Referring to his exhibition from 1998, The Grey City”, Žiga Kariž claimed, “This is definitely not a painter’s exhibition.” Paintings done in a traditional technique of oil on canvas had an essential role at the exhibition, but they were only a part of a much larger field of images and their transformations and migrations. (Kariž took pictures of the TV screen, created oil paintings after them, and then photographed his paintings.) The works indicate an observer who has been isolated from the outer world, endlessly far away from the reality represented in the pictures. The observer’s link to this reality is the TV screen. In the interaction between the images without the referent (for the observer, the reality represented in the images exists only as a fantasy) and observer’s desire, a phantasmal topography haS been developed. Kariž uses the Mondrianesque grid as a map of an imaginary New York, made up from cliché movie images.

Works from a later series called “Teror=Dekor” (Terror(ism)-Decoration) are deliberately closer to a more traditional concept of painting than the TV series. But this is because they imply a particular context in which they would ideally be shown. In a catalog, Kariž published several photos of overdesigned interiors from the 1970s, into which he inserted his paintings. (We should notice, however, that the 1970s are again a phantasmal world based on images from movies and magazines.) The paintings are therefore decorative objects designed to be enjoyed by people who inhabit such interiors. In such a way, they explicitly declare themselves to be, in the words of Herbert Marcuse, decoration in the world of terror (hence the series’ title).

The combination of terrorism and garish decorative elements is, however, more than just a rebus based on Marcuse’s statement. Terrorism was an essential part of the 1970s, as were the interior design and hundreds of post-Pop Art and decorative Hard Edge paintings. In the social sense, this aesthetic represented an act of despair as 1960s illusions of a social revolution end a deep transformation of the society collapsed. But in mass media and in the conversation of fashionable society, 1970s terrorism has been transformed into mere chic, into another thrilling element in the endless pursuit of enjoyment. It seems that these images have lost all reality value, that the armed terrorists or Carlos himself have become just as phantasmal as the happy housewife in her “kitchen of tomorrow.” Still, we know that terror was deadly real and that terrorism has been a symptom of a deep discomfort in culture. In the highly designed and hedonistic world of the rich, the reality of terrorism functions only as decoration, as illusion. Thus it hides the terror of the real world, the real terrorism of the capital (owned by the owners of these spaces, who are also the intended owners of the paintings).

In the second part of this project, entitled “Teror=Dekor II,” Kariž has made these relations even more explicit. These objects (one could hardly call them paintings, although they retain some characteristics of the paintings) are designed for the high-tech utopian spaces of today. Picture (the image of an explosion) has been transformed into a purely decorative surface. Through a built-in camera, the observer in his home can himself be observed, and the reality of the terror is as present as the exploding bodies in the object, which can be activated from a distance. What is only referred to in the first series is now present as a real threat (but is it indeed real?) under the decorative surface.

Igor Zabel

(text from the book VITAMIN P, Phaidon, 2003)