On 14 December, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art opens the Black Disguises exhibition, as part of the Risk Change international project. Artists displayed include Carlos Aires, Cristiano Berti / Can Sungu, Marianna Christofides, Aleksandar Garbin, Roos van Haaften, Laurent Lancker, Miroslav Mikuljan, Rafael Puetter (Rafucko), Davor Sanvincenti, Ana Sladetić and Elejan van der Velde.
Migrations are the common denominator of their work, migrations which disrupt everyday life through some sort of excess, meaning that the migration process cannot be the result of stability, but some sort of transgression – authority, borders, measures, or regulations.
The exhibition combines issues of migrations, labour and economy through artistic practices and the current state of society. It channels change as a necessity for existence and risk of facing everyday life, and shifts it to focus on both migrants and citizens not in the migration process. The exhibition, ranging from personalised and poetic approaches to documentary and critical work, points towards a spectrum of inability to cope with situations of disrupted security and protection, a state of disorientation and hopelessness, the stress of optimism and unity.
Through her video-installation “Sudaranje”, Ana Sladetić indirectly deals with the issue of controlling mobility within a prescribed administrative framework which is often limiting and disheartening in terms of basic human freedoms. She feels that mutual friction and conflicts are side-effects of acting in distressed states, and she discusses overcoming limitations as an experience of disarray and conflict, especially in cases of mass migrations.
Carlos Aires continues the topic of conflict through the video “Sweet Dreams Are Made of this”, following a monumental image of riches, power and violence, in which excess appears using the metaphor of two uniformed members of the Spanish special police force dancing tango.
The activation of violence in a society of injustice is the principal guiding thought of the video-installation “Rio de Janeiro, Illegal City” by Rafael Puetter a.k.a. Rafuck. He confronts a sports spectacle with the everyday struggle for basic civil rights (freedom of movement, equality) where getting used to risks becomes the normal state of society.
The documentary film “Jesenice – Stuttgart itd.” by Miroslav Mikuljan presents the tight relationship between migration flows and the flow of capital. The film reflects the ideological and work ethics of the seventies through short scenes at a train station where Yugoslavs are boarding a train for Germany. The loudspeaker emits a welcome speech promoting unity, equality and peace, as well as expressing gratitude to immigrants for their contribution in building a common future. However, right alongside the optimism and faith in tomorrow we are made aware of migrations which are, as a rule, subject to supervision and unexpected restrictions.
The failings of international politics at the expense of sovereignty and equality leading to further class divisions are the main focus of the “Highlife” installation by Cristiano Berti and Can Sungu. He presents the limitations of the labour market and the lack of social integration of migrants using an installation of a house with paper walls, as a metaphor for a need for personal security in society.
Similarly, the documentary “Sundays in Nicosia” by Marianne Christofides follows female labour migrants gathering on Sundays to create their own social space as a catalyst for change and resistance to social isolation.
The pursuit for a better life as one of the most common causes of migrations is also encompassed by the video-installation “Limb” by Laurent Van Lancker. It presents scenes from a migration camp which indicate towards feelings of disorientation and hopelessness felt by people who were forced on an uncharted journey.
On a similar note, the installation “No Title (Black Matter)” by Elejan van der Velde focuses on how time consuming it is to live in long-term uncertainty, resulting in a slow, yet certain collapse.
On the other hand, Roos van Haaften focuses her imagination on renewing what was spent and replacing the old for a positive new. Her “Wonderful Isolation” installation, composed of discarded materials, takes on the appearance of dystopian micro-landscapes when shone on by reflectors.
Aleksandar Garbin’s topographical projections read as training grounds for creating solutions in new conditions, where the cartographical motives play with their traditional meaning by not presenting reality as a tangible image, but a metaphysical state instead (“Spojevi, Prenesene površine, Area neutra, Geographical Flag Project”).
Imagining space a place for escapism, shelter and disappearance are the motives for the photography series “Granice” by Davor Sanvincenti. The author emphasises the duality of the relationship between mobility and obstacles, presenting mountains as obstacles which can be conquered, as places of looser limitations and borders compared to mapped territorial and political borders.
The exhibition is made possible with the support of Creative Europe, The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia, The City of Rijeka, RIJEKA 2020 LLC, and the Mondrian fund. It is part of the programming line Kitchen – Centre for Creative Migrations developed by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art within the scope of the four year ECOC Rijeka 2020 – Port of Diversity programme. The exhibition will be up until 22 February 2018.
Photo: Carlos Aires – Sweet Dreams are Made of This, video, 2006.