EXTENDED MEDIA: OBJECTS, INSTALLATIONS, READYMADE

Sabina Salamon

 

In continuity of drawings and paintings, herein considered works present discontinuity regarding time and processing of a theme or a genre. These ambients, installations and objects have been originating parallel to drawings / paintings, ever since Todorović’s college life to the present day. Question is why are they singled out and how do we treat a discontinuity issue.

These works are special for their ephemeral character, being in situ interventions, like the artwork exhibited in 1997 in Filodrammatica Gallery that got “colonized” by parquet. Sometimes these are but barely recorded works which can be hardly reconstructed from a photographic document. Free interpretation could claim these artworks have risen as sporadic impulses, blitz reactions and that they were most numerous during an especially creative period, popularly known as era of Pašac atelier (1997/99) where intimate communion with colleagues from the atelier (Damir Božić - Pišta and Marjan Blažina, followed later on by Melita Sorola - Staničić) lead to creation of few works inside the atelier and for the artists alone.

Discontinuity can be discussed regarding a kind, a theme or a visual arts’ problem which the author eventually deals with and which, however, I cannot find amongst all of his works. The easiest explanation is to offer a comparison with drawings and paintings which over the years did not get exhausted in mantric writing out the power lines over paper or plaster, but developed in actual unpredicted continuance; they are a paradigm of Todorović’s instinct for carving, writing, whatever the name we use for this inscribing of emotional material’s traces, shaped into balanced compositions, which we finally come to designate as painting and drawing. Discussing a diptych comprising black asphalt paintings (the newest acquisition by MMSU Rijeka) the author mentioned how carving the traces is the commonest manner of emotional discharge. Observation confirms the following: they are indeed cathartic, intuitively and tempestuously, although never to the end. They are rounded by measure and format which serve as compass and scales, measuring amount pleasing an eye, sometimes even fitting good taste, with no surpluses.

All Todorović’s works search for an ascetic measure, abstract and non-narrative, as if he always repeats the same sentence in different tempo and dynamics. His drawings and paintings are strictly auto-referential and introspective. They are monologues born in silence and solitude of an atelier.

Equal purity, but discernibly more differentiated content and style spectrum, as well as human playfulness and imprudence, can be discussed when it comes to ambients and objects. This is a terrain where author solves dilemmas or deals with issues that periodically occupy him like, for example, the sound during the second half of the 90ies. Such imprudent moments are lucid incidents, breakthroughs of some atypical impulses that have motivated number of interesting works, some of which date as far back as 1991 and which Todorović calls Small Ambients. They are combinations of heaps of materials like Plexiglas, broken glass or wire that comprise multilayered, somewhere condensed, somewhere thin structures where the author seems to endeavour getting all at once, both saturation with matter and ease of transparency. These works are a quite clear result of being fascinated with the light, which is obvious even in certain short-termed searches for the painting or rather a painting’s specimen in nature as for instance in a scene of light through tree-tops, resembling abstract painting canvas. Although the author thinks of them as unimportant, these works should be read as the early investigation of what the painting is or isn’t. They are especially important for a reason that after twoyear period, in 1993, by a sudden cut and a surprising step, Todorović commenced a painting chapter still going on today. In the same year, he exhibited a series of paintings in Mali Salon, accompanied with a very thorough text by Branko Cerovac, at the end of which the latter mentions aberration from the Todorović’s 80ies lyrical abstract landscape and enformel. Despite and parallely to new painting endeavours, during three years of life in Istria and occasional trips to Rome (1994 / 95) Todorović continued a search for visuality in the nonpainting realm. The author was overwhelmed by escape from painting into daily occasional situations in which he seems to contemplate already existent, given visuality. This was the period of minimalist works (“Fish 3”, 1994) which, rather than being serious works, are lyrical sketches or quibbles of a kind (e.g. a spatula in a bucket full of water as a readymade gesture, due to formal similarity between the spatula and the fish). Genesis of these works is found in general preoccupation with visuality after graduation, when the young author was left by himself in a world with no limitations, but with a task of art creation. This may sound responsible as much as it sounds stale, but as long as academia continues to teach visuality as painting and sculpting, such statement will remain real: a painting medium before thirty years cannot be the same as today. It is but natural that painter in the 90ies asks himself as to what, how and for whom he will do it (Todorović has found a good solution, deciding to paint for himself).

