Records from the autobiographical garden
In view of the developmental line of the artistic practice of Ivan Šuković, the multimedial installation Records from the autobiographical garden confirms that the relationship of an individual (person, organism) and the environment (family, society, species) is the central topos of his researches. The Records have been conceptually anchored in the domain of trans-disciplinary practice of art, botany and taxonomy, pointing to micro-politics as a window of opportunity for the formation of a new entity. The binary nodes of the meaning of the individual and group, private and public, memory and present, inscribed in the personal pictorial documents of a family portrait, are resolved by the Šuković intervention cuts and skillful repositioning, thus directing us to interstice for an entirely new view.
The photography being the perfect medium for capturing life, is accompanied by conservation, as its underlying idea. The Kodak commercials used to promise us that they will prevent the leakage of time and that our memories, just like life itself, will forever remain illuminated with bright and appealing colors. This is why a camera and family life go so well together. On the other hand, the narrative contexts of personal and family photographs are formed through memory, primarily through the history of individuals who are in the photos, but also through their collective history.
Memory and storage are not subject to the rules of linear perspective of time, but it is rather always in the interplay of memory and forgetting, of personal and learned (constructed) histories. Within the space of memories, the fixed identity is lost, and thus the possibilities of interpretation, together with the rereading and connecting within one’s history become endless. Through the Records, the artist is actually searching for these hidden levels of meaning that the personal memories carry, while removing the individual layers of secondary quality of his relation to the time and place in which he grew up, and which is largely mediated by other people’s stories and images that have the power to overshadow his own memory. The author’s view of the hetero-topic childhood space is formed by the indirect memory which Marianne Hirsch refers to as post-memory. Post-memory is the part of a person’s memory which is not experientially tied to the space and time. It is secondary memory, generated as a result of processing fragments of other people’s memories as part of one’s own, which is taken over through stories and with the help of personal objects and photographs. Photographs thus have a role in the mobilization of memory, which is always uncertain and vulnerable, because memory does not only speak of the past, but of the present as well, and the persons that we remember, but also of the person who remembers. This is why the form, by means of which the artist depicts reminiscence, is ambivalent and unstable.
If in earlier iterations (Remains of life – inconspicuous views, Atelier Dado, 2013) the author’s research space was bordered by literary template and dramaturgical mechanisms of activation of the photographic text, on this occasion Ivan Šuković is shifting to the instrument of the first scientific classification of the living world – Carolus Linnaeus hierarchy established way back in the eighteenth century, and which still remains in use. Activities of pictorial communication events (family portraits) are put into relation with the possibilities of harmonization cases of biological structures – mimetic alignment with other species.
By using the botanical taxonomy, the artist reminds us of the standpoint of the philosopher Steven Shaviro, who believes that the fundamental condition of the human organism on this planet is the ubiquitous and inevitable connections. Contrary to the Cartesian dualism, the integration perspective of connection that Shaviro advocates, refers to a symbiotic relationship between the man and his environment, thereby strongly opposing the position of the humancentric subject who is observing the world from the external perspective and tends to control the nature itself.
Hal Foster, the art historian suggests that the archival impulse in art practice aims at having specific history and historical information (which is often scattered and misplaced) reviewed, re-actualized or rescued from oblivion that is, having them physically present. He does not believe that the archival artistic practice is an act of reproduction of the known, but the potential source of alternative narratives and reverse histories. Through the active, research reconstruction and rearrangement, Ivan Šuković processes documentary photographic material, from inside, attempting to define the manifold relations, sets, arrays and cross-cutting points within documentary tissues of the family portraits and thus, for a brief moment, convert the non-places of family archives into the non-places of the possible utopias.