Sanja CvetniÄ‡ A FLYING LESS0N "The art of inner truth does not grow out of nature, but out of art. Rather than a mere inclination to imitation, a joy of creation which follows the models provided by nature, authentic art always serves deep psychic needs." (Gustav Rene Hocke)1 When the disintegrated art scene of our fin-de-siecle, where "rien va plus", yet "anything goes",registers the appearance of a strong artistic personality, one wonders how to take him/her. One wonders whether it is possible to see through the veil of someone else's closed and organized cosmos, to put together the puzzle pieces of the shattered mirror which used to show our common and recognizable reflection. Still, let us try. Zlatko Kopljar presented himself to Zagreb viewers (the 1992 "Sacrifices" exhibition at the Cekao Gallery) in a surprisingly mature and complete artistic form. Making use of the ritual gestures from the Old Testament (sacrifice, cleansing, purification), as well as of the materials characterized by great interpretative potential (blood, honey), Kopljar created the Biblical quartet of sin-sacrifice-absolutionpurification. Such a thematic choice derived from a philosophical contemplation of ethical problems regarding a person's relation to God, to other persons, to himself/herself, and to art. Althouth it certainly manifested the artist's innermost feelings, it ought to be mentioned that the exhibition came to be in the disturbing times of personal and general spiritual upheavals. In figurative sense, the four columns of the exhibition stand for the four questions: the power of sin, the size of sacrifice, the possibility of absolution and the way of purification, A careful execution, the whiteness of space, and just a few drops of blood evoke purgatory, emphasizing the sacred atmosphere which fits the spiritual aspect of the exhibition like a glove. Serving as a counterpoint to the restrained and antiseptically treated space is the passionate monolog of the mad prophet from the 1983 movie "Nostalgia" by Andrei Arsenievich Tarkovsky, printed in the catalog in Italian and Croatian, with the insert in Braille. A ghost of liberated passion, yearning and suffering is the single piercing cry among the exhibits chained by form. "Sacrifices" were followed by the "Dangerous Regions" exhibition (the Gliptoteka, 1993). Among the displayed installations which were again characterized by sacrificial motifs ("Sacrifice", "The Sacrifice of Isaak") we could find an altogether different treatment of problems and another thematic accent. In front of the photograph of the artist featuring as Abraham and a boy featuring as Isaac, whose compositon evokes Caravaggio's famous "Sacrifice of Isaak", Kopljar exhibited sixty-six open telephone books. A telephone book is a contemporary symbol of the crowd, and thus of impersonality; a mass which excludes personality, and thus direct communication. The communicative triangle can not be established: there is a message, as well as its sender, yet the receiver is missing. "Failure or The Lack of Courage" (shut books and a halted typewriter encased in a glass cabinet, in front of the dominating video equipment), the untouchable "Panta Rhei" (Heraclitus' fragment inscribed on metal, under the transparent yet untouchable voltage veil of 10 000), as well as the "Hearts" sequence (six metal sculptures of heart attached to computer diskettes), also expressed the distressing incapacity to achieve the sender-message-receiver trio. In addition to the foursome of the Old Testament, in the "Dangerous Regions" Kopljar turned to the threesome of human relations, to communication, dialog or understanding. His effort was in vain, the traditional triangle is disturbed, and the Biblical path to balance (from sin to purification) impossible to attain. Yet instead of giving up, the artist accepted both challanges and moved on. Its name a tribute to Joseph Beuys, the performance "Dove sarei stato se fossi stato intelligente" ("Where Would I Be if I Were Smart", the Extended Media at Croatian Artists Center, July 1994) presented a
shorter and direct attempt, tuned to the medium, at merging one's existence with something more permanent than one's ashes. Dressed in white, a physician of his own (as well as the patents') soul, Kopljar wrote out the prayer to the guardian angel on prescription forms, folded them and enclosed them in black by placing them in a perforated wall. The connected black entry holes composed "UBI EGO" an attempt at merging the worn and ephemeral with the sublime within us, yet without renouncing to our innermost self, to seclusion, to our own existence as the chief focus. A director's approach hinted in the "Dove sarei stato se fossi stato intelligente" project was given more emphasis in the articulation of the "Vinculum" exhibition ("Connection"). Movement has become a significant structural element of the exhibition. The invisible, yet "prescribed" movement, the recorded movement, the materialized movement and the traces of movement, are all elements of a director's intervention in the static exhibition area. Thematic entrance to the exhibition stars with pages arranged on the floor of the upper exhibition area. On them is written in Braille the New Testament theme of Revelation of St. John (the Apocalypse), the only part of the Bible dealing with the future. For centuries it has been warning the believers and putting the fear of God into them. Juxtaposed to the white pages (and letters) are thousands of pills, multicolored, folksily hued and childish. The varicolored selection of pharmaceuticals can not counterbalance apocalyptic forebodings, man-made medicine is weaker than the divine intimation of death and judgement. Shaken and insecure, the artist (Man) totters, wanders, burdened with the search for solace and inner peace (video recording). He addresses intermediaries: the Church, the community, or institutions (we take the set altar as a broader metaphor, not just as the pars pro toto of the church), yet the selection of pharmaceuticals does not fully satisfy the spiritual yearning for a direct sensation of and contact with Eternity. Still, in the indirect ritual, on the mass altar, the artist discovers Christ's sacrifice (the pills in the chalice, the thorn-torn pages of the Revelation of St. John ), God's human suffering which demonstrates his need of love, of inner peace and justice. The love which substitutes our cracked chips, the love calling the anguished with the baptismal water of a new life. The final gesture of the exhibition is an apologia for the unification with the Fundamental. We can see it in the raised trace of blue celestial lunge (fingerprints on the ceiling), while the feet (just as in the saying) remain planted firmly on the ground, and the entrails offer their liquid substance(previous heartfelt experiences). Kopljar concludes this inspired series with Man's final venture to reach God, with a duet of the earthly and the divine. Having started with the quartet of questions ("Sacrifices", 1992), the four aimed spears testifying to the effort to penetrate the thicket of human suffering and dispersed emotions and thus reestablish or find order. He tried to solve the challenging issues together with the other people, through communication, through the emission and reception of messages ("Dangerous Regions", 1993). Unable to establish the basic communicative triange and unhappy about it, he withdrew to the private realm of inner life ("Dove sarei stato se fossi stato intelligente", 1994), trying to find within himself the segments of spiritual harmony for which Man has always craved. With the "Vinculum" exhibition Kopljar has stepped out of the labyrinth of isolation. Kopljar uses the metaphor of the rescue flight towards divine spheres as his own solution of the existential problem of the artist in the world which is out of joint. Let us evoke another metaphor from the first half of our century. Fabian, the well-known eponymous character of Erich Kastner's 1931 novel, could not even swim. 7; Gustav Rene Hocke: "Die Welt aus Labyrinth: Manier und Manie in der europeische Kunst", 1957.