Exhibition: Tajči Čekada – Plant Life in Croatian Public Institutions

Tajči Čekada
PLANT LIFE IN CROATIAN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS
PM Gallery
July 5 – 15, 2018

 

 

PLANT LIFE IN CROATIAN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS solo exhibition of multimedia artist Tajči Čekada opens on Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 8pm at the PM Gallery of the Home of the Croatian Association of Artists.


Yes…these plants in public institutions, or to simply call them “office plants“, also reminded me of socialist times, which is something Tajči Čekada incidentally mentioned, before she could know how I was going to present her latest series of photographs. Of socialist times, not because such plants were necessarily inherent in these spaces at the time, but rather as a remembrance of the lived time and space – had we lived in the United States we would probably, by referring to the similar aesthetics, speak about the 50s, 60s, 70s…But nevertheless, why did both the artist and I have the same impression of the plant life in Croatian public institutions? Since it has been provoked by capturing/viewing (photographs), I will remind of the distinction in the ways of seeing proposed by Hal Foster: one is physical, the other social and historical, i.e. psycho-physically conditioned. There are many differences, states Hal, among how we see, how we are able, allowed, or made to see, and how we see the seeing or the unseen therein. Observing the plant life…thus presupposes both the experiential and cultural memory, interference of personal and public heritage in constructing reality (or truthfulness) of the photographic image.    

Tajči Čekada has captured spaces devoid of human presence, frames capture the moment before employees or users enter it. However, the position of the artist behind the camera is the position of an observer, in a certain way we are there, present. Photographic images “document“ the spaces directly, from the central viewpoint and without the manipulation of light and shadow. These frames, and maybe even more so the familiarity with the local urban condition, suggest that these spaces might be the examples of classicist, Art Nouveau, modern, and, of course, architecture of the post-war period. I believe there is no contemporary architecture, nothing is being built, the state and society recycle the existing constructions, there is no impulse of novelty, it got eaten by transition. If this were not the case, this interior flora would also be seen and experienced in a fresher context, it would get a different, designer framework so to speak, not necessarily a truly satisfying one, but at least the optimism of the new could be criticized from a different perspective. This way it irresistibly reminds us of the past. The premises of the institutions, and their plants, have been the same for decades, refreshed every now and then, and then, yet again, wrapped in a recognizable patina of hospital, library or school scents, adrenaline sweat of the youth and stale scent of hospital pyjamas, penicillin, yellowed paper. Thinned stone and squeaky parquet floors are polished to exhaustion, we can also see tile and linoleum flooring. It is almost unnecessary to point out that the types of plants are also more or less the same, there is no “new“ exotic; specimens that would arrive from some false tropics in line with neoliberal agricultural policies. Philodendrons, dracaenas, Ficus trees, dieffenbachias, tradescantias, snake plants, peep out of boxes filled with soil. Some are cared for, some left to rot, there are the modest ones and adaptable ones, and the ones that suffer because they cannot catch the much-needed sunlight, some are killed by the heat, other by the cold, the lack of a loving green thumb. Planters in which nothing sprouts are used as a trashcan.   

If we leave aside this descriptive and associative interjection about plants and their environment, about the lack of new construction or comprehensive modernization of the premises – and make no mistake about this, the evoked socialism also forcibly intervened into many of them; it brought dispensaries and offices into palaces and civic apartments – what kind of remembrance, memory and nostalgia are we talking about then? The characteristic of reflective nostalgia, according to Svetlana Boym, is that it can awaken multiple planes of consciousness. And in this connection, culture is not a foreign, but an integral part of human nature. Culture provides a context in which relationships are not established exclusively through continuity, but also closeness, unquenchable desire for some other time, especially childhood and slower pace of our dreams, writes Boym. So, having in mind both the individual and collective nostalgia – not to be confused with the restorative and ideological one, of negative charge – but also deviating from it, from the fact that we are indisputably marked by the past, what else imposes itself in interpreting the photographic images of the plant life in Croatian public institutions? What does, for example, the title of the series tell us? I am prone to interpret it as the representation of the world in Croatian public institutions, a kind of mirror of society. Which is in this case both metaphorically and literally condensed in the representation of the plant life. This motif of flora around which a very suggestive series of photographs is being constructed is not a coincidence, it is a part of the artist’s visual itinerary and stems from her ongoing preoccupation with the relationship between man and nature – like in her fashion collections and performances where she dives into imaginary forests – and, on the other hand, with the relationship of man to nature, thus she says: “It is high time to restore the natural rights of everyone, for the man to understand that he is not more important than a dormouse, carnation, boar or a dog.“ When, thus, in the photographic images of the plant life…I recognize her preoccupation with the state of society, I primarily refer to the artist’s reflection on the relationship between man and all living and nonliving things in the context of social reality and its policies, which are not at all receptive. As Roland Barthes says, photography began historically as an art of the Person: of identity, of civil status, of what we might call, in all senses of the term, the body’s formality. Along these lines, are we not witnessing Tajči Čekada’s attempt to persuade us to reaffirm the right to this formality of each captured and observed plant?             

Ružica Šimunović

Tajči Čekada – biography

 

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