Conversation with Vadim Fishkin
Tomo Stanič

About title

 

TS I find the title of your latest exhibition – Čarov-Ni-Ja or NO MAGIC – which was curated by Igor Španjol and on view in the Museum of Contemporary Art (+MSUM) between June 16 and September 13 2015, very ingenious, well-chosen. The Slovene version of the title is in fact even more precise and ambiguous at the same time – magic and the negation of it coincide in its meaning. In this ambiguity I can see some parallels with the exhibited works, not in terms of mere denotation or naming, but more in the sense that what happens in the title also occurs in the works themselves – it seems that another kind of admiration appears when the illusion is exposed. The viewer is simultaneously en-chanted (‘o-čaran’) and dis-enchanted (‘raz-očaran’). The works are at the same time magical and non-magical, they revolve around magic (‘the magic button’) and its exposure (‘there is no magic’). This might also be suggested in the English title NO MAGIC, but I perceive it as more ‘coded’ than the Slovene version. How did you come up with the Slovene title and why did you decide to choose it?

 

VF Thank you for posing a question about the title of the exhibition. In my opinion, the wordplay between the concepts ‘to enchant’ and ‘being enchanted’ is truly interesting and creates a special effect in Slavic languages. The title of the latest exhibition Čarov-Ni-Ja / NO-MAGIC is a constituent part of it, and the same applies to all other exhibitions. Each title is composed of three elements: sound, meaning and visual appearance. Only when put together, these parts form an integral whole. Of course, there are some cases in which the meaning prevails, and others when the sound or pronunciation is more important. Sometimes I even refer to the written word. But in each and every case I take all three ‘ingredients’ into account. While the English version of the title NO MAGIC works and is understandable with the help of acoustics, one needs to write Čarov-Ni-Ja with dashes in order to stress the right meaning – the thought is completed only by the visual appearance. If the title does not add something extra to the work, it is completely pointless or has a mere bureaucratic purpose. Moreover, the intention of the title is not only to repeat the ‘meaning’ of the artwork it needs to make it complete.o metrov.’  Bearing this in mind we can take a look at the title NO MAGIC – in English this means that something is real. This is the affirmative side of the title. The other side is negative as the restrictive ‘no’ in the title suggests a certain prohibition or impossibility – one could say it doesn’t include any tricks. On the other hand, saying that something is real is not the same as claiming it doesn’t include deception.

 

TS In a sense, something which includes ‘no deception’ can always be unreal as well, while it is possible that something true also falls into the category of being a deception.

 

VF Every translation of a title is a new coinage, a new title which tries to recreate an adequate image, acoustics and a play on meaning – what needs to be translated is the content as a whole and not only the meaning itself. The title Čarov-Ni-Ja was selected from a long list of possible candidates as the most suitable and playful solution. It includes both layers at the same time – negation as well as affirmation, thus it is definitely not unambiguous. (laughs) I also agree with your comment regarding the ‘enchantment’ which is hidden in the Slovenian version and is not that perceivable in the English one. Of course, one has to take the difference between individual languages into account. I am not sure whether I answered your question.

 

TS Yes, of course you did. In short, the title should not be interpreted only as a description. Somehow, it is a performative element which co-creates the artwork.

 

VF Let’s put it this way – it opens up a possibility of thinking on different levels. In any case, we should not perceive the title as a closing or final act; the title is there to open and problematize the works of art. Art and the viewer

 

TS A lot of critical texts concerning your work focus on its connection with science. I would like to avoid this perspective for the purpose of this interview – not because I consider it to be a wrong direction, but because I would like to direct the attention to the question of the viewer. Despite being aware that the viewer is an almost universal presupposition to many artworks, I cannot avoid the feeling that your works already in advance include the view of an either naïve, curious or a very sharp viewer. It seems as if most of your works would focus precisely on ea certain automatism, on the stable nature of the spectator’s way of seeing, which is too often already set in advance. There were only two ‘interactive works’ displayed at the exhibition (Snow Show 1997 and Magic Button 2007), which openly encouraged and engaged the viewer in the production of a certain special effect of fascination and dis-enchantment. In both cases, which are also formally related (some sort of stage-set design), we are witnessing a certain turn in the museum’s disposition – the viewer slightly ridicules the art and ‘awkwardly’ takes part in the production of the work. What is your view of interactive works? Is it in any way connected to Warhol’s statement about the 15 minutes of fame – so that the relationship between the work and the viewer is exaggerated to the point of absurdity, where the uniqueness of the work, the viewer’s experience and the sublimity of the artwork need to be put into question? The position of both of the works is ‘strategic’ – we encounter the first at the start of the exhibition and the second at the very end.

