excerpts from text:
ALEN OŽBOLT AND ŽIGA KARIŽ: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD
A language with a category devoted specifically to collaboration might explain why so many artists in Slovenia work together. Alen Ožbolt and Žiga Kariž first exhibited Love is a Battlefield in the fall of 2005 at Gallery Škuc in Ljubljana. The artists had been friends for years and spent a long time discussing their collaboration, examining myths about love and hate relationships and artistic rivalry. Kariž saw the Benatar song as a lighthearted title for the show. “It came as an ironic idea to substitute kitschy boy-girl love-hate relationship with two guy-artist-friends art project,” Kariž explained. “It’s a bit cynical and helps to keep things from getting too serious or even pathetic.”
The works of the two artists in this exhibition are similar and dissimilar. When in comparison, Ožbolt hopes the exhibition does not take on a ratio of 1:1, artist against artist. Rather, he sees the work eliciting a myriad of associations and meaningful relations: Whereas Kariž takes constantly from modern-art historical movements, design, and pop culture, Ožbolt’s work looks to the primordial—history of structures, shapes, and cells in relation to his own personal “art history.” Exhibited together, the works take on a type of clashing, mixed-up timeline, invariably moving from one site to the next, from the pre-formed to the formed.
The commodification of culture and art is the driving force behind much of Kariž’s work. A Heap of Images is a simple installation of more than 150 pirated DVDs thrown in a pile on the floor that questions the collectible image. The actual function of the DVDs are confused: Should they be received as art objects in their own right, simple flat boxes displaying on their covers the quintessential image of the film? Or are they merely ciphers, functional objects that house the “real” images of the film? Further, who owns these images? The museum that displays A Heap of Images? The writers, filmmakers and actors who created the film? The designers of the DVD box? Kariž has said that he wanted to “literally establish myself as an artist running a pirate business.” He explains, “My idea was to make a kind of parody of post-modernist logic as its most radical position: that is as the artist functioning as a pirate, stealing intellectual property.” Images, whether on a DVD box or film screen, are quickly subsumed into consumer culture; ownership is lost, the function of the collector (museum) becomes obsolete.
In It’s so simple and that’s the way I like it, Kariž pushes the idea of the consumptive image without signification by creating a large scale installation set of an iconic New York room. The room is complete simulation, with cheaply made representations of famous moments in 20th century art: A Charles Eames lounge chair butts up against Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box, which is behind a Jean-Luc Godard film, which is surrounded by constructivist books and Duchampian objects. These works are re-made readymades, points on the timeline of modern art history, haphazardly tossed together amidst the pre-9/11 New York skyline. Again, acting as a mischievous pirate stealing the authenticity of these pieces, Kariž drains these “major” works of art of their startling effects by placing them next to another potent object from the avant-garde. Strewn across the room, these objects are removed from their orderly positions in the historical lineage of art. The “objectness” is devalued, and what is left are mere stand-ins, props, for the “idea” of art—for the cultural collateral an Eames chair (even one made out of trash bags) will add to any New York room.
Kariž’s specific interest in 1970s American and European culture is realized in the video installation A Video Club (After Rodchenko). 12 television sets and VCRs are set up as a type of video room, an exact replica of Russian avant-gardist Alesksandr Rodchenko’s The Workers Club, built for the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Rather than displaying a set of revolutionary texts, Kariž supplies his video viewing room with American Hollywood, German, and Italian B-movies. The communist world in which Rodchenko made art, drawing from such thinkers as Karl Marx, has given way to a different type of utopian vision: a consumer culture where people can blindly be entertained by Dirty Harry and Shaft. Kariž witnessed the move from socialism to capitalism in Slovenia in the 1990s, and he isn’t exactly lamenting this shift in political ideology. Rather, he is reveling in the ease and luxury of leaving class struggle behind for the pure entertainment of a trashy movie.
This is not to say that the works in the exhibition don’t have serious political implications. Kariž started as a painter, and the omnipresent role of painting in the history of art lingers in his works. The backdrop of the video viewing room is a re-creation of Rodchencko’s “final paintings,” three monochromatic canvases in red, blue, and yellow. The canvases represent the colors from which all other colors are made. Rodchenko explained, “I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue and yellow. I affirmed: it’s all over.” And while the death knell for painting has rung again and again throughout the history of art, in the installations of this exhibition Kariž offers an alternative End: a hyper-heap of pictures without hierarchy. He sees the works acting as surrogates to painting, usurping the role of the anesthetized art object through a constant flow of stolen images—used up ideas battling it out; a playroom where avant-gardes not only no longer exist, but co-exist as flattened flimsy objects.
Katie Geha, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Ulrich Museum of Art
(excerpts from text from LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD catalogue, Ulrich Museum of Art, 2006)