Miško Šuvaković TESTING THE “NAKED” LIFE – K12’S STRATEGIES AND TACTIQUES “K12” (2007), the latest work by Zagreb based artist Zlatko Kopljar, brings us face to face with the fatal relationship between performance and installation with regards to the “metaphysical” drama of perceiving the human life as it is—the sole and not-so-sole human life among things, beings, occurrences, events and affects in the space of attraction, rejection, slippage, as well as experience and reflection, i.e. potentiality. Zlatko Kopljar (Zenica, 1962; lives and works in Zagreb) is a visual artist educated in the class of Professor Carmelo Zotti from the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. For a number of years he has worked in the field of performance art, installations, video presentations and photography exhibitions. In the second half of the 1990s Kopljar began his work-in-progress known by its index name ‘K’. Most of Kopljar’s works are therefore indexed K, from ‘K1’ (1997), ‘K2’ (1997), ‘K3’ (1997), ‘K4’ (2002), ‘K5’ (1999), ‘K6’ (2000), ‘K7’ (2001), ‘K8’ (2002), ‘K9’ (2003), ‘K10’ (2004), ‘K11’ (2006), to ‘K12’ (2007). Formally speaking his works are “multimedial”. Kopljar has worked with different forms of designing and presenting the work of art: from ‘live’ performance, performance-installation, to photographic and videophotographic installation. His works have been presented at the Sao Paolo Art Biennial, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rijeka, the Kitchen Centre in New York, the Manes Gallery in Prague, etc. Zlatko Kopljar is one of the first Croatian artists who, in his artistic research and explications, asked open questions on human existence in the new, transitional and global world. In an explicit often cynical and brutal manner he provoked the very human life in the ‘new’ world and the ‘new’ modes of life after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Addressing the ‘human’ life in its manifestations from chemistry and physiology of the body, mechanics and behavior of the individual, to trivial and metaphysical conceptions of the subject is what guides his artistic research. He is an artist who works with the manifestations of experiencing and presenting the visible and invisible consequences of experience and experientality in individual and collective sense. Kopljar’s work is thus the new existentialism, used to affectively get the Other going—the Other being the participant, observer, referent, close or distant being. His work is based on the new kind of media affectation, and this means acting and intensity, which need to be beckoned and provoked in the corporeal i.e. both emotional and intellectual sense with the other, which is
not any other, but the other that is part of the culture of actual global and digital reproduction 1 of life. Kopljar designed “K12” as a media installation i.e. articulation of a completely dark gallery space with two screens and a photograph. For the viewer the screens and the photograph are exactly that—screens-backgrounds with two different characters of manifestation: staticdynamic. The exhibition consisted of two large scale video-screen projections. Due to the screens’ closeness the sounds are in interference. The photograph is the ‘silent’ participant. ‘Video 1’: a scene from a garden/forest shot by static camera; in the left front corner there is a table covered with white sheet and littered with empty bottles after some kind of a ‘party’; in the middle plane to the left from the vertical axis of the screen there is the artist dressed in black suit, white shirt and no tie, he is hanging on a rope from a branch. The sounds of forest/garden: chirping of birds. The video is 5:47 minutes long. The first screen, ‘Video 1’, shows the genre scene of the artist’s suicide. Kopljar wrote in one of his letters, “Video 1 speaks of the artist’s suicide—with consequences. I was interested in a situation in which everyone came to the suicide scene, saw it, had something to eat and drink, and left. The video is the final account.”2 The scene shown on the screen is the ‘after’ scene—taken a moment later or the next day. It shows what happens after suicide, after the event was accounted for—the moment of recorded absence of the event, everything that was important had already taken place, the viewer sees only traces, erased traces of the very life. ‘Video 2’: camera is moving, it circles ‘irregularly’, approaching and distancing from the artist wearing his black suit and white shirt without a tie whom we see in the forest, kneeling before a huge ball of light. He watches the ball. The sounds of a forest/garden: chirping of birds. The video is 3:21 minutes long. The second screen, ‘Video 2’, pictures the moment of indeterminateness, perhaps the moment of potentiality of the transformation of life, perhaps metaphysical or simply illusionistic suggestion of coming face to face with the other, the light, the moment in which one ‘being’ transforms into something that cannot be explicated. Kopljar very skillfully connotates this scene as both exceptional and trivial. The mixture of exceptional and trivial is provocative. Still, a completely different explanation is possible: the artist is the one who by focusing the gaze and attention of viewing makes every effort to become the one who knows. In Freud’s sense he is a psychoanalyst-analyst, while in Steiner 3’s sense he is the one 1
W. J. T. Mitchell, Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction Zlatko Kopljar, email – Sent : Thursday, August 02, 2007 3:40 PM – Subject: K12-sent 3 Rudolf Steiner (1961 - 1925) – Austrian thinker, philosopher and the founder of anthroposophy 2