After the mentioned works, every following excursion from the painting was going to be a considerably more seriously elaborated visual experiment. Work “Print” from 1995 is a visual metonymy of notion of print: iron net hanged above wooden cassettes, arranged over the floor, suggests an immediately risen print of the iron net whose result is a broken wooden surface arranged into regular platelets. This is an early example of Todorović’s typical deliberation of the visual, in a manner of associative game including parallelism, contrast and hunches - which may sound generalized and tired from a long-time usage by the glossary of art history. However, it is truly important to see these works in order to feel them. These artworks’ essential element is a temporality in a sense of freezing the situation in its before and after state, aiming at creating an illusion of motion. The best example is an installation “Morning”, dating from the same year and based on analogies like Print: on one hand there’s transparency and convincing liquidity (of crystal) drops, while on the other hand there’s silver-led shine of the plates over a floor which simulate a puddle of drops spilled. Herein, temporality shows itself in hunching of the movements, sliding of tears over the wall surface, which becomes a work’s key.

 

SOUND

Four sound installations originated during 1997 and 1998. Their congeniality is based on using audio and visual language to speak on a single subject, all founded on a principle of analogy. Todorović named them Metamorphoses.

Let’s consider an example of Gus’s Bench where he used frottage for obtaining the bench’s print. He rubbed a cloth with wax crayon and folded up the cloth upon a pedestal as a relic. He also recorded a sound produced by rubbing the bench with glass, hence documenting both visual and audio print of a situation of idling on a bench. In this manner Todorović testified his works are documents of certain barely visible, unperceivable, (own) personally relevant and subjectively experienced real everyday moments, wherefrom comes their poeticism. At times, these are conceptual reflections, risen from a rhetoric question of how an abstract notion, for example melancholy, is to be formed into a visual medium in order to achieve mood. This task is the best display of artist’s skill in visual deliberation of a concept, since the visuality is perceived organically and emotionally, while the author’s sensitivity for situational mood is transferred onto the audience. Todorović’s solution to a riddle of melancholy is found in the Rembrandt’s portrait “The Old Man” whose photo in jpg format was fragmented into 18 ink jet prints, while the audio image of melancholy was provided through the sounds of fire cracking, associating us of a hearth, solitude, winter, invoking home warmth we are deprived of. The same emotional timbre and procedure was used in Birch (1997) where a photo (borrowed from K. Vučković) of a birch-tree was accompanied by sound of a hex cutting down the tree. His recent work “Edith Piaf” (2004) shows love-ache in her yearning melodies by a knife brutally stabbed into a cassette-player.

Todorović’s readymades of the kind are distinguished by lightness, astuteness and sharpness characteristic of sketches, which enables momentary understanding which can, but doesn’t have to, be followed by a light contemplation of the work at hand. Todorović reacts organically and momentary, using means deprived of all the superfluous descriptive elements, and he always manages it well. We frequently have a chance to see good visual artists who take long time to free themselves of redundancy and expressive overload. A strong human habit of saying more than necessary results in disappearance of a crucial idea under the burden of superfluous, and Todorović has a special talent for condensing a thing into a visual moment.

The fourth and the most finalised work including sound has been made on an occasion of the 500th birth anniversary of a miniaturist Juraj Julije Klović. This work was co-authored by Todorović, Damir Božić-Pišta and Marijan Blažina, while Ivan Šarar and Zoran Medved took care of the sound. A print of an enlarged detail of Klović’s eye and ear from a portrait painted by his student El Greco was fragmented into format of small audiocassettes with total of 2000 seconds of frequencies audible to the human ear. Sound was divided into 200 cassettes of which each contained 10 seconds of audio recording and a small piece of Klović’s portrait. In this manner the work has covered an idea of miniature in 10 seconds of sound and a small part of Klović’s portrait (a detail of eye and ear), while the size and the range were recorded in a sinusoid wave of 20-20000 Hz which is the hearing range. Allusion to the miniature as a homage to J.J. Klović, coupled with simultaneous grasping of our experiential horizon, creates an open hologramic structure which makes sense because it outlines temporal and spiritual extent of this event.

