3.08-26.08.2017
Živa Božičnik Rebec
Topical Applications

Call M for Make-Up

Once upon a time there was chronology, yet it – through this very same “once upon a time” – perseveres. Chronologically speaking, the term “application” used to refer mainly to the application of a layer. Like application of paint for example, once upon a time there was painting. Or the application of lipstick or powder, once upon a time there was Baudelaire, but not only once. Baudelaire, or the Painter of modern life, who is supposed to have initiated modern art (threshold phenomena always need mascots of their own). Better to call it modern than contemporary, in order to emphasize the modishness in modernity, the hype in hyperstition. Or in the words of Baudrillard: “Faced with the threat to art by merchant, vulgar, capitalist, advertising society, with new objectification in terms of market value, Baudelaire opposes them from the start with objectification instead of a defence of the traditional status of the work of art.” Objectification? Abstraction, more like. Baudelaire already envisions the made-up face as an abstraction, helping himself with a metaphor of a statue: “To limit ourselves to what in our day is commonly called make-up, who can fail to see that the use of rice powder, so fatuously anathematized by innocent philosophers, has as its purpose and result to hide all the blemishes that nature has so outrageously scattered over the complexion, and to create an abstract unity of texture and colour in the skin, which unity … immediately approximates the human being to a statue, in other words to a divine or superior being?” It is at least since Pygmalion’s Galatea, the ivory-statue-come-to-life, that the most beautiful women in the world share more or less the same formation. In our time, Baudelaire speaks of the android or the phantom flesh-tech, a.k.a. videoflesh, or the liberal-universalist-globalist drone, and certainly of Angelina Jolie. At the NYC premiere of a TV film The Normal Heart (sic), a mysterious white stain appeared on the photographs of her forehead, cheek, chin and cleavage. This was not a case of yet another pre-emptive measure, on par with her mastectomy – somehow analogous to the changing of a broken iPhone screen, but a wholly different matter. As Jess Lacey, Marie Claire’s beauty features editor, explained: “The powders used for moving image photography are impressive formulas that bounce light off the skin, making it appear flawless in hi-definition. Great for movies – but have a camera flash in her face and all the pigment particles reflect like tiny mirrors off her face, appearing like she’s been attacked by a cloud of talc.” If Walter Benjamin speaks of how the nature that opens to the camera (and is thereby constituted by it), is different from the nature that opens to the eye, then here one could say that the nature that opens to the moving image camera is different from the nature that opens to the flash-equipped still image camera. But what could the nature of such natures be? The film director Robert Bresson, who was still placing an anthropo-intermediary – albeit a mechanized one – between God and the marionette, and whom the installation PVC WALL (which should be subtitled as “the ether blows where it wishes”) somehow invokes, would hear the conversation between the two apparatuses as follows: “How extraordinary, is it not, that a man should be a man!” But doesn’t it today sound more like this: how extraordinary, is it not, that nature should be a device. Or should one say an appliance?

Once upon a time there was the 20th century, when a blood stain was still the paradigm of horror, and within it there was Benjamin’s One-Way Street:

  1. a) What, in the end, makes advertisements so superior to criticism? Not what the moving red neon sign says – but the fiery pool reflecting it in the asphalt.
  2. b) The expressions of people moving about a picture-gallery show ill-concealed disappointment that only pictures hang there.
  3. c) The soulless luxuriance of the furnishings becomes true comfort only in the presence of a dead body.

Baudelaire’s floweriness of evil and Benjamin’s Arcades Project continue De Quincey’s thread of murder as one of the fine arts, but also of art as a self-perfecting crime. Živa Božičnik Rebec seems to refer to exactly such a forensic tradition of art. Did someone say “tradition”? At the periphery – in spite of globalizaton, and the fragmentation which is supposed to come next – metamorphoses can only be alluded to, or be conjured up via metaphors. The metamorphoses of polyurethane, for example – the material the GLOVES T25 gloves are made of, and which look like they had fallen out of the briefcase of a forensic expert-serial killer a.k.a. Dexter a.k.a. phenomenological alien, as David John Roden would put it. Polyurethane was first produced by Otto Bayer and coworkers at IG Farben in 1937, and can be “as hard as glass fiber, as compressible as foam, as bouncy as rubber, as sticky as glue and offer protection as a varnish … it is used in a broad spectrum of products, from toys to airplane wings.” Metaphors as détournements of certain locally dominant – and hence topical terms, such as the psychoanalytic concept of the stain, from Holbein’s loaf-skull to the tiny dot in the sky, a.k.a. a non-dusting plane in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. A stain that is not removed, but which removes, and fills the picture. TAPE SOUND, where one can hear the sound of an adhesive tape being removed from plastic, supplements the former slogan of the Slovenian Philharmonic orchestra (which is brilliant to the exact extent, that its bourgeois exhibitionism is false): »Nothing to see« … and no one to hear. The reversal lies precisely in the fact that now the human is the stain, yet no longer a stain that would shake up the real, but merely an allegedly obstinate stain from a detergent commercial, one which could easily be removed even by the – for the sake of comparison – perennially disparaged, belittled regular powder, which is supposedly antecedent to the advertised product, but probably never even existed. Call M for Memento mori. Or rather: Call M for Minority Report. As Brecht would be inclined to say (ample pathos notwithstanding): What is a murder compared to predictive policing? A murder might kill a man, but predictive policing removes him from the picture, disassembles and assembles him into infra- and supra-subjective. Gone from Holbein’s Ambassadors, are both the skull and the ambassadors. According to Božičnik Rebec, all that remains are prints, yet even these are stuck with a somewhat ambivalent status: for the most part, they remind one of Philip Henry Goss, who attempted to reconcile the deep time of over four billion years with the short breath of biblical time, claiming the fossiles to be a simulacrum contrived in a way to appear older than 6000 years. Borges supplements this with Bertrand Russell’s speculation, that the world came into being a few minutes ago, and memories of an illusory past were implanted in us. The perfect crime. So that’s what androids dream of.

Marko Bauer

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Živa Božičnik Rebec graduated 2014 from Academy of Fine Arts and Design Ljubljana in Department of Glass and Ceramics, specialization Glass. She is currently completing studies of MA Sculpture at the mentioned above faculty. She is also active at studio collective KCŠ (Kreativna cona Šiška) in Ljubljana. She had various exhibitions in homeland and abroad. Latest exhibitions are Next of Skin (City hall Ljubljana, 2017), Personal (Škuc, Ljubljana 2016), cultural event Surface//Resistance (Cmurek, 2015), international exhibition venue Fashion/Art Toronto (Canada, 2014). Her works were presented in publications as Europian Glass Context (showcase of project 7/70 and Transience of Human, 2012); Tribuna (published photo of project Bleeder, 2014); Praznine (published project Negativ, 2015) etc.

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Curator: Anja Zver

Documentation of the exhibition: https://topicalapplications.tumblr.com

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Many thanks to our supporters:

ALPIN s.p.