 

VF Exactly. Regardless of the fact that this is a visual art exhibition which usually does not have a specific dramaturgy or a timeline, I have always tried to establish some kind of a structure. Similar to films it starts with an introduction, continues with a plot twist and concludes with a final part. The exhibition is designed through a temporal-spatial perspective of the viewer’s movement. Aforementioned works could be compared to propylaea (the word originates from Latin and means ‘in front of the door’). The introduction to the exhibition is an invitation to enter and gives an insight into what is happening inside, while the end summarizes and concludes this disclosure. All in all, it is of utmost importance to structure the conclusion in an ambiguous way (through affirmation and negation). Speaking of interactivity – it is true that both works are similar to a certain extent. Both of them include an action which is not necessarily an interactive one, claiming this would lead to terminology questions: is this art classified as interactive or rather interpassive? One possible denomination could also be ‘trigger art’. It is a fact, however, that both works of art put the viewer in the foreground; without the viewer, they would remain unfinished and in a way unaccomplished. The viewer becomes an integral part of the artworks.

 

TS Seeing the artwork Magic Button, the viewer is confronted with disappointment: ‘There is no magic … just an electronic relay, projection, some light effects … and soap bubbles.’ But from a certain aspect, Snow Show – the first artwork you set up, is even stronger in the sense of: ‘You wanted art, you wanted to be unique and have a special experience … Fine, here it is, take the whole package!’

 

VF Of course, this could be one possible interpretation but I did not want to appear too cynical. Personally I try to avoid a cynical attitude towards the viewer also when creating other works. I think this is more a matter of ‘external’ view – in most cases, the participant gives a positive and enthusiastic reaction rather than feeling disappointed or deceived. Exactly these feelings create a unique moment; snow and music are recurring elements but the feeling of each individual remains unique. The work is accomplished precisely with help of this ‘element of uniqueness’ and this feeling helps the viewer to avoid a cynical interpretation of the work.

 

TS This is something I can absolutely agree with. Art should not become too cynical … Anyhow, I certainly don’t perceive your artworks as cynical, even though they often contain certain elements of humour and surprise. But one definitely cannot equate cynicism with humour.

 

VF In connection with the concept of the viewer, the following question can be posed: what does it actually mean to be an art viewer? Someone who pushes the button is not a viewer anymore – he or she becomes a part of the process and their feelings make a constituent part of the artwork. The viewer is someone who does not participate in this game as an external observer. The viewers see the participant together with or inside the artwork and the participant becomes its integral part. This is why the feeling and reaction of the participant is very important – if the participant covered with snow remains happy for 20 seconds the viewer will see a completely different work than in the case of a dissatisfied visitor in the snow. (laughs)

 

TS You are completely right. The one who is covered with snow is always happy and surprised, but maybe an ‘external viewer’ perceives things differently …

 

VF With the naming of the procedures behind the work Magic Button (There is no magic … just an electronic relay, projection etc.) we are witnessing a classical presenting of facts – the title of the work Magic Button and the description of the techniques: relay, lights, balloon … (laughs)

 

TS Right, this is it. (laughs)

 

VF Yes, it is like oil on canvas. I just didn’t reveal any dimensions. (laughs)

 

The role of art

 

TS In your opinion, what is the role of (contemporary) art or what should it be?

 

VF I think the biggest advantage of art is not being able to give any clear-cut answers to this question. In my personal opinion, this is the only true indicator of art being on the right track. If it only had one particular function, this would mean a ‘red alarm’ – danger. I doubt one could still define something as art if it had a certain guiding principle, for example a social function which would be conscientiously fulfilled by this form of art. In this case, art would only be a matter of social research … The same applies to the context of political art – I think we have a problem if an artwork fits into one category only. Art becomes interesting when it covers different layers and has a multifaceted meaning.

