The transparency of the gallery display case blocked by black foil is a reference to improvised street aesthetics, a by-product of the contradictions inherent in neoliberalism. Emptied commercial spaces and reflections of potential buyers are broken down by dark panes of the market spectacle reduced to presentation backdrops. The central place of marketing fetishism – merchandise – is nowhere to be seen, and the display case houses the totem of reusable packaging – a bronze, chrome-plated cast of a plastic milk bottle.
The postament is encased in mirrors which reflect the black glass surfaces of the monolithic display case together with the chrome-plated surface of the cast itself, and the object itself appears as if it is also black. The optical illusion is unmasked by the shift in surfaces which open up the glass case just only for the visitor's reflection to lose itself briefly in the game of reflection which simultaneously summons different, yet experientially close experiences of a shopping mall and an undetermined contemporary arts museum.
The exhibition aesthetics of monochromatic minimalism connotes genre-specific characteristics of marketing visual communications which belong in equal measure to the glamour of high fashion and to the unwritten aesthetic canons of contemporary, market-oriented art of the Freeze Art variety. The physical dimensions and form of the cast itself consistently represents an object taken from everyday life through a pop art method of reproduction; it is represented by the appropriation of marketing presentation tools – the postament and the case – specific for spaces destined for commercial use. The installation commemorates the grey transition microeconomic survival tactics, but in the style of advertising typical for the very capitalism whose systematic mistakes are located in the sum of 0,50 – the fee for bottle returns in the national currency.
The advertising installation on the wall next to the display case presents the same phenomenon through a catalogue video representation – return bottles stripped of their labels and bared down to a formal aesthetic fetish. But what does it advertise? At this point, the appropriation becomes layered; the exhibition seems to point to the question of the status of gallery, socially engaged art which is produced in the context of the art market, while taking on the responsibility for the representation of social phenomena or representing the interests of systematically oppressed social groups. Is its power really limited to advertising or anti-advertising, the elevation of visibility or branding of social phenomena while charging fees to corporate or institutional financers? In addition to being harsh, the critique is also self-ironic and sincere; it is also fair play because it seems to stop itself at the clearly defined border of the occupied space – the black surface which adjoins the public space – while this critique simply does not address art exhibited outside galleries.
The empty black lightbox set high on the wall evokes the state of media latency, as a form without content which redirects the viewer's perception from the level of content to the time before or after the advertisement, i.e., to the conditions of its production in the wider economic mechanism of advertising. The black lightbox is a window into an imaginary space of marketing dystopia – a world without advertising – or worse, advertisements for advertisements' sake.
The video object on the gallery wall decomposes the procedure which precedes the production of advertising representations in the search for that facial expression of the male and female model which best fits with the naturalised criteria of the advertising construction of consumerist pleasure. One frame of this process is produced within a lightbox set against a wall in a corner of the room. Even though it acts like a kind of background onto which the marketing elements are yet to be plastered, the photograph on the lightbox seems to personify the ideological construct of the bourgeois, heterosexual, creditworthy class.
This ideology, cast aside (just like the disappearing middle class), is reminiscent of the rejected busts of former rulers. The black monolith acts like a metastasized display case whose postament fills even that representative spot usually reserved for the exhibit – the case becomes a self-advertisement and it appears to quote the dark premonition of post-Marxist theories which interpret advertising within the context of the global consumer society as the religion of late capitalism. (Bojan Mucko)
Croatian Association of Artists and Nomad
Damir Žižić and Kristian Kožul
Curator and exhibition manager:
Vanja Žanko, Nomad
Ministry of Culture of Republic of Croatia, City of Zagreb
© Studio Žižić/Kožul