The joint exhibition of Goran Škofić and Vitar Drinković stemmed from the idea of correlating in the series of exhibitions during 2017 in the Bužančić Gallery, within the overall context of the programme conception Body and Mind, the works of two Croatian visual artists of the younger generation, who express themselves in entirely different media but whose researches both focus on the human body.  Each of the artists produced their own part of the exhibition, which was configured around the idea of the body as “detector of existence”, with a special emphasis on the relationship between real and virtual.   The work of Goran Skofić refers to the outside, social space, while that of Vitar Drinković leads us into the inner, psychological space.

 

The use of the body and control and manipulation of it in the media of photography, film, video and multimedia installations are the main characteristics of the work of the director and multimedia artist Goran Škofić.  With his use of the opportunities accorded by moving images and the media transformation of a space, placing a body in identifiable spaces or situations, in his works Škofić considers the sore points of everyday life, which he often approaches with humour.  With his pictures of the body, as he himself declares, he speaks of “the big, social body”, identifying the strategies by which it controls the individual.

 

The video installation Blow of Happiness consists of a video comprising just a single take, showing the figure of a young woman videoed to the bust, behind whom there is no specific space. But in the gallery space, in front of the video work, there is a fan.  The dynamics of the action of the video correlate with the switching of the fan on and off at 45-second intervals.  When the fan is off, the face of the girl on the video, without any particular expression, seems to be placed in front of a mirror.  When the fan is on, her hair streams in a current of air, she smiles and is happy, and her pleasure grows in proportion to the strength of the breeze produced by the fan, although the gusts of air sometimes completely distort her face. When the fan goes off, her joy vanishes; once again, she is serious, and goes on discreetly touching up her hair, and her mood becomes lower and lower. Then the fan goes on again, and she smiles once more.

 

In this video installation, Škofić links the space of the gallery and the virtual space of the moving picture in respect of causality.  Whatever is producing the current of air is not seen in the video, but it does exist and is seen in the physical reality of the observer.  The filmic, virtual figure, through the manipulation of the image and the objective world, is related to something that comes from another reality, just like the observer, the visitor to the exhibition, into whose physical world this virtual reality has entered.  It is not, then, about the observer getting inside virtual reality, as usually happens through the watching of a film, picture or video game, rather of the entry of the virtual reality into the physical world and the making-real of a copy of reality.

 

In his essay Beyond true or false of the evil genius of the image  Jean Baudrillard analyses the ways in which the media image contaminates the real,  making the real impossible to be created as such: “In relation to the image in general (media image, technological image) I would like to recall the perversity of the relation between image and its referent, the assumed real,  the virtual and irreversible confusions of the field of the image and the field of reality, the principle of which we understand less and less.  There are the most diverse modalities of this absorption, this confusion, this diabolical seduction of images.  One should radically doubt the principle of the referentiality of the image, the strategy via which it always creates the appearance that it does relate to some real world, to real objects, that it reproduces something that logically and chronologically precedes it.  Nothing of this is true. As simulacrum, the image precedes reality to the extent to which it reverses the logical, causal sequence of the real and its reproduction.(...) We need not, then, seek the secret of the image (talking always of technical and contemporary images), in its differentiation from the real, in its break with the real and finally in the explosion of image and reality – there is for us ultimately a lack of differentiation between image and reality that no longer leaves space for representation as such.” [1]

 

Škofić skilfully uses irony to articulate his critical distance from the world of which he is himself a part, and with humour composed of mime and gags sometimes recalls the great auteur of the silent film Charlie Chaplin,  which gives the contemporary crisis (of being) of man a wider historical framework.   With his own typical simplicity of structure and purity of form, in the video installation Blow of Happiness, Škofić forms a fascinatingly concise idea about the big bang of the media image and its influence on reality in which the border with the virtual is increasingly fading away.

 

Vitar Drinković has in the last few years been working at the intersection of technology, science and art through the creation of interactive devices, inventions and installations that are used as mediators in communications among people and as tools for making conscious the unconscious aspects of perception and communication.  On the other hand, he also addresses the dependence of people on technologies.  The interactive sculpture Identity Wiper goes on from a series of low tech interactive sculptural approaches by Vitar Drinković of the kind that we were able to see at his solo exhibition in the SC Gallery (2017) and in the Karas Gallery (2015).  As curator Marta Kiš observed, such approaches are not “the artist’s choice, but the realistic situation of the artist’s financial everyday life”, and are then also an authentic reflection of the social conditions in which they are created.

