The iconic masterpiece Surrogate may be recognized as a background reference in the work Inflatable Realities. Surrogate is a 1961 animated movie by Dušan Vukotić, author of the Zagreb School of Animated Films. His simplified animation accompanied by a nervous jazz tune tells the simple story of a...''weird triangular fatty who comes to the beach and simply inflates everything he needs, including his own partner. In the end, all of the things that he came by so easily are gone in an instant, he simply deflates them. In a time when surrogates or substitutes for the things we really want had just begun to make their appearance, the movie seemed to anticipate the current times, where the division between reality and the virtual surrogate for reality seems to be slowly disappearing.'' (1)
Half a century later, the supermodernized viewer stands in front of Inflatable Realities (2014), an installation exhibited in the public space of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. (2) The installation comprises various stranded objects, including lilos, swim rings and other beach toys, which are all made from concrete. This solid, monochromatic material is in contrast with its shape and the expectation of softness and suppleness suggests dichotomy as the key to understanding the post – transition reality. This discrepancy between the country's official image and its real situation offers shiny tourist propaganda on the one hand and a truly concrete and plastic coastal area on the other. The inflated story about inclusion in a society of prosperity which circulated during the 1990s has shown itself to be an illusion. Something like landing on a concrete surface in whatever way one can... The metaphor of the bursting bubbles also reveals the beguiling logic of neoliberalism, the conservation of the illusion of the ready availability of an easy existence, aided by the spectacle of visual communication. We encounter the loose boundary between reality and surrogate, promotional photos and the parallel struggles caused by unstable production conditions and the accelerated rate of consumption which hides marketable methods behind promises of good times and leisure time filled with activities.
Numerous authors point out that the millenial or so – called financial capitalism, which entails a growth in the power of financial institutions and bankers and leaps in stock market values, is characterized by fictive capital, speculation, ephemerality and momentariness. (3) The race for earning money as fast as possible seems to be transcending the conventional limit of common sense, multiplying whimsical manners of making money which are separated from the grey economy and malversations by a very thin line, while membership in the society of prosperity becomes unattainable for the majority of people. Reality that resembles a stage on which an uncertain game of chance is taking place is an important stronghold in Damir Žižić and Kristian Kožul's work. The starting point of this intensive collaboration is the exhibition 0'50 which was held in Karas Gallery in Zagreb at the beginning of 2014. Through their surprising approach, they map the division of layers within the society in a post – transition setting, the gloom of the majority's constant indebtedness and the perkiness of the select few. Anxiety and poverty as a normal state are set against exalted hedonism. We stumble against curves in the social biography where, paradoxally, resignation and arrogance go hand in hand. At the same time, objects and installations focus on contemporary surrogates for public spaces, from shopping malls and consumer necessities to resting – places and their accompanying tourist props and the way they influence social relations. The language of marketing contains a system of elaborate procedures of collective conviction, the calibration of different desires according to the rules of the marketing game. Methods of branding top destinations, desirable pictures and products are laid bare. Their dissolution into parts starts from specific patterns, magnified details of the advertising panopticum – accompanied by the artists' inevitable biting humor.
Inflatable Realities marks the beginning of the artists' interest in the subject of mass tourism, especially the summer – seaside type that is prevalent in Croatia. Thus, new series from 2015, which includes the artworks Surfaces, Recognizable Landscapes, Stackable Landscapes, Cassis Cornuta and Albatros, deal with the traveller's generic experience conditioned by the globalized trade in tourist products. They reflect tourism as a solution scenario for a number of economically underdeveloped countries with beautiful coastlines, which become marketable promotors of national exclusivity. At the same time, they emphasize the uniformed character of tourism, the globally systematized industry where the local, the social and the public obviously collide with the dynamics of private and corporate capital. Their common link is the spreading of non – places and the displacement of the authentic experience under the consumerist guise of idleness. While Inflatable Realities is set apart by the fact that it is a sculpture and a direct echo of the mass presence of tourism, the consequent works demonstrate versions which are seemingly more diverse and include increasingly popular cultural and entertaining genres, in order to point to the connected principles of their development. The official story of tourism as a life – belt has been turned into the parable of shipwreck at the wide blue sea.
In Recognizable Landscapes and Surfaces, the artists mention that, in order to compensate the lack of intensity of the tourist's own personal experience, the tourist borrows an increasing amount of suggested, yet never experienced scenes and forms a psychotic amalgam of things they experienced and things they didn't experience, which they share, to a greater or lesser extent, with other subjects who at some point subconsciously decided to ''replace'' a part of their authentic memories with scenes from a catalogue. Visual strongholds include typical, mobile inventories à la Ikea (e.g. Stackable Landscapes), computer – generated landscapes (e.g. Recognizable Landscape / Aquamarine), confection souvenirs devoid of connections with the original cultural context (Cassis Cornuta) and remains of the height of the summer season which almost resemble trash (Albatros). Shaped like a black – humor diagnosis of tourism as a temporary worldly paradise, they are set at the border between attractive and unattractive, between unique and banally tacky. In other words, the expansive tourist iconography is reflected through procedures of prefabrication, recycling, displacements, through the use of advertising methods and materials which are employed to distort the honey – tongued language of marketing. The seductive power of images and adjusted color scheme provoke feelings of unease, while the seemingly diverse offer creates the impression of a serial fatigue of material.
If one takes into consideration that ''the main motive for travelling aims for relaxation in a world that is different from one's everyday life... Everyone chooses the same reasons, the same time and the same place. The escape from one crowd to another...'' (4), we encounter the absurdness of one place's resemblance to another place, which can even be geographically remote. We encounter new colonies, non – places which change the shape of the natural and urban landscape, in this case the coastal area and maritime cities. Zygmunt Bauman follows Mark Augé in saying that the presence of strangers, even the presence of the hosts themselves, turns non – places into mere physical facts, all the while destroying ''the subjectivities of their ''passengers''. Temporary inhabitants of non – places vary, and each variant has its own habits and expectations; the trick is to make them all seem irrelevant for the duration of their stay. As different as they might generally seem, they should stick to the same, typical behavioral suggestions, while signs that activate the single – pattern behaviour model should be legible for all of them, regardless of the language that they prefer or typically use in their daily activities. Whatever is being done or should be done in ''non – places'', they should make everyone feel as if they were chez soi, although no – one should act as if they were really at home...'' (5)
In the circumstances of capital super – speed and threatening gaps in the natural and social environment, non – places become a general place. Devoid of cultural, historical and social settings, they do not demand any kind of special effort. They enforce their allure by offering easy digestibility, the promise of safety, carelessness and entertainment. In the growing placeless panorama which extends from shopping centres to bathing resorts, Inflatable Realities seems like a funny and simultaneously dreary monument to the general affinity for quick and short – term scenarios which are also systematically popularised as the expression of the crisis of the modern times. The artwork creates a parody of the ultimate stage of the consumer culture and displays its less noticeable components – emptiness and shapelessness, which are actually predictable, and therefore revocable. Playing by the rules becomes a game with rules. An attack on virtual idealism and landing on the field of daily practices of deviation from the schematic division of space. In order to practice the playability of human nature outside of habitual tasks. Out of caprice.
(2) Installation was exhibited for the first time at No Gallery in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, 2014; then at the Industrial Biennial in Labin, 2015; finally on Korzo in Rijeka, during the Copula Project of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka. 2015
Nataša Ivančević, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Ksenija Orelj, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Rijeka
Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Nomad and Priredba
With kind support from:
Ministry of Culture of Republic of Croatia, City of Zagreb, Beck's, Belje, Poy, Jana
© Studio Žižić/Kožul