The lack of any evocative or associative referential framework is probably one of the first things we experience when encountering Goran Petercol’s work. We look in vain for entry points for metaphorical readings or appropriated quotes that would open for us a suggestive line, as the current practices of cultural and artistic appropriation are so keen to do. Even though the initial encounter with his works temporarily denies us the usefulness of everyday mechanisms for reading the world and art, this is by no means an encounter that would refer to a metaphysical experience of any kind. On the contrary, we are surrounded by recognisable phenomena, materials or objects that, to a certain point, even behave the way we are accustomed to. However, at that certain point, the expected connections fail completely and we are no longer able to situate the events within systemic frameworks that provide a meaningful haven.
And yet, with Petercol, the fact that we have been brought to the edge of meaning does not refer to a transcendental beyond. Namely, the artist’s basic material is everyday reality; in his work, the artist extracts the field of art from reality, and form designates that which can be excluded from reality. With Petercol, form denotes a broader set of phenomena from reality which the artist appropriates. It includes not only objects and shapes but also the “systems” that he appropriates in his work. And yet, Petercol follows the rules of implementing a system only to be able to resist it at a certain point. A default process falls victim once again to the artist’s decision, which interrupts it, juxtaposes it with its opposite. This point awaits the viewer’s perception and disarms it; what used to be recognisable thus becomes strange and disorienting. Petercol’s thoughts (and here we are dealing directly with practice that transpires as materialisation of thinking) about the hierarchies of materials and procedures embody resistance to the predictability of forms of any signifying system. Hierarchical rows are an example of such embodied thought. Row is a mathematic principle denoting an ordered list of elements (or events) with a precisely determined position of each element in the sequence. The present exhibition presents a series of works whose principle of sequence invites reflection on the collected important moments of Petercol’s practice: space as a physical frame and context; the self-discipline of the production of forms; the challenging of the conventions of perception; and the work of art as self-becoming.
If art is one of the activities of materialisation of thought, it implies complete, confined articulations in form. For Petercol, materialisation of thought is always the starting point for a situation in which the artist’s role is a unique control of matter. This control is in fact self-control, for Petercol does not create ex nihilo, but rather takes as his starting point objects and processes of “neutral”, non-expressive value, which he introduces into the field of art. Control of the situation in fact means control of one’s own input, one’s own contribution. This asceticism is visible immediately: lines, points, simple geometrical shapes (projections of light or objects) are in fact the only building blocks of hierarchical rows. Similar (formal) simplicity characterises row as a mathematical principle. And yet, we find ourselves in front of installations, where despite the recognition of this simplicity our experience hits the wall. What stops us? And how can we circumvent this? Although we get to the principle of sequence (usually a row of odd numbers) fairly quickly, their hierarchy remains an enigma. Why is this line repeated more often than the other one? Hierarches of significance are a key moment, around which the issues tackled in this exhibition and in Petercol’s work in general are concentrated. It is not a coincidence that the tension between going with the flow of the process and the decision against it is repeated at various levels, beginning with the initial decision what to treat as an art object. The question is what is essential for art. If entering the field of art means questioning the accomplishment (perfection) of the existing systems, then it is essential for art to reorganise systems using different rules. The artist takes sections of reality, which art subjects to another syntax, and he returns them to reality as something that cannot simply be drowned in the sea of recognisable experiences. As something that demands a reorganisation of our perceptive possibilities and, consequently, ways of making meaning.
Hierarchical rows bring Petercol’s modus operandi to the extreme: there is no “objective” reason to favour certain elements in the sequence, while at the same time these decisions are not arbitrary. They are an expression of certain necessity which the positivist view of the world is unable to explain. We cannot affect the value system that determines hierarchisation. The reason why one element is more important than the other is the result of the incommensurability of artistic activities, their inability to be reduced to the same measure as other systems. Here, perhaps, we are closest to an answer to Petercol’s key question: what is essential (for art). Movement that invents its own measure.
Goran Petercol (*1949 in Pula, Croatia) graduated from the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts. Since 1975 Goran Petercol has been exhibiting works concentrating upon processualism, scopes, stylization and subversion of the purity of conceptual structures. He started with his first light installation as early as 1985, treating light as a material and shadow as a smaller amount of light. Petercol works with material and intangible forms, spaces and interim spaces, spontaneous and controlled art treatment deal above all with the problem of creation itself.
The programme of Škuc Gallery is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.
photo © Dejan Habicht