“Marina Abramović said she believes art is the oxygen of society. This sounds all well and romantic, but we should bear in mind that everyone would die if they had too much oxygen.”
These are the opening words to Tanja Lažetić’s text entitled The Tragedy of Venus (Whore). Just like oxygen, we can only survive art if it is mixed with something other than art, with life in its banality and mundanity rather than its exceptional and exciting moments. Maurice Blanchot defines the everyday as what we are first of all, and most often. The everyday has the essential trait that it allows no hold, it escapes, as it belongs to the insignificant, which is without truth, reality or secret. It is the unperceived, is never seen for the first time, and due to its constitutive illusion, it is always a “have seen”. The everyday is without event, but persists in unrealised actuality. The everyday is not what is at the background of something else or the basis for the apparition of something extraordinary that would give it a meaning: it is always before what affirms it and yet incessantly beyond all that negates it.
“What has art to do with the indifferent everyday?” asks Tanja Lažetić. Although it could be examined through the issues of gender in art, the body or the collapse of political utopias, her work is driven by the everyday, always returning to this question. Lažetić locates the depth of superficiality in phenomena that escape the coherence of knowledge and renounce structure. This is noticeable in the work Mushrooms, graphic prints with bold, vivid colours that hyperrealistically emphasise the “anatomy” of mushrooms, while repetition presents stationary movement of the everyday, of what has always already been seen. Although we are fully immersed into it, it seems unattainable, impenetrable. Through the everyday, Tanja Lažetić examines the issues of gender, “the anatomy as destiny”. Strawberry is a journal on unsent postcards recording banal information from everyday nutrition, satisfying physiological needs as par excellence example of mundane existence. The menus introduce an exception, a moment of tragedy, the loss of a child, which, however, seems to escape exceptionality, as the description quickly returns it to the common register. Similarly, Olympia in Almost like Olympia, a unique homage to Victorine Meurent, a model for Manet’s painting, features a woman who sought to be exceptional, but is remembered only through an ordinary moment of being one in a series of odalisques, the one who looked back at the viewer. The everyday is the movement by which the individual is held in anonymity, which is nicely presented in Presence/Absence, a collaborative work with (oh, how mundane) the artist’s live-in partner Dejan Habicht during their stay as artists-in-residence in New York. The artist appeared on live surveillance cam every Sunday at the same time in the anonymous crowd, so their friends, who had been notified in advance, and all other visitors of the web site streaming live could see them. The street is the privileged space of the everyday, where we become one with our surroundings, where we are easily replaceable because of anonymity, just like Tanja and Dejan are only human shapes before identity. Blanchot argues that this is why the everyday is elusive: it escapes because it is without a subject. When I live the everyday, it is anyone who does so in indefinite presence.
The nihilism of the everyday seems to be the radical opposite of heroism, endangering the latter’s bravery with the quiet force of disintegration. Monuments to Unknown Heroes “celebrates” ordinary people who have found themselves in unusual situations that have not only changed their ordinariness, but enforced it. Lažetić’s decision to put their images on something as ordinary as a kitchen plate has the same effect. Not only does it undermine heroic values, it undermines all values. Therefore, Blanchot asks, “Is not the everyday, then, a utopia, the myth of an existence bereft of myth?” The work Nine Swimming Pools behind Broken Glass with images of public pools from (heroic) socialist era, where the view is hindered by broken glass, reminds us that “the everyday is the inaccessible to which we have always already had access; the everyday is inaccessible, but only insofar as every mode of acceding is foreign to it”. Since art is surely among barred access methods, how is their dynamics to be understood? Fascination with the artistic view of the everyday is based on the fact that they cannot be aligned. Art is not a privileged insight into the movement of the everyday, but rather through this divergence faces its own limit. Perhaps this is why the works of Tanja Lažetić are not categorically defined: they are not created ex nihilo, but rather simultaneously follow the flow of the everyday.
Curator: Vladimir Vidmar
25th August at 6 pm: Guided tour with the artist and curator
photo © Dejan Habicht