Directed, written and narrated by: Tanja Deman
Production: Kreativni sindikat
4k and HD video │ 25' │ sound │ colour │ 2020

Horizon of Expectations

The horizon, according to conventional wisdom, represents the physical line beyond which lies the expanse of the “great unknown”. For seafarers, who were guided by the idea that the Earth is round, and who have since the mid-15th century been discovering and colonizing the world for the West, it represented a constantly receding boundary that promised rich unspoiled worlds. For those who believe the Earth is flat, the horizon represents the end followed by a precipitous fall into nothingness. For astronomers, the event horizon is a dividing line where, after falling into a Black hole, physical laws that define our known space-time continuum, cease to exist. For us Dalmatians, including Tanja Deman, who are blessed with a coastline adorned with strings of islands, the horizon represents an encounter with infinity towards which one must travel. To encounter it, Tanja Deman travelled to the craggy islet of Palagruža, the furthermost solid point in our territorial waters, which like some archetypal stone ship occupies in our consciousness the mythical position of Ultima Thule, the last foothold at the edge of the known world.

Indeed, this is what the introductory sequences of Deman’s new film “Horizon” bring forth. Shot with a static camera from atop the Palagruža towards infinity, edited in a tranquil meditative rhythm, the frames show empty expanses of the sea and the sky high above, with nothing between the viewer and the horizon. It is the return to a primordial period when nothing in the world existed but bodies of water, the sky and the fascinating atmospheric phenomena, and their interaction as these mutable surfaces kept changing. Judging by Tanja Deman’s footage, all atmospheric and cosmic events appear like wonders of beauty: dawn and dusk, twisters, cumuli and traces of wind on the surface of the sea in a world where harmony slowly overwhelms the viewer. The first trace of human presence is the scene with a complex structure of the lighthouse light, which announces, in the infinite darkness, man’s comforting existence and a system that promises, with its mathematical precision, security in an unpredictable world of natural elements. Or?

The next frames show the empty lighthouse interior that seems as if it has been abandoned. The artist’s interest gradually turns from the open sea to the island. From the rugged contours of the modest Palagruža archipelago, the camera gradually plunges into its interior, among the piles of rubbish in the fissured rocks and on the shores of lovely bays. If emptied architecture represents the objectification of the human disposition, then the debris of all inorganic things in this solitary place is the ultimate consequence of our spiritual vacuity. Everything the wind blows away, the sea washes away, that falls out of our hands or man simply throws away into the world around him, sooner or later reaches its end, since there is nothing on this earth that is infinite, except illusion.

Tanja Deman has dealt with ecological themes in all her previous, mostly photographic works. In the constant friction between man and nature, he proves to be utterly superfluous, even ridiculous in his anthropocentric manifestations, but his actions are not less harmful. Still, Deman is an optimist. At the end of “Horizon” we return to frames of unadulterated exuberance for the fictional infinity of natural elements, in fact, the only aspect of infinity given to us without lifting our eyes upon the firmament. Her procedure is based equally on an aesthetic figure of the clash between the majestic, eternal nature and the transitory human being that we recognize from the magnificent landscape compositions of the Romantic period onwards, and on the large documentary frame that characterizes the engaged reportage rhetoric and finally on sublime surreal sequences of the interior that suggest the universal spiritual condition. Anyone familiar with the production logic of film art knows how thankless, in terms of the result, it is to be limited by available shooting time at the chosen location. With artists, such as Tanja Deman, who have set a high bar of aesthetic sophistication, the solution lies in the precisely set aesthetic component of the work. In all these respects, “Horizon” fulfilled our expectations, filled our eyes with beauty, hearts with hope, minds with awareness of the precious balance of the world whose limits are not sufficiently far removed to be ignored by our arrogant neglect. There is no further, no more, no second chance. We have reached the end.

Branko Franceschi

Tanja Deman is a visual artist working in the medium of photography, film and public art. She was born in Split, Croatia. She obtained a BFA (hons) and MFA (hons) in Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb. Her work has been exhibited in a large number of exhibitions including, 15th Venice Biennial of Architecture, National Croatian Pavilion / Kunstmuseum Bonn / Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb / Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka / Fotogalerie Wien, Vienna / Central House of Artists, Moscow / MUNTREF Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires / TENT, Rotterdam / Unseen, Amsterdam / International Film Festival Rotterdam / Galerie Reflex, Amsterdam / Museum of African Design, Johannesburg. Among others, she had solo exhibitions in Gallery Dulčić Masle Pulitika and Atelier Pulitika of the Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik / Witzenhausen Gallery, Amsterdam / CCA Galleries International, Jersey / Gallery MKC Split / Museo Revoltella, Trieste. She was artist in residence in Archisle, Jersey / Nirox Fondation in Johannesburg / KulturKontakt Austria in Vienna / Atelierhaus Salzamt in Linz / Kunstlerhaus Saarbrucken and Oberfalzer Kunstlerhaus in Germany. She received several awards for her work, including Archisle International Photographer in Residence Award, Jersey / New Fragments 5 Award / Audience Award at T-HT Award / Award of Academy of Fine Arts / Rector's Award and she was a Radoslav Putar Award finalist. Many of her works are part of public and private art collections.