Žiga Kariž’s paintings are founded on reflection of certain images from cult films Shaft, Shaft’s Big Score!, Taxi Driver and The Warriors, produced in New York in the seventies. The films are his reference and poetic reconstruction in which all elements of the artistic address intermingle. The Fine art, content and social impact of the films, present an artistic ideal for Kariž.

The installation the paintings in the gallery demanded the construction of the specific space so that eventually a space within space was created. The disposition of paintings, the TV monitor and photo wallpaper disclose the status of a scheme or key which helps us untangle artistic address. Photo wallpaper of the sequoia forest is set on the front wall, directed towards the entrance. The monitor, on which the films are shown, is placed in the centre of the wallpaper. A copy of Mondrian’s abstract painting of New York, which Kariž set up as a scheme at the bus stations in the city, hangs at the side of the monitor. Numbered fluorescent lines, which lead literally from the monitor, and the schemes/pictures lead to painted canvases on which scenes from different films can be seen and are easily recognised.

It is a construction of psychosocial mental place which is allegorically condensed in the gallery. As if somebody built a home, a house in the middle of the sequoia forest and TV was the only link with the outside (outer-forest) world. Images of a hysterical and urban environment, which would invade the representational universe, would be the only theme which the dweller of the house is willing to reflect upon. From artificial simulation, which was constructed in isolation, pictures or abstracts of a fascinating other, which the dweller of the house hangs on the wall like pin-up posters, are produced.

That’s what the exhibition is about. Kariž metaphorically intermingled a group of American clichés in such a way that they seem to be the complex parallel world – the world of emptied and collective phantasms which rely on the lowest common denominator of social sanity ruled by street common sense. Such construct is the simulacrum which presents satisfactory grounds and support for an isolated savage to assume that his decision for woods is legitimate, just as it is for an orthodox painter a legitimate decision that there is wilderness beyond the academy of fine arts. Yet Kariž consciously reduced the artistic paradise to a mere decorative function and if paintings were made from less sensitive material, truck drivers would anxiously stick them in their cabins. Instead of naked beauties, the void into which a bachelor’s libido pours could be filled with erotic images of a big city. Pictures function as clippings from newspapers which people cut and stick on walls, either to constantly watch the beloved ones or to mark the operative territory and thus introduce bird law in the micro social environment.

Such reflection of film scenes are familiar to us from times when they drew certain scenes from films on big formats which hung in front of cinemas rather than big (jumbo) printed posters which are used nowadays for advertising celebrated films. Portraits of cult personalities (politicians) and scenographic background of regime manifestations have, together with billboards, anticipated genre which was produced by unemployed painters or academic students. There were paintings-illustrations with a limited date of use and customers threw them away after they had expired. Only few canvases, which regained the sentimental value after certain time when staged (copied) events transformed into a mixture of nostalgic emotions, were preserved from time to time Firstly, the pictures functioned as reminders which alert one to certain events (a film, festival, performance …), however, when it is no longer valid, the same reminder is ascribed the function which reminds one more of a function which was the primary one and currently holds merely decorative and nostalgic power rather than reminding us of a language.

