Nina Kamenjarin: Absent

Vladimir: He didn’t say for sure he’d come.

Estragon: And if he doesn’t come?

Vladimir: We’ll come back tomorrow.

Estragon: And then the day after tomorrow.

Vladimir: Possibly.

Estragon: And so on.

Vladimir: The point is –

Estragon: Until he comes.

Vladimir: You are merciless.

Estragon: We came here yesterday.

Vladimir: Ah no, there you’re mistaken.

Speaking of a pointless waste of time and the futility of waiting for better opportunities to just fall from the sky, writer Samuel Beckett creates an abstract and imaginary character of Godot, the main protagonist who never appears on stage. Consequently, time is indeterminate and the drama ends no different than it began. Nina Kamenjarin’s recent installation is created along similar lines as Beckett’s play.

Segments of the multimedia, ambient installation Absent, symbolize steps in the process of creating a work of art. The vessel of clay represents preparation that precedes artistic production. Throwing clay objects against the wall signifies artistic production itself. Wet, earthen objects on the wall are the product of creation, while imprints and broken pieces of clay on paper, placed on the floor under the wall against which clay has previously been thrown, are a kind of documentation of the process. The ejection, recorded on video, is accompanied only by hints of the artist’s presence: a collateral sigh and the appearance of a hand that witnesses the artist’s dislocation to the background. The continuous loop recording of the process of creation leads to an absurdity of Beckett’s proportions, particularly highlighted by the fact that the “image” disappears with the drying of clay. Production thus becomes futile. The audio segment of the work creates a dull and penetrating sound of damp clay smashing against the wall. The whole production is quick and restrained, and is completed with the symbolic return of clay to the “earth”, from where it was taken.

Despite her physical absence and emotional distance, Kamenjarin like Beckett’s Godot, continues to exist in the form of the action’s prime mover, the aesthetics of which is undoubtedly self-referential. By immersing herself into art and the creative process, which she sees as a contemplative and therapeutic act, the artist is trying to overcome experienced traumas, but she cannot escape them there either, they catch up with her and become part of her creative process. For Kamenjarin, art ceases to be an escape from reality and instead becomes its reflection. The state of the artist’s emotional absence is driven by her disappointment in the social processes that invariably stand behind artistic activity, often pushing art into the background.

Kamenjarin remains in line with performance art, but she deprives it of literalness – of the body and its temporality, producing the work that does not proceed within a time frame and is not tied to it. In so doing, she exploits the multidisciplinary character of contemporary art and shows that her imagination easily transcends the medium in which it is affirmed, and engages it in complex relationships and hybrid ambient projects.

In the late 1960s, philosophers Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault promoted a literary theory that interpreted the absence of the author as a phenomenon that marks the end of an omniscient and mystified artist, who had sovereignty over and was impossible to separate from his own work. The accent of the exhibition is on creating the specific ambience that would mediate, in a metaphorical and indirect way, an occasional impotence of the individual (artist) in relation to society and his assigned role in it. The aforementioned work does not signify turning away from performance but a desire to continue to experiment with the performative form, combining it with sculpture, as well as looking back to our own beginnings, which is occasionally needed in order to summarize previous work and dissuasive self-referentiality.

Ana Čukušić