 

TS You are trying to say that art is not unambiguous and does not give answers to only one issue. Art is not univocal.

 

VF You are correct, art should not be faced with just one particular task. In this case, this wouldn’t be art anymore but a claim to form some other field. At this point we are back to the previous question regarding the autonomy of art, stating that art has its own value. This does not mean, however, that it is intended only for a chosen group of people whose main occupation is art. On the contrary, it refers to a certain autonomy of a field which cannot simply be limited to bureaucratic classifications. Practice shows the evolution of many additional ‘artistic merits’; in the sense of political fights, social engagement, general design and even decoration design. (laughs) This loss of autonomy also marks the transition into the outer part of the autonomy circle. Of course, nothing is wrong with that – a problem may occur when art as a discipline totally conforms to a certain field. By doing this, it completely loses its power, complexity and becomes an unambiguous answer to an issue which has already been formed beforehand. But at the same time, this does not mean that art doesn’t have a specific function – its real advantage lies mainly in not having only one single function.

 

TS Considering this aspect, what if we rethink the visitor of the exhibition? Who is art for? Is it for everyone? Looking at your exhibition, I have always had the feeling you devote a lot of attention to putting yourself into the shoes of someone who stands in front of the artwork.

 

VF Absolutely, this is something an artist always has in mind, but at the very beginning, this dialogue evolves from a monologue within yourself … Only afterwards you include others. The more layers of viewership you include, the greater diversity you achieve within the artwork topic. Still, this should not be the only goal, otherwise we immediately end up inside the concept of popular art.

 

TS In relation to some of the works you refer to an ‘artistic language’, which you see as a contrast to the language of science. During the guided tour you talked about Prometheus Electronic which would refer to a logical and real work in the physical sense, while Disconnected is a matter of deceit. Despite the logical difference between them, the language of art has supposedly accepted them as something which makes sense. Which is the core difference between them?

 

VF Personally I would not have used the word ‘contrast’ as this example does not point to a contradictory relationship but rather to a certain similarity. Similarity can even be found in the working method or the way in which both works are structured. If I may use some unfounded and non-theoretical expressions (laughs) – then I would like to point out the difference between subjective truths and personal truths. In everyday language, art gets swept under the carpet of expressions like subjectivity/subjective practice, while science is defined as being objective. I consider this separation to be very disputable – both of them, science and art try to find a certain concept of the truth. For example, when talking about subjective truths, we immediately find ourselves facing a problem of relativity in the sense: ‘Nothing is true, everything is relative and merely a question of different opinions’. Exactly this perspective represents the same issue for art as well as for science. As soon as we try to figure out a different perspective which I labelled with the expression personal truths – as a position where your own opinion needs to be justifiable enough and independent from the common opinion – we realize that this expression could describe both art and science. Similarly as an artist stands behind personal truths in his or her own language, a scientist is positioned inside everything connected with science. The history of science is full of stories about blaming and exclusion as the scientists opposed the beliefs of individuals who later on prevailed as an objective truth and proven theory, despite of being at its early stages at that time. Already since the times of Giordano Bruno we know that a scientist needs to stand behind what he himself denominated as personal truth – maybe this could even be the most thriving phase of thought evolution and theoretical speculations. Objectivity comes later, after the phase of development and demonstration. In most cases this means that science as well as art are able to develop something which will achieve a status of an objective truth only if they go through the personal truths phase. Most evidences in the world of science are not immediately accepted. A similar phenomenon can be observed with art as well, only that it is more a matter of specific thought than a matter of proving something. In my opinion, science and art should not be too dependent on expectations of the economy and society or succumb to the desires of the audience. If we return to the contrast versus similarity, I would definitely decide for the latter. Of course, these examples include a different language but the method itself is much more similar than it seems.

 

TS You are saying they have the same structure and similar building procedure despite the difference in building material?

