“In a distant picture the object cannot be ridiculous; it has to be brought up close to become ridiculous. The whole of carnivalesque creation operates in the zone of maximal propinquity.”
The appropriation, fragmentation, laying bare and reworking of a wide register of signs, mainly from the iconography of popular culture, goes on in the works of Marko Tadić and Vedran Perkov. Although a sense for fun is an important characteristic of theirs, the recognisable visual motley of works of the two artists almost always gives off a kind of unease. It wells from a critical experience of the social and media surroundings and the instability and vulnerability of one’s own place within these systems. The two artists are linked by a kindred sensitivity for the carnivalesque, for the passion to turn things topsy-turvy, for de-composition, an aptitude for uncovering vacuous showcasing, delving behind the porous farades of power, researching media contamination, portraying the everyday in the clash of contrasts of the transitional economy – consumerism and impoverishment. The theatrical and carnivalesque installations of Vedran Perkov are almost always an indirect criticism of social reality. The icons of the mass entertainment industry and pop culture are used as ideational models for the realisation of various hybrid objects and ambiences. Perkov investigates the critical potentials of signs, icons and symbols that as a result of overuse and consumption have been exhausted, worn down, devalued. New meanings are formed at the edges, as a by-product of multiple consumptions, as a kind of surplus that is realised in contrast and opposition to their original settings. Pessimism, then, will occupy the place of optimism, cowardice takes the place of heroism, impotence of power, coercion replaces entertainment, violence childish innocence. Vedran reworks and domesticates the commonplaces of global mass culture, like teddies, Batman, smileys or balloons, relocates them in the context of the social and political space that surrounds him. The frequently enlarged dimensions of objects produce unease; the manner they occupy the space is not devoid of charm and a kind of humour, and the impression is acquired that these objects are really doing something in the gallery venue or that something has just been done to them. For example, in the Beast installation (Nova Gallery, 2004), which in the form of a vastly enlarged teddy claustrophobically took up almost the whole of the exhibition space, it was impossible to determine whether it is the active or passive subject of violence. Perkov does not use already produced, original, mass produced objects as ready-mades, but redesigns the objects and makes them by hand, leaving the seams, the gaps and the joins visible. On this occasion he exhibits two similar spatial installations that indirectly thematise the issues of power, the form and condition of each object being the crucial factor. The Final Frontier draws its inspiration from Star Trek and is a kind of low-tech replica of the room, is actually a many-seamed cottage-industry production. The massive but rather frail installation needs the life support of a stream of air that, as the aggressive sound warns, is constantly pumped in from the base of the sculpture. While this cobbled-together Voyager leaks air on all sides, keeping itself in the air with enormous effort, the installation Le Voyage Infinitif consists of two anonymous, coloured (grounded or crashed?) only just knocked-up planes. Icons of the representation of progress, modernism, sovereignty and power, like planes and spaceships, reduced to dysfunctional parodies of themselves openly invert social representations of power, underscoring the atmosphere of failure and unmet promises. The works of Marko Tadić are of a hybrid form that investigate the status of artistic and everyday objects, their functions for use, decoration and symbolism. They are shaped at the boundaries of painting, graffiti, collage, photography, objects and ambiental installations; yet most of all they are defined by the private sphere, a diarist’s passion for collection, an interest in the quotidian, a propensity for the decorative, for kitsch and transformation. Marko often paints and collages reject or cheap use-objects: plastic plates, wooden chopping boards, cheap coasters, all kinds of found objects. His pictures or objects develop a specific kind of iconicity, linking an appealing colouristic graphism with fragments of words and sentences, numbers, graffiti, idioms, pop quotes, from which absurd slogans and weird combinations of image and words are formed. The collage units, which have very distinct colouristic qualities and are composed of disparate fragments, reflect the urban context of everyday life, elements of cinematic and comic strip aesthetics, the iconography of contemporary design, fashion, music and life styles. The recent works of this artist create several interlinked wholes: a series of picture-objects and photographs, slides, Polaroids. Welling from the specific needs of Marko’s obsessive recording and marking of his own surrounds, the space in which he lives, moves and works, these series deal with the relations between inner and outer space, the problem of the body and its presence. At the visual level these relations are often effectuated by merging, contrasting or integrating the foreground and the background. Although in general the forms in which pictures, objects and photographs are crossed have been present in Marko’s work for quite some time (Household, Nova Gallery, 2003), now there are several interesting spatial and semantic shifts taking place. The installation Landscape consists of a series of collage paintings done on Perspex, on the partially transparent surface of which slides are projected: objects, items, situations, landscapes – all part of the author’s everyday life. While the series of Polaroids literally and monotonously records daily life diary-style, mingling melancholic interiors, cloying and weird landscapes regularly devoid of any human presence, the photographic sequence of photo pairs confronts two apparently identical scenes. Shot in Marko’s rented flat in Florence the photographs are differentiated by the hardly visible presence of the author in one of them. He is regularly located in the middle ground or background of the picture, fragmented or lying down, as if suggesting the frail limits of his own existence and presence. The Souvenirs series carries directly on from previously made series of painted plastic plates. Using them mainly as mere background, Marko now goes in for found decorative wooden plates – old fashioned souvenirs of towns and tourist spots. The existing background is now used in a different way; the original depictions are over-painted, changed to the point of unrecognisability, colonised by some weird imaginary landscapes. Sometimes the artist will integrate a single architectural element into a new picture, which often produces absurd contrasts. Isn’t the Poreč tower something now like a jail, isn’t Bled suddenly just like Manhattan?