Site-specific art is artwork created to exist in a certain place. Typically, the artist takes the location into account while planning and creating the artwork. (Wikipedia)
Judging from this definition, despite first impression, Bavoljak’s photograph does not in fact enter the aforementioned category. First of all, it would also exist perfectly well anywhere else, since the location is not included in the planning and execution of the work, but the location is rather the content of the work (which places it in a non-existing drawer next to or even somewhat above the site-specific).
More precisely, the content would be the entrance into the location. Or exit, of course, depending on our position considering the content of the photograph. Hence, assuming that a location must first be entered into, an exit should nevertheless be declared as content. Therefore, the content of the exhibition at AŽ Gallery is its exit.
However, regardless of whether it be an entry or an exit, their role at the contextual level is the separation of that which is within and that which is without, which is entirely visible thanks to the transparency of this demarcation. If we were to add to this the fact that, due to lighting, the interior is also separated from the exterior at the photograph’s visual level, it is as if we gain two guideposts towards this very demarcation, i.e., to that which lies in-between. Hence, the content of the photograph is actually the imaginarily real plane that separates the gallery from the outside world.
Or we could speak of several planes, considering the two windows situated to the left and to the right of the entrance, albeit which have the same function – separating the interior from the exterior. And it is only once this is definitely separated, that we can say that the subject of the photograph is actually the space of the gallery.
Naturally, this space can be exhibited in another gallery – with its longitudinal format, in a 4:1 ratio, this panoramic photograph finds its compositional trumps in the specific symmetry of the space, while establishing elementary relation of the inner and the outer with layers of light. In turn, the recognisability of the locality, in collaboration with the position occupied by AŽ Gallery on the contemporary scene, makes it multi-eloquent thematically-wise.
Here, however, exist certain dimensions that would remain under-conveyed should it be presented at some other gallery. One of these is also the position from which it was taken – exactly from the place where it is situated right now; hence, neither bird’s-eye nor frog’s-eye, but rather the wall perspective. This is the point which the main gallery wall faces, this is the scene it sees when an exhibition does not obscure its view.
It is as if the experience of the visitor opposes the perspective of the wall; unlike the wall, to which this scene represents a window to the world.
At first glance, this also represents a window to the visitor, since the ratio between reality and the photograph is 1:1; however, through this window they see that which is behind them, i.e., the photograph is a mirror. The only difference is that the mirror does not reflect themselves. Finding themselves in a situation where their presence is retouched, the visitor will oppose the opinion that this photograph does not fall within the site-specific category, since the artist indeed counted the very location in the work’s execution, but he also counted the visitor in the same reckoning. It is only with their arrival at the gallery that the work becomes site-specific. Which, naturally, can only be perceived from the inside, while the visitor is found at the centre of the scene.
The latter, however, is invisible on this stage, as is the case with any visitor at any gallery; the picture does not change when they step in front of it. However, if the picture suggests the necessity of their reflection, i.e., presence – albeit which is absent – then we could speak of the conceptualisation of the site-specific. It formally begins and ends on the characteristics of the space; this form, however, is in service, it is an active lever in the production of the visitor’s experience. This may be an experience of dilemma, perhaps even confusion, perhaps stimulating deliberation on metaphorical meaning; all in all, something that proceeds from that which is concretely seen, but ends in the domain of that which is real. This formally consistently executed copy metaphorically places the visitor between physical and artificial reality, exactly at the site at which the position of art could also be located.
When told using the concrete, Žitnjak example, not only does this story lose nothing of its universal meaning, but rather additionally substantiates it with its authenticity. The context of Žitnjak, i.e., the environment where the gallery is located, is in a nearly paradigmatic contrast with the contemporaneity of the programme it conducts. Compared to other galleries of the so-called ‘non-institutional ring’, which also participate with their programmes quite actively in defining the contemporary scene, Žitnjak differs by the very historic, and also recent specificities of its location. Certainly, Bavoljak is aware of the fact that he does not have to list these specificities; the exterior in the photograph is indeed devoid of additional information and is featured merely as an associative signifier of the context. However, we did have to pass through it, and regardless of the fact that we often forget about it upon entering the gallery, it nevertheless stays in the fringe of consciousness. The space which it occupies in the photograph also seems to correspond with the space found in our consciousness. Indeed, when we find ourselves inside, in front of the photograph, i.e., in the position from which both in front and behind an identical scene is situated, we experience this exterior as we also would in the photograph. It is as if this visual experience reminds us that ‘Centre of Periphery’ is written above the entrance to the edifice, and hence it is actually logical that the periphery is again located at both sides in relation to this centre, i.e., to this point. It is as if this oxymoronically absurd, albeit metaphorically quite precise name now gained an equally absurd, albeit territorially quite precise location: the centre is exactly here, beneath the name, at the front door, while three metres away, represented by a photographic illusion, that which is no longer the centre will begin again.
If we set aside for a moment the dilemma whether the work – which illustrates the metaphoric dimensions of the gallery space by toying with the latter’s optical effects – belongs to the category of site-specific or not; if we even disregard the dilemma whether this surface – as transparent as is imagined, and manifested by the photograph as a kind of contextual backbone – represents an entrance or an exit, we will ask ourselves of the levels at which the platform, based on the relationship inside–outside, could be applied symbolically. Apart from the initial answer that here, the gallery space – as opposed to that outside – symbolises the relationship between the art world and the real one, as was superbly expressed by Antonin Artaud with the title of his book “Le Théâtre et son double,” which deepens the answer with the following additional questions: What is actually the where? Where does reality begin, and illusion end?, we also find the possibility of symbolic replication of the relationship inside–outside on the relation gallery–edifice in which it is situated. The reason for this is the photograph taken from the viewpoint of the wall separating the gallery from the rest of the edifice; hence, it would illustrate that which the edifice sees. This viewpoint could take on the role of the entrance or exit doors in the photograph, and we, those observing, are behind this viewpoint; it is not that we have eyes on our backs, but we are rather on the other side. Hence, we are inside, and all of this is outside.
Or is this in front also inside? What or who establishes the border: the precise, nearly aimed narrative line of the photograph, or the position of the photographer?
Hence, in spite of the visitor’s opposition and regardless of all of their arguments in favour of the site-specific, it is perhaps exactly this question whose problematics classifies this work in the category of site-specific.
However, so as to prevent a more serious confrontation between us and this visitor, I suggest we agree to a compromise: a space-specific photo.
Ink-jet print on a canvas base.
Measuring 2.6 x 10.5 metres
Camera Canon EOS 1 DS Mark III