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Aleksandar Garbin

“Dysfunctions and Extensions”

Rovinj Heritage Museum, Trg m. Tita 11, Rovinj (Great Gallery, 1st floor)
05 June 2018 - 06 July 2018


The early stages of Aleksandar Garbin's oeuvre were characterised by the paradigm of cartographic iconography. It was a completely flawed interpretation of his artistic work which thwarted a more complex consideration and understanding of his contemporary and subsequent production. In fact, owing to these superficial interpretations, his projects entitled GFP were perceived as exchanges or occupation of territories of various countries. Simplistically put, this is what they are, so they were categorized as contemporary art involved with cartographic motifs right from the beginning. However, Garbin’s long-standing artistic consistency proves that such interpretation of his work was uncritical.

His neo-conceptual and postmodern practice is rooted in substantial reductionism of his figurative expression. Regardless of whether it is sculpture (for Garbin is a graduate sculptor), drawing or painting, the artist strives towards a maximal simplification of his works encompassing all segments, right from the making to the selected motif of a piece of art. This type of expression raises the question of whether it is part of stylistics typical of contemporary art or else, is it a function of the expression itself? The thing he wants to express!? Obviously, a work of art consists of both stylistics and expression, but the latter prevails.

The stylistic performance reveals high-level skills and ability of Garbin’s expressiveness. The author uses some utterly simple techniques of expression characteristic of the legacy of Dada, surrealism, arte povera and a myriad of their possible interpretations in recent art production. These are usually simple materials whose rawness and banality are seamlessly transformed into a special, almost esoteric object. Occasionally, it is about found, ready-made and already used objects, sometimes plain, simple geometrical or abstract two-dimensional or three-dimensional forms. Some of his works include a stone picked up in the streets, a carrier bag, a battery... as special, finished works, alongside the circle, the line, the stain, even the most ordinary trace or the barely discernible fingerprint.

Reduced figurativeness is where Garbin is trying to be clear and comprehensible. In fact, so simple that some segments see him blend into the naïve boyish nature believing the presented work to be self-evident. Since these are ready-made objects or drawn, painted shapes, they possess their predetermined, inherited meaning. It is what makes them special, easily recognizable. They are part of comprehensible language with unambiguous meanings. Yet, each of these objects or shapes is assessed in order to figure out, recognise and understand its hidden significance, for it is there.

Indeed, the assessment takes us back to the beginnings of Garbin’s artistic production. To the haplessly chosen paradigm of cartographic iconography. The time when the artist used to emphasize that his project meant reaching out for parts of particular spaces. The reaching out that implied exchange, because things or substances are surrounded (like countries) by borders. There is a space surrounded by the identical non-space, or, as Garbin calls it, “Area Neutra”, claiming that it is the place where something is happening action! Through an exchange of place or relocation of an object from one point to another, we make room and occupy the surface the body physically or symbolically possesses.

The exchange or relocation from one place to another is not merely and banally literal. In this segment, we touch on the elements of word completion and meanings taken over from surrealism. The absurd relationship of language and the object in which language gives meaning by means of naming. René Magritte’s “Ceci n'est pas une Pipe” questions the truthfulness of the physical object, his image and the word that names the object. Not for Garbin, no! His sculptures created with ready-made objects and his paintings remain what they are. Regardless of whether it is part of the territory of a country transferred into another country via exchange or else, whether it is the object itself. It keeps the truthfulness of its meaning. The bird’s nest which Garbin found on the ground remains a nest, although it has become dysfunctional. It has been turned into an art object, stored into carton packaging and exhibited in a gallery. Or else, an paper bag turned inside out or a bag within a bag…

Dysfunction occurs the moment when a balanced relationship of the border of “Aura Neutra” is disrupted in a material object, painting or word. The imbalance of space and non-space, their border, becomes the place where action takes place, the place where the unfolding action has shifted from function to dysfunction. The place of simultaneous existence, the separating bordering spaces, their interspace. Garbin uses the disrupted balance or dysfunction to underline the correlation of the opposing forces, their attraction and repulsion. The forces that are invisible, yet existing and overlapping. Without these forces, there would be no material world we live in, the world beginning in an Atom.

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As previously mentioned, in creating his art, Garbin uses all contemporary techniques and expressions characteristic of painting and sculpture. However, he uses video too. Despite the fact that sculptures made using the basic ready-made technique, i.e. real objects with prominent functional and dysfunctional features are central to his opus, these features are accentuated by means other expressions as well. His video entitled “Countdown” shows (only) legs walking across the parking lot. This piece also emphasises Garbin’s expression reduced to minimalism, the elementary parts. Step by step, legs walk across the parking lot striping. Municipal service monitoring officers wrote numbers next to the striping. Legs walk from the highest to the lowest number, although the aim of walking is not counting, it is what is actually is! Counting, like space shuttle launch countdown, from a randomly chosen high number, to the smallest prime number one. By so doing, walking does not end with number one, it keeps going, because, just like space shuttle launch, this is when the real movement actually begins.

The second video work entitled "With left and right hand” underlines the feature of widening. While walking along the fence, the artist holds a flute in his hand and passes it against the fence. The fence is made of bars set at regular and equal intervals. The fence bars (and all other obstacles and items set in the fence) determine the rhythm of the sound of the flute which does not produce the sound in its usual way, as a woodwind instrument, but by its mere moving against the fence. By the same token, the fence, which is not a musical instrument, determines the rhythm with the arrangement of its bars. If we used the flute in its primary function and only blew into it, we would get only a uniform sound and no rhythm. When the artist sees through and anticipates their mysterious and invisible extension, both of these objects turn into a perfect musical instrument. In fact, so perfect that the player can perform his composition without notes and without mastering the skill of playing, by mere walking and shifting the instrument from the left to the right hand, again and again.

The overlapping, invisible forces of material objects of our and Garbin’s world somehow emerge in the object itself. Garbin expresses and extracts these invisible phenomena making them visible through his artistic method. On the one hand, it is an act, an activity that decides to shift or turn the object over, and on the other hand, the physical transformation of the object by caricaturing its basic form. The shifting and overturning function or caricaturing the external manifestation (appearance) of the object, its basic meaning, state and form is in service of the visual expression. The phenomena and characteristics of the material world dug deep in the invisible world of mysterious forces, reachable only by the mental process, are transformed into visible ones.

The invisible can be imagined, and the imagined can be expressed and showed by means of artistic activity, provided that there is a special mental attitude. For Garbin, the special mental attitude borders the simple children’s game of producing sounds by sliding a stick against the fence or walking within bordered fields, isn’t this something we all used to do when we were children? On the other hand, even this special mental attitude belongs to the invisible world of mysterious forces which elevate their informant to the position of predictor. Garbin’s works simply emphasise the paradox of objectlessness through functional and dysfunctional activities and extensions of objects. The paradox of deep and thoughtful actions which equate the substantial objects of our world with unknown sensual experiences. The exhibited works describe the artist’s observation of his own psychological processes – introspection converted to the magical ability of transformation of the material world into the previously imagined reality.

Dario Sošić

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