Naslov / Title: Publicus Determinatum
Lokacija / Exhibition space: Galerija na prostem Layerjeve hiše
Datum / Date: 25. July – 13. October 2013
Produkcija / Production: Zavod za sodobne umetnosti in kulture Gulag
Koprodukcija / Co-production: KUD Kranj, Zavod Carnica, Layerjeva hiša
Spremno besedilo / Text: Miha Colner
Producent / Producer: Jana Putrle Srdić
Pomoč in svetovanje / Support: Maja Peterlin, Ramiz Džebo, Tine Krušec
Foto / Photo: Sunčan Stone
Projekt so podprli / Project was supported by: Mestna občina Kranj (Municipality Kranj), Samson Kamnik, TKK Srpenica, Restavratorstvo Mali
At the end of the story the protagonists of George Orwell’s Animal farm irrevocably succumb to the dominance of the cunning and vain pigs, who were quick to adjust the new and free world to human parameters. They became the elite of the new proletariat, a cast that often accompanies the changes in political and social systems. With great frustration, characteristic of the oppressed, they became identical to their previous executioners – people. Maybe it is due to their similarity to human beings that pigs have, throughout history, represented the human attributes of gluttony and greed; thus, when used in a personified manner their name became an insult. This is where the obscenity of this designation lies. The pig holds up a mirror to mankind, it provides a reflection of human mentality projected upon the Other.
Over the past few years the cross between pig and man represented one of the central motifs in the research in which Zoran Srdić Janežič questioned the meaning and symbolism of this cross. If the motif was at first connected to his own body (a cast of his naked body with a grotesque pig’s head on top of its shoulders) and an entirely intimate understanding of the world from the perspective of a marginalised animal, a symbol of impurity and immorality, the new incarnation of the modelled pig is aimed at the broader social fabric. Emerging from the critical analysis of the public sculpture he created a monumental sculpture of a lying animal that obtained new connotations in a public space. Regardless of its large dimensions one should take a closer look at the statue, for the statue invites the viewer to circle around it, perceive it and digest the numerous details that are of equal importance as the first impression from a distance. The message of this spatial intervention is not direct, for it is wrapped in layers of metaphorical narration that serves the consideration of certain segments of contemporary everyday life.
Similar to a statue of a statesman or a memorial obelisk, the animal lying on its back is positioned in the centre of a grass square, in front of a representative Baroque palace, which today houses the state archive, with an open view of a main road leading into town. Following the classicistic understanding of positioning the sculpture within an urban milieu, in which the strategic visual position is of extreme importance, the placement is to a certain extent harmonised with the new town structure. The Kiparna area is a heterogeneous entity of urbanistic interventions belonging to various periods – a transport artery, walking embankments, a Baroque palace and the monochromatic wall of the neighbouring house – as well as an area of potential investments and capital incomes. The exhausted, half dead pig is an excellent fit for this context in which it represents a visual marker of the social and political movements. The lying animal is a synonym for the new world order – the withering state institutions that are losing their original meaning.
With its form the over dimensioned figure marked by a simple and extremely minimalist modulation implies a three dimensional caricature, which by exposing specific parts of the body – including its lifeless and empty gaze and its bulky body – emphasises its semantic attributes. The pig is still alive, but barely. In its extreme exhaustion and powerlessness it has lost its last smidgen of its instinctive protection from parasites. Utterly resigned, with all four legs sticking from its body, it exposed its vulnerable soft belly. Helpless, it is almost ceremonially placed on the funerary bed, on which its offspring continue to persistently and greedily suck on it, fully aware that a line of new candidates is standing right behind them, waiting for their turn to suck a share of the remaining life substance. In a figurative sense this necrophilic motif could easily become an allegory for the current depletion of the environment and society in which the extremely short-term goals of a fistful of privileged individuals prevail. The state has become a means of achieving these goals.
