With their Spectrum ambience, the Žižić/Kožul art duo is continuing to articulate the awareness of the unrelenting and omnipresent violence and pandemic of consumerist culture. Their latest ambience named Spectrum, presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s NO Gallery, points to the transformation of mental landscape and public spaces into consumer-oriented spaces controlled only by the logic of profit.
The value of their work is also contained in the fact that they articulated a sharp replication of global tendencies of public space transformations through local context experience, using an entire spectrum of contextually specific symbols. More accurately, the ambience’s focal points are now concrete multiples of bottles and beach paraphernalia. The duo places about 200 concrete moulds of densely arranged bottles on a plinth in the museum space. And while their previous ambience 0.50, focused on the desired object of a recyclable plastic bottle worth 0.50 kuna, which was turned into a bronze musealised object through artistic transformation, the Žižić/Kožul tandem is now reshaping the said bottle into an army of anonymous, no-logo concrete-cast multiples. A famous brand bottle known to everyone thus becomes a part of an anonymous, grey threatening multitude, fully devoid of both marketing recognisability and museological glamour of the previous ambience. The Spectrum ambience represents only one colouristic moment, a collage/montage photograph depicting a superimposed packaging of all French fries brands existing on the local market, creating an artefact that also becomes a no-logo product, commercially unrecognisable. The ambience’s textual accent, from a mirror painted in grey, is a composed image with inscription das billigste Angebot (the cheapest offer) which becomes an ironic review of the marketing-mediated daily life. With the intention of achieving its main objective to which everything needs to conform – profit – certain criteria like flexibility, mobility and above all cost efficiency need to be fulfilled. A focus on profit finally results in the dominance of the service sector in our daily lives and a complete change of the concept of work, which brings us back to the zimmerfrei symbolism embodied in a pile of grey inflatable beach mattresses and concrete beach gear. Here they are not only desired artistic objects presented like museum exhibits, and concrete is not only a material which rapidly and excessively turns the Adriatic Coast into a summer apartment hell. The displayed objects are a powerful print, a mould inscribed by global capitalism onto our mental and public space particularly because holiday is no longer a guaranteed right but a privilege.
The strategy of the Spectrum ambience, next to using ready-made objects and logotypes as bearers of certain symbolism, is a kind of replication of late-capitalist logic, described by Mark Fisher in his Capitalism Realism: Is There No Alternative? as a ‘system of equality’. Such ‘levelling’ is present in the Žižić/Kožul duo’s art practice on the one hand through techniques of erasing logos, and on the other by multiplying them to the point of unrecognizability. Equally so, with religious iconography, beach gear, car choice, bottled water or French fries, the capitalist realism abolishes everything except the monetary value, leaving, of course, only the illusion of choice. This is the source of the monochromatic grey of the entire ambience, highlighted by the Žižić/Kožul duo’s specific signature. In grey creased foil, which symbolises a kind of requiem for the derelict shop windows of now non-profitable stores.
Wealth does not entail a multitude of things, but only the possession of things we long for, concluded Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his On the Origin of Inequality Among Men from 1754. Wealth depends on desire. It is this desire that forms the basis of consumer mechanisms, commented by the duo. Marketing industry, stimulating our appetites, has taken the reigns of our mental potential and world view. Observing the duo’s work, it seems as though a contemporary consumer is struggling to form an opinion on what matters and what he needs, but rather opts for the suggestions placed before him by the ads in influential newspapers, copywriters, and the highly aestheticized billboard messages. David Ogilvy in his book Confessions of an Advertising Man concluded that a man’s greatest sin is to place a billboard at a place with the most beautiful view. He swore that when he retires from Madison Avenue he would travel the world and destroy billboards during night time. Even if we do not perceive the artistic ambience of this duo as an encouragement to attempt a physical conflict with the advertisers (and former advertisers), in any case we should read it as a call for negotiation and activism in interpreting the messages of consumerist culture.
Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb and Nomad
Kristian Kožul and Damir Žižić
Leila Topić, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rijeka
Vanja Žanko, Nomad
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, The City of Zagreb
Zagreb Plakat, Cerovski