Artists: Nataša Berk, Karla Damari, Jacob Morgen, Ladies of the Press*
Curator: Jasna Jernejšek
16. 12. 2021 from 6 pm until 9:30 pm: Ladies of the Press* Green Screen Photobooth performance
17. 12. 2021 at 5:30 pm: viewing of the exhibition with artists Ana Čavić and Renée O’Drobinak (Ladies of the Press*) and curator Jasna Jernejšek (in English)
6. 1. 2022 at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with artist Nataša Berk and curator Jasna Jernejšek
14. 1. 2022 at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with artists Nataša Berk, Ana Čavić and curator Jasna Jernejšek (in English)
Once upon a time, long before smartphones, there was a mirror. This optical element, usually a smooth, flat, concave or convex, light-reflecting surface, known to almost all ancient civilisations, became the basis of rich symbolism in mythology, folklore and storytelling, as well as in visual art and popular culture, because of its physical characteristics (it mirrors anything reflective). According to various beliefs, the mirror was associated with (all-encompassing) knowledge, (self-)realisation, magic, truth, alignment and harmony, but also with impurity, lust, vanity and transience. It could represent a border, a door or a portal to other dimensions, the beyond or another parallel, usually darker, world (the topsy-turvy world); but it could also serve as an amulet that keeps away and protects against misfortune, illness and sorcery. Today, the mirror is used in everyday rituals such as arranging one’s appearance; it can be used to decorate rooms or as a status symbol; it can be integrated into other devices, such as cameras.
In some places, it was believed that the image in the mirror is connected to the mirror in a special way, that even the soul itself is a mirror, and that our mirror double has an existence and will of its own (including repressed dark drives, instincts and desires). This negative pole of our personality or self, as psychoanalysis later called it, can be illuminated and confronted (or not) on the path to self-realisation, just as the mirror was a tool of Psyche, from which psychoanalysis takes its name. The image, and thus the soul, can be lost if one looks in the mirror too soon, too often or too long, but it can also be “stolen” by devices and/or media that contain a mirror in one way or another, such as photography. A similar magical power is therefore attributed to the portrait, which is a double image. To break a mirror symbolically means to break a soul that can no longer return to the body and therefore stands for misfortune in a multitude of variations almost everywhere in the world. It is also a metaphor for letting go and freeing ourselves from illusions, gaining independence from our mirror image and thus from our own (self-)image.
In the exhibition Mirror, Mirror … the artists address various visual and metaphorical aspects of the mirror as a physical object and examine the social dimensions and effects of looking into the mirror.
In a dialogue with Nataša Berk, Karla Damari deals with the concept of reflection and its physical laws. In illusionistic representations of space, into which Berk encroaches with minimal intervention, Damari explores how the mirror image influences and changes the perception of a known space, in this case, Škuc Gallery.
Jacob Morgen is fascinated by the act or action of looking into the mirror, which he toys with on different levels. By interacting with everyday objects dressed in materials that reflect, echo or mirror light, he explores the practice of fleeting vision. By interacting with individual objects in which the visitor seeks a glimpse of his or her own likeness, he conditions certain sequences of movements and use of the body, elicits certain gestures and facial expressions, and also completes the individual artwork with a successfully “captured” gaze. In the series of minimalistically conceived “nonsensical” mirrors, he asks (himself) whether it is possible to look behind or through the mirror and thus “step onto the other side”. He is also interested in how the interpretation of the image seen in the mirror is influenced by external factors such as the light intensity and/or the position of the light source.
The Ladies of the Press* performance includes a photo booth and green screen to easily change the background and add special effects. The performers, dressed in matching costumes, mimic the invisible operation of a mechanical machine, one playing the role of a virtual operator and the other the role of a processor producing photographs. However, due to unpredictable human intervention, the machine does not automatically reproduce what comes before its “eyes”, but arbitrarily changes settings, adds or removes features of the people photographed and generally produces its own interpretations of what it sees. And so the unsuspecting visitor to the photo booth ends up with a portrait that is anything but what one expects. With much humour, the performers play with the “facts” of visibility and invisibility, duality and doubling, questioning societal expectations of (looking at) one’s own image as well as the effects of the contemporary myths and narratives we live by.
Of all the (magical) abilities attributed to the mirror throughout history, the most prophetic has surely been how important appearance will become to contemporary society – which we regularly and frequently examine in mirrors and mirror-like reflective surfaces. We often look for it in other people too (who we say hold up a mirror to us). But our emerging culture of narcissism, often referred to pejoratively, has little to do with falling in love with one’s own image, much like the mythological Narcissus who drowned because of it. Rather, it is an expression of being overwhelmed by one’s own appearance, which has become a particularly effective form of (self-)control and (self-)discipline. Looking in the mirror is always socially marked, nor are we alone and solitary in front of it. Like any other active choice of looking, it is linked to the expectation of the “truth” that we will see (into); we vacillate between what we (think we) are or what we (think we) should be, what we want to be and how we want others to see us. When we look at it to confirm our “true self”, the mirror usually shows or reflects the “truth” we already believe. This can also be persistent and disturbing, as the story of Snow White teaches us. Especially if we become upset by what is shown.
Nataša Berk (1978) is an ironically provocative avant-gardist of existentialism with a noticeable abstract instinct. It is typical for her to work without restrictions across genres and in many fields of art and contemporary culture.
Comprised of the performance art duo Ana Čavić (1979) and Renée O’Drobinak (1985), Ladies of the Press* stage participatory publishing performances. They re-imagine the role of the publisher and publicist into a theatrical persona, mixing performance and print media. Immersed in their own installation, branding and seemingly conjuring their own world, they spin your conceptions of media and publishing into surreal tableaux that question notions of ‘the Press’.
Karla Damari (1992) began her art career as a self-taught photographer and video artist. She completed the Master of Arts programme at Edinburgh College of Art (2020). She presents her work in solo and group exhibitions.
Jacob Morgen (1988) is a conceptual artist working in a variety of art media. He graduated in Interdisciplinary Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Maastricht (2015) and gained further training through art residencies (Berlin, London). He lives and works between Amsterdam and Cologne.
Co-production: Zavod Sektor
Slovene Proofreading: Inge Pangos
English Translation: Arven Šakti Kralj Szomi
Design and Cover Image: Lea Jelenko
Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa
Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar
Acknowledgments: Jaka Babnik, Miha Kelemina, Stefan Doepner (Cirkulacija2)
The Škuc Gallery programme is supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Ljubljana.