 

Identity Wipers consist of a chrome motorcycle helmet that has on the outside a reflective effect.  Built into the interior of the helmet is a voice modulator that can be tuned at the wishes of the user and that is linked up to speakers in the room.  Also within the helmet is a small Web camera that records the user’s eye and projects the image via a projector onto the wall of the gallery.  In addition, there are headphones connected to an electric stethoscope, which is also wired to the helmet and hangs down from the front.  Whoever puts on the helmet places it in the area of the heart and inside the helmet hears the beating of his own or someone else’s heart.  From the back of the helmet is a mantle made of silver-backed thermal insulation of the kind used to keep warm the victims of  a natural disaster.  The helmet and cloak are placed on a pedestal upon which a mirror is fixed, and the wires that lead from the helmet are linked to the holder in the form of a metal construction above the helmet, enabling its movement within a radius of 3 to 4 metres. 

 

In the author’s own words, the idea for the work sprang from how and how much we are formed by the conditions within which we are born and in which we live.  The reflection of the surroundings on the helmet and the objectivised self (subject or user) through image and sound speaks in favour of the idea of loose identities as constructs of our ego awareness and the shaping of desirable identities from social positions of power. Drinković detects methods of the formation of these identities breaking human perception down to the fundamental biological processes that react in our bodies to our environment and the circumstances that are crucial in our definition of our image of ourselves and the function of this image in society.  The person who is wearing the helmet loses a part of his or her identity. The head is hidden, the voice changed, the body hidden. Because of the reflective nature of the helmet, the wearer takes upon him or herself the identity, or image, of the surrounding.   At the same time, this person can see him or herself in the mirror.  The motorbike helmet suggests speed and racing, and in fact these are the properties of the contemporary manner of life that comes down to a race for survival and for success and for the kind of identities it is desirable to embody.  The person, then, who is wearing the helmet both reflects the surrounding and, at the same time, is reflected in the same surrounding: looking at their eye on the wall of the gallery as if it were the eye of another, listening to the beating of their heart as if it were a sound that comes from outside.  A weird interweaving of internal and external world of man comes into being, in which reality is reflected in an entirely new manner, as a multidimensional experience in which the hard and fast borders between I and Other fade and vanish.

 

If we compare the work of Goran Škofić with that of Vitar Drinković, it is clear that both authors are talking about humans being balked by illusion. Drinković detects the historically conditioned psychological phenomenon known as the experience of separate existence in each of us, an experience that is a total construct of the ego-awareness and which is the reason why we live in the shadow of truth, and hence all the woes of this world since it has been recorded by history; he deconstructs the matrix that leads us into social and ecological catastrophe. Škofić  tells of the media manipulation of reality; not only is it only an image of the world of shadows of the real world that is visible to man, but the real world does not actually exist,  the human world being there only and exclusively as a nursery for virtual reality,  bestowing on it its own structures for life.  What more than anything else links the works of Škofić and Drinković is a humanism that places at the centre of interest the human body as reliquiae reliquiarum of reality in the dehumanised, technologically developed world of the 21st century that has replaced the human by the machine criterion, which has replaced the friend by the personal computer.  A machine can do things faster and better, just as a virtual social contact can be made with lower risks and much more comfort.  Social and physical contacts are actually those handholds of reality that the virtual is taking away from us, without which we are losing our anchor, without which those unique and unrepeatable existential density that streams through our circulation, disturbing the heart and uniting all the feelings in a great I Am.

                                                                                                        

 

 

Anita Zlomislić

 

[1] Jean Baudrillard, Au – delà du vrai et du faux, ou le malin génie de l'image , Paris. Cahiers internationaux de sociologie. 34(82): 1987, 139-145 pp.  An English translation has been made from the Croatian version called Onkraj istinitog i lažnog ili zloduh slike in: Jean Baudrillard, Simulacija i zbilja, Jesenski i Turk, Hrvatsko sociološko društvo, Zagreb, 2013. pp. 183-185.

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