Since Romanticism, the landscape has been experienced as the prime object of the artist’s contemplation. The introduction of the landscape fragment into the notion of an “all-encompassing One” and into the construction of a timeless ideal order represents a significant moment in art history. It is with the modernist notions of Cézanne, on to Malevich and Mondrian to the post-war representatives of the sublime in painting, that the notion of the landscape evolved not only as an object of isolated contemplation but as painting genre tasked with completing this aesthetic transformation of our attitude towards the world. In the future project of modernist painting the position of the landscape fragment is increasingly taken over not so much by representations of concrete spaces as by virtual spaces of relations established between the subject and the object of its contemplation, the stand taken by the spectator and the artist towards this ultimate transcendentality of experience of being-a-part-of-nature or of becoming-a-part-of-nature.
The artist couple Milićević-Bosnić, who in the past several years have signed a series of joint projects with the name diSTRUKTURA, attempts to reconstruct the historically varying idea of the spectator who is gradually initiated and emancipated in the reception and then in the communication of his/her own experience of the landscape. Their exploration in painting and photography starts by appropriating a broad repertoire of poetic gestures taken from the tradition of Romantic landscape painting, primarily the works of Caspar David Friedrich that thematize the figure and the position of the spectator in the landscape itself. The presence of the figure in the paintings of the German Romantic painter, the figure whose gaze is directed towards the distant planes of the horizon and whose back is turned to the spectator, has been interpreted as an enigmatic gesture of isolation and escape from reality but also as a simultaneous invitation to the spectator, standing outside the painting, to subsequently identify with and to dislocate toward this timeless imagery of the painting itself close to the reality of dreams and the metaphysical.
The cycle of photographs Face to Face created by the artist couple Milićević-Bosnić, literally replicates this romanticized topography of the spectator who is directly confronted with the sublime and breathtaking scenes of a post-industrial landscape. The contemporary artist’s attention is directed towards the exotic architecture of Cairo, abandoned coal mines, the housing estates of New Belgrade or nuclear power plants. Instead of the isolated Romantic subject and the allegoric representation of a landscape we now have a couple of individuals, our contemporaries and active participants whose presence in this first act of fragmentation of nature shows the spectator’s raised awareness before a sole object of contemplation: as before a genuine object of admiration that generates everything sacred but also as participants responsible for its deterioration.
Through the conventional representation of planes of a spatial horizon directly confronting the spectator as well as through the inverse perspective of continual mirroring through the gaze of the Other, this cycle of photographs somewhat advocates a utopia that invites a melancholic empathy with the image (of the world). This image would still connect all the participants in the contemplation chain into a unique linear temporal regime – such as the here and the now in relation to a future or past and the there. However, the notion of the landscape, the urban landscape in particular, in this opus is perceived as a spatial phenomenon primarily of a social reality and its rituals that is always elaborated anew, where this classic anthropomorphic figure contemplating the landscape is constantly disappearing or being modified through the infinite fragmentations of a computer modified experience of the world.
The informatics era at the beginning of the 21st century has completely eradicated the ability to discern the planes of the here and the there, the now and the then from one another, while configuring active temporal movement in space or dislocation in meditation into a series of simultaneous presences of the here with no temporal perspective. The cycle of paintings on metropolises reminds us that we are constantly forced to seek out replacements for this nostalgic idea of a classical horizon in the numeric perspective of the informatics network. The landscape fragments seen in this cycle of art works are created with new digital syntaxes developed simultaneously with the syntaxes of classical painting. The landscape fragment unfolds with a campaign of circular (aeronautic) views, with dynamic turns in angles of perception of urban metropolises which, in turn, alternate with planes of flat computer animation, a kind of live streaming of an intimate projection of immediate sensations provoked by the urban environment. The web world of multiple gazes offers multi-layered virtual worlds that are reframed in the projection of their perpetual spatial and temporal dislocation to the point of uprootedness from a singular universe.
The cycle of drawings and installations entitled Rolling City reveals the perspective of the gaze through a specific spatial unfolding of plans of aeronautic maps and the imaginary subject’s time-defined movement through the cyber web. From the meticulously recreated flat schemes of sections, the abstract framing and assembly of New York city plans rise the planimetric projections of their corporative architecture as a unique simulation of the natural growth of an urban nature at work. Created as a unique homage to New York, as the apologetic of its architectural constructivism and of a “stopover place” utopia, this cycle deals with minuscule hierarchies of framing and reframing of buildings as spatial cells containing living traces of invisible human habitats, as it redirects the sliding, detached, gaze from abstract plans of buildings to personalized sections and intimate perceptions.
The project diSTRUKTURA establishes a plane of new meanings and codifies the relation between the spectator and the landscape as the object of his/her contemplation. It is from the position of the spectator that, in their work, the artist couple launches an entirely new discourse. On the one hand, there is the subject as an artist who is continually transcending the nature of the image and, on the other hand, the subject as an active participant who has an effect on this infinite, operative, measurable and utilitarian fragmentation of the image of nature. Only by opening up the issue of the evolving relation between the spectator and the artist towards the transcendency of the becoming-part-of-nature experience, is it possible to create new visions of landscapes and new syntaxes of the language of painting.
* Jelena Krivokapić is the curator of the Beograd Gallery in Belgrade, Serbia.