The fifth and the last work which can be reduced under the sound chapter is video “St. Bug” originated somewhat later on, in 2002. It is a recording of a bug found in an artist’s apartment. The recording comprises an hour of raw material together with a scene of a green stinkbug whose daily job of hygiene maintenance becomes a solemn and touchy moment of total fusion between his appearance and audio background (recorded from radio in real-time). Bug’s light and elegant movements are followed by exalted medieval sacral music to the measure so precise and tireless that an observer has to doubt its accidental consonance. Todorović edited a scene of dance into a four-minute video close-up recording, added in charm by background sounds like a road truck or a sound of leafing the papers which draws us from a contemplative mood back to reality. The persuasiveness of bug’s humanized dance movements is funny and poetic, rendering the work wholesome.

 

SPACE

There are few works which can be considered as spatial interventions, like Dream (1997/1998) and “Transitory Metamorphoses” (1997) exhibited at Filodrammatica Gallery. These are pure examples of a direct reaction to the space or, more precise, space conceptualization. First work was realized in small and the second one in large format.

In 1996/1997, the association “Ura” has organized an exhibition of its members and the friends1 at the Kortil Gallery. Todorović exhibited two (twofold division again) works whose partial adaptability is inverse to the modernist comprehension of a visual artwork arising from itself and for itself, uninspired by something accidental as is a showroom or any other given such as a gallery pedestal. The artist upgraded one pedestal with a paraffin white cap fitting pedestal’s format. He applied the same procedure on the other pedestal, albeit this time with a glass cap of the same height. Warm and self-directed paraffin matter on the one side, coupled by glass and extroverted matter on the other side correspond with two surfaces (as he calls them) on an associated wall. Since Todorović loves placing his works in spatial correlations, he has joined the objects with surfaces. Namely, paraffin-white and soft “Dream” got joined with a canvas, while a glass cube was linked to an asphalt surface from a diptych titled “Saturday / Sunday”. Question is whether a dull dialogue between greasy asphalt and dry black textile on “Saturday / Sunday” bears any connotations as to what are the possible essential differences between Saturday and Sunday? There appears to be none, since a day simply rises and imposes itself, the only difference being that each day has its own taste and position within a temporal sequence: Saturday comes before Sunday, it is somewhat shorter and very close to the Sunday, but not the same...

The gesture of colonizing a raw gallery space with an equally raw fabricated element of parquet, at Filodrammatica showroom, reminds of a practice of a historical (American) movement of minimalism whose representatives were inspired by prefabricated materials. One of the intended uses was to abolish connotation / denotation of the authorship, i.e. artist’s handwriting as an artwork’s essential aesthetic component. Of course, herewith it was executed without such a motif, rather spontaneously, like most of Todorović’s artworks. In this time he was preoccupied with a possibility of transformation, which can be observed in experiments stemming from the mentioned one in Filodrammatica: various objects were added with a single parquet platelet inscribed with “I can transform into anything whenever I want to”, where the words’ typography i.e. impersonal nature of printed letters speaks in favour of industrial aesthetics beloved by the minimalists.

Naturally, pleasure in potential of changing the identity isnot something Todorović takes seriously, but rather something he plays around with at his atelier. Though the Filodrammatica work is quite close to site-specific spatial concepts, it shows no trace of systematic or deliberated consideration of a site-specific theme, since it has risen entirely spontaneously2. This is but one of the ways to deal with space. The other, equally important is a consequent notion of identity as an object’s characteristic that can overlap, be taken away or replaced. This is a subject of yet another work created during intensive companionship with Jasna Šikanja, Melita Sorola Staničić and Damir Božić Pišta in Pašac atelier, when they have conceived a joint task in which each one had to present work of the other colleague artist. Choosing Pišta, Todorović has relocated few requisites into a cave of Trsat Castle (a fridge, a cupboard- larder, an armchair). These objects most credibly presented his life milieu. It is about the purest example of twofold enterprise – substitution and identification that can be regarded as two basic possibilities of identity manipulation.

