As part of the CROSCULPTURE project, Dalibor Prančević recently wrote a gallery text for an exhibition that astounded the locals here in Split, as well as a fair number of tourists.
The exhibition is of the artist Mrdjan Bajić entitled "Once more and again" (Open i ponovno) and it is on display at Gallery Kula in Split until November 7, 2017. You will not be sorry if you see it, but just in case you're not able to, here's a taste of what is on display.
The following text is the full gallery text written by Dalibor Prančević. We hope you fill find it enlightening and that it will motivate you to go see the works for yourself.
… because, after all, sculptures are just well-tailored things with a lack of function and an excess of meaning, which should patiently be observed. (MB)
ONCE MORE AND AGAIN
There is an inclination to consider Mrdjan Bajić's artistic interest in the domain of sculpture or, at least, visual arts pursuits that deal with the introduction of the object of art into real space and its complex relationship. In addition, the “public” becomes an important agent in the “creation” of the work because without the public the artwork falls into hibernation, it becomes inert and is left without any special performativity. The public is also needed to look at the artwork, read it and complicate its different semantic layers. Of course, even most current scientific theories of art, which developed the idea of an immanent quality of the work of art and its ability to generate its own meaning and consequently move beyond time to become timeless, does not neglect the public or develop without the public’s influence.
We do not use the word “public” without reason and we are totally aware of different meanings it implies. Therefore, we adhere to its basic meaning, refer to the public domain of art and investigate its limits, i.e. the framework of its presentation and activity. Art historian and curator Davor Matičević seemed to have readily responded to such public demand when he held a Sculptural Workshop during the event Art-Summer in Split in 1987, pursuant to years of his own curatorial interests and museum practice. It became a rare opportunity to articulate cooperative creative platforms in Split, whereby the artists created their works together with the local shipyard workers, which were then shown in the public urban space where they provoked great interest and reactions from citizens, both affirmative and completely negative. Mrdjan Bajić was one of the artists who stayed and worked in Split during 20-odd days, and who talked about art and debated its trends and characteristics. This was when he created the work with a notable title – House in the Wind, which synthesized the dialectic encounter between the security of the interior and the insecurity of the exterior, mobilizing all levels of physical and semantic analytic fields. Actually, the fate of this and other works is unknown, i.e. we don’t know if they were preserved and kept in some storage facility or they were melted down and fated to become parts of a new form. If they managed to survive the steady march of time and human neglect, it would be really great if they were rehabilitated and shown in “public”, in new contexts, new settings and assume new meanings. Nevertheless, Mrdjan Bajić always had deep connections to Dalmatia, especially Split, to which he dedicated the eponymous project – Split (1987), referring to the “square footage” of the sea as a specific attribute of Mediterranean identity, but also to Split’s basic square shape which grew out of the Late Antique Palace of Emperor Diocletian.
Mrdjan Bajić is in Split “once more and again” and he continues to show more recent works of specific profile. The first connotation provoked by his works is accumulations, composed of different structural materials, which find its precursors in the artistic corpus and intellectual thought of the Avant-garde and the Neo-avant-garde. These three-dimensional collections of information, when transported to a completely new contextual setting – and re-semanticized – create entirely new complex meanings. Different tissues of this unique sculptural organism are alive because of the application of the procedure of situationist détournement, which distorts, parodies and destroys recognizable values, and affixes them with a new message and a completely unexpected phenomenon. The artist used the sculptural technique of montage to accomplish this. In the historical sense, Peter Bürger referred to a similar type of montage in theory in his seminal book The Theory of the Avant-Garde, and he distinguished it from the modelling process of “monolithic” organic units that artists predominantly used before the Avant-garde experiments. Mrdjan Bajić followed this positive practice of the Avant-garde art and used selected fragments to write a complete new “text” thus opening new chapters of experience with his total works of art. Bajić applied similar procedures to almost all of his sculptural constructs, or “sculptotectures” as art historian Ana Bogdanović calls them in her new book about the artist. He employed an interesting procedure whereby he borrowed objects from factual reality, transported them into the world of art, in order to, subsequently, return them to their original context and utility. This constant migration and transformation of objects is exciting, as well as the archaeology of their original usage, appearance and meaning. Similarly, fragments of artworks are culturally very intriguing and become useful material for multidisciplinary examination and analysis. Each item included in Bajić’s work could have its own detailed history, its own meaning, and could even become a platform for sentimentality and nostalgia. However, these sculptures as units do not have an escapist format, instead, they are progressive triggers for new questions and unexpected content. Lawrence Alloway’s syntagm junk culture sometimes comes to mind when we look at Bajić’s works, which implies the need for multiple re-purposing of discarded objects as an act of conservation and mnemonic activity. Bajić’s artistic procedure counts on products of the familiar culture and recent history, and he expertly manipulates them, modulates their meaning, and converges them into works that he deliberately pushes into increased polysemy. Furthermore, study drawings of realized and unrealized projects, as well as small inscriptions – almost “vignettes” – which the artist inscribed and used to complete their semantic foundation, are extremely interesting and inspiring. He does this mostly by inscribing titles which often reveal a mythological origin, but completely transferred and interpreted in bare contemporaneity. Such sculptural (and drawing) “alloys” cannot but be current and contemporary because their exterior provokes the viewer’s attention and curiosity. However, they are able to maintain or change their meaning depending on different experiences and processes of reception they are perpetually confronted with in the gallery space – which is inherently public and accessible.
Lawrence Alloway, Junk Culture, Architectural Design, 3 March 1961
Ana Bogdanović, Mrdjan Bajić – skulptotektura, Beograd: Fondacija Vujičić kolekcija, 2013
Marija Gattin, Iva Radmila Janković (eds.), Davor Matičević: Suvremena umjetnička praksa - ogledi 1971.-1993., Zagreb: Durieux, Museum of Contemporary Art, Croatian Section of AICA, 2011
Peter Bürger, Teorija avangarde, (originally published in 1974), Zagreb: Izdanja Antibarbarus, 2007 (translation: Nataša Medved)