who peeked behind the membrane of everyday reality. We can’t tell what exactly happens from the artist’s perspective, but we have been offered an emotionally motivated challenge to see where the truth is hidden! Or is it? This questioning is in confrontation with the explicit patency of the suicide fact from the first video. Photograph (large format 1.5 by 1 meter): the photograph was taken at nighttime and it shows the artist wearing his black suit, white shirt and no tie. He is standing in front of a building, the Light Bulb Factory Tower4 in Zagreb, which is illuminating the night. He is facing the tower, his eyes trained on it. He is the one watching. The interruption in the event is secluded and indexed. The emphasis is put on the very relation, the condition of that relation—the presented situation—and this means the visibility of his relation in the ‘hiatus’ between the darkness and light. The emptiness between the light and darkness becomes visible for us who enter the world of Kopljar’s dark phantasms on life5 and death6 in the space of social sculpture. Kopljar’s installation ‘K12’ is directed towards suggesting and indicating uncertain acting of the space limited by the images. This acting of the space through the images is directed on the viewer as intensity, affect. The intensity of acting, in a certain way, puts us face to face with the cynically raised questions on life and death that can be accessed through our senses— actually, the questions on the factor of intensity the showing of life and death has on us who through our living body look at them and between them-images. With his rhetoric work, directed 4
Zlatko Kopljar, email – Sent : Wednesday, August 08, 2007 9:54 AM – Subject: This I have to add. Message: The building in the photo is the narrow and tall, glass-made and transparent TEŽ tower (Tvornica električnih žarulja, the Light Bulb Factory). I believe you have noticed it on your visits to Zagreb?!!! First time I arrived in Zagreb I saw this tower with its lights on. It has no other function but to test light bulbs. I have always seen this building as some kind of a (lighthouse) good, shiny spirit of the city. Buildings usually have history because of the people, events, architects, style, etc. This building has only light attached to it, for many it was a sign and a confirmation that they had arrived. Every city has a site or more like this one, a building that functions as a positive source of energy, if I can put it that way, freed from sediments of history associated with the people, and thus times of conflict, politics and narrow, mostly wrong explanations. With time they got a meaning no one anticipated, they escaped human intentions and created their own aura and meaning!... Several of my colleagues were very excited when I told them I was working on something with this building; all of them thought of doing something with it at one point or another, but they never did. I chose the building to describe the states-relations, my feelings in the space of “social sculpture”…. 5 “The Greeks did not have a single term to express what we consider when we say life. They used two semantically and morphologically different terms: zoe, which stands for the very fact of common living of all living beings (animals, people and gods), and bios, which stands for the form or particular way of living of an individual or a group. In modern languages, in which this difference has slowly disappeared from the lexicon (if preserved, as in expressions such as biology and zoology, it no longer marks any important difference), a single term—whose vagueness grows proportionally with the sacralization of its referent—marks a simple commonly accepted assumption that can always be isolated in any of numerous forms of life,” Giorgio Agamben, Form of Life 6 American artist Walter de Maria wrote a long time ago: “I think that art and life are a matter of life and death.”
sensory intensities of sight and hearing, Kopljar sets up a ‘platform’ of thinking about life and death through the potentiality of art. It is as if with this work he is searching for the sensory body for thinking that is at the same time a form-of-life. “Thinking is a form-of-life, life inseparable from its form; and whenever the intimacy of this inseparable life comes forward—in theory just as in the materiality of corporeal processes and ways of life—there and only there we can talk about thinking. And this very thinking, this form-of-life that leaves the naked life to the “man” and the “citizen”, who from time to time take its place and represent its “rights”, must become the guiding thought and the unique center of the new policy.”7 In its rhetorical sophistication “K12” addresses the possibility to experience ‘life’ and ‘death’ through affects and, more importantly, affectations of the complex system of conceptions (moving and static audiovisual and visual images). In a cynical way, “K12” demands from us to confront the artist’s existential ambiguity. He presents himself as the symptom of human existence Here and Then. Kopljar’s installation thus functions as: -
a social sculpture i.e. sculpture that established a social relationship between life and death at a place where we expect to see art
a dynamic and hybrid installation of screen images—videos and a photograph functioning as screens—between the man and death (the TRUTH) in a relation that for the viewer functions as an event
that what escapes our simbolizations in confrontations that are metaphysical potentiality in themselves, that what can be indexed, but not shown.
“K12” is a provocative, rhetorically emphasized and visually affective work of art with a potential for thinking; it is guided by expectation… that at the same time by escaping promises the ‘truth of emptiness’ and with its presence confirms the executive potentiality of affects for the senses and the body.
Giorgio Agamben, Form of Life