During the 90ies we often witnessed practices of substituting identity, especially in exhibition spaces, sometimes with an aim of abolishing their neutral position of an empty space. The 90ies initiated exhibitions in private apartments which, although practically existent from before, now became a concept. These years gave birth to a tension between issues of private and public, and one of the ways to check the difference was to attempt exchange i.e. equating in various versions: colonizing the gallery that consequently turns into a private space, or a place of show-down with social issues (relocation of the private i.e. bedroom into a public gallery space). Though definitely complying with one of the trends, the work has stemmed form irrefutable closeness of the mentioned artists which at a certain point trifled about a witty remark without any other motivation whatsoever.

Another specialty of the Todorović’s work consists in a rather relevant link between this essay’s past chapter and the next one, covering readymade. This easily missed link is that the artist almost never treats the matter he works with, but mostly takes interest in the raw, untouched matter which he uses as the food spices – setting them desired ratio. This renders him closest to Silvio Šarić who uses even more immaterial and more fragile matter such as cobweb, glass, water and shadow, with the same expressive concision, sometimes in a readymade fashion, without exception sensitive to the space or the context he works in.

On the other hand, few readymades, including “Chess” from the exhibition “Readymade in Croatia” (MMC Luka, Pula, 2000), another work in Rijeka’s Kortil Gallery in selection of Boris Toman and “100 DEM”, altogether simultaneously display the already mentioned existential motivation. The first piece evolved from a memory of life with a father with whom the artist used to play chess with, while the break of this ritual – caused by the father’s death – was displayed by splitting the chessboard’s halves. In this manner, readymade was pushed to the extreme consequences, since the work was performed by the artist’s friends (Sunčica Vitorović and Silvio Šarić) following his own instructions.

The second work was made within a framework of a show “Meeting Artists Over Coffee” conceived by Boris Toman (2000). This work, is lees interesting and less visually skilful, both by its sensibility and its possible origins. Inspired by a life situation of constant moving from an apartment to an atelier and back, the author has exposed laundry on line, which appropriately fitted into a concept of “Meeting Artists Over Coffee”, supporting situational and accidental nature of the works, the actual concept’s motivation as well.

“100 DEM” (exhibited at Žgabucin Gallery within Gal Gallery) has risen from reflecting on money at the moment of scarcity. Since money can be an act of goodness, a sign of benefaction, a cause of breach or downfall, or else an object of unattainability or yearning, this intimate discussion on insolubility of definition and meaning of money has stimulated Todorović towards an artwork which is worth mentioning both visually and contextually. In the period before introduction of Euro, one hundred German marks carried (in Croatia at least) weight of a unit of payment and hence was not an unintentional choice. By gilding a banknote with golden leafs3 and by placing it upon a red pedestal under a glass cube the author contextualized work in accordance with subject’s problematic: gilding embodying benefaction, precision, shine and power of the money in general. Same goes for the actual work enabled by a friend who donated the banknote and hence provided for the artwork4.

Referring to a work made in Rome in 1994 under a title “Fish 3”, as well as to a painting originated in 1992 and 1993 (“Fish 1“and “Fish 2”), one should mention that the fish is a permanent motif of his drawings and paintings. Lines of power in vortexes are subject of constant subconscious fascination and a motif which, after paintings and drawings, in 2005 appeared on video as well. The author does not find conscious motivation in the fish motif, however, the vortical structure of their motion seems to represent the paradigm of a life’s drive, though the rational answers to the question why fishes and why for so many years, is still evading us.

Finally, drawings and paintings should not be opposed to the above mentioned works but for a single reason: to crystallize the author’s motivations upon their differences and similarities. The ensuing conclusion is that the style constants are spiced by occasional entering the side streets, that experiments are the periodical motors of his work and that discontinuity is comprehended in such a manner. Besides, it is not only about genre but also about numerical superiority of drawings and paintings, because the works we have descriptionaly denoted as extended media can also confirm style constants of the drawing, additionally solving dilemmas which drawing never engages.


1 Todorović is a cofounder and a member of the Club of Young Artists Rijeka, which registered as an association in 1998. Club got activated in 1994 / 95 through informal meetings at a stairway of the Modern Gallery (today MMSU) and other city locations.
2 References on site specific projects are based on similaritiy of conceptualization of relation between space and artefact.
3 Banknote guliding was done by Krešo Kovačićek who quite succesfully elaborated this Todorović’s work in the press of the time.
4 The work is kept in a collection of Vlado Budislavić who, following the author’s proposition, enabled the entire ralization.