 

VF In the case of Prometheus Electronic and the work Unplugged I mainly used scientific language: Prometheus has a real, physically- logical function which is absent and subliminal in the second work. The latter is somehow illogical and looks like deception. Exactly through this juxtaposition I tried to show the third part of the vision (third function) which cannot be broken down to the categories of the logical vs. the illogical, or science vs. deception – it is an art function which is real and logical regardless of the fact that it includes deception as well. Art function cannot simply be reduced and divided in a pragmatic way based on the laws of physics.

 

TS I am aware this statement is too general and also problematic, but isn’t there always a certain measurement scale within science? At first glance, art seems to be freer.

 

VF Of course, there is a difference in this perspective. But even science loses its scale at one point and needs to be ‘measured’ anew. I expect to see some ‘measurements’ also in the field of art. (laughs)

 

TS Yes, I hope that as well. (laughs)

 

Light & time

 

TS A number of your works revolve around something completely ordinary, established and obvious, experiencing a shift in its foundations and consequently causing the viewer to lose the ground beneath his or her feet. Ordinary concepts become unusual – time and light are certainly one of them.

 

VF Self-evident answers always obscure the view. Somehow, it is similar to Brecht’s enstrangement effect – keeping distance, moving away from the object in order to see other possibilities within the same matter. It sounds funny, but no one will ever ask you what an hour is. A hour is an hour … Yet still, with self-evidence put aside, the following questions immediately pop into our minds: how is time formed anyway? How do we observe time? Where does astronomical time come from? This brings us to very important issues. If the first approach includes a view from a distance, then the second possibility includes approaching everyday objects or a so-called ‘hacking principle’ which means discovering secret possibilities hidden inside of something. In the programming language, alternative possibilities are always available, deliberately concealed by software companies to prevent them from coming into general use. Both, the lightbulb and the hairdryer have a particular function but I use them for completely different purposes …

 

TS Light is a recurrent element in your artwork. Soon you will even give a lecture titled Light Matters.

 

VF I deliberately left the title in English because I always try to avoid a reading which is too simple and direct. As you can see, this is a pun – light can mean brightness or easiness/ lightness, while matter refers to a substance, material or a question. In this way we get four different meanings: casual questions, lightweight substance, questions about light and light matter. Light has material properties and is also a transient occurrence. It mainly interests me from its material perspective. On average, light is perceived as a very ephemeral phenomenon, although science would oppose to this statement, mainly because light is a rather physical matter. On the other hand, some questions regarding light frequency still remain unexplained until this day. And exactly this duality of physical presence and ephemeralness or the simultaneous visibility and invisibility of this phenomenon is what I’m interested in the most.

 

TS We can see 24 hours passing by in a single minute (A Speedy Clock 2014) or a day that is over in 2.5 minutes (A Speedy Day 2003). You are also suggesting that time can rush or stand completely ‘still’ on the same point (Sun Stop 2003).

 

VF Sun Stop is dedicated to A. L. Chizhevsky, a cosmologist and founder of helio-biology. The cultural and philosophical movement Cosmism cultivated a special mind-set which was not based on academic knowledge – they saw themselves as thinkers. At the core of Chizhevsky’s theory lies a belief that everything is co-dependant. A logical deduction which followed was a statement that everything in our solar system depends on the Sun, the biggest celestial body. Chizhevsky even wrote a book with a title The Terrestrial Echo of Solar Storms, in which he made a statistical collection of common events on Earth like wars, diseases and epidemics, unusual migrations etc. In these occurrences, he saw a dependence on the solar radiation. Of course, many would link these beliefs with esotericism – but for him, his discoveries were strictly limited to materialistic science. Interesting fact: in those days, he was too materialistic for the Soviet Union and his ideas did not match the Marxist doctrine, so he was sent to the Gulag. The purpose of my work Sun Stop was mainly to reverse the sunset symbolism. On the one hand, this is something very banal and sentimental, an everyday cliché, which can also point out to complete dependency on this phenomenon. From the most average perspective we get to the proportion of man in the cosmos.

 

TS There are also other works which persist in the sphere of the motionless, nonsense or even the absurd – time, which runs forward but does not cause any change – I am referring to works such as the Don Quixote Pact or the Prometheus Electronic, which are probably the most communicative in these terms. Chris Sharp used a witty coinage for this state of motionlessness – ‘poetic pessimism’. The first response is always accompanied with a certain kind of humour, but a question always follows – aren’t these works commenting the society in some form?

 

VF When it comes to Don Quixote Pact, many people would find allusions to the society as we are all aware that we waste much more energy than we actually consume – however, this does not stop us in doing so. (laughs) This little light-emitting diode needs a fair amount of electrical power in order to squeeze out the minimal portion of light. Of course, this work was not commenting on perpetuum mobile.

 

TS My interpretation of the title Don Quixote Pact was as follows: the tilting at windmills was supposed to be pointless and lost beforehand. In your work, a pact was established – a small, fairly visible light was lit. However, this is no indicator of any existing hope – all of it is much more humorous and probably even tragically hopeless. Despite everything, we constantly accept new pacts, even though it is clear these actions are completely absurd. In other words: consumption is much bigger than efficiency.

 

VF True. I would like to add that by definition, the battle of Don Quixote is a battle without a compromise. Despite of this I made a pact here – and this always means a certain degree of indulgence. Is it really possible to come to an agreement with Don Quixote? (laughs) I was interested in absurd turning points that bring you back to the beginning and take you to the same path again … a never-ending pendulum.

 

Visible / invisible

 

TS This comparison might seem odd to you, but I have the feeling that some of your works address similar problems than the paintings of René Magritte. I am not trying to enforce some sort of false connections, but I have to admit that this was one of my first associations in relation to the drawings of the Geo_Graphic series. Magritte’s La trahison des images (The Treachery of Images), which is often referred to using its caption Ceci n’est pas une pipe (This is not a pipe) came to mind. Your series walks in the opposite direction – although on the same path as Magritte’s ‘pipe’. By this I mean that Magritte is trying to deny the completely self-evident meaning of a visual image – the equation mark between the real pipe and the painting. When I see the image of a pipe, I say to myself ‘this is a pipe’ and herein lies the mistake. The catch of the image is much more complicated – even if we would say ‘this is only a painting of a pipe’, the shadow of a doubt would soon appear – a question if it is really only that or rather the statement trying to get close to the image. In this way we fall into the pit of endless references and denotations. But if we stop at the first catch of the work Treachery of Images – at the painting of a pipe with a caption (this is not a pipe) – we are faced with words that deny the image by stating that what you see is not really what you see. The series turns the relationship between the image and its naming upside down. What we see in front of us is a number of drawings-graphics, with the minimum number of graphic elements (dot, line, hatching), which results in the works resembling each other to a great extent. When faced with these works, I am in a way looking without seeing or at least without knowing exactly what I am seeing – I see some images, but I don’t know what they depict. The subject matter of each individual drawing becomes clear only upon reading the caption – the words affirm the looking which then slides into seeing. The thing that I was looking onto was actually a cloud and a UFO, a plane and a UFO, a roof and a UFO … The caption is no longer a negation of ‘something that should be completely obvious’, but an affirmation of something that is not yet visible – the word makes the graphic visible. The word-caption is needed in order to see. Here, I see a turn of Magritte’s structure, in which what I see is denied by the word. On the one hand this would be my interpretation of the reviews, which claim your work to be an experiment of making the invisible visible. But I think that things are not always that simple. Geo_Graphic is one of your oldest works, which is still in full swing … Over the years it seems like you have managed to create a certain alphabet of symbols – even though they get constantly turned around, blurred, or they lose their self-evident nature and visibility (for example: the pattern which presents a lake on one graphic, can depict a stone on another).

 

VF I am glad you mentioned Magritte – he is my favourite artist among the surrealists. I think what I like most about his painting is the fact that he never let go of logic, as opposed to other surrealists who are claimed to be ‘led by their dreams, imagination and the subconscious’. Margritte tries to analyse dreams, to construct or re-construct them. His ideas are very close to mine, to some kind of logic of nonsense.

 

TS I agree with you, Margritte definitely operates with logic, together with paradoxes of representation.

 

VF I am interested in the logic of nonsense and not mysticism – and in this sense, Magritte comes closer to my ideas than any other surrealist. This logic is very clearly developed through the image exploration which makes mysticism much less interesting. I am also very fond of scientific language which doesn’t explain everything – but it follows a logical development of posing questions.

