Friday, February 27, 2015

Landscape vs. Manscape

This month, Good Children Gallery brings the visitor on a journey of a sort with The Horizon Tries, the latest exhibition curated by Lala Raščić. The multimedia show includes Raščić's works, a video from the Croatian collective Fokus Grupa, and a piece from Lana Čmajčanin. The theme, a reflection on landscapes, ultimately becomes an attempt to answer the question: "When we look at landscape do we see culture or nature?".
Going back in time, the visit can start in the far room, where a few items related to Elysée Reclus, the nineteenth century French geographer, anarchist, writer, are displayed in a glass case, including a facsimile of his obituary, books and a bottle of wine from the Cuvée bearing his name. This is a great introduction to the video No Country Other Than Liberty, 2013, from Raščić, featuring the artist on the right side of the screen, reading excerpts from Reclus's writings while images of industrial landscapes shot along the Mississippi River go by on the left. In a sobering note, the ominous comments made by Reclus in the 1850's are more than ever relevant to today's world. A gouache rendition of a Google earth view of the plantation where Reclus stayed during his trip in Louisiana completes the display.
In the front room, The Horizon Tries, 2014, gouache, glass and gold paint, also the title to the exhibition, is hung next to Into the Dusk Charged Air, 2014, a reverse painting on glass featuring a white web made of all the rivers mentioned in a poem from John Ashbery.
Across these two works, gouache paintings inspired by views from Google maps evoke abstract landscapes. For  Geometry of Time, 2014, Čmajčanin superimposes maps of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Roman time till the Dayton Agreement (1995). The black fuzzy contours represent a picture of old countries redesigned over the centuries at the whim of bureaucracies following wars. The resulting scribble summarizes centuries of history in one shot.  Next on a table, a series of five works from Raščić, gold painted words on layered pieces of glass, can be viewed as one installation under the glare of a single spotlight, the powerful association of words echoing in space and time: "Geometry of Exploitation", "Perseverance of Landscape", "Nature, Culture, Landscape, Manscape", ... Through a succession of views from natural parks, the fifteen minutes video There Aren`t Words for What We Do or How We Feel so We Have to Make Them Up, 2012, from Fokus Grupa, is an invitation to think about the relationship between landscape and culture, "exploring the notion of the ‘national essence’".  Looking at the succession of mountains, valleys, rivers becomes an aesthetic experience on its own.
The stunning landscapes could conclude the visit, but the well curated exhibition brings up lingering  thoughts. The dichotomy between "Old Europe" and "New World" could weaken the impact of some works when presented to the audience in New Orleans, however the bigger debate brought up by the exhibition is related to our relationship with nature, a subject binding continents and countries regardless of their history. As stated by the narrator in the video No Country Other Than Liberty "injuries to the natural world are injuries to humanity itself".

photographs by the author

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