How to survive beauty?

Exhibition of the award-winning works from the Third International Student Biennial

Osijek, Knifer Gallery, 30/6 – 13/7 2020

For the third time in the last six years, the Academy of Arts and Culture in Osijek organized the International Student Biennial. At the end of last year, it was held in the renowned multimedia space Lauba in Zagreb and in this fascinating ambience of industrial architecture the biennial experienced its new affirmation. The central theme of the latest Biennial was beauty – how to create it but, more importantly, how to recognize it in today’s world full of visual fascinations. Since it is already in the tradition of the Student Biennial to present the awarded works outside the space in which the exhibition was originally held, this year the Biennial is visiting the city from which it started – in the great new space of the Knifer Gallery in downtown Osijek. As part of the Osijek Summer of Culture, local audiences will be able to see five award-winning works by students from five European art academies and five completely different works in various media from 30 June to 13 July. On the other hand, these are five works connected by one key opposite – the relationship between form and specific moments of its de-formation. In the world of material pleasures, creation and destruction become a comprehensive metaphor of beauty, which in turn dissolves and disappears in the media spectacle of everyday life.

The first prize was named after one of the doyens of media art in Croatia, Ivan Ladislav Galeta, and was awarded to Kelvin Atmadibrata, a student at the Royal College of Art in London. His performance Forcing Hyacinth lasts for several hours, as long as there is water in the pot, which the artist turns into a foam – ie another form of material visibility – by blowing through a tube, and during which the young performer also undergoes “liquid” changes by altering his own shape and position. The second-prize was awarded to Johanna Locher’s from the Staatliche Akademie der Künste in Karlsruhe and her work is a subtle video representation of the effect of the wind at the intersection of abstract film and “moving drawing” with the addition of natural and artificially generated sound. This is not only a distant reminiscence of the art of actionism, as in the first example, but also of conceptual art evolving in the direction of postconceptual practices from the second half of the 1970s to the present day. Both works gain strength and persuasiveness when approached through the optics of the third prize winner who manipulates the feeling of destruction: in the work of Rea Vogrinčič from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, beauty is harmonized with the emotion of destruction, which leads to the conclusion that artists can recognize beauty at any time, transfer from idea to form, and vice versa. Beauty today is found in the acts of both construction and destruction, materialization of idea and dematerialization of form.

            Proof of this is that the winner of one of the two special awards, Valentina Damjanović from the Academy of Arts and Culture in Osijek, by naming her work Matrix, simultaneously brought it to consciousness both as a medium (zinc plate) and as a painting (reflection of reality), transforming the material into the immaterial and vice versa. The (re)formulation of the forms of beauty also refers to the work of Marieta Vulić from the Arts Academy in Split, who also received special jury award, in which she presents the recorded transformation of history in the ambience of ancient traces of the urban core of Split as a conceptual gesture: to come closer, but not to enter – this is the credo of this author, who documents violence against history and creativity, through existence and denial of the existence of one painting studio in the center of the town’s old Roman palace.