Artist: Olja Grubić
Curator: Jernej Škof
3. 3. at 18:00: Viewing of the exhibition with the artist Olja Grubić and the curator Jernej Škof
8. 3. at 18:30: Ikebana, performance by Olja Grubić for International Women’s Day
10. 3. at 18:00: Viewing of the exhibition with Artistas
16. 3. at 18:00: Viewing of the exhibition with the artist Olja Grubić and the curator Jernej Škof
Olja Grubić is one of the most prominent artists of the younger generation, working in various media: drawing, video, set design, theatre and performance. She is known for her drawings in which she depicts bodies or body parts with distinct and minimal lines, adding coloured parts of animal or plant bodies. She attempts to evade an anthropocentric understanding of the human body and especially a way of seeing that is subject to the moral judgements belonging to the members of human society. She approaches the themes of the subordination of women, non-normative persons and the exploitation of the environment in an engaging but playful manner. In this way, she creates a safe space for the protagonists she portrays, where the apparent game of life can unfold. But more importantly, she provides an insight into the radical space of empowerment for action in the world. By alluding to the plant and animal world, she suggests that other life forms practise self-realisation more freely than humans, who overdetermine the agency of themselves and others in a society full of rules and expectations. Rules that do not support coexistence but allow for unjustified subordination and thus exploitation.
In depicting the human body enmeshed in social realities and expectations, Grubić often makes direct use of her own body. Her art practice is guided by an interest in the position of women – defined by traditional ideas, social constraints and expectations – in the productive, reproductive process of late capitalism. She asks how, in a social world where our lifestyles are prescribed by both marketing strategies and petit-bourgeois value systems, space can be created for individual women to develop more freely. Or how to develop this freedom to act beyond systems of definition and binary categories?
In this exhibition, the artist presents a new series of drawings in which she addresses the realm of pleasure, sexuality and reproduction as one of the most prescribed areas of human life. She sees this area, in which the far-reaching interests of social control are quickly revealed with a little attention, as analogous to the life of the contemporary individual. Stylistically and thematically, she drew inspiration for her latest series from the Japanese ukiyo-e style depictions of pleasure, which she adapted to her own aesthetic. She juxtaposes the series with her earlier works, underscoring her playful, emancipatory narrative.
Grubić looks at the world with a relentless desire for equality. For her, humans, animals, plants, natural formations, planets and the universe are independent entities interconnected in a comprehensive ecosystem. And in this ecosystem, humans have no higher value. Here, the artist partly draws on the philosophical thinking of Timothy Morton, who proposes a non-anthropocentric reinterpretation of our relationships to the world, objects and hierarchies. This also means a different temporal view of our actions that is hopeful and empowering. Normally, the motives of human action are determined by interests whose results will show up in our lives. Interesting things begin to happen when we look at our actions over a period of, say, a thousand years or more. Our lives and our personal interests will no longer have much significance for beings living at that time. But our actions and imprints, which include art, will contribute to their future. Whatever we do as individuals will have a great impact on the state of the planet, but this can be even greater if we do it together as a society.
The works presented by Olja Grubić invite us to reflect on the role of the individual or the role of our bodies in an interconnected world. More specifically, they invite us to think about the current hierarchies of values in society. The artist asks what role we play in these relationships. And she provides interesting answers. With the performance Fertile Soil (2022), in which the exhibited drawings also played an active role, she raises questions about our relationship to the planet at a time when we are confronted with global warming and the collapse of ecosystems as a result of direct human activity. And, in parallel, questions about the role of women in contemporary society. For Grubić, women in today’s world are as degraded and exploited as the environment is by capitalist-oriented humanity. In a desire to create a space of freedom, in her exhibition Coexistence she affirms corporeality and femininity in a liberating way. She attempts to bring them into the embrace of radical acceptance, without the ideological shackles present in today’s society. And looking back, freed from these, the question quickly arises: should our bodies still serve outdated ideologies such as nationality, capitalism, religion, the state and other narrative formations? In a world kept away from much-needed progress and cooperation by these very forces steeped in power and greed, Grubić’s art practice points us to the awareness that we can change the world by coexisting with each other and, above all, embracing the multiple forms of life and their potentials. To the awareness that it is our bodies and especially our actions that underpin all social structures, which can limit or support a dignified existence for all.
 Ukiyo-e is a genre of woodblock prints and paintings from Japan. It flourished from the 17th to 19th centuries, and its subjects include landscapes, sex workers, theatre scenes or portraits of actors, and lovers’ tales etc. The style is characterized by flat areas of colour, bold outlines, and an economy of lines. (Taken from: Shimizu, Yoshiaki. 1991. UKIYO AND UKIYO-E. Impressions, no. 16.)
 Jiménez de Cisneros, Roc. 2020. Timothy Morton: Ecology Without Nature. Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), 13. 12. 2016. Available at: https://lab.cccb.org/en/tim-morton-ecology-without-nature/ [23. 1. 2023].
Olja Grubić (1990) is a performer, visual artist, set and costume designer. She completed her studies in Conceptualisation of Space at the Academy of Visual Arts in Ljubljana. In her projects, she combines basic life functions, needs and instincts into visual images and seemingly simple physical actions that shape a wide range of feelings and the social situation of society over time. By staging her own body, she explores the possibilities of freedom within a patriarchal and capitalist-oriented society. With her performance Red Web (2016, with Živa Petrič), she penetrates the realm of post-porn art. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Cultural Euro from the Kino Šiška Centre for Urban Culture, where she carried out the project Psychological Cannibals and published a book of the same title as the final product. In 2019, she conceived her first collective performance Naked Life, and in 2021, she presented the performative installation Breathe as part of SHIFT. Last year, she presented her original project Fertile Soil at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (MSUM+MG) in the exhibition Art at Work. In 2016–21 she led the group Cabaret Tiffany, and in 2020 she joined the creators and researchers of contemporary performing arts at Via Negativa.
Slovene proofreading: Inge Pangos
English translation: Arven Šakti Kralj
Elements for cover image: Olja Grubić
Design and cover image: Lea Jelenko
Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa
Exhibition view: Matic Pandel
The Škuc Gallery programme is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana.