Desired Restraints

The question ‘What do you really truly want in life?’ seems like an advertisement for another product, another best selling self-help DVD video series promoting complete control for the disoriented subject. In lustrous and slick setting a soothing voice tames an individual and instructs it how to design one’s lifestyle or career to become free of all the doubts about one’s own identity. The analogy between choice and freedom, as philosopher Renata Salecl has disclosed in her analysis of choice, is one of the deepest delusions of the late capitalism. Limitless choices do not liberate us, but rather make us more than anything else constantly on the brink of a mental break down. The pressure of choosing everything puts unbearable pressure on an individual who should not have been taken responsible for the state she/he is in (e.g. social class).
A resonance of this theory echoes in numerous gestures of video artists – we present a selection of four video performances – that create absurd situations to express a deep psychological angst. The brilliant satire of their works lies in their clear and simplified narrative that hits the very core of the problem by portraying one small banality of fabricated ideals for a perfectly designed life.
The video performances are defined by constant repetitions which bring about a sense of gloomy discomfort and aggressive self-destructive and irrational behaviour. The performing artists seem disoriented or numb and above all anxious, because there seems to be no space outside of their state of mind, they are unable to break free from the constrains.
There is no suggestion on how to untangle their unpleasant situation, no instant gratification, only compulsory repetitive behaviour.

Ida Hiršenfelder

01 One more kick

Video by Ana Čigon portrays failure and impossibility of rapture. The artist plays out extreme exertion wanting to break out of the boundaries of a compressed space by launching the entire force of her body into walls.

Video by Ana Čigon portrays failure and impossibility of rapture. The artist plays out extreme exertion wanting to break out of the boundaries of a compressed space by launching the entire force of her body into walls. She continues her compulsory behaviour even thou her repetitive self-destructive actions do not show even a slightest trace of success. It seems not to be possible to break out of the compressed cube much like in surreal psychological thriller Cube. The individual is trapped not only by the physical space, but also by the fact that one cannot conceive the space outside of the known environment.

 

Formally, the artist edits the video using a method of measuring the boundaries of the video screen – a method adopted by the early experimental video artists who questioned the medium of television and mass media which trapped reality into the television box. The artist translates the interest of the video artist from social to intimate space. ‘One more kick’ is a video with ironic message that is slowly revealed in the textual part inside the video and bring a strong feeling of disappointment.

Ana Čigon

Ana Čigon (1982) graduated at Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Ljubljana as a painter. Currently she is a student of Master programme (MA) of Interface Cultures at The University for Art and Industrial Design (Kunstuniversität), Linz, Austria. Apart from painting she explores video and new-media art practices. Physical restraint plays an important part in her expression, which is also a result of her performance experiences gained in amateur contemporary dance groups.

She is one of the rare video artists who continue a rich history of video dance genre in Slovenia. In a number of her works, she deals with the social statues and the role of women in society. In 2009 she was a finalist for the Essl Award and a winner of OHO Group Award for younger artists.

02 It will be ok

The tendency to make a perfect choice to secure complete comfort in life produces extreme discomfort. The artist petting a stuffed animal portrays this contradiction of discomfort perfectly.

The tendency to make a perfect choice to secure complete comfort in life produces extreme discomfort. The artist petting a stuffed animal portrays this contradiction of discomfort perfectly. Stretched on a white sofa, dressed in pure white she comforts herself with a hollow phrase so very characteristic of hopeless situations. ‘It will be ok’ brings about a resignation not an encouragement. This perfectly spotless image is too sterile for a cosy homey feeling.

It is quite disturbing how she automatically repeats the phrase almost as a mental patient in an asylum. She associates the whiteness of her clothes, the sofa and the dog with the whiteness of a mental institution. Caressing of the dog is a bizarre gesture to portray dislocated affections. A dog or any other pat animal often functions as a compensation for the lack of social interactions. The whole scene is cold and detached, accompanied by a distant ticking of the clock emphasizing the solitude and the slow passing of time.

Vesna Bukovec

Vesna Bukovec (1977) graduated and completed her post-graduate studies in Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She works as an independent artist and as part of an art group KOLEKTIVA (with Metka Zupanič and Lada Cerar).

She works in a variety of media (video, photography, drawing, installation) and approaches (research, appropriation, participation, etc.), with irony being a frequently used artistic strategy.

03 Grant me my wish

‘Grant me my wish’ is one of three video installations entitled Tre desideri (Three Wishes) that were initially conceived for Passaggi a Nord – Ovest Festival in 1999, Biella, Italy. The installations were exhibited in prominent public spaces like the Communist Party headquarters, a Kindergarten and Town Hall.

‘Grant me my wish’ is one of three video installations entitled Tre desideri (Three Wishes) that were initially conceived for Passaggi a Nord – Ovest Festival in 1999, Biella, Italy. The installations were exhibited in prominent public spaces like the Communist Party headquarters, a Kindergarten and Town Hall.

All three videos portrayed fish. They were placed in huge bathtubs. One fish was set in an idyllic tropic environment, the other struggled for its life in a dried out periodic lake waiting for the people to save her, the last one was expected to grant the wish that was being made. But what was the wish that ought to be granted? For the initial project a web page was set up for the public to write down their anonymous wishes, but it has turned out that the imagination of the people is very impoverished when it comes to wishing things. People wish for health, money and abstract happiness. They wish for thing that even they do not understand so how would the poor gold fish suppose to make sense out of confused minds.

‘Grant me my wish!’ is a video performance where the artist strikes a fish head-down on the white surface. A swinging light bulb and dim lighting emphasize the horror effect of the scene. The artist is extorting wishes out of a fish, repetitively torturing the dead corpse of the animal, which is in no position to be generous, not only because it is very dead, but because the artist has no idea what he actually wishes for. The wishes in uniform consumer oriented society have no focus; they are constantly distracted by other choices that are equally unimportant. This video is in all its terror actually quite ironic and at the end of the day also challenges the hypocritical moralism of animal protectors who find this conduct unacceptable and appalling. This is not to advocate ethical relativism, but only to mark that a dead fish cannot feel pain or grant wishes.

Zmago Lenárdič

Zmago Lenárdič (1959) studied philosophy and sociology at Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana and later painting at Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. As early as 1989 he was a member of Glej Experimental Theatre. In 1992 he received DAAD scholarship at Atelierhaus in Worpswede Germany. He is primarily a painter who is interested in visual dynamic of the image, colour and light.

At the end of 90s he ventured into the field of video art, video installation and performance. From 2004 he is an Associate Professor at the Department of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, where he teaches ‘Form Concept’.

Jasna Hribernik

Jasna Hribernik (Maribor, 1959) is a film director. She studied film and television directing at the Academy for Theatre, Radio, Film, and Television in Ljubljana, and attended a two year course of documentary directing at the Discovery Campus Master School in Munich.

She lives in Ljubljana where she works as an independent film director and creator of video films, video installations, and other multimedia works. She directed over 40 videos about art and artists; she collaborates with theatre, dance performers and opera houses.

04 Wear V-VIII

Wear V-VIII is part of a continuous series of video performances set up in the artist’s studio. The artist explores the concepts of body and human behavior in society.

Wear V-VIII is part of a continuous series of video performances set up in the artist’s studio. The artist explores the concepts of body and human behavior in society.
Static shots from different angles focus the attention on the artist’s action and its sense or rather nonsense. Using poor materials and mechanical devices, the artist transforms himself in a kind of automaton constrained in heavy iron constructions. He performs highly absurd and often extremely painful actions in a monotonous iterative way. In this video he operates a mechanism that painfully strikes the back of his head each time he successfully places an iron weight into a casket.

 

He operates to the rhythm of the main theme of the Star Wars soundtrack. This paradoxical situation shows how daily routine is becoming more and more automated and dependent on technological apparatuses, which are supposed to make life easier, but instead they incarcerate an individual into a series of strange activities that inflict damage on the physical and mental capabilities. (Source: DIVA Station).

Tomaž Furlan

Tomaž Furlan (1978) studied BA at Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. His education as a sculptor is highly evident in the heavy iron constructions that he builds for his video performances as well as for theatre set designs. These constructions can be exhibited also as individual objects, but they are best presented in the video performance pieces.

The central role in his work is played out by the specific importance of his studio place at Metelkova mesto Autonomous Cultural Zone. He also often collaborates with independent artists e.g. Metelkova 2025 at Vžigalica Gallery (2008).

05 Ida Hiršenfelder - Biography

Ida Hiršenfelder (1977) is a critic for contemporary art, assistant of DIVA Station (Digital Video Archive) at SCCA, Centre for Contemporary Arts-Ljubljana. She collaborates with – Ljudmila – Ljubljana Digital Media Lab, and Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Arts.

She publishes texts at Radio Student, Dnevnik Daily, Art Worlds, Maska, and in exhibition catalogues.

06 Exhibition credits

Curator: Ida Hiršenfelder
Author of Texts: Ida Hiršenfelder
Realization: Lenka Střeláková and Janek Rous
Published: 17. 7. 2011