Proposals and Experiments, #2
mixed media in the shape of installation (texts, objects, videos..)
As the name of the exhibition itself suggests, this is the first exhibition within the framework of a larger project in which the artist Neža Knez searches for solutions in dialogue with children that could potentially change the world for the better. When transferring the project to the gallery, he completely transforms this space and tries to blur the line between the world of fiction and the formal artistic context. The blurring of boundaries is the backbone of this work: it is not clear who has the main say and who learns from whom, when the emphasis is on the content and when on the medium itself and the givens of this same medium. The result of the first phase of this work is a multi-layered multimedia installation that takes us around the bends to the reality in which we find ourselves, surrendering to the transformative potential of art.
*video essay: https://vimeo.com/upload/videos/d1ddf3f5-38c0-400b-87d2-186c86ac955f/privacy (for password write an email
*video loop: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/660124793
curator Ana Kovačić
Production and exhibition:
Ministry of culture Slovenia, Miklova Hiša, GMK Gallery
The central theme of the project is the exploration of different ways of perceiving and understanding the world, which takes place in the relationship between adults and children. In various ways, the artist confronts adults with a child's view of the world and observes what happens in this - how they react to it, struggle with it, try to empathize with it, etc. Within this framework, he also focuses on more general issues, such as the relationship between different levels of reality, crossing the boundaries between reality, fiction and the imaginary, researching interactions and communications in a certain space and time, etc. Neža approaches these questions with the help of film language, where he experiments with transitions between documented and acted elements, expression and articulation, amateur and professional subject performativity, etc., as well as by exploring the possibilities offered by animation.
The present work of Neža Knez gives children the freedom and means to imagine a world better than the current one, and gives the artist the means to reflect on the situation here and now. Although children speak freely, external influences can easily be detected in their statements, and it is clear that they do not have autonomy of thought from an early age. This early influence on children's thinking as well as the issue of learning and knowledge in collective dialogue are the foundations of the pedagogical consideration of the present work. The issue of boundaries remains evident even within this segment, so that it is impossible to determine who is learning from whom and how the roles are formed. What is specific to this work of art is the fact that children's thinking or fiction is transferred to the physical world and then transferred to the medium of film.
As the title suggests, this exhibition is the presentation of the first part within the framework of something bigger, which is still being created and developed. On one side of the blurred border of this imaginative artwork we have the biggest part of the process – the tip of the iceberg that involved workshops, research and full days of filming – and on the other side is what we see set up for our gaze: a gallery exhibition. The gallery is transformed into a space in which the border between fiction and the white cube is not clear and we are immersed in a multitude of small possible worlds. The multi-layered multimedia installation reveals a scenography composed of layers of ideas.
Behind the scenes built by Neža, there are gallery walls, projectors, screens, wires and everything that belongs to the world "beyond the scene". Thus, the space of the gallery is turned into a cave, in which objects, videos and fragments of a world can be found during research. The cave is dominated by a rotating panel with modeled prehistoric people, which leave sleeping shadows on the walls and remind us of the influence of the past on today's social and political reality. In the words of a child from the workshop: “You have to look back at the past to remember the good things for the future. If there was no past, what would people even be to me?" From the cave, the path leads us further into the "white capsule", a soft space without sharp edges with a patch of green grass. The smallest space hides a large film, the central video of the exhibition, divided into three chapters/experiments. Each chapter is dedicated to one proposal to save the world: Shark Mask, Tandertanium, and Robot. Unusual objects/masks are photographed in their "natural" surroundings: an artist wearing a shark mask walks along the seashore, Tandertanium is on Mars, and the robot is moving around the cave. Children's descriptions turn into the artist's questions, through which, through the manipulation of narratives and images, he contemplates what we really are and what we are going towards. Then the focus is no longer only on masks and objects, but also on the eye of the camera itself, seeing the world through different channels and the author's decision as to which objects to place in which surroundings. The film was created after actively considering not only where to shoot the objects and what this decision opens up, but also how to shoot them. After the objects were collaboratively produced, Neža took charge when she put on the costumes and immersed them in a context between reality and fiction. The author's filmmaking is a tool with which she shows something completely different - the processes that took place or are currently taking place outside the frame. It forces us to question what is hidden before our eyes and why. This segment of the artwork focuses on the assembly process itself and its givens. In fact, all the films, of which there are many at the exhibition, deal with this. This is perhaps most obviously worked out in the film set in the corridor, which shows what are popularly called goofs - we see a series of trials and errors in interpreting children's statements as they are read by adults. The rest of the video is t. i. loops or loops: different shots of landscapes, animated with a filter, so that we get the effect of overflow and slow distortion, which turns real landscapes into fictitious ones; a shot of an imaginary Pluto showing only the alternation of light and dark; space and sunrise footage loops.
We are increasingly immersed in a reality that resembles a dystopian movie - a movie in which adults try to have the main say. They explain the situation we are in and decide what needs to be done to make things better. On the other hand, we have become completely reliant on technology during this time and perhaps more attached to it than ever before. Once clearly defined boundaries have blurred, but the framework of representation has become clearer. When we spent our days on Zoom video calls, the screen frame was a boundary, hiding everything around us: kids, pets, a cluttered room, pajama bottoms. We found ourselves in a position where, during our own speech, we preferred to carefully observe ourselves and be aware of what others see and what kind of framework we have drawn for ourselves. A space that until recently was exclusively a private domain suddenly turned into a commercial one, and the boundary fell without resistance. Thinking about what we see and what others can see, as well as the need to look further than "back to the old", are the foundations of the present artwork.
During the pandemic, the artist Neža Knez started gathering children from different backgrounds in workshops in order to get to know their view of the situation and their opinion on what we as a society or as individuals could do for a better world. Unlike most adults, children can and love to imagine the unimaginable and can bravely look ahead. Many possibilities opened up for the artist while working with children whom she had not known before. With her project, she gave them the opportunity to have a say and imagine the "new new normal", and with her help, they were able to create costumes and sets that have the potential to save the world.
Although we are often taught that a work of art can be reduced to a single question, this is not true in this case. The production of this work was shaped by communication with children and attempts to give materiality and new existence to children's ideas. A work of art seeks a connection or boundary between "truth" and "lie"; between what we see and what is hidden from us. While placing the objects in their real surroundings, Neža Knez followed the processes that were taking place and decided how she would show them - all with great awareness and consideration.
The realization that we live in a post-truth era, when we no longer believe that authority is a legitimate truth-teller, has intensified, truth and reality are blurred, and fiction is on the rise - all of which is highly emphasized in the present work. Failure has become a legitimate moment in the artistic journey, the process has become as important as the outcome itself, and by materializing the imagination of another, the impossible is achieved. Everything is an experiment.
*text: Ana Kovačić