 

TS I consider mysticism the weakest art instrument. I always find it problematic when I hear someone saying: ‘I’m expressing my feelings! These are my feelings, my dreams, my subconsciousness …’ I cannot get rid of the feeling that someone is obviously messing with me.

 

VF I remember this from the times of my schooling, when even some of the teachers tried to explain themselves by referring to their feelings. ‘Why? – Because it’s the way I feel.’ This was always my favourite statement. (laughs) In this case, one cannot think of any counterargument, there is absolutely no answer to it. But if we return to Magritte – I really liked the comparison of the postscript on the painting (this is not a pipe) and titles of the individual sketches from my collection.

 

TS I just turned around the sequence of the name and image.

 

VF In reality, the function is the same.

 

TS Definitely.

 

VF By function, I am referring to the issue that the visual and verbal language face when they get stuck in a vicious cycle of not being able to function without each other.

 

TS This brings to mind the thought of the French writer René Daumal who you often quote: ‘The door to the invisible must remain visible.’ The invisible becomes visible, but then it again disperses and dissipates into invisibility. Doesn’t your work involve a certain dimension of exposure (making something visible) while at the same time trying to show that in doing so we do not evade the real invisibility – that under the surface of an obvious visibility there is a certain kind of non-obvious invisibility? To put it more clearly – it is not about the invisible hiding below the layer of obvious visibility, but more about the fact that the obviousness of the visible is becoming ever more invisible and non-obvious? Doesn’t your work make the obvious somewhat unusual – not obvious anymore?

 

VF The quote originates from a legendary book Mount Analogue which was part of the Beat Generation. The story is actually quite long, but what I liked the most about it is a strong faith/belief into the existence of something – even though it is not seen at the first glance. The question is how to get to certain connections, how to enter the unknown … My door (Doorway), however, represents some kind of a twist of this story: in reality, the door doesn’t exist even though we can see it. Apart from that, the work contains an internal ambiguity as well – the door as a whole is a product of light, a light effect. Even though the door doesn’t exist, we see the light coming from its direction which is perfectly real. Again, this is about juxtaposition of two concepts: reality and illusion.

 

TS Interesting, this has never occurred to me.

 

Illusion

 

TS The shifts between visibility and invisibility add a specific dimension to your works, a dimension which could be called illusory. I am not referring to a simple deception, but to the charm of the illusory – the fascination with the illusion, with its discovering, concealing, as well as its occurrence and dissipation. In some of the works you clearly reveal the deception and ‘throw it in the face’ of the viewer, who had already presumed it beforehand – Pfaller would say that you offer an impersonal and technical answer to the question of deception. ‘You wanted to know what’s behind all of this?! There you have it!’ Some of the works clearly expose a simple technical solution – we see the illusion and its conditions, its technical solution. The proof (solution) of the illusion’s catch is problematic and non-satisfactory exactly because it was expected beforehand. The wish of the cynical viewer is backfired. He or she sees in front of him a clearly stated answer to the question of the trick of the illusion … There are no secrets, ‘no magic’! And through this ‘overly simplified’ satisfaction of the desire, by exposing the trick in a blunt and banal way, your work makes us pass through a naive place of spectacle, expectations and longing for a miracle, on the way toward a much more ambiguous questioning of our own position. Coffee & Ink, miss Christmas – both of these examples are a ‘painting’ trompe l’oeil translated into an installation. We see an image-illusion of a coffee cup or a palm tree even though we could easily touch the anonymous object, which is ‘throwing’ this unusual shadow. The viewer is enchanted with the charm of the illusion – regardless of the discrepancy between the object and the image, the in-credible ‘shadow’ and the obviousness of the projection. The non-deceived viewer believes by being enchanted. The deception itself does not occur on the account of the illusion, but on the part of the enchantment and awe of the audience. Here, a much deeper question arises – it is not so much about who will fall for the deception, but more about us as spectators being ready to overlook deception in our desire for astonishment. It is not about the effect of the object on the viewer, but rather about the viceversa. Which leads me to my next point – I feel that your work is mostly about the non-obvious nature of things. Things are not necessarily ‘as they should be’ – the fact that something appears to be a logical entity or something appropriate is merely an established image or an opinion and often more or less a matter of coincidence than indisputable necessity. In this manner we return to the ‘Magritte question’ – just as a shadow does not necessarily match the object, the surface/reflection/ apparition of the window does not match its own background.

