Cyprien Gaillard, The Infinite Library (Daniel Gustav Cramer&Haris Epaminonda), Julije Knifer, David Nez, Goran Petercol, Gudio van der Werve
The persistence of certain concepts that have marked the discourse on art since its institutional consolidation in the 18th century demand of us constant revisiting and re-evaluation. Although it seemed that through its emancipatory gestures contemporary art shook off the ideas that had been determining it for the past 200 years, we again find ourselves on their threshold. One of such concepts is the sublime. Having arisen in various Enlightenment traditions from Burke to Kant as response to the desacralized cosmos, the sublime has through different periods shaped art discourse. Despite its seeming abandonment after the exhaustion of the modernist paradigm, the proliferation of the discourse on the sublime in the last decades seems to prove the opposite. Why does art, while defining itself as anti-hermetic, socially engaged and bound to immanence, reinvent a term which defined it in completely different parameters?
In its core the sublime is the thought of the limit. The most classic Kantian definition determines the sublime as the experience that transgresses our imagination and cognitive faculties, the experience of inconceivable power and greatness, which can only be encompassed by ideas as our ability of conceptual reckoning. The sublime is likewise the thought of the boundary in the explicitly political sense, which resurfaces every time we come across a pervasive and insurmountable obstacle that paralyzes our thinking. It therefore comes as no surprise that in the moment of utter malfunction of our political and economic system, when direly needed alternatives are all but impossible to imagine, we return to a concept which is motivated by the crisis of thought.
Observations endeavours to reflect on how contemporary art through the experience of the sublime attempts to tackle the barrier we are faced with, by presenting a range of works, from those focusing on the historical and political reflection on the sublime to those opening the experience of the boundary through phenomenology of the art experience. The work by Dutch artist Guido van der Werve Number 7 resonates a specific historic experience of the sublime along the lines of the Schillerian paradigm of the artist who, faced with the experience of the sublime, clashes with the inadequacy and limitations of the human state. With its astoundingly lyrical language and self-assured Schlegelian “romantic irony” Van der Werve’s film follows in the footsteps stemming from Caspar David Friedrich to Bas Jan Ader, with its fervent battle cry ‘fail again, fail better’. Emphatically critical reflection of the historical experience of the sublime outlines the work of Cyprien Gaillard, Pruitt-Igoe Falls, which through footage of demolition of a modernist monolith quotes from the visual tradition of the sublime, while skilfully deconstructing it. Spectacular fall of the mighty modernist architecture in Gaillard’s work marks the end of the modernist utopia, but at the same time raising questions on where our utopian projections can be invested in the age of destructive, limitless power of neoliberal capitalism. It seems that the work of Julije Knifer tackles the same crisis of modernity paradigms: same as his meandering forms never fall quite comfortably in the rectangle of the painting, Knifer never comes to terms with the autoreferential self-sufficiency of the great modern narrative. Such challenging of the habitual relationship to the world and striving to re-establish our relationship to it almost simultaneously appeared in the work of the OHO group. By encircling Ljubljana castle with transparent wire and later sending pieces of the string on postcards of the Castle hill, David Nez’s Invisible sculpture pleas for the transgression of established mental patterns of experiencing the world we are part of. Similar re-evaluation of our grammar of experience is called for by Haris Epaminonda’s and Daniel Gustav Cramer’s project The Infinite Library. Their intervention of rearrangement and reshuffling of a limited archive of books evokes a limitless number of readings, endless register of apocryphal knowledge, arising from syntaxes distinct from those we use in our daily handling of signs. It is this very call for radical change of grammar of perception that is addressed in the work of Goran Petercol, where the discrepancy between the perceived and that, what we know of the perceived acts as a destabilizing element. The axis in Petercol’s Symmetries does not separate complementary pairs but instead acts as a boundary, perturbing the thought and demanding of it the rearrangement of its coordinates. In this way it proposes the contemporary notion of the sublime as the reflection of »the subject on the limit« – without ever depriving the thought of its self-assuredness by steering toward transcendental, it rather insists on its resolute transformation and adherence to the field of the immanent.
Curated by: Vladimir Vidmar
Guided tours of the exhibition will take place on Wednesday, 16th April, and Tuesday, 29th April, at 6 pm.
Special thanks to: MG+MSUM
Acknowledgements: Nevena Aleksovski, participating artists, Bugada & Cargnel gallery, Muzej in galerije mesta Ljubljane
The programme of Škuc Gallery is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.