Reviews

The Remains of our day

In his sculptural cycle entitled The Remains (of our day), Misa Peric self-avowedly explores the discarded past, depersonalization, and social stratification as the end-point of contemporary man. However, by setting his work in contemporary context, the artist creates works of art. In addition to sharing those general traits that are distinctive of global society and which result from the spread of the technological growth and mass production (fragmentation, recycling, offsetting, anonymity, simulation), these works possess topological quality which makes them warm and authentic. Hence, the occasion for this series of works is the not-so-distant but quickly forgotten past, shared by all those who grew up in the urban settings of the 1970’s and the 1980’s on the territories of the former Yugoslavia, cruelly suppressed into the spheres of the nostalgic yearning as a metaphor of the welfare and carefreeness of civil society by the catastrophic, nationalistic, bellicose, and hyperinflationary 1990’s. Peric revitalizes these times, not by lamenting and by way of a passive “beautiful”, intimate, enclosed artistic practice luring us into the sense of comfort, and even pleasure, but rather by an art that is active and which at the same time reflects the past and the present alike by means of “special mirrors”, in Brecht’s turn of phrase, thereby creating unexpected effects.

The artist decontextualizes the objects that used to be the status symbols of the middle classes, or have been used too frequently, to be subsequently pushed aside by the technologically more advanced items, by sculpturally shaping them and bringing them into strange relations with mutually diverse forms both in respect of their origin and their ontological status. The apology of the everyday utility object whose entire shape (or fragment) the author adopts and combines/contrasts with non-utilitarian forms, is present in all of his works. Hybrid constructions remind us of industrial excavations whose functions are yet to be reconstructed as well as of the Baudrillardian dissolution or the loss of meaning in the ongoing hyperproduction of imposed information which makes the artist urge for resistance from the sculpture media stance. This is how those works that contain aesthetical provocation (avant-garde legacy) do emerge making the artist resistant to reception having as its consequence a desautomatization of seeing, an increase of one’s sensitivity to things, as well as a critical re-examination of reality by the recipient. In the spirit of the Sloterdijkian Copernicanism, Peric offers to his objects the possibility of “seeing the world not as it is, in the way of having to contrast its ‘reality’ in thought with the impressions based on the senses, in order to ‘grasp’ what is going on with it”.

Illogical combinations of heterogeneous elements create one “grammatically and syntactically inappropriate statement” which can be also named “the rule of the construction shift” (D. Burlyuk). Within the sculptural field different visual models collide (mimetic against non-mimetic); confusing relationships between the organic and the inorganic are being created (deer horns, steel bands, ready-made objects...); the customary settings of things in space are being disrupted. The semantic dislocation takes place since the meaning of the elements is determined by the relations that are established between these elements in the work itself. The meaning and the sense are being re-established within the framework of the parameters that are determined by the context of the sculpture, by its own intrinsic structural relations. Through the accumulation, juxtaposition and intertwining of materials of different consistencies, energies and meanings, new visual structures which are not haphazard surrealistic collisions but rather the artist’s response to the complexity and segmentation of the world we inhabit do emerge.

The possibility of an automatic identification of objects and materials that the sculptures are made of is being deferred or neutralized because the objects are magnified, fragmented, dismantled, while the original materials are treated in such a way that their physical substantiality (elasticity, texture, colouring, solidity) is being concealed. The large frames that are the bearers of social, ideological and symbolic meanings, have the highest degree of ambiguity since they act both seductively and frighteningly, attractively and repulsively. The utilized materials are mimicked, often transformed beyond recognition. Thus, for example, the wood that the giant tube is made of is shaped by the wrinkles characteristic of a tin metal sheet, or in the piece entitled “I’m beside myself”, the wood becomes pliable simialar to a glossy rubber tube tied into a knot, out of which its contents have been squeezed out. In virtue of their technological characteristics, the sculptures mimic life and its transitoriness and ultimately its perishableness, since the artist has decided to expose them to the natural decaying processes of steel-rust, woodworms, and organic decay.

The polyptych “The remains of our day” consists of a series of scattered video cassettes made of steel, with protruded metal bands, used photo films, a mask that grins. The cassettes take on an anthropomorphic character, displaying in an almost spooky way their specific way of being and behaving that is out of our control. The holes become eye-windows to which Cleo’s observation “that objects are now looking at me” can be applied. What the video cassettes ought to guarantee is the documentarity, objectivity of representation, and keeping the recorded situations and events from oblivion. The artist has a double relationship with them: as the bearers of the prescribed meanings and established functions. Not without a certain dose of noble sadness, the artist reminds us of the disappearance of the middle classes and the decline of all those little, everyday, pretty things that were precious in the private lives unburdened by politics during the 1970’s and the 1980’s as well as of the role that television, video and photo shots - as the mightiest manipulative means with political connotations – have had throughout this region. By “breaking off” the cassettes, the author is symbolically deconstructing them, displaying their entrails which become useless not only by no longer memorizing nor protecting pictures and events but also by being destroyed in the name of the Centre of Power.

In the end, what one notices immediately on observing Peric’s sculptural interventions, is a strong feeling of the artist’s creative discipline, something that is not an assumed quality in modern art. Each piece is flawlessly realized by the non-routinous, unutilized techniques filled with the pleasure of giving in to the expressive-manual activity. It is this approach on the part of the artist that makes his sculptures surprise, amongst other things, by their structural beauty.

Ljiljana Karadžić