Croa­tian Pa­vi­lion – Damir Ocko x Marc Bem­be­koff

Damir Ocko & Marc Bem­be­koff in conver­sa­tion

L'officiel Art - - Sommaire -

Damir Ocko’s works are part of a cons­tel­la­tion of ideas at once dense, me­lan­cho­lic and poe­tic, where the in­di­vi­dual ele­ments call and re­spond to one ano­ther, bet­ween hope and obli­vion, bet­ween rea­li­ty and fic­tion. For the Croa­tian Pa­vi­lion, the ar­tist (born in Zagreb, 1977) has crea­ted a film in col­la­bo­ra­tion with cu­ra­tor Marc Bem­be­koff, di­rec­tor of La Halle des bou­chers in Vienne (France). For L’Of­fi­ciel Art, they take us be­hind the scenes of the project.

Damir Ocko (on the right) with Marc Bem­be­koff.

“The Third De­gree grows as a ka­lei­do­scope; it ques­tions not just the means of ma­king things, but al­so the means of ma­king the au­dience.” DO

MARC BEM­BE­KOFF / The film we will present at the 56th In­ter­na­tio­nal Art Ex­hi­bi­tion – la Bien­nale di Ve­ne­zia – as part of the Croa­tian Pa­vi­lion, is en­tit­led The Third De­gree. Being on the set with you is al­ways a do­ping ex­pe­rience, but this time I feel that it’s even more in­tense, as you’re in­tro­du­cing some new as­pects in your work, in­vol­ving the crew and the back­ground in the film it­self through a dé­cor made of stan­ding bro­ken mir­rors.

DAMIR OCKO / There is a kind of skin­ning pro­cess that runs through the works I am dea­ling with right now, looking for the in­ter­nal struc­tures of how and why things are made the way they are. In The Third De­gree I express the role of the ca­me­ra dif­fe­rent­ly, ma­king it per­form for it­self, but the way it does so is by in­te­gra­ting it­self with the sub­ject of the film. So even if we still car­ry on with the sub­ject, at the same time we make our­selves, the crew, the ca­me­ra, part of it. You see, there is an idea of to­ge­ther­ness that I am in­ter­es­ted in. The to­ge­ther­ness I’m spea­king about em­beds the ques­tions of guilt and col­lec­tive res­pon­si­bi­li­ty. This new film sim­ply opens up and the ques­tion pops: Shall we now burn to­ge­ther?

We are all going to burn to­ge­ther – one way or ano­ther. Our world is bur­ning… It is not a pes­si­mis­tic vi­sion, but ra­ther a prac­ti­cal and res­pon­sible po­si­tio­ning. The world in which we live has got car­ried away, and this pro­cess has conti­nued to in­ten­si­fy. We are both ac­tors and spec­ta­tors of the mu­ta­tions of the contem­po­ra­ry world. It seems to me that The Third De­gree, with this in­clu­sion of the team fil­ming and the pro­duc­tion pro­cess, is part of this line: the dis­tinc­tion bet­ween the acts of seeing and doing gives rise to a cri­ti­cal and ar­tis­tic construc­tion that un­der­mines the re­la­tion­ship of su­bor­di­na­tion of the vie­wer and makes him an ac­tor, ac­ti­ve­ly in­vol­ved in the project.

