False Magic 3
19. 1. 2024 - 15. 2. 2024

Artist: Jaka Vatovec
Curators: Tia Čiček, Lara Plavčak

False Magic 9
Alkatraz Gallery
19. 1.–7. 2. 2024

Artist: Jaka Vatovec
Curators: Vesna Bukovec, Anabel Černohorski, Ana Grobler, Sebastian Krawczyk

Editor: Olga Michalik


Exhibition events

Viewing of the exhibition with the artist and curators Friday, 2 February.

False Magic 9 at 6 pm at Alkatraz Gallery
False Magic 3 at 7 pm at Škuc Gallery

14. 2. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition False Magic 3 at Škuc Gallery


False Magic connects the exhibitions at Škuc Gallery (False Magic 3, 19. 1.–15. 2. 2024) and Alkatraz Gallery (False Magic 9, 19. 1.–7. 2. 2024). Key concerns about the project were founded on how to address the new production, which presents insights into life with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The artists’ personal stories remain an essential source for the interpretation of the artworks, while the voyeuristic insight can archetypalise their lives as either romanticised or undesirable (e.g. the tortured artist genius). The project and the two exhibitions do not aim to educate the public and/or present life with OCD, but rather to confront the artistic material, which stands as a metaphor for the first-person narrative of the experience of the disorder.

In her essay at the end of the 1970s,[1] Susan Sontag spoke out against the use of illness as a metaphor. To understand a person’s illness as a metaphor (e.g. as a punishment from God, as the result of unexpressed energy) is not only untrue but also punitive. When used metaphorically to explain society and other phenomena, the illness itself loses its gravity and becomes increasingly abstract. By appropriating metaphors, Jaka Vatovec, on the other hand, invents a visual language that is neither diagnostic nor superficial and in which he can talk about his experiences with OCD. The clock/saw can be read as a symbol for neurodivergent time (under the umbrella term crip time).[2] Either lost or, in the eyes of society, unproductive and irredeemable. Pockets of time are filled by compulsions/rituals that provide temporary relief, but obsessions/intrusive thoughts also demand their time and spread uncontrollably like mould.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterised by distressing, repetitive and intrusive thoughts, apprehension, fear or anxiety, and repetitive behaviour in the form of compulsions (aka rituals) designed to alleviate the associated anxiety. The increasing testimonies on mental health in social media have helped to expand the understanding of illnesses, disorders and disabilities from the purely symptomatic (external medical regard) to the experiential (first-person narrative).[3]

Destigmatisation of mental disorders is necessary, but it can quickly lead to trivialisation, which in turn hinders a true understanding of the experiences and needs of those affected. This is exactly what has happened with OCD – because it is generalised in popular culture as an eccentric personality trait or stereotype, such as obsessive hand hygiene or manic tidying up that can lead to a misunderstanding of the severity of the disorder and its impact on the individual’s everyday life. “Therefore, while the individual continues to be stigmatized by virtue of their status as “mentally ill,” their disorder is depathologized.”[4] By misrepresenting OCD, those in a privileged position (i.e. without mental illness) rob people with actual OCD of an essential hermeneutic tool for communicating the nature of their experience.

“Refusal, and stances of refusal in research are attempts to place limits on conquest and the colonisation of knowledge by marking what is off limits, what is not up for grabs or discussion, what is sacred, and what can’t be known.”[5]

With this consideration, the researchers refrain from passing on certain stories that have been entrusted to them. They deliberately omit to shed light on certain aspects of traumatic events, even though they could help the affected communities by raising awareness and advocacy. Indeed, Tuck and Yang note that much of the work within academic structures simply reproduces stories of oppression.[6] In this way, the material studied is given significance, but the power relations remain unequal – and the academic voice uses the content to validate its own existence. Such tendencies to re-evaluate the mediation of marginalised stories can also be seen in the treatment of artistic material. In curatorial work and artistic production, we question the power positions and backgrounds of the speakers and become more sensitive to the nature of the narrative and the context, not just the information/content that can be obtained.

We understand what can be told and then not shared. Neoliberal currents in both the sciences and the arts prioritise the telling of difficult stories of vulnerable groups and individuals in order to draw attention to human injustice and the possibility of redress. We want stories and works that shake us up, move us and almost force us to pause and reflect. In this project, we try neither to shock nor to lecture, and invite you to reflect. The aim of the project is to take the momentary reactivity away from difficult, hidden stories so that we can approach them with discernment. Education, awareness-raising and advocacy for understanding and compassion are becoming increasingly important aspects of curating itself and of art-making, all the more important in the precarious contexts in which we cultural producers (cultural workers, artists, writers, curators, etc.) are trapped.

Tia Čiček and Lara Plavčak

If you recognise yourself in the descriptions of OCD, you can contact your GP, who can also refer you to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist for professional help.


Jaka Vatovec (1989, Postojna) graduated in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana in 2016. He is mainly active in the fields of painting and drawing and has published several artist books and fanzines. His work is influenced by the visual content of fringe subcultures and B-grade films, especially horror films produced in Europe in the 1970s. Thematically, he explores the notion of mental health and the way it is understood, as well as death and our relationship to it – both in physical and symbolic form. The latter is often interwoven with themes of religion and obscure spiritual and magical and/or occult ideas. He has shown work in many solo and group exhibitions at home and abroad, including: inhale exhale, Kulturni dom Nova Gorica, Nova Gorica (2023); Army and the City, Hiša Kulture Pivka, Pivka (2020); Weeds, Hiša Kulture Pivka, Pivka (2020); Baby Shower, Stiege 13, Vienna, Austria (2019); Post-Christmas Depression, P74 Gallery, Ljubljana (2017); SAMO group exhibition of prints, KAPSULA, Ljubljana (2019); Off the Hook, Neurotitan Gallery, Berlin, Germany (2017); Off the Hook, UGM, Maribor (2016), Motivi di famiglia / Family reasons, Villa di Toppo Florio, Udine, Italy (2014); EXHIBITION Nr. 23, CAC Landskrona, Sweden (2014). He has participated in the artist book fairs and art editions Blind Date Convention (P74 Gallery) and Caffeine Hours (Indigo Festival).


[1] Sontag, Susan. 1978. Illness as Metaphor. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[2] Crip time, see Alison Kafer. Non-linear time (and space) experienced by disabled people. Crip comes from cripple, and both words have been re-appropriated by some disabled people and groups as an act of empowerment and destigmatisation. The word can be use by non-disabled people with explicit consent if it refers to an individual or a specific group. In: Aplinc, Urška and Plavčak, Lara. 2023. Sick (21. 6.–18. 7. 2023, Škuc Gallery) [https://www.galerijaskuc.si/exhibition/sick/].

[3] It is worth noting that activists in the field of Disability Studies and Mad Studies view OCD as a form of neurodivergence not as a disorder or illness, but as a disability.

[4] Spencer, Lucienne and Carel, Havi. 2021. ‘Isn’t Everyone a Little OCD?’ In: The Epistemic Harms of Wrongful Depathologization. Philosophy of Medicine Vol. 2 No. 1, p. 14.

[5] Tuck, Eve and Yang, K. Wayne. 2014. R-Words: Refusing Research. In: Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities, London: Sage, p. 225.

[6] Ibid, p. 227.


Slovene proofreading: Inge Pangos
English translation: Arven Šakti Kralj
Design: Lea Jelenko

Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa
Exhibition view: Matic Pandel

Co-production: Škuc Gallery, KUD Mreža, SCCA-Ljubljana


The Škuc Gallery programme is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana.