The Opening of Igor Antic’s Solo Exhibition “Corner Sofas”

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Igor Antić – Corner Sofas

Igor Antić graduated painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Novi Sad, then moved to Paris where he continued his education under Vladimir Velickovic at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, an afterwards under Pontus Hulten at the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques. The opinions of Daniel Buren, a pioneer of in situ installations, whom Antić also met in Paris, had a great influence on him.

Antić soon realises that artwork, once moved from the studio to some other place, loses its autonomy at that very moment. During one group exhibition setting, Antić’s artwork was put in a space near a heater and fire extinguisher; therefore Antić gets the idea to somehow incorporate those two “imposed” objects into the setting of his artwork as well. He concludes that, as a work of art affects the space in which it is located, space itself also “modifies” and “adapts” the artwork according to its characteristics, emphasising, mitigating or simply changing its original context.

In the early ’90s of the twentieth century, under the influence of Daniel Buren, Antić turns to the work in situ – the artworks created for a specific space. The term “in situ” refers to the location as well as the situation. With his in situ installation, Igor Antić highlights the space and situation problems, emphasising the context of the specific site and the particular situation in which the work is being executed, set and presented. For Igor Antić, a site is the starting point of everything – the idea, material, structure, form, setting and context depend on the artist’s experience with the site. The site itself, with all its physical characteristics, its purpose of existence and its particularities, becomes an integral part of the artistic installation. In his work, Igor Antić is experimenting with relations between site, its history, function and fate on the one hand and the artwork on the other. Antić says that it is never about the truth in his work, rather that he gives people a transformed, partial picture of what people call “the truth”.

Igor Antić quickly gets ideas – he connects facts in, perhaps, a paradoxical way which is interesting for him and therefore makes sense so that through the visual presentation he intensifies the problem to the limit. His works explore the different layers of context interpretation and provide new understanding of the place and situation where the artwork is placed.

Antić has under control all stages of his work, from its production to its exhibition which represents an integral part of the artwork. He creates works of art, but the artwork per se has never been his goal, but a trigger of an avalanche of questions regarding the terms of art conception and presentation. Antić overturns everything and puts everything under a question mark by creating, as he describes, “a tangle of contradictions.” According to him, “harmony and consensus do not bring anything creative, but tension and provocation can lead to the interesting results.” He insists on the fact that he is not engaged in political activism, but explores the art principles within the decadent world we live in.

Igor Antić’s Corner Sofas point to the situation in which our culture and art are in for a long time and clarify the social, cultural and economic context in which art production occurs here and now, through a feedback, i.e. through the society’s perception of an artwork. The exhibition consists of thirteen artworks carried out in situ, in Lucida gallery, over the last fifteen days. The basic module of all the artworks is a wooden cube. Igor Antić begins his work on the project by entering the site. He works entirely devoted, being almost fanatically preoccupied with the very last detail, without any rest, focused and serious. He connects, glues, tights, fixes with duck tape wooden modules, like children’s building blocks, building the spatial structures which shape accentuate both the position of the corners within site and the void space between them. Through a dynamic contrast of full and empty, form and content concerning the relation within the artworks themselves, but also the relationship of the artwork and gallery space, Antić creates a tense play of surprisingly extensive areas of empty space and dynamic forms, in which the gaps are as important as occupied parts that define it. He prints letters in red using letter stamps, writing jokes on the selected segments of the artworks’ surface, and then varnishes sculptures, visually linking them with gallery parquet floor.

Antić uses words within the artwork context to accurately, but not directly points to a problem that is evidently present in today’s society. Jokes, as unexpectedly trivial, even prosaic form of text included in a work of art, in his own unique, humorous but cynical way, point to the fact that in our current situation, criticism must be disguised and wrapped up in order to even get a chance to be publicised. Joke printed as text, as a silent subtitle, free of any mime or dramatic expression, becomes a silent witness that reminds us of the urgency of the situation in culture and art. We cannot help but ask ourselves whether the society’s attitude towards culture is a joke as well?

“A wardrobe is usually placed in the corner of the room to avoid fencing or blocking the passage of light” – wrote the artist in one of his notes at the end of his studies. This statement was disclosed in connection with the fact that a work of art loses its autonomy once it leaves the studio, but today, in relation to the current Igor Antić’s exhibition, may be comprehended in different ways. Is art itself now pushed into the background, cornered, placed somewhere “not to bother,” not to intrude on “real life”, neglected and forgotten, left to exist only per se, as the existence of those who are still in need of it has been systematically ignored? Does art have the same treatment as furniture and, if so, what is the value of a work of art nowadays? Can we even talk about the artistic value or is the material value the only value that remains?

From another point of view, we notice that almost all of us have a corner sofa in our apartments, why would not everyone feel the need to have an artwork as well? When did art cease to be a universal human cultural need and whether this should be a case at all? Are we talking about the lack of need or lack of material resources, taste or something else? Should the art of today, as a corner sofa, be something “comfortable” or if it is “uncomfortable”, should it be discarded or replaced? With his Corner Sofas, Igor Antić continues his examination of the term “value” – he believes that his assignment is to discover a form that will not fall under any value criteria. He instructs us to recognise the uncertain status and ephemeral character of the artwork in today’s society. These features are not characteristic of the art itself; they talk more about the difficulties of the audience whom this art is dedicated to, and who, on daily bases, faces the socio-economic insecurity that brought us the neo-liberal capitalism in which the means of existence are not guaranteed to anyone. Today, we all live in a society of risk, in which the persistent uncertainty is the only constant value. In such circumstances, Igor Antić presents his artwork in the real time, real conditions and real situation in which people come into contact with art; Thomas Hirschhorn noticed that an artist, in order to effectively achieve this, has to be fully aware of the situation and timing, but also he must be willing to take a risk by confronting himself, together with all of us, with reality, offering himself as a pledge. The state of constant uncertainty at the global level was artificially constructed by people who hold all economic power by creating a situation in which all of us, being artists or non-artists, depend on their affection and aid.

Antić does not speak in our name; by pushing the facts that have been deliberately neglected and grounded for years to the surface, he reveals our reality critically from a new angle, initiating a dialogue between the observer and the artwork, but also between the observer and the artist himself. Simply but implicitly jokes reflect our present and the critical state of art and culture. Igor Antić continually experiments within his artistic creativity. For him, art is constant exploring and facing reality. His exhibition Corner Sofas does not pose questions, but only declares the present situation, but it also forces us to ask ourselves – what is the meaning of art today?

Ivona Fregl