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grafisches Element

What if... and beyond

Vasja Nagy »

Participating artists:

Vesna Bukovec
Bernhard Cella
Giulia Cilla
Yolanda Domínguez
Gani Llalloshi
Sašo Sedlaček

In 2012 Gani Llalloshi painted a series of paintings and entitled them “Nostalgie”. The series is based on the dreamy, surreal vision of an imaginary landscape surrounded by a typical carpet bordure from his past, from his ancestral tradition. Nostalgia is regarded as an incurable psychological sickness. Its object is to return to the past and not to the place the person is longing for, as the name suggests. In a mild form nostalgia is present in every generation but usually we start to imagine our past as a harmonious and more happy place than the present after the youth age. It is a never-ending story, always repeating the statement or the slogan we’ve heard from people older than ourselves – The good old days. Or the way ancient Romans would put it – O tempora o mores. With the good old capital letter, of course.

Probably it is in the above described state of mind how we perceive our present now and distinguish it from the past – chaotic vs. ordered, but there is one difference that is pretty obvious if we compare the last 40 years and the records from before. It seems like our society in general, let’s say the global society, has never been concerned about the future of a long-term survival of humanity on Earth as it is today (it will be described later why this is not so). The observation of the disappearance of many other species quickly facilitates to draw the scientific connections to the conditions of our survival. But it is not just the survival; the issue is to have a vision of a project in its etymological sense – pro iacere – throw ahead, a project for the next generation(s). Whatever from the past we observe; pyramids, aqueducts, illuminated manuscripts, cathedrals, to a certain extent even the first factories. All that was made to last long, almost to reach eternity. The same applies to art including modernism. It is possible to identify individual post-modernist gestures already at the beginning of the 20th century, while most of the art persisted in the old fashion until what we call now contemporary art. The major difference between contemporary and modern art is that the second is still meant to be unchanged in form and meaning forever while the first is temporary by its definition. While modernisms were mostly still in search of pure and eternal art, contemporary art works more as a catalyst for the present. Contemporary art even holds a temporariness in its name in various languages. It is simply meant to function as art in a more fragile manner than any older art that art historians agreed to perceive as art. The context is usually the narrower environment outside which an artwork is not regarded as art any longer. Technically speaking contemporary art may be perceived as a historical style. So the statement that all art was once contemporary makes only sense when it is explained what it was contemporary to.

By observing plans of European medieval cities it is most remarkable how huge the churches were compared to the size of everything else inside of the city walls. But we must not forget what role the church played in those times and how with time all these functions dispersed in various public and private institutions. Churches used to be main centres of education, information, medicine, intelligence and control, politics, and economy. The power of its religious function, which gave it the major ability to shape society and hold hand on all other civil functions as well, resided with claiming the right to possess the true story about life and death. This is the story about the past, the present, the future and eternity. The last referring here to an indefinable amount of time. It probably is not hard to imagine the church authorities how they “advise” people to obey the official rules and promise a blessed reward for obedience and heavy penalties for disobedience. Both would come after death and the depictions about heaven and hell were pretty vivid and enticing for an average person’s imagination. Isn’t this quite similar to what global monetary and financial institutions are telling us? Most of the people should obey their rules otherwise there will be suffering even after we die. Our descendants will have to pay our debts. We are facing the suffering from the other side but since the old story is not working any more, we are presented with a new one. There is not much difference between the past and present propaganda with regard to an apocalyptic scenario. It would be non-serious to deny the climate changes or limited reserves of fossil fuels on which the civilization still strongly depends, but what is the real use of these topics being so present in media and political propaganda? Generally probably there is no considerable effect but individuals and small collectives do try to imagine alternatives and work on different solutions to the issues. This may vary from a long-term project like long distance space travelling that can last for hundreds of years to a small artwork, which tries to unveil human behaviour under appearances. All of those definitely need a lot of imagination that brings together fiction and reality.

Let’s agree that our lives are reality. By making records of events it is possible to document some fragments but by themselves they don’t tell much. They always need an interpreter to make connections and build stories. These kinds of stories are narratives of absence. They are trying to bring into life what is not there. And only through narration, however the identification of signs and assigning meanings to them happens, the absent is brought to present. But its form should be pretty random if not carried out with intent or based on similarities. Anyhow, reality itself can only be the event of creating and narrating this story just like children remember the wolf from the fairy tale but it becomes real only through the narrators’ act. The truth in this case doesn’t really matter. Anyway, who in this world can claim to own truth? It is important though that the story is convincing enough to feel true. The story needs to fake reality well to be believable, but with one major defect; it needs to make sense. Even just for a moment, pretending to be something, inventing an event, well, let’s say it, living fiction is making reality. It does not matter how much we agree on the statement that all we are seeing is what we believe we are seeing, all fiction is a newly created event, based on fragments of records that someone believes that they tell stories by themselves. An inventor, an artist interweaves them into a narrative that is comprehensible. And it doesn’t really matter where the fragments originate, it is what it says and how it is said that makes it real. Only because at that point its own potentiality is triggered to be true, so it becomes true.

Supported by:

ERSTE Foundation
Stadt Wien - Kulturabteilung MA 7
MA 7 - Interkulturelle und Internationale Aktivitäten
Kulturfonds der Stadt Freising
Europäisches Künstlerhaus Oberbayern

Collaboration with:

Istanbul Bilgi University
SKICA - Slowenisches Kulturinformationszentrum
Kunstverein Freisinger Mohr e.V

grafisches Element