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Boris Šribar / I Have It All

14 February 2012 > 02 March 2012 You are kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition I HAVE IT ALL by Boris Šribar, curated by Marija Ratković. The opening will take place in Alkatraz Gallery on Tuesday 14th February at 8 pm.

The concept of the exhibition I Have It All has emerged as a need of the author to express a stand and explore the reaction of the audience to the topic of (un)stable male sexuality. Beside the basic ideas in his four works Boris Šribar evokes a story about sexual identity, cultural conditioning of concepts of power, authority, wealth and beauty. All exhibited works show instability of meanings within the frame of artistic activity, dependent of the context of exhibiting as well as different stands of the audience concerning the questions that Šribar, as an artist, poses.

I Have It All consists of four conceptually connected works: Male Thing, Men Don’t Cry, Male Artist, as well as his latest work I Have It All, giving a title to the exhibition. The elements of a wider conceptual entirety of I Have It All are the following: produced material artifacts, the exhibition itself, photo and video materials, the planned talk of the artist with the audience as well as a public guided tour around the exhibition.

Male Thing (2010)

Two parts of the artwork Male Thing – a series of photographs and sculptures represent different but similar concepts and, operating within the concrete exhibition space, together create a new, open and performative artwork, not representing a specific idea and meaning, but gains one during its interaction with the audience. The photographs show male plexuses with hidden penises, simulating a non-existent vagina, triggering off an intimate story – memories from one’s childhood, “the earliest fears of castration”, incomprehensible jokes of adult men, frustrations, complicated relationships with parents, motifs, desire, guilt. This is how the work - through layers of symbolical, imaginary and real - corresponds with the basic Freudian symbolism of the phallus and the fear of castration, as well as the later Lacanian interpretation of the absent/present object of desire. The sculptures, representing a counterpoint to the absent penis are multiplied casts of the author’s penis in erection, manufactured in its natural size from three sorts of chocolate and confectionery mixture for sweets of various colours and flavours. These sculptures are offered to the audience as sweets on plates and in bowls, and are meant for consumption. The visitors are free to help themselves to them. The nature of their consumption itself – the moment of consumption of a penis points to cannibalistic nature of contemporary human being as a consumer – she/he, like a child in her/his oral phase, wants to possess everything, eat everything. In this way, the world and art together with it, are questioning each other and getting to know each other better through direct consumption.

The question this work opens up, while provoking the indecent, brings us back to Foucault-ian idea of ourselves as the New Victorians and the neo-conservative era, in which sexuality is equaled to perversion and is constituted exclusively through prohibitions the society prescribes. Sexuality constructed as an offence makes the artist deal with the questions what does he gain by belonging to the dominant group. As a heterosexually oriented man, of healthy and beautiful body – by default – assigned as someone who is capable of, and appropriate to convey any chauvinistic or discriminatory message. Additionally, he is – by this kind of indexation – objectivized, reduced to the role of a representative of a concept that he has never agreed to define. The position of de-subjected artist incites in him the wish to deal with the offences of his “unaccepted” identities more thoroughly.

Men Don’t Cry (2010)

The work entitled Men Don’t Cry can be recognized as an attempt of deconstruction of a sexual stereotype – in the case of Boris, on a personal level. Boris does not deal in his work with the traditional phrase of “men don’t cry", proving that it does not stand, as there are some men that do cry, he does not encourage men to show their feelings, as doing that he would have got involved with the circle of stereotypes wherefrom there is no way out.

The thesis „men don’t cry" Šribar deconstructs at its very basic and most banal level, proving that crying has nothing to do with emotions. Everybody cries. Every human being cries and he proves it when, like in an experiment, he provokes tears chemically, while cutting an onion. While he is repeating the mechanical act of cutting an onion, Boris is, from physiologically caused tears, moving into emotional crying. Or perhaps not. The moment of transformation, in which the “permitted” crying transforms into an angry male cry of helplessness or, a transgressive emotional cry, cannot be identified.

Thus he brings into the same side the physical and psychological experience, alluding to a personal experience, where, upon the author’s physical appearance the audience places his work into a certain context. Every single discussion about whether his provoked tears are “real” (as it is true that all tears are real – including the induced ones, in this or any other way) does not speak so much of the work itself, but of the construction of the artist by the viewer, which is also the source where the allocation of the work within the frame of one or another politics stems from. Boris does not advertise the answer to the stereotype of „men don’t cry", he shows it as ridiculous in its core, while refraining from dealing with it on personal, social, ethical or, political level. The problem of the identity if the Other-as-weaker is – through Boris’s work deconstructed and rejected as a useless construction built on an instable thesis that crying is a reflection of one’s weakness.

