Branko Franceschi K12 / K13 Light Tower Sept. 26th – Oct. 23rd, 2009, Minoritengalerie, Graz The relation towards architecture as a representation of a system of values and collective thinking models or a spatial organization charged with symbolic messages, historical links, mythical, religious, and spiritual competences has become a commonplace of interest of contemporary visual artists during the last decade. No matter if we speak about, for example, Andrea Fraser’s performance Little Frank and His Carp (2001), which at the site of Frank Gehry’s project of the Guggenheim Museum subsidiary in Bilbao, opened in 1997, criticised the supremacy of museum architecture over visual art to which it should be dedicated or about the lamentation over the decay and oblivion of the utopian social and political projects in the video-trilogy New Scenes for Heritage (2004 – 2006) by David Maljković, inspired by the fate of Vojin Bakić’s Memorial Centre at Petrova Gora, the mentioned interest of the artists is based mainly on the awareness that architectural spatial solutions have a leading role in our lives by their inherent characteristic that they manifest collective ideological principles and mythological postulates of a community. Such prevailing art strategies interpret architecture in the context of power and politics, formalize it, and detach it from its primary creative context. While the same could be asserted of Zlatko Kopljar’s relation to buildings that as a physical realisation of institutions characterize his cycles K9 Compassion (2003) and K9 Compassion+ (2005), dedicated to criticism of global prevalence of liberal capitalism, his thematically connected cycles K12 (2007) and, above all, this year’s K13 are based on allegorical perception of architecture, i.e. the deeply personal and intuitive interpretation of its symbolic meaning. In Kopljar’s deeply existentialist poetics, architecture is this time not a monument to the breakdown of civilisation, to oblivion or to final postponement of the concept of progress in favour of concealed oligarchian oppression; it has turned into a symbol of hope, a lighthouse for establishing values towards which the culture of a community must ethically strive in order to accomplish its vital interests. The structure on which the development of Kopljar’s last cycle is based is the test tower for light-bulbs at the Zagreb Light Bulb Factory (TEŽ), a utilitarian project by the architect Lavoslav Horvat from 1960. This is an unusual building, a high tower with glass elevations and only four metres wide concrete flanks, which, fulfilling its function, has been continuously radiating light since it assumed its function in 1963., thus marking the eastern entrance to Zagreb. To Kopljar, who was fascinated by it as a boy, as well as today, forty years later, the tower is a sign that light, manifesting logos, both human/microcosmic and universal/macrocosmic, keeps shining. This light could also be turned off by moving the light bulb production to China, but the question is if light can be retained by the awareness of its symbolic impact, by reusing the tower as a monument to architecture, to an era, to its cultural context or just (!) a desire to start the process of reflection on the essence of our social underlayers, of connections between our past and future? If the oblivion of being is darkness, nothingness, and primarily mental, but then also existential death, light is its cognizance, hope, salvation, in one word – life. The form of Horvat’s light monolith, similar to the form of Kubrick’s famous black one, which, by the way, only a logical mental process could conceive in the vastness of the universe, has appeared in the K12 for the first time, as a vision that
Kopljar observes wearing his well-known black performer suit. In the video-screening, we could simultaneously see the author hanging on a branch of a tree, before the leftovers of a banquet, and in the middle of forest darkness how he “warms his hands” on a large, grounded sphere. In K13, for the first time in his work, Kopljar deserts the realm of pain and suffering. In the central 13-minute video segment of a three-part multimedia installation, consisting of a light object and a light-reflecting suit, we see the author moving through the forest at night, wearing a light-suit; we follow him as he leaves the area of the light sphere and goes to pay tribute to the light monolith. After coming out of the forest, the world abandoned by man, we find him in urban environment, in front of a monolith, which he vigorously enters, moves through its architecture, and finally disappears, blending with light. In the display of the Minoritengalerie, the next two rooms are devoted first to a light object, a replica of Horvat’s monolith, in dimensions 300 x 170 x 70 cm, which the joint light of 400 white neon tubes, arranged into overlapping planes, makes immaterial, then to the light-reflecting suit, a material evidence of the author’s symbolical transition into the state of non-material spirituality, the equivalent of absolute ethical purity. The idea that we maybe witness a dramatic change in Kopljar’s opus arises automatically. Apart from symbolic blending, even abolishment in logos, the disappearance in light, if we consider the author’s opus, suggests the abandonment of using his body as a public mediator or a literal carrier of a message. But while such a decision is the object of the author’s free will about the further purpose of directing a message through his own body, K13 represents a consistent continuation of Kopljar’s basic concept of founding aesthetic quality on the ethical mainstay of his work in the realm of its meaning and interpretation, as well as the symbolism of form at the level of communicating his message to the public. In the entirety of his opus, by joining sculpture, video, and performance props in a unified installation, Kopljar formally closes the circle initiated by the multimedia exhibition at the CASA Plaster Casts Museum in 1993. This interesting inner dynamics of his opus will be clarified by his next project, while the Croatian public will have the opportunity for premiere viewing of K13 in the new Museum of Contemporary Art during the first half of 2010. It remains uncertain if turning Horvat’s tower into a fetish will contribute to its reuse from a functional structure into a symbolic light monolith, i.e. from architecture into a monument sculpture. This enlightening credibility of Kopljar’s expression was made possible by a masterful selection of collaborators: the suit was designed by Tonči Vladislavić, the video was filmed by Boris Poljak, sound was recorded by Martin Semenčić, while Goran Čaće was the editor of the video.