I was fortunate enough to be invited to the private view of a new exhibition at Europe House’s 12 Star Gallery in Westminster, London. The show was titled “Malice in Wanderlands” and was commissioned by the Slovenian Embassy.
“An exhibition by seven students of the Academy of Visual Arts (AVA), Slovenia.
An exhibition curated by Pepi Sekulich and showcasing work by Evelina Hagglund, Matija Jakin, Andrea Knezovic, Gregor Rozman, Sanja Vatic, Nika Vucko and Nana Wolke, is exploring contemporary issues of migration, pursuit of power and social (in)justice.”
I am lucky enough to be close friends with Andrea Knezovic, a Croatian woman living and working in Slovenia’s capital city Ljubljana. She was the only graduate exhibiting, the other six artists all still students at AVA. Her style is incredibly diverse; the last work of hers I saw exhibited was an interactive performance/video installation titled “FUCKMACHINE”. Her piece in this exhibition was, perhaps controversially considering the setting and current refugee crisis, exploring the idea of immigration. It was an installation, consisting of an antique style writing box. Inside lay a leather bound book with a Latin inscription, a white glove (like those used when precious artefacts) and two ink bottles. One of these bottles had a label and in tiny font written across it an anonymous explanation of the feelings and their personal definition of being an immigrant. The second bottle bore no label but I later discovered contained real human blood. The work raised questions about the blood and even lives lost in the “fight for the greater good”, whether it is justifiable, and examined how often much of it goes undocumented.
Afterwards I spoke with Andrea about her difficulties creating the piece. She told me that she had to seek advice from several different lawyers regarding the use and transportation of the blood. All of this meant that her costs were well into the thousands. She was fortunate to receive EU funding plus the backing of the Slovenian art gallery where she works to be able to produce it. It was interesting to gain insight into the process and costs of a professional artist, especially someone creating work for the sake of it’s message rather than for sale.
Another piece that caught my eye in the exhibition was a mirrored glass structure. Jagged geometric shards of mirror joined together to produce an abstract growth emerging from the wall. Onto this short video clips were projected; all of the scenes related to immigration. I read the piece as a representation of the multi-faceted issues of and stories surrounding immigration; that each person has their own viewpoint to be offered; that sometimes the information is incomplete or hard to understand from all angles at once; that often we consider a situation with ourselves in the centre of it, biased from our own ‘reflection’ in the situation. The broken appearance also symbolised the shattered lives and homes people leave behind.
The piece that was used to advertise the preview was a painting of a woman walking down a staircase. The title was simply “Walking Away” and there was no statement. This encouraged the viewer to think up their own story. Although there was minimal information I found this incredibly evocative. It was certainly night-time in the picture, and the woman appeared to walking down stairs outdoors somewhere, perhaps a train station. Her expression was serious, watchful. She wore a smart dress, which didn’t seem to fit with her surroundings. To me the story appeared to be that she was, for some reason, leaving suddenly. Escaping, perhaps, or running away. I love artworks that conjure this questioning and require you to imagine your own narrative.
Images taken from 12 Star Gallery Facebook page