Of course, it is not about pes­si­mism at all. In fact the pyre I am ima­gi­ning is so­me­thing essential, ex­ci­ting, ne­ces­sa­ry – a mo­ment we could in­duce and sus­tain as a so­cie­ty. It is ve­ry in­ter­es­ting what you are saying in re­la­tion to The Third De­gree and the mer­ging mo­ment of the two sides of the film: the fil­med one and the hid­den one. Ho­we­ver, I feel that we could scratch the sur­face even fur­ther. Be­side the ob­vious ex­po­sure of the act of fil­ming/ seeing in re­la­tion to the act of what is fil­med, what I aim for is more of a melt­down. The pro­cess of fil­ming be­comes the film it­self. We, the crew, melt to­ge­ther with the sub­ject, the single bo­dy. This bo­dy fur­ther re­flects an ethi­cal concern if you think about the par­ti­cu­lar sub­ject of The Third De­gree, but on a wi­der arc it is al­so concer­ned with the role of art as a po­li­ti­cal pro­ta­go­nist. We are all the trans­mit­ters of an opi­nion. Through his works, the ar­tist pre­sents a point of view – so does the cu­ra­tor: from the mo­ment that we – I mean, each in­di­vi­dual – express our­selves, we ins­cribe our­selves in­to rhe­to­ric, we launch lines of ap­proach, other angles to see the world dif­fe­rent­ly by ma­gni­fying or cri­ti­ci­zing its ex­cesses. One feels ve­ry clear­ly in the foo­tage of The Third De­gree those mo­ments when eve­ry­thing blends and melts, crea­ting hy­brid zones where the bo­dy is frag­men­ted. This vi­sual se­di­men­ta­tion – which is al­so a laye­ring of senses – be­comes so­me­times abs­tract, which al­so mir­rors the abs­trac­tion of a world we find more and more dif­fi­cult to un­ders­tand. Would you con­si­der your­self this way?

I have be­come more in­ter­es­ted in rea­ching a kind of a tip­ping point with my works, to em­bed more than just an opi­nion. Even though it is ve­ry dif­fi­cult to sort of “live-stream” the rhe­to­ric I am trying to stream it in a more di­rect way, ho­we­ver, as a com­bi­na­tion of an in­tel­lec­tual and emo­tio­nal ex­pe­rience for the au­dience. Di­rect doesn’t mean ob­vious, and there should be a sense of an ad­ven­ture in the way one goes through my works. The Third De­gree grows as a ka­lei­do­scope; it ques­tions not just the means of ma­king things, but al­so the means of ma­king the au­dience. Re­flec­tions are fil­med, and eve­ry­thing wi­thin is boun­cing back to the film it­self as a ca­me­ra-sub­ject loop. I do won­der, ho­we­ver, how does one make pos­sible a tool that could al­so re­flect the au­dience, their live ex­pe­rience of the film: the ca­me­ra-sub­ject-au­dience loop. Where could we find the tip­ping point in which the to­ge­ther­ness I spoke about ear­lier would al­so in­clude the au­dience? From a cu­ra­to­rial point of view this must be an in­ter­es­ting chal­lenge, mustn’t it?

Ab­so­lu­te­ly. The ex­hi­bi­tion for­mat it­self could be this tool that serves as a tip­ping point. From a cu­ra­to­rial point of view, in­clu­ding the vie­wer is al­ways cen­tral. The vi­si­tor is ac­tual­ly at the ve­ry heart of the ex­hi­bi­tion for­mat, he be­comes the re­cei­ver or the tar­get. To that extent the Croa­tian Pa­vi­lion will play an im­por­tant role thanks to the reflection of the bo­dy and space (as well as the roofs of Ve­nice) in the bro­ken mir­rors we will put on dis­play. The mir­ror is ve­ry im­por­tant in this project, first and fo­re­most in The Third De­gree film. Even du­ring the shoo­ting… I’m both un­com­for­table and fas­ci­na­ted by the de­vice that you concei­ved: it’s real­ly in­tense to see the set and to be in­clu­ded in it at the same time. In­deed, the ka­lei­do­scope works, it re­po­si­tions us.

The way the ka­lei­do­scope works is that it al­so di­sem­bo­dies. It gives a kind of ana­ly­ti­cal image with its frag­men­ted, ac­ci­den­tal re­flec­tions. I am in­ter­es­ted

“Like a film, an ex­hi­bi­tion has a du­ra­tion: the per­iod of time wi­thin which the ex­hi­bi­tion it­self holds the vie­wer.” DO

The Third De­gree film set.

in the ana­ly­ti­cal. First and fo­re­most, I would like to dis­sect and open up the way the works are made. This is not just ap­pa­rent in The Third De­gree, but in the other works as well.

How are we going to ma­nage the space of Pa­laz­zo Pisani S. Ma­ri­na to make this vi­sible?

