Tonči Vladislavić: Situation of absence, 2019

Maja Gecić, exhibition, Baza, Zagreb, 2019

Situation of absence

Tonči Vladislavić


 From Greek mnemonics all the way to Proust, a clue, a detail, or a suggestive synecdoche  has always served to encode memory.

Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia,

Basic Books, 2001.


     Manifestations and traces of dynamic social changes in visual and cultural reality are read, interpreted, maintained and transmitted differently, mainly as fragments of memories connected by individual or collective patterns. But these transmissions are also dynamic, changeable, and subject to new constructions of concrete narrative. Examinations of memory therefore seek to re-examine, balance, and contextualize by which a particular  synecdoche emerges as pars pro toto, a case study that seeks to capture a multi-layered image of the distant past and its reflections in a new situation. It is the creation of a situation, by which the transfers of memories of absent and missing productions are placed in a new context, that makes it possible to make a new, re-constructed picture visible.

     With this exhibition, Maja Gecić also creates a situation where she puts together several mutually related works that she researches and artistically deals with in her work through several case studies. In a similar vein, it questions the traces of relatively recent history marked by the changing social and production model of the former Yugoslavia, continued by transitional processes of change and gradual disappearance, and case studies related to the once strong and now almost non-existent textile industry. As an artist, she developed a specific apparatus for researching and documenting the disappearance of the Belgrade Wool Factory (BVK), a giant of socialist modernist production. Since 2014, it includes its own "forensic" apparatus (photographic documentation, conversations with the protagonists of the former production), to establish and put in one place reflections of a past and finished state and create a kind of amalgam of image and text as cohesive elements and the newly created situation.

     In her work In memoriam (2014), the author printed photos of the remains of an abandoned loom and spinning mill of the BVK plant on three authentic men's ready-made suits (Beko, Kluz), where the absence is obvious, only a manifestation of the eternal mark as proof of the sealing of a historical section. The name itself (In memoriam) represents a kind of Memento mori, as consent to the only possible method, the method of remembrance.

     Using ready-made garments of clear historical genealogy, she re-constructs and puts together contextual elements into a concise situation of a new semantic construction. With her lens, audio-video and recorded textual quotations, she manages to record and measure different wavelengths of memory that, as an echo, build a new, uncomfortable composition of the subject's absence. Collecting garments, as documents / relics of a distant everyday production practice, she measures the mechanisms of transfer of selective memory, its manifestations in the individual rhetorical transformation / traumatic, whose totality forms a collective post / traumatic narrative. Thus, her work Klupko (2016) is made up of donated authentic clothing items of once famous, socially present clothing brands (Beko, Kluz, Yumco) is a complex, layered, intricate plastic object that expands centrifugally in the gallery space leaving a disproportionate amount of free space . This sheer amount of intertwined garments of clear origin is not a sum but a multiplication of individual personal stories gathered into a heavy pile of individual memories. Artist Christian Boltanski, questioning traumatic memories, exhibited a pile of about 10 tons of garments called Personnes at an exhibition at the Granda Palais (Paris, 2010) to highlight how thousands of garments together radicalize the sensation of absence, ie the evident disappearance of the subject. There are no real protagonists, their clothes only record that they used to be there. Maja Gecić reinforces this recorded trauma of absence with an audio-video recording called Kombinat (2016), in which the interlocutors are retired workers and BVK workers who were employed from 1960-90. Presented as printed quotes from conversations, as torn sentences,  these isolated records represent a kind of forensic material and emphasize the permanent absence of the protagonist.

     Maja Gecić is deeply imbued with the experience of investigating the disappearance of a highly productive textile industry and BVK as a symbol of the disappearance of an important social and productive narrative. Bringing before us authentic works of textile production, documentation, quotations and printed photography (on suits), she establishes a suggestive re-construction of the absent context affirming the method of creating a situation, not as a "simulation" of the past, but as a possibility of creating a new narrative in new situation.


* Photos: Ive Trojanovic

* The text was published in the catalog on the occasion of the exhibition of Maja Gecić, BLOK Gallery, Zagreb. The exhibition is part of the BoSA project - Briefing on Soft Arts, which is a permanent project of the CIMO center started in 2019.

* The exhibition was supported by: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, City Office for Culture of the City of Zagreb  for 2019 ,  and BLOK Gallery

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