As implied in the austere title of Alen Floričić’s exhibition, which is the result of research collaboration between the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, Škuc Gallery and Trieste Contemporanea, we are faced with a work that deliberately rejects any attempt at a narrative and dramatic structure. The minimal situations from which the works spring are extremely condensed, but do not act as figurative language, instead persisting in anxious triviality, which gradually intensifies until it creates tension.
Formally, Floričić’s art practice travels between two extremes: the (artist’s) body and artistic medium. While the dichotomy determining his work (and the body) can be read parallel to the tension between everyday life and art as a mode of seeking its sense, it should never be read in terms of neo-avant-garde strategies of ‘erasing the boundary‘, but by insisting that one cannot be reduced to the other. Floričić’s work employs the body as a laboratory for exploring these tensions in a rather direct manner. In his videos, the body is distorted, mechanised, subject to schizophrenic repetitive movements, but not in the manner of body art ‘interventions in the flesh’: Floričić’s interventions do not primarily take place on the body, but on its image, recording, a secondary presence. They do not focus on the physical stamina of the ‘present’ artist, but rather on modes of mediating the body, on what happens to the body which stands for the first-hand certainty of life. It is this that makes the visual dimension of Floričić’s work existential; not seeking to pay compliments nor trying to please, but rather prone to radical reductionism as the visual complement of a strategy of dissecting the mechanisms of art.
Most of the videos presented at the exhibition are based on movement, a minimal physical element that is transformed into anxious mechanisation through hypnotic repetition. Although Floričić’s strategies do not lack humour, it is enclosed in a suffocating and unstoppable certainty. The artist’s entire work seems to revolve around complex concepts of repetition and the double. We immediately find ourselves in the area where Freud posits das Unheimliche, an unsettling familiar foreignness, which is primarily positioned on the line between the living and the dead, where, according to Mladen Dolar “the living becomes possessed by a dead mechanism, automatism “. Is not this the main feature of Floričić’s video works? Through automated movements, the artist’s body loses any of the organic spontaneity that we connect to life, and becomes subject to the ruthless need for repetition that is formulated in Freud’s death drive. The titles of the works are created through similar automatic process (06-00, 09-02, 01-05, 03-05, 02-05, 02-13…), as they record the sequence and appear on their own almost by default, inertion. Another concept that is significant for deciphering Floričić’s work is the double. In literature, the double is an agent that realises the subject’s most secret desires, while leading them to their doom, and represents both the split and ensuing inability “to be one with oneself”. Revisiting Dolar, the double is a mirror image of the subject, with included objet petit a, a part of the lost being, the “enjoyment of direct self-being”. In the figure of the double, the Imaginary begins to coincide with the Real, which, as exquisitely shown by Floričić’s video works, causes anxiety, which is not due to the fear of loss, but, on the contrary, of over-proximity. If the only reality a subject knows is imaginary, it must lose objet petit a. Therefore, anxiety is fear of the loss of loss, of the loss of distance “that enables a safe relationship with established reality”. This is where the discomfort created by Floričić’s work is posited: in the incursion of the Real, which takes place through repetition of the same, always returning to the same spot.
In this respect, Alen Floričić’s work can be read as a radical questioning of the Enlightenment project, and particularly the concept of the subject as the element that connects nature and culture. Automatons from the videos could be read as explicitly satirising the Enlightenment’s faith in progress through ‘purified’, rationalised science and the subsequent mechanised vision of nature. In showcased works, cracks in the Enlightenment project emerge in the incursions of the Real that the subject finds unbearable, and the revelations of das Unheimliche as something that cannot be revealed. (Vladimir Vidmar)
Project by: Sabina Salamon, Vladimir Vidmar
The exhibition is the result of research collaboration between the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, Škuc Gallery, and Trieste Contemporanea.
8th of February and 18th of February at 6 pm: guided tours of the show
The programme of Škuc Gallery is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.