The construction no. 9 is founded on the action that Kopljar conceived inspired by the residency in New York he had obtained with the Franklin Furnace program in 2003. Just like most contemporary artists, he perceived the residency in New York - with the purpose of creative work and the possibility of its presentation - as the chance of the lifetime. As a true performer who simply has to mark and react to the actual environment, during his stay he wanted to perform a new piece that would authentically reflect his emotions evoked by the Mecca of contemporary culture.
When one writes about Kopljar‘s work it is difficult to avoid the clichés that can be interpreted as unnecessary poetization. For instance, no matter how it might sound, the statement that every one of Kopljar‘s works presents an intense, and for him more often than not a painful intervention into the depths of his soul, it most precisely reflects the creative agony that he goes through while trying to draw what and how he performs as close as possible to what he feels and thinks. Paradoxically, this sincere inclination - founded on the belief that artistic creation has to be truthful and responsible and thus a self-revealing act with serious repercussions for the audience and, finally, the reality - did not provoke much understanding in cynical artistic circles because of the results charged with emotions. Fortunately, the growing frustration only reinforced his fatalist belief that he is on the right path and that for him there is no other way to create.
K9 is developed on New York‘s potential to function at the perceptual level as a globally comprehensible metaphor of cultural-political hegemony and that is why it presents for Kopljar an ideal motif for his expression of the complex mixture of love and hate that such a place inevitably provokes. The magic of the dominant culture derives from its omnipresence, from the long-lasting formation of feeling that it is the superior expression of a common, global culture. Thanks to the mechanisms of the civilization of spectacle as well as the mass culture media and commercial essence of pop-culture, the centers of cultural hegemony are perceived in the emotional and mental complex of both audience and artists as an important part of their own culture. Really, we participate in the culture emanated by the center, we consume it, and it is an important and sometimes even decisive factor of our cultural production. The problem lies in the unidirectional character of this relation. The culture of the center is self-sufficient. It is not meant to create the exchange, but to enhance the distribution of political power of the center and economic exploitation of resources feeding it. Anybody who chances upon the merciless, expressionless face of its administration is going to learn this the hard way. Although today the hegemony is not centralized, but is dispersedly following the fluctuation of capital, if there is any place where, according to public opinion, the paradigm of now and here, crucial for our civilization, is developing, then it is New York. The K9 was shown for the first time in the mythical New York multimedia center, The Kitchen. It was presented as a video projection showing static disturbances of the electronic image. The maniacal Erland Josephson‘s monologue from the Italian original of Andrei Tarkovskij‘s “Nostalgia” from 1983 was coming from the background. How much could the audience discern from the hypnotic snowy projection and monologue in a foreign language? The artist was present and ready for discussion. The hermetic quality of K9 is extreme even within Kopljar‘s oeuvre. The obscurity of what they saw and heard was supposed to induce the audience to ask questions. Anyway, is reality not encoded?
According to the production and marketing standards of post-industrial exploitation of already used products, K9 Compassion is an upgrade of K9, evidenced in the omission of the audio portion and the introduction of photography and an improved version of the scramble application used to encode the video recording. Both aspects of the work, photographic and video, are founded on the action that Kopljar performed during the mentioned two months residency in New York. The photographs show him kneeling with his head bowed and his arms lowered against his body in the posture of wordless and passive adoration at the generally recognizable locations in New York, all of them the symbolic spaces of the hegemony that is defining his life as a human being, citizen and artist: Wall Street, Guggenheim Museum, UN building, Times Square and the seemingly anonymous, but symbolically charged China Town sidewalk and 8th Avenue roadway. For that occasion Kopljar dressed his standard performing outfit: a white shirt and a black suit. Beside his intention to use this costume to dignify the very act of performance and make himself a visually more universal medium of identification, these clothes also form around him an aura of a pilgrim from the periphery. There is something menacing in this engrossed figure kneeling on a white handkerchief, utterly unconscious of and detached from the milling crowds swarming around him. The menacing potential has entirely evolved in the video. The same action of kneeling, recorded by the video camera, served as the foundation for the ten- minute loop of the video piece. The recorded material was encoded to illegibility by introducing the pattern of Kopljar‘s DNA that the Croatian police forensic team had taken from the sample of his blood. Kopljar is very personal about this: the images of hegemony are destroyed by his own blood. It sounds familiar.
The passive aspect of submissive consent and the active aspect of destruction as the consequence of refusal is a psychological horizon on which are developed the tumultuous emotions of the people from the periphery who after all are not willing to accept the present image of the world. Kopljar‘s vision of the absolution of this explosive situation derives from its title. Compassion as the supreme virtue of faith could be the beginning of understanding and exchange. The reversibility of the encoding process opens a narrow space of hope: the scramble application can also decode the video until the image is re-established.
The production of the work and the installation design are constituent parts of the symbolism of the work. The photographs are taken and produced in the mode of a marketing campaign, with strongly pronounced colors and executed in UV print on large format synthetic foil used for billboard advertisements. Hieratic growth of Kopljar‘s figure in the prints on both sides of the installation leads to its center where the encoded video recording is projected. The installation space and dimensions of the works are designed for the dynamic fluctuation of the audience who will pass by his bowed figure just like the citizens of New York, never suspecting that both salvation and ruin are close at hand. Kopljar is a pessimist who believes that the solution is possible. It takes only a conscious engagement and responsibility for one‘s own actions.
Those who become interested will be able to decode the recording in the peaceful environment of their homes on the web pages www.mmsu.hr/kopljar and re-establish the image of reality. It is up to them to do this or to destroy the recording again.
Zlatko Kopljar (HR)
Artist based in Zagreb, Croatia. Works with performance and multimedia