By appropriating the position of the representative monument the author subverted its usual meaning. Instead of the deserving hero, the unifier or liberator, he toys with the idea and metaphor of the state, which is no longer a sublime personification or an abstract composition, but an image of a pig with all its implications. It questions the roles and tasks of the state, the basic geopolitical unit, which should supposedly level out the various interests of the different social groups, their needs and demands and generally take care of the overall welfare of its inhabitants, while they, in turn, should respect it and defend it when necessary. They are bound together by the shared cultural values and the collective historic memory. However, once again the harmony was disrupted. Today the inhabitants of Slovenia (and most European countries) are still (or increasingly) subjected to a patriotic discourse that through high and popular culture intentionally keeps reinforcing identity awareness and builds its own, closed and non-reflected scene. However, all of this sounds merely like a roar of a mortally wounded animal. The state as an umbrella organisation of its citizens is continually losing contact with the needs and desires of its people. On the other hand, even though numerous individuals and powerful economic subjects should ensure the general benefit with their surplus, they rely on the drained state that is passively awaiting better times. According to the Catholic analogy this institution is also comprised of and lead by people who have apparently given in to the faith of the so-called ‘unavoidable human nature’. With their actions the patriotically oriented ideologists persistently prove that they do not believe in the sovereignty and independence of the state that they have created to fit their interests. At this point one could agree with the American journalist and writer Chris Hedges, who stated that the state is endangered as it no longer holds any power. The new elite, represented by the global oligarchy, is no longer subjected or loyal to a state, which is why it has managed to push the existence of the middle classes to the very edge.
The general global crisis and the current unstable moment are permanently present in the sub-tones of the works by Srdić Janežič, who, rather than criticising the state structure is more likely to consider its actual meaning and its possible redefinition. With its carefully measured satirical expression and simple art language the large lying pig gives a strong message as regards the current global and consequentially also local despair, which an increasing number of inhabitants of this planet are starting to feel. The synonym for the state in the form of an animal originates from Ancient Rome, and the legend of the she-wolf who saved and suckled the two consecrated members of the people who were called upon to rule the others. The mythology is usually built on the assumption of worship and praise of the chosen, superior ones and the consecrated members of society who are considered role models for others due to their physical or mental characteristics (which are usually a consequence of their natural superiority). The great propaganda potential found in the classic works of literature tried to reach an awareness according to which the collective care for social order and morals would become by far the most important thing in the lives of an individual. These double standards have more or less been preserved and transferred to the present day. The idea that everybody should be prepared to sacrifice himself and his loved ones for the benefit of the state is of key importance in the educational process and the later modelling of the social norms. However, the dominant rhetoric introduced the stereotype that man is a competitive and individual being in whose nature it is to place the private before the collective. Thus, a few have already appeared also in our milieu who were born with the knowledge of their superiority and untouchability – and are willing to enforce this on account of the others and, of course, the state as a common good.
With its physical presence the explicitly exhibited sculpture of an animal that could easily stray into the oven is rather close to the profane image of a non-academic caricature, for its entire modulation and selection of materials is subdued to the idea of the current instability. The statue is created from a light material that is not meant to last an eternity, for it represents a precisely specified moment in time. With intentional directness, profane modulation and conscious abolition of expressive effects Zoran Srdić Janežič reached into the corpus of the urban tissue, which always represented a space of expression and communication. With this he made the viewer consider the current period and his role in it. Mankind, especially its formerly dominant Western world, found itself in a strange spasm of dissatisfaction and constant expectation of changes. Due to its elitism, contemporary art, which has for a long time been on the trenches of critical discourse, self-appointed to question the systems and structures of the state and capital elites, has long ago been proven to be relatively inefficient in convincing the masses. By preserving his awareness of this fact the artist was not pulled into the vortex of moralisation, for he, with his statement, pointed to the importance of preserving one’s integrity and intimate rebellion, both of which are encouraged when working with cerebral potentials. Thus also the obedient animals in Orwell’s Animal Farm would find it easier to recognise the slogan All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others is they had more personal integrity, historic memory and collective sense (Miha Colner).