 

VF Illusion. Again, this leads us to the problem of visibility and invisibility. In a sense, illusion leads to bringing the invisibility/ambiguity onto the surface – invisibility reaches visibility. However, when creating most of my projects I try not to create deception but rather an explanation of another state or condition. Out of this reason I never hide technology. If I take A Speedy Day as an example – as soon as I approach the window, I can see all the technology: computer, lights, projector etc. The main characteristic of illusion is definitely not the fact that it’s hidden – it’s a certain element of surprise, despite of knowing how something was created. In my works, illusion is used as a framework for understanding!

 

TS This is exactly what I was pondering regarding the difference between illusion and deception. To start with, deception is all about something being hidden so that someone is deprived of knowledge – the viewer is not supposed to know how things are formed or how a certain effect has been achieved. Illusion, on the contrary, is understood as an effect of enchantment … The moment in which the viewer knows exactly what is happening in the ‘background’ and goes with the flow of the event nonetheless. In my opinion, enchantment is a much stronger feeling than deceit.

 

VF Definitely, enchantment has a positive connotation; it is an ‘invitation’ to understanding. Deception, at best, lacks the possibility of understanding. For me, the real charm is not to hide something and by doing so deceiving the viewer, but to show how something was made. If the charm still fulfils its function, then you’re on the right track.

 

TS Enchantment gives me an insight into a certain way of approaching or inviting the visitor (to use your formulation) – your works are not meant exclusively for art experts which was often the case with high modernist works. I think your works could be as charming to a child or anyone who doesn’t know art that well … With the help of enchantment and curiosity it is much easier to enter the mindset of the artwork. However, these are only the first steps that don’t reveal much about its complexity. This is a very rough division but I always try to establish two entry directions: one of them starts with ‘I know’ and is consequently followed by ‘I see’, while the other one starts with ‘I see’ and only after that changes into ‘I know’. The first one starts with knowledge and continues with the work, while the second one derives from the work and only afterwards transforms into knowledge. Of course, this does not mean that they exclude each other. Modern art is extremely heterogeneous and very often I am in the role of an ignorant viewer … Could we say that an artwork is on the right track if it makes a certain difference and causes curiosity or thinking?

 

VF This point brings us back to the specific language of art. On the one hand, I think a certain accessible point should be enabled into the understanding, although we should not identify it with simplification and lack of complexity. On the other hand, this does not mean the understanding of art requires a certain amount of knowledge – language is similar in this case, since it is also based on knowledge: terminology understanding, development and correlations between various words and meanings … Art needs to be multifaceted and should not let itself get caught into narrow interpretations. One of the layers is definitely an open invitation to people, however, this does not mean we need to lead them by the hand and be their guru. In its core, art is not exclusive. It causes thinking and allows people to think freely, which I definitely find very important. This is why I believe in the significance of these ‘child-like’ illusion moments. By using the concept ‘childlikeness’ I aim at the openness of mind, curiosity, and wish for understanding; thus at the state which comes before self-evidence we talked about before. In a way, ignorance is the reason why the child’s mind is so creative. The whole world lies in front the eyes of a child who eagerly waits to consume all knowledge. This is the reason I have always tried to build on the illusion of something that opens the door – but still, this doesn’t mean I dedicate a lot of thought to how to make the work popular with everyone … It’s not even about guessing who will enter or not. I just want to make sure the door is open. To understand the illusion, to see the projector and the shadow is definitely not the same as to comprehend the work itself. However, it is always possible to take the first step. As an artist I can only hope someone will step further, across the borders of technical illusions.

 

TS This is why, when observing your ‘illusions’, you reveal all the cards to the viewer – we can see all the technology behind it. All of this in order for the viewer to realize that not all magic lies in the technology.

 

VF Yes, exactly. This is why one needs to search for something else, too.