Poe­try will be scat­te­red throu­ghout the rooms of Pa­laz­zo Pisani S. Ma­ri­na in­clu­ding dis­creet ins­truc­tions on how to read the poems out loud. It will act like a cons­tel­la­tion of ob­jects that are more pla­ce­hol­ders for ideas than art it­self and show the de­li­cate state of my works in stages bet­ween the pro­duc­tion and re­cep­tion, and of course the ve­ry way the ex­hi­bi­tion is concei­ved: more as an ana­ly­ti­cal curve than the usual dis­play of works. Ma­na­ging the space with a more ana­ly­ti­cal ap­proach is one thing, but there is al­so a need to ma­nage the time of the ex­hi­bi­tion. Like a film, an ex­hi­bi­tion has a du­ra­tion. I don’t mean the ac­tual du­ra­tion of the bien­nale, but the per­iod of time wi­thin which the ex­hi­bi­tion it­self holds the vie­wer.

What you men­tion here is real­ly sti­mu­la­ting. I’m in­ter­es­ted in Ex­pan­ded Film and how ob­jects dis­played in­side a space can pro­duce a ci­ne­ma­tic ex­pe­rience. To me, Ex­pan­ded Ci­ne­ma is not on­ly a film ma­te­rial or a pro­jec­tion, but it can al­so be di­verse ob­jects, gi­ving back some ma­te­ria­li­ty to Time and Space. It’s like being in a train and wat­ching the land­scape un­fol­ding be­fore your eyes. This is a mo­ment of tran­si­tion, of pas­sage from one place to ano­ther, but what hap­pens in bet­ween those two phy­si­cal points is full of dif­ferent scale mo­ments, mind and vi­sion. Ac­tual­ly, I like this shift, this re­ver­sing of the role and the po­si­tion of the bo­dy: from stil­l­ness, sit­ting in front of a pro­jec­tion, the bo­dy of the vie­wer starts mo­ving. Ini­tial­ly phy­si­cal, this vi­sual re­la­tion­ship al­so sum­mons up our men­tal re­sources and sets us thin­king about what is on dis­play: tan­gible ob­jects, yes, but al­so vi­sions of the world fal­ling bet­ween sub­jec­ti­vi­ty and ex­ter­na­li­ty – bet­ween the clo­sed world and the in­fi­nite uni­verse.

It is ra­ther a de­li­cate pro­ce­dure to ex­pand the film throu­ghout the ex­hi­bi­tion. Being aware of all the traps that could make it ba­nal, I have put a lot of thought in­to what kind of a ma­te­ria­li­za­tion must hap­pen in the rooms bet­ween the two films pre­sen­ted – TK and The Third De­gree. The main concern is not to make use of ob­jects such as props or straight­for­ward de­ri­vates from the films it­self, but to find a way to ex­pand the poe­tic side of the films throu­ghout maybe even com­ple­te­ly dif­ferent works. The fil­med mir­ror ins­tal­la­tion in The Third De­gree has a dif­ferent role from the one ex­hi­bi­ted. It is ac­ting as a dif­ferent tool. In the film it bounces back on­to the screen the in­ter­nal or­gans of the film, and in the ex­hi­bi­tion, it seems to be doing the same thing but with the au­dience and the ex­hi­bi­tion it­self. Damir Ocko is re­pre­sen­ted by Gal­le­ria Tiziana Di Ca­ro (Naples) and Ka­sia Mi­chals­ki Gal­le­ry (War­saw).


Damir Ocko: Stu­dies on Shi­ve­ring / The Third De­gree Croa­tian Pa­vi­lion at 56th Ve­nice Bien­nale, Pa­laz­zo Pisani S. Ma­ri­na.

So­lo ex­hi­bi­tion com­mis­sio­ned by Mi­nis­try of Cul­ture of the Re­pu­blic of Croa­tia, cu­ra­ted by Marc Bem­be­koff. May 9-No­vem­ber 22.


Damir Ocko is ta­king part in the 3rd Project Bien­nial D-0 ARK Un­der­ground, Kon­jic, Bos­nia and Her­ze­go­vi­na. From April 24.

Marc Bem­be­koff will cu­rate a so­lo show of Salvatore Aran­cio, Centre d’art contem­po­rain La Halle des bou­chers, Vienne (France). May 29-Au­gust 9.

“The ex­hi­bi­tion is concei­ved more as an ana­ly­ti­cal curve than a usual dis­play of works.” DO

The Third De­gree film set.

The Third De­gree film set.

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