by Jernej Kožar
The soft, unbroken line of the drawings in the series Their True Nature, by Vesna Bukovec, complements the texts and heightens the tension in the meaning of the words and the lines of the letters. The drawings are restrained and quiet, but in a certain way also very precise and demanding, for they require a special attitude of the viewer. But the drawings are not directly connected with the meaning of the texts in any way we usually expect, namely, that the picture illustrates the writing or that the writing explains the picture. The texts use the third person singular instead of the second-person direct address customary in horoscopes. As a result, we find ourselves in an ambivalent position: on the one hand, we are looking at drawings that are not signs from the zodiac, and on the other, at texts, and are unable to come fully to terms with either. We want the texts to describe the drawings even though we realize that the drawings do not illustrate them. These works’ humorous, even absurd, character, which reminds us of fables, pulls us into a spiral of meanings that volley back and forth from picture to text, and the resulting vortex causes a change in our viewpoint because of the moral that is absent.
The drawings are accompanied by the minute-long video Personal Advice, which presents the text of Bukovec’s horoscope in English. The text has been translated from English into Slovene and back again by the Google Translate program and is also read out loud by computer software. Although it distances itself in this way from the original, it nevertheless preserves some of the characteristic features of personality tests and motivational methodologies.
Astrology is based on the misguided notion that the world is finite and that, given a certain amount of information, it is possible to draw conclusions about the future. Undoubtedly, people were once more connected to nature than we can understand today, when everyone has their own telephone, laptop, and car. Like everything around us, the human being, too, is composed of atoms that originated in the stars and will continue to exist long after we observers are gone. Our body is, of course, sensitive to all external phenomena, from the weather to changes in the positions of heavenly bodies, which can be seen most clearly with the tides and the full moon. What makes this carbon-based creature so special is the unusual property of wondering about its own existence. Even the church once distanced itself from making predictions about the future and placed the future clearly in the domain of God. Recent scientific discoveries also show that the world originated by chance and that the future is entirely unpredictable. Vesna Bukovec’s drawings, however, contain neither astrological determinism nor analytical criticism.
While David Shrigley does not leave viewers room for doubt or for their own opinion and hits them straight in the eye with his direct, self-ironic gestures, Bukovec’s drawings are less direct and their softly tense line restores the viewer’s self-confidence and trust. Shrigley’s drawings are barely distinguishable from handwritten text in printed capital letters, which he uses because, well, they are easier to read – but like Dan Perjovschi after him, he thus achieves the kind of credibility some call childlike. I am intentionally not going to discuss Dan Perjovschi here; his manner of expression is different, although he too uses a simple line for his drawing and handwritten text: ignoring the laws of central perspective, he creates a simple drawing underscored by ironic commentary. He usually draws his works directly on walls and thus thwarts the fetishism of the art market. Through his wall drawings he creates an atmosphere that can remind us of anything from cave drawings to contemporary graffiti and messages on bathroom walls, a fact that gives these works honesty and at the same time mutability.
Before we conclude, we must first look back almost a thousand years at the Bayeux Tapestry. I mention the Bayeux Tapestry because its manner of presenting narrative is similar to what we see again and again today – including in the work of the artists I have mentioned – and because of the scene named “ISTI MIRANT STELLAM”. Halley’s Comet was a bad omen for Harold Godwinson, while it provided William the Conqueror with free room for interpretation and for the invasion of England. But because the appearance of Halley’s Comet is periodic, happening every seventy-six years, its significance in astrology is less studied and, therefore, primarily important in astronomy and, of course, in history, since reports about seeing a bright star can help us date events. Like other heavenly bodies, Halley’s Comet too can very likely influence our understanding of the world and thus open up new perspectives even for Vesna Bukovec’s drawing series. The meaning of horoscopes must be found in the psychology of our human understanding of the world, of the various degrees of our sensitivity to the things that explain our fate and the future, especially when they are favourable to us, or at least not too bad.
Vesna Bukovec, from the seriesTheir True Nature, ink on paper, 21 x 29,7 cm, 2010
Featured text was written for the occasion of the solo exhibition Vesna Bukovec, Clarity is everything right now, Kapsula, Ljubljana 2010
Works mentioned in the text:
- Their True Nature, 2010