Crawling Armageddon, 2016, exhibition, details, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka
The great philosophical question used to be ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ Today, the real question is: ‘Why is there nothing rather than something?’
(…) What we have forgotten in modernity, by dint of constantly accumulating, adding, going for more, is that force comes from subtraction, power from absence. Because we are no longer ca- pable today of coping with the symbolic mastery of absence, we are immersed in the opposite illusion, the disenchanted illusion of the proliferation of screens and images.
in Perfect Crime (1996), Jean Baudrillard describes reality in a reversal from itself, as a hyper-reality in
which ideas and the real world seem identical. in the process that has been dragging since the Age of Enlightenment, we have been stumbling against a surplus of the presented reality and its promotional symbols. in a quest for primal elements that do not obstruct life, but encourage it, Brajnović’s works aim to eliminate the overabundance of the propaganda spectacle that occurs within reality itself. They move away from tacky rhetoric and garnished expression. Molded only with the resources the artist has at his disposal, they negate the priority of medium and form over idea and content of an artwork.
From the very beginnings of being pre- sented in public in the 1990s, Tomislav’s work has aimed to re-
define the cultural and historical heritage, with a consistency in iconoclastic approach. This iconoclastic approach is particularly directed against modern ‘religions’ which are occupied with
the rise in status, deification of nation or an intensification of identity politics. The White Work – the Law of Love and the Book of Life (2011) is among the most recent examples.1 Tomislav has recycled the book Tuđman, the First Political Biography and The Constitution of the Republic of Croatia and used them to make two sheets of paper in which only the random traces of words are visible. …a conditional relevance of a document, whether it
is a biography of the former president, whose figure has hyper- trophied into the father of the nation and become the synonym for state, patriotism and similar categories, or the most relevant legal and political act in the state, is what occupies Brajnović. (…)
The physical process of recycling is a symbolic act of purification, a mental recycling of sorts. What is
at work here is a reversal, or even a temporal inversion. Bra- jnović brings us back to the beginning of things, to a condition that existed before words. He uses a written text, which is both historical and legal construction, to physically disintegrate to the point of nothingness – transforming it into an empty, clean, untouched paper.2 Along with the characteristic methods of duplication, renaming and recycling, The Law of Love and the Book of Life suggests both the form and the content of the author’s oeuvre.
What stands out in Brajnović’s kalei- doscopic collection of works are his satirical reflections on
promises about an unconditional progress and the creation of a globally ‘open’ society, ironic rebuses containing ecstatically formulated mass mottos, acoustic inversions of anthems and similar eulogies that celebrate nation and its highness, as well as mockings of the current establishment where the elements of totalitarian systems are coming back like time bombs. Using curious and archaic words that often refer to messages from the holy Scripture, Tomislav’s works thematicize the substitute religions. They emphasize their dual code – the seemingly ra- tional structure of an irrational content, whereat political prac- tice is decorated with ‘holy objectives’ of war and control and whereat religion is devoid of its basic postulates of spreading peace. Žarko Paić compares this alluring logic of substitutes with the establishment of political religions whose messages are actually very profane. Their main intention is to take control over the consciousness of individuals and social groups, from introducing rituals to the shaping of the system of values. (…) Today, ideologies are not related anymore to the traditional acts of transformation and discipline of consciousness. Rather, their role is to strengthen control over societies affected by turmoil, and they do it by using the methods of reality distortion. (…) Instead of taking a purposeful path into perfection of man and the world, the future comes in symbols of chaos and destruc- tion, and the notion of ‘holy’ returns only in the form of a ‘holy war’. The future does not offer the spiritual transformation in
that what has been preached by all religions of this world since the beginning of time: peace, love and acceptance of the Oth- er.3 The threat of an utmost catastrophe or, in Tomislav’s words, the Crawling Armageddon, is present in numerous works that explore the alliance of money, religious power and secular governments, which disguise themselves into the communities of salvation.4 Video installation Mozart (2016) contains teaching material from the time of the italian Fascism (Trieste, 1935/36), which instructs that God and leader are one and the same, mediating the phantasmal principle of the One – one nation, one class, one empire and one Leader – which