 

TS The first time I asked myself a question about the role or power of illusion was at your exhibition. To rephrase the question: I was interested in the difference between enchantment/illusion (I know the ‘mechanism behind it’ but still ‘the magic’ works) and deception/scam. In form of a scheme: Enchantment/illusion: artwork <—projection— viewer Deception: artwork —invisibility—> viewer Deception means non-transparency of the mechanism – it is mainly led by misunderstanding. Enchantment, on the other hand, runs in the opposite direction and works even though we can see how something works. In other words, enchantment is in reality my projection into the work.

 

VF I am very glad we came to the word ‘enchantment’ – I see it as a fundamental step on the path to my work. Therefore, enchantment is a matter of curiosity and awe … And this is the path I would like to establish – the one leading from enchantment, curiosity to a certain form of understanding.

 

TS This is an interesting point of view, but at the same time, curiosity is something which gets lost through self-evidence – something which is self-evident is gradually becoming invisible, overseen, automatized. Curiosity is the first step towards letting self-evidence go. Air Ballon in the Cave: the majority of the so-called American blockbuster film production adapts ‘reality’ to the needs of the film industry. Sets are being built, that occupy whole city districts for the sake of the final image or a shot. It is interesting, that while the final product is often already close to science fiction, a fictional world is created, while the ‘behind the scenes’ extras show us how the set was actually put together – that it was built and not computer-edited. Fiction is the goal, reality the means. On your guided tour of the exhibition you stated that a photograph which looks edited, is an actual photograph of a hot air balloon inside the Postojna cave. What is the relationship between reality and fiction in this work?

 

VF The main question of the exhibition regarding the balloon was the question of representation – how to present the actual event in the Postojna cave on a white gallery wall. How to transform the event into ‘another body’? There was some documentation available but I didn’t want to spend too much time on it. However, I considered the actual event very important and also tried to put it on display. When I saw the pictures I realised they looked like a photomontage – hereby, the essence of the documentation was lost. They looked so unreal that the viewer simply could not believe them, which is why I tried to do an impression of the whole presentation with the help of a fictional, three-dimensional pseudo-hologram. I wanted to persuade the viewer to pose questions about why things were made that way. The falsification is so overblown and unreal so it could occur to the viewer that the event truly was recorded.

 

Contemporaneity

 

TS On your guided tour of the exhibition you stated in relation to miss Christmas something along the lines of being interested in the traditional problems of painting. This does in fact come forward in this work – the play of light, colour and shadows.

 

VF This statement was not something I dealt with on purpose – I mentioned that it refers to classical painting issues; similarly as Snow Show which refers to a stable belief that art should be unique. Anyway, this was not my remark, it was a comment of the critic who saw classical art references in my work – light, shadow and colour – even though it’s a bit contradictory to discuss separate elements. Personally I have not tried to paraphrase classical art, I haven’t even given it any thought. However, I thought it was nice that others see it that way – as a sublimation of classical painting. Imitation of nature is connected with the palm tree shade, the use of light and shadow accounts for the projection/ projector and the third element, colour, is literally represented by a jug of paint on the floor. (laughs)

 

TS The technology you use for your artwork is selected carefully, but also quite freely, the devices are never state of the art – it is not trying to be sophisticated, up-to-date or even concealed. The technological ‘machine’ is on view. Is this point of view also a thought or a statement about contemporaneity and the past? Can something that derives from the past be contemporary as well?

 

VF Definitely. Above all, contemporaneity should be seen as a functioning mechanism which is at the same time still problematic and ambiguous. One has to avoid connecting contemporaneity with a style label. The same issue is looking at art through a glass of technology and material which in fact don’t have not much in common with it. First and foremost, art is a way of thinking; an open way of thinking probably falls into the category of contemporaneity. This is a reason why even a work from the past can still be considered contemporary.

 

Humor

 

TS With visual art, which never lacks in seriousness, a critical view and a touch of drama, I mostly miss humour. Humour can be connected to a certain share of naiveness and lightness, but at the same time it also involves a critical distance towards one’s own utterance and the unusual power of subversion of even the most somber thoughts. In many cases, lightness is only the first impression of humour and I believe, that your work is no exception here. Any particular thoughts on humour?

 

VF I think the answer lies in the question itself. (laughs)

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