This radical act of rejection of the entire socio-cultural context of a patriarchic society in which the construct has been created, is the answer of the artist, pushed into a corner. Boris as one belonging to the majority is becoming a bearer of dominating stands of the society and has no arguments to support his particularity, because he is – in the eyes of the audience – a member of the desired majority, the desired stronger, who has the chance to – according to his “good” will in his private life to choose between machismo and gentleness, discrimination and tolerance. Should he take a step aside in his work, the motifs for it would be sought (and found) in his chauvinism, the desire to – from his cozy position of the stronger – challenge the weaker or mock them when dealing with the issues of social gender, questioning the „normal" and desired.

Male Artist (2012)

In his work Male Artist Šribar returns to the position of a man of accentuated masculinity, a male- David, whose body represents an ideal, a man un/justifiably worshipped and finally, a man-an artist, all representing exterior qualifications – constructs that the artist fasces. Standing in the David’s pose during the time of the making of the cast, the artist with his fainting leads the documenting of the moment of his physical weakness from the real through imaginary to symbolic inability of existing and staying still in a mould. With no intention to play with the determinative meanings of a mould, original or a cast in order to incorporate them into his work - the real problem of his own existence in the triggered gesture of Michelangelo’s model-David - he provoked the question of symbolic existence within the role of his own gender. With no intention to explore the issue of male sexuality Šribar deals with the question of the transitoriness of a socio-cultural concept of the domineering/male body by combining of documentary video and sculpture into an integral unity. Herewith he admits his inability to unite all the segments of this identity- an identity construct (a male, idealized, imaginary) - even in the art-field. An artist. This David is real, a human being who exists and is not capable of staying in a spiteful momentum of stretching a sling; his body is, like his identity, heterogeneous, cast after an instable pattern, assembled of pieces; chipped off and re-assembled and gilded afterwards.

Focused on the Artist, a gilded figure of a man with his erected penis, especially a monument to the artist himself, the viewers get exactly what Šribar has started from – a social construct of a self-indulged and proud Artist - Chauvinist, de-constructed in the real and symbolic sense. After this de-composition he returns and exists exposed, however, as an artist, Boris Šribar, is incapable – in the new context, in the context of a gallery, to - independently and unambiguously - break a layer of his own (sexual, secular, expert) identity that he deals with auto-critically from one work to another.

I Have It All (2011)

The video work giving the title to the exhibition I Have It All, by its title points to the thesis about the author as the one that belongs to community, who domineers, who has it all. What all, is what the author has got, if his assets has nothing to do with what he is presenting in the video? The answer lies in the very disparateness of these two images, in their parting. The picture of the artist as a worker and an artist, as an owner. The artist possesses his work, even though it does not belong to him, and the presented situation may perhaps be the only form of un-alienated product of work (the pool) of the artist/worker/tenant. A short sequence in which the artist is swimming in the swimming-pool that he has built himself, is the only moment when he is the user of the commodity that he has created himself, and is receiving benefit from. At that moment he has it all. The greatest profit is exactly this visual picture, in which the situation, liberated from work, seems totally logical and natural to the audience.

Hence the video I Have It All with minimal intervention and perhaps most radically and at several levels deconstructs the identity of the dominant sexual majority as an identity that is, beside the domination in socio-cultural field usually also assigned the power and wealth. The automatism of the concept that a man, or a male identity - besides being primary in relation to other identities - acknowledges itself also through possession – is in this work – marked and questioned. The side of untouchability of dominant positions of a male-rich man-owner, in which beauty, riches and power – quite logically – stem one from another is – in this work – shown as the basic reason of incapability of real understanding between the bearer and those who belong to different identities.

The question posed at the end is: why somebody who obviously profits from it should respond to a hierarchical gender issue, as the identity assigned to him, is desired and represents a power position. Šribar’s artistic practice advocates the stand that – from the power position, based on chance, an (auto)critical stand has to be taken. However, not by questioning of a position of someone, who has it all, but by questioning of the context itself within the frame of society, in which somebody is recognized as a bearer of power on the basis of physical pre-dispositions and not on the basis of one’s own speech or deeds. The work focuses one’s attention to another face of discrimination of Otherness, that represents much more dangerous and more concealed chauvinism; the one, who does not question the power/authority and hierarchy, but serves it, and by inertia reproduces it ever again.

Marija Ratković

Internet page of the artist Boris Šribar

Thanks to: Center for Contemporary Arts, SCCA-Ljubljana

translation to Slovenian language: Nevena Aleksovski

translation to English: Lili Anamarija No

Photos from the opening: Sunčan P.  Stone

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