The double role of representation (representation “of the previous times”) is now being repeated frequently in fine art. The viewpoint, which is motivated by pictures, is orchestrated and internalised by the logic of watching. which greatly developed with the help of electronic media in home use. Deciphering deceit (trompe-l’oeil) and control/restriction (dompte-regard) of the look, anamorphosis, allegory, abstraction and similar metaphoric density have become the most usual repertoire of each viewer (predominately the young generations who were raised with the help of mixing TV pictures), who no longer sees the necessity in the virtuosity of an artistic medium. The medium offers decorative and illustrative caprices – stylistic rehearsals which cheer up moony aesthetes and dealers. However, a certain part of fine art is solely the skill or technique of transferring effects which re-creates its own or the public who is not familiar with other forms of visual media. Active creation – the production of appearances happens somewhere else. An activity, which happens as a climax (remain) of an appearance accompanying fine art, presents ideology of appearances, which due to the ideological trade cycle reigns – ascends and potentially develops suitable means of perception. It is located in the field of new media (electronic support), interactivity (levers), situations and simulacra (installations, ambients …) etc. Despite actuality in artistic practice, a question arises: what is going on with traditional fine art practice? It seems that the same slackening tendency, which performed the “slackening” (conditionally also the release) of the iconic and fresco painting, papyrus etc. Firstly, the ritual predetermination (e.g. the church institution) has provided painters with technical and ideological motivation which bestowed the raison d’être of their work. As soon as new ideological patterns had stepped into the ideological scene, it became lucid that the safe shelter of institutionalised ideologies presents the discouraging environment and does not provoke acquisition of new forms, but rather tends to preserve the status quo, as if its infinite mission was established through artistic technique. When academies, galleries and museums step out, fine art is established through the boundaries, while the previous ones neglect possibilities, which arise through new options due to monumental inertia. Painting seems to develop much faster under the guardianship of academies, yet the field of painting does not change radically. Actual effects abide at present, however academies and accompanying institutions are the ones to slacken due to the inertia and thus they do not ensue dynamics of artistic practice, some of which are already in the post-medium era. We again meet the painting as a reminder, which does not caution us about the language – actual content – but rather reminds us of the former functions.

Don’t be offended! We do not claim that painting no longer exists as an option but rather venture to think loudly about the techniques, such as film projection, holography, stereoscopy, the virtual reality, which set the specific rhythm to classic fine arts. The rhythm is no longer relativized either by artistic contemplation or by implying the specific character of the medium. Ideological totalisation, which operated in production of icons with religious themes, frescoes in divine spaces etc., is doubled at present with the help of ideological totalisation of the consumer society which constituted “religion” of aesthetics by implying the economic-like rituals. Aesthetic dogmas in the fine art market close the field of art and attempt to create the impression that someone (out there) knows what is happening in fine art or what fine art is once and for all. Through mechanisms of the market the impression of measuredness is being created or weighing of art which is presented in the market in numbers. Marketing value is the value of art. The value pulses in relation to the marketing inertia until it sinks in the museum where – paradoxically (since it does not bear any exchange value any more) – begins to return the market’s approval by bestowing legitimization to it. The market is thus established as the only representative or warrant of the artistic and it begins to semantically reign over art. The lever, which is produced by the market with the help of the machine, is motivated towards painting to remain a privileged artistic branch and thus maintains the exchange capabilities long after times when it has but decorative quality. Kariž insists on painting, which do not appear in the museums but rather in a private living room somewhere close to the TV set. It sometimes happens that the dweller – the owner of the painting – is stunned at the sudden detection of a scene in the film which hangs on the wall and for which he believed was the pearly shooting star of the artist’s poetics with which he identifies as the owner – user of the painting. Suddenly, he realizes that the painting is infected by a memory which was concealed and which constantly observed him, an ignorant, from the wall and waited to fuck him one day. In such cases, it is hazardous if the painting “falls into disfavor” of old junk where old documents are stored, witnesses of former actions which are preserved in the house only to make the owner enjoy interpassively since he knows that he has them stored somewhere. This is also the essential point of Žiga’s Grey City. Not only “deception for eyes” is at work here; moreover, deceit is everywhere. As the appearance is deceptive in everyday life where the greatest deceit (either economic or scientific, or political) is performed under the flag of the appearance which throughout history of appearances (also in the field of fine art) has become the legitimate representative of things. Never before has the eye responded with more blindness to a blind look of things. When you enter the ambient of The Grey City in the gallery, everything seems as if you entered the room where the well-provided-for but dead mother of Norman Bates is lying.

Kariž’s claim for The Grey City is: “This is definitely not a painter’s exhibition!”

Jurij V. Krpan

(text from Žiga Kariž: The Grey City catalogue, Kapelica Gallery, Ljubljana, 1998)