Blesok no. 66, May-June, 2009
Always Hungry Gaze
– from Bjelovar City Museum catalogue –
Have you ever wondered whether anyone ever watches the surveillance tapes from supermarkets, boutiques and other stores with video surveillance? Has anyone ever – in a slightly Warhol-like manner – meditated about their aesthetic purpose? Vladimir Končar's visual project uses precisely this position of an impersonal camera and makes it the centre stage of his own creation. Using a digital camera, he documents the dynamics of a market in a weekly rhythm (on Saturdays), consequently singling out the “decisive moments” of a certain situation from the filmed material. The result is more than impressive: the everyday space and work are estranged by the (voyeuristic) eye of the camera, and their visual potential is emphasized. Formally speaking, here we are dealing with a ludic post-modernist procedure: in the middle of the setting we are accustomed to, colouristic and spatial rhythms can be noted, which lead separate lives and thus almost achieve the level of abstractness: the colours of fruit and vegetables, the carefully placed goods, and the location of market stalls, which are transformed from the morning abundance into the afternoon naked minimalism. But, not to leave the procedure at the impersonal level, Končar uses the video media for a double cause: he uses the movement of the image to emphasize the process-like quality of his work, but also the ambivalence of his own position as the author. The scene in which the author himself is one of the participants of the trade process, walking from one stall to the other, could be slightly ironically given a paraphrased title of Kafka's story: The Artist Shopping, or, even better, The Artist of Shopping.
Besides the fact that this act of participation suggests inclusion in the context of the work and erases the classic opposition of the (viewing) subject and (viewed) object, it also questions the consumer component of the given situation. The same can be “read” in the series of photographs on which the author displays bought goods to the eye of the viewer. The rhetoric of these photographs is very different from the previous ones – while those capture the aesthetics of the “masses” (people and goods), these photographs singularize, the result of which is a colouristically sublime dimension of the picture, which is juxtaposed to the purpose of these goods – we can imagine their imminent transformation in a pot, and later on the plate and in the stomach. Although the process of consummation remains unseen, it is suggested: if we use this circulation of food from pragmatism to aesthetics as a metaphor for the circulation of a work of art, we can notice the relevance of Vladimir's work as a process of questioning the position of the visual, especially photographic, digital art today. Thus, behind this spectacle of colours and shapes, buying and selling, and consummation, which is the propelling force of the modern age, stands the discreet question about the consumable nature of the photographs themselves. This takes us from the ephemerality of the Zagreb market into the likeable heart of Končar's photographs, which in their transience still try and succeed to capture the excess which will catch (and feed) our always hungry gaze.