a community and strive for their rights, autonomy and a fairer world for all. With a slightly humorous text, which stylistically looks as if it was written in the socialist eighties, right after the disaster, the readers cannot remain indifferent, because it literally invites them to join the movement for a better world, if not otherwise, at least with approval. Neither passers-by can remain indifferent by Danilo Milovanović's works, who also invites and urges them to become a part (of a movement) of artistic installation in an outdoor public space through imaginative and conceptually refined 'disturbance' that they do not expect. Here, the reactions, astonishment and thinking of viewers or their neuroplasticity, encouraged by adaptation to a new situation and stimulated by the work of art, are essential components of the work itself. All three artists want to convey an important message to the public and, in their own innovative ways, encourage it to take action, which would gradually reach a critical mass of awareness and thus cause a change beyond capital and centres of power or despite them.
Anabel Černohorski, Ana Grobler and Sebastian Krawczyk