Irena Lagator Pejović. Part II

Irena Lagator Further than Beyond

continues the interview with Irena Lagator Pejović. Read the first part here Irena Lagator Pejović. Part I

Referring to Further than Beyond (2013) you mentioned before, I may see a romantic and proactive approach aiming at highlighting the power of what is not present as a means of escaping the brutality of reality by thinking outside the box or, that is to say, considering new alternatives to the current state of things. Would you expand more on this?
Questioning the reality and its surroundings, we may ask ourselves whether the power of thinking equals the power of imagination, and the power of word equals the power of image? I believe the answer lies in our personal responsibilities because if we think by images, we can allow ourselves to estimate beforehand the value of the matters we are thinking about. If we think by images, our personal and collective responsibilities become multiplied. If we think by images, we transform absence into presence, a process in which images cannot be controlled nor thought.

Irena Lagator Further than Beyond

Irena Lagator Pejović, Further than Beyond, 2013, Image Think, Montenegrin pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Italy. Golden cotton strings, spotlights. Photo: Dario Lasagni

Questioning the control or thinking outside the box – an issue for which I was inspired by the Orwellian Newspeak – activates our perceptual and thinking awareness of the limitlessness of our responsibility to respond in such a way that our responses have the capability to engender further questions. Therefore I found that a work of art is only one step in the process of acting, thinking, or creating. A work of art is not enough, it is merely a primary element, yet an indispensible step towards furthering the ever-expanding reach of human capabilities. It is only the initiation or the beginning of the cognitive and sensory processes humans are equipped with. It is part of the process of creation. The bearer of images, or the medium, is thus the society which in turn is responsible for the individual. So the golden feature of the installation Futher than Beyond in the exhibition Image Think at the 55th Venice Biennial, works on the idea of giving value to things or making the surroundings valuable, having a critical attitude towards the current state of things, autonomy of judgments as well as strength of imagination.

How relevant is the notion of becoming in your artistic research?
Becoming responsible, aware, conscious, present are processes that are relevant to my work and thus the state of becoming as a process and experience. For instance, in the work Ecce Mundi (2013), hand-drawn human figures are barely visible even stepping into the work. People in such a society identify themselves with a sense of responsibility. Though connected to each other, they are nonetheless isolated. In sharing their knowledge, their Nietzschean evolution is not yet complete, it is still an ongoing process. They think in relation to humanity. In the Sloterdijkean sense, the fascination of man with other men is ongoing in our society. These worlds, hand-drawn and connected through the visual means of a three-dimensional space, are exposed to the judgments of visitors who can walk over the canvases and hence are caught up in the spatial situation of encountering a society that we can construct, rather than deconstruct. Visitors thus become aware of walking over “other people”. It is the dramaturgy of presence, which is revealed by the act of walking over the canvases while destroying them, which in turn reveals how we become what we are, and how we become what we are not.

Irena Lagator Ecce Mundi

Irena Lagator Pejović, Ecce Mundi, 2013, Image Think, Montenegrin pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, Italy. Drawing and print on canvas, ink, pencil, neon, wood. Photo: Dario Lasagni, Lazar Pejović

In Camera Imaginata. The Means for Exchanging the Power of the Imagination (2013), the notions of exchange and interaction with public are at stake. How involving public (mentally and physically) is relevant when conceiving your works? What does the notion of collective mean to you?
Referring to the 60s and 70s, particularly to the Artist Placement Group and Margarethe Jochimsen’s exhibition Kunst als soziale Strategie, I define my work as art as social strategy. In my research, art as social strategy relies on the synthesis with the viewer and relates to the notion of collectivity. The definition operates according to the dichotomies of material and immaterial, personal and collective responsibility, constructed reality and its poetic reconstruction. As one of the many elements in the process of thought-sense development, it starts as a mental and sensory construct, and consists of actions that generate new acts of introspection, being within a world, being constantly present and attentive, and becoming aware.
Therefore the notion of collective as argued, among others, by Levinas, Lefebvre, Debord, Negri and Hardt, Rawls or Latour, is crucial to my work. Art as social strategy aims at generating concepts for our mutual co-existence, at promoting a sense of being-with and together, rather than just being in and for itself. The notion of collective is a system of responsibilities revealing human possibilities. In such an apparatus (the medium), the image of the work depends on space and time, namely the position and movement of the viewer. Images thus depend on the eye and the mind. Therefore, those transmitted by the work change as much as our images of the world and reality change over the time. The work is thus charged with as many images as the visitor decides to induce, evoke or activate. Thus, in Camera Imaginata. The Means for Exchanging the Power of the Imagination is the visitor who completes the work, not the artist.

Between the two definitions of art as a service and art as an experience, which would better define your artistic practice?
Just like art as social strategy describes my work, art as an experience better defines my practice since it can demonstrate men’s inevitable process of confrontation with the world as well as the act of thinking anticipates the act of imaging and, vice versa, the purpose of image is to give rise to thought, rather than representation.
On the other hand, defining my practice also depends on the way we understand the notion of service. I find that art must be a service to society, to its development facilitating integration, sharing and connection with other communities, especially in our today’s post-ethnic times.

Irena Lagator OccupyingLiberating Space and Time 4

Irena Lagator Pejović, Occupying/Liberating Space and Time, 2013 (ongoing series). C-prints: 2005/2008/2010/2013. Photo: Irena Lagator

Is there anything that you don’t like in the art world?
The still present exclusion.

Any anecdote you would like to share?
A visitor, after observing for long my installation Time of Limited Responsibility Society, asked me: “Could you please tell me where to buy extra large Morning Happiness (MORGENFREUDE  XL) for 1,29 euro”?
Of course I realized that he was reading the whole list of products in the paper rolls of citizens’ receipts, and that product indeed had a very odd name. That was the source of inspiration for several future projects in which, among the existing goods and their prices, I wrote and gave price to immaterialities relating to the issues of simulacra and consumerist neo-capitalist state of things.

Which are your next projects?
One of my upcoming projects I really look forward to working on is a long duration performance based on the interactivity of the public, i.e. the construction of a city model by the visitors, built out of paper copies of citizens’ fiscal receipts. The project is entitled Limited Responsibility Society, Berne, and I expect the project to foster discussion on the key notions of the current state of things, namely, the limitation, the responsibility, and the society as it is stated in the economic and juridical term throughout the world: LLP, SaRL, GmBH, etc.

Carmen Stolfi

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