Artist: Tomaž Furlan
Curator: Nina Skumavc
“Is the car an object or a social symbol? Is waiting in line a production process or a contemplative act? Is putting the socks on an existentialism or a convention?” wonders Tomaž Furlan at the current exhibition, which (except for one) presents brand new works. Even though each of them represents its own message, it is important to look at the exhibition layout in its entirety. It focuses on a snippet of the usual morning of the average individual when confronted with a picture of the world. The author is interested in an individual’s personal view of an object – a moment in perception when it comes to understanding all dimensions of a form, not just its construction. The exhibition thus seeks out banal connotations between objects and their afterimages, or deals with their distortions caused by individual interpretation. It is a continuation of the author’s reflection of social dynamics, a look into the civilized surroundings and its accessories. Tomaž Furlan also describes the exhibition as “pictures of a Monday morning, where each space is its own frame or picture”.
Immediately upon entering the gallery, there is a work Border is not working (2019) – an object that is placed on the ground and simulates the pavement. It is made of crushed stones and shells that the artist collected on the Croatian coast during his vacation. The work is spread over much of the space, so the visitor has to cross it (or step on it). The lines are clean, the material used creates a pattern. It may be ironic to say that the author shows for the first time the technical skill he has acquired while working in stonemasonry. In the same space we also find the work Gare (2019). The two-wheeled handcart, which we no longer see today, has a built-in ventilator to help with pulling. This is, of course, completely pointless, since the handcart is made of stone. Again, a deliberately precise method of production is the one that moves the work away from the author’s characteristic “trash” aesthetic and brings it closer to industrial products. However, it maintains the dysfunctionality that we are used to, thus creating the effect of absurdity and humour. The first space indicates the entry of an individual into an external, public space containing objects of “common property”, where he encounters objects that are socio-dynamically ordinary. At this point the author shows a much more material interpretation of the human environment than usual.
The second space deals with the understanding of production processes, with the involvement of body and mind in the social movement and with self-participation. Featured here are Couch (2019), Ballet dancer (2016) and Line (2019). All three works are interactive, in two there is an image of the author. Couch is a reworked object from Wear XV (2013). It is basically a wooden couch set that has handles, a kind of paddles, on its rests. In Wear XV, these paddles are connected to the tubes in which coins move and clank when moving or rowing. This part has now been removed, and the paddles at their end have only a contour made of wire – so water cannot be scooped. The author again points to pointless work, and thus to the social position of the individual, but the meaning changes, since even with proper rowing, we no longer make the machine “work” but literally row into the emptiness. The work Ballet dancer gives the impression of a kind of picture, which, however, has only a frame and a bizarre “do-it-yourself” mechanism by which we can move the added tape with the author’s image. The tape contains various photographs of the artist, like a film tape, where moving creates motion – when we move the handle, we enable it and at the same time dictate it. The work thus raises the question of who and what dictates us to act in the roles assigned to us and what do we do to meet expectations. Line is made on a similar principle, except in a more monumental format. Being confronted with routine, repetitive behaviours, tasks, and the questions of their meaningfulness here raises the question of the individual’s entrapment in social processes. The reflection continues in the next space that talks about the transition, the moment of respite.
The work entitled Bench consists of a bench made of concrete and a television screen made of stone. The author adds the stone into a real television frame on which even a small light is lit, which further emphasizes the bizarreness of the object. The stone is reminiscent of the so-called “snow” that appears on television when there is no signal. The bench is intended to sit, but it immediately acts as if something is wrong, unstable, because there is only half a bench. At the same time, it also allows space for only one person, which indicates that in everything we do, we are actually alone. Also, our break time is predictable and dictated, and most people spend it by staring blankly at the TV screen, where the content doesn’t really matter – hence the noise simulation that emphasizes all this.
The last space performs a moment that does not require contact, it is individual. It features an installation Manual for homemade spaceship (2019). On one of the screens, we follow the story of an individual who constructs, with the help of a fictional institution and on a “do-it-yourself” principle, a spacecraft, and is then launched into the cosmos. Next to it is a simulation of a craft made of recognizable, useful objects painted in grey. Cynicism is present, as the simplicity of manufacturing indicates a deliberate departure from the high-technology and multifunctional devices that are so valued and are expected to optimize life. The only job that an individual owes to an institution that has fulfilled the desire to travel in cosmos is to report at regular intervals about what is happening there. The second screen repeats a message from which, despite the enthusiasm, we can only conclude that a great adventure in the future is only an illusion.
The relationship between human and the environment is the main theme of the author’s entire artistic practice, and the title of the exhibition eloquently describes the present situation. The production process is not only the activity of production itself, but also everything else in which the individual (his or her movement in the social environment) is involved, both the rationalization of time and efficiency, as well as the collectivity and participation. The title of the exhibition is also reminiscent of the title of the painting Luncheon on the Grass (1863) by Edouard Manet, which is a landmark work of art history. Complex content is important (roughly) because of the monumental way of presenting an everyday theme, where the female act, otherwise reserved for images with mythological or allegorical content, is included in the genre scene. And yet – Manet paints a bourgeoisie having breakfast on the grass, while Tomaž Furlan “paints” a mobile bourgeoisie. Its involvement in the production and social routine, which is increasingly present in private spaces as well, is less tied to external systemic mechanisms and more to the individual’s choice, which seems at first glance free and personal.
Tomaž Furlan (1978) graduated from the Sculpture Department at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. He creates in the medium of video, video-performance, spatial installation, sculpture – object. The most important part of his oeuvre is the Wear series, which he has been creating since 2005. He is the recipient of the OHO Group Award (2012) and the Rihard Jakopič Recognition Award (2017). He presented himself at solo exhibitions in Slovenia and abroad and participated in numerous group exhibitions; the most important are: À l’oeuvre / At Work, La Maison des Vins et du Tourisme, Fronton, France (2018), Autour du Nouveau Réalisme / Celebrating New Realism, Les Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie Toulouse, France (2017), Wear, The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška, Ravne na Koroškem (2016), Crises and New Beginnings: Art in Slovenia 2005-2015, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana (2016), Tomaž Furlan 2005–2015, Museum of Contemporary Art Rochechouart, France (2015), Technical Unconscious, Porto, Portugal (2014), U3 – 7th Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana (2013), Sculpture Today: Performative Bodies and Environments, Centre for Contemporary Art, Celje (2013), Manifesta 9, Genk, Belgium (2012), Word for word, without words, City Gallery Ljubljana, Ljubljana (2010).
Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar