Pride and Prejudice / Six Characters In Search of an Author

Text: Ivana Meštrov
Translation: Karla Šuler

Six characters in a search of an author or, specifically, young artists of Projekt6, Martina Miholić, Tea Hatadi, Maja Rožman, Igor Juran, Zdravko Horvat and Karla Šuler who have been cooperatively exploring an experimental, working and creative platform that deals with the question what happens when we enter the work of other author and search for the points of overlapping and for echoes of our own. And they enjoy it and continue doing it, driven by the desire to reach further in fragile undefined zones in-between the relations of You and I-author, You and I work/subject/viewer/listener/reader. We continuously subject these zones to questioning, digestion and reading in our own way.
But, how is it possible and measurable in that same process to bandwidth one to another and could we really deviate from ourselves so easily? Why should we, in spite of the awareness that everyone in her/his own system of operating nurtures cultural stereotypes and prejudices which we could become aware of, unblock or even eliminate them through the work of the other.

In that manner Martina Miholić, in her work “Tagbox/Pride and Prejudices”, subjects herself to an experiment by sending an electronic questionnaire to her close and distant milieu of acquaintances with a pattern of questions like: “where have we met?”, “what am I to you?”, “quote a dozen of features that would describe me”, or “in which roles in life could you imagine me?”.
In the instructions of the questionnaire Martina specifically stated that they can use short features, have no discretion limits, and speak freely of any kind of character they like or dislike. Driven by a desire to analyse and deconstruct our outer shield that could simultaneously attract or reject us from the others, confronting with herself in the eyes of other people, the author creates a box that splits multiple perspectives and communication nods of You and Me, and reveals contradictions that are contained within. In that process she is more than aware of a fact to what extent we are subject to a marketing image and various fashions (especially female), archetype heritage and a lack of quality time. Personal bareness and dismantling of a subject position is author’s fundamental method of facing the prejudices.

Tea Hatadi dissects her own prejudices towards the filth in the urban space and indolent life existence in the urban circle. In the process of tracing her neighbour’s rejections of unnecessary items, she awakens their and her own life cycle, from the point of rejection to the point of accumulation and re-emerging of these in the possession of people from the edge of urbanity whose modus vivendi stimulates a certain notion of disgust in her. By taking up the objective “documentary” position, she captions from her window a heavy waste street assembly point, followed by the situations surrounding it, so she could, few weeks later, search for that same chaos again, but this time within organized boundaries of Zagreb flea market accompanying Martina in her ordinary Sunday pursuit for hip “fashion accessories”. A question that arises in the process is how can we superficially apprehend the origin of things, effort that made it, and stories it tells? How deep is the absurd, pain and essence of that process, and how by accepting it we diminish or deepen the stereotyping around us?

Maja Rožman draws mental map of prejudices and stereotypes through the position of an artist in the art system and the position of a female voice within it. Putting aside the feminist readings itself, this is the case of an action which, through the act of their simultaneous tapestry embroiling, assemblies four female artists into a mutual associating in the context of an exhibition space.
Motifs of these tapestries are famous quotes of well-established male contemporary artist. A cliché is a stencil, but also a stereotype, Maja will confirm, same as an art system is itself subjected to critic and theoretical justifications which define one product as an art form, while others might not even be considered. That same tapestry presents one of those spaces of denying, erasing the feature of an author, purposing itself as solely the element of a traditional reminiscence and decoration of the past domestic habitat, our grandma’s distraction and almost forgotten cliché which in it’s motifs frequently hides all those high stated art forms. A stereotype that rotates around its own axis.

Igor Juran builds his work on pseudo-scientific basis by using all the members of the project to calculate their individual astrological natal charts. Photographing other authors within their pre-structured stellar constellation characteristics he translates new universal knowledge into a symbolic portrait, setting the scene into a low illuminated environment in which he fabricates the assuming astrological stereotype depiction into a grotesque. Prejudice is here hidden in the dark, within that “staged” image of individuals that elusively lures the viewer into the association game itself, and that is where we find that a chosen media of portrait is not a random choice.
Igor suggests that, according to natal charts authors, as the subjects of the project were not supposed to get along together, but why are the relations still well maintained although stars told we were not supposed to meet, what aspect to believe and how to label an individual are questions that this ironic pursuit of the subject is opening “in absentia”.

Zdravko Horvat paraphrases one conversation Igor presented by retelling others Igor’s and his own linguistic and ideological restraints. The initial rapturous story of an artist and much needed support of an art institution fades in it’s elaboration, and that is where Zdravko decided he should “translate” it to other present authors “… well who would say artists need institutional support for their works after all, aren’t they occurring on their own when they’re so invisible…”.
Through the translation the sentence gains a new discursive sequence through the voices of the affected artists themselves: “…they don’t even bother to understand…they just judge us…”
When has the story Igor heard disappeared, and where is the beginning of Zdravko’s or others? What comes in-between when I hear it? Lost in translation. Someone has spoken, therefore anybody speaks, Foucault would say, and traditional perception of Igor, the main character of the initial and “true” story, so to say, became an allegoric portrait of his subject, author chooses to deconstruct into numerous pixels that are formed and shuffled of all story’s listeners and translators, Maja, Tea, Martina and Zdravko himself.

At the end of the chain is Karla Šuler with her work called “Phishing”. She decided to refer to stereotypes and discriminations that occur within a framework of prejudice affected minority, in this case a gay minority, featuring a system of stereotyping that builds brand new stereotypes within itself. As a point of reference the author used E.E.Rofes and Sarah Miles book, “Opposite Sex: Gay Men on Lesbians, Lesbians on Gay Men”, and the trigger was the example of “fish jokes” frequently embraced within gay community engaging an ironic humour of supposed intense fish smell of female vagina, translating the aesthetics of intolerance towards female sex organs and furthermore a lesbian sexual act. The controversy intriguing itself, between the lines, and a different standing point, just crystallized another example of subordination of women in the society, paradoxically an inversion of stereotypes switches to a classic male archetype regression from the society which is generally stigmatized itself even in the most liberal milieu. Stereotype in Karla’s work is treated as an intruder within the exhibition space as it is an intruder in our perception; we become aware of it only when we become its victims.

In critical readings, for a long time now, author does not represent a crucial warranty for the meaning of an art piece. But does the rejection of author liberate us, and how can we function in the absence of another speaker/listener, even an imaginary one that we constitute through reading, without whom, a sole act would be a senseless abstraction, is a question these six authors are alternately asking.
After they mourned already the well-known death of an author, our authors are heading new directions interactively, embarking the collective reflection, and creative play (appropriating, infiltrating) as one of the possible criteria of developing an art work nowadays.
Because, the birth of a new author is repaid by the death of an old one, and works that emerge are the grounds of freedom and numerous translations, and are even partly, for some time, stripped off their own prejudices.