The opening night began before I even entered the Moderna Building, outside a large crowd of people from the students to the dressed to impress mingling on the lower platform and crowding on the stairs - some venturing through the very imposing doors (Doors of education and knowledge, their stature indicating that something special is about to be revealed, double doors so heavy I nearly disjoint my arm to get through), and alongside the obvious audio system that is set out along the front of the building, a work by P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. presenting us what at glance seems to be the detritus of some cleaning process – Mattresses stacked against wardrobes, leaned against chairs – broken and empty drawers, an empty discarded medicine cabinet on the periphery. At a glimpse you might see a mess of once owned objects, once used, once with a purpose, but the clues start rolling in (and after all this is a Triennial, we already know every visual your eyes will fall on has been carefully considered) – the objects are placed upon the same blue green board that I discover has been used to make the temporary, and by some standards unfinished, walls inside the gallery. Look further and it is clear the objects have been placed with deliberation, the standing wardrobe and leaning mattresses tilt a little too aesthetically for a random, chaotic placing, the chairs, drawers and smaller objects cascade from the central height in a balanced, almost graceful flow.
Inside the entrance hall people gathered for the opening speeches, my slovenian is incredibly limited so I missed most of the speeches from the director of the gallery and minister of culture, mercifully Esche himself spoke in english (with a slovenian translator) and echoed the press release, and also gave thanks to the artists involved (for which there was a large round of applause) and also to those artists who he met but were not selected.
Finally, with the announcement of an open bar (and more clapping) security stood aside and the doors to the galleries were opened. After the speeches my first desire is to find the “ladies”, downstairs at basement level, and after I fight my way through the structure of Jaša’s installation This is Culture I find myself peeing in darkness lit only by black light, with glowing drawings accompanying the installation on the walls of the toilets to keep me occupied, reminding me of the sketches we always used to get into trouble for drawing on the back of our school exercise books. On my way out I watch for a moment Bálint Szombathy as he tracks the movement of the football (in some match or other, that I am told is important – to someone somewhere) by watching television whilst simultaneously drawing across a large sheet of paper in front of him.
Back to the exhibition and the first room on the right is darkened, grey walls, low lighting, and is the temporary home of an installation by Dunja Zupančič, Miha Turšič and Dragan Živadinov , there is no through way here so its back to pushing through the small doorway and the oncoming crowds to reach the rest of the exhibition. Through the entrance hall, and past Marko Pogačnik’s map or diagram of where to find his small ceramic tiles that he places in communication with the building and its spaces, and works by Dejan Habicht and Vladimir Leben (but for fear of droning on too long I will just mention those works that caught or kept my attention for the longest times). In the next room radioCona’s broadcast and recordings, they bill themselves as Temporary Project Radio For Contemporary Arts / occasional radio station project for contemporary art. Sitting, or laying, on the single large, square, cushioned seating platform or at the desk complete with broadcasting equipment you can take a pair of headphones and listen to interviews with various people about their thoughts on particular works of art shown around you, or thoughts on the wider U3 exhibition. Once you have heard as much as you want to, or in my case the interviews become non-understandable through my lack of language skills, you can walk past the temporary “cinema”, showing the work of Anja Medved, built into the centre of the room. Temporary as the decision was made to leave all transient walls in the exhibition in their rawest state – blue green boards are unpainted, methods of attaching still visible – another dose of the real, no paint or plaster to make the temporary structures appear to carry the same permanency as the buildings architectural structure.
It is no secret that I am currently in Slovenia for as artist in residence with the BridA art collective, so part of my work this night was not only to write this article and consider the wider triennial, but also to shadow BridA and document their working process as they installed their work for the Triennial, and the reaction of the public towards. Maybe I am biased by my familiarity and respect of their work, but without any doubt their small, unassuming works seemed to pull an incredible crowd, even at the closing of the night when most of the remaining visitors were talking between themselves and paying relatively little attention to artworks, BridA’s “Nanoplotter” (2010) , a machine for drawing the same video frames over and over with the addition of chaotic self arrangement of the small sandy particles into which the images are scratched, was surrounded by people smiling, giggling , photographing and even video recording. In a culture where it is claimed the average time spent looking at an artwork is anywhere between 4 and 17 seconds, a work that catches the attention of the viewer for a longer time has a certain success in just this factor.
Miha Strukelj takes over an entire sectioned space with his site specific drawing and painting that covers the wall, invading into floor space. He also shows three sculptures that relate directly to the act of drawing, accompanying a shallow three dimensional space based either on the floor or wall.
Walk back through past the paintings and a single print by Small But Dangers (interesting for the diffrerence yet harmony found in the works of the two collaborating artists) and you enter a room of paintings and prints, featuring the pixelated prints referring to newspaper imagery of Tanja Lažetić, and that are shown under a web of broken glass, the large scale painting of Uroš Potočnik, automated paintings made by machine of Bogoslav Kalaš, and other works by Vesna Bukovec and Borut Peterlin.
Here my memory fails me some of the entire contents of the other rooms – some of the video works I skipped over for various reasons (mostly to do with language and crowding), which had I been able to make subsequent visits I would have liked to ponder over more. Interesting to experience Sizif elektronski (2007) by Vadim Fiškin, a work I have been familiar with in photograph – a polystyrene ball being blown upwards along a track by the on/off power of a hairdryer. Maybe even more interesting when the ball skipped from it’s track and dropped to the floor to be picked up by the laughing man in front of me, and regarded with horror as two invigulators came rushing over.
Some quite strangely beautiful photographic prints (enhanced I am guessing) by Jasmina Cibic that sit alongside her twinkling partition wall installation that both blocks your view and affords you another through the portholes cut in.
Once you escape the sometimes overwhelmingly arty performances arranged by Jaša (think semi naked butlers, policemen and whores, cleaners, builders and the occasional presence of Elvis) you find the works of NSK and Irwin – Like BridA, Pogačnik and Leben, NSK were notable for their choice to install smaller, less space demanding works into the exhibition – which immediately catches my attention in the clamour of larger works, two prints, poster sized and graphically overlaid, one reading NSK GARDA Prague over the photograph of four member of the Czech army flying an NSK flag. Nove Kolektivizem have produced the catalogue for the show, and a series of stamps featuring the artists, that can be collected and placed over the artists names on the cover like a sticker album. The inside cover features this same blue green of the temporary exhibition walls, and the catalogue itself is more reminiscent of an encyclopedia, with an alphabetical order rather than page numbers. At the time of the opening night the only version available was in Slovenian (english to follow I am assured) but it features not only text on the artists and artworks, but encyclopedic explanations of some of the words surrounding the show – place names, art movements and technical terms to name but some. You can find humour, for the entry Dimitrijevič, Braco you find simply Possibly the worst haircut in the art world.
The works are chosen with a care and consideration that is obvious, there is no clash of technologies or methods of production, visual or otherwise, despite the contrast of old against new medias (many technologies not available at the time of production of some of the other works), and the actual ages of the works are only revealed by examination of their labels or, if you are inclined, from a prior knowledge. With the current culture in the west that thinks nothing of faking the age of an object , a painted on patination, scratches and dents purposefully and aesthetically made - (in fact this can be seen in one of the works by Small but Dangers Log Pod Mangartom, 2005 - a print made from what was once a photographic image, knowledgably faded in parts, paper stained as if with age and frame that purports to hold signs of less careful handling over time) it is interesting to see that the older works appear fresh, with the new life of new relevance when placed in such a setting and context, and with such consideration. This seems to be what Esche speaks of when he states his intention of allowing a space in which to create a new narrative or history, a space in which the old becomes once again current, breathing its place into the real and now rather than choked in the static resource of an archive.
It’s an ambitious show, I saw some of what I expected to see in a triennial, but those things that kept my interest were the original, the unexpected new context of the old, and I’m disappointed I may not get the chance to go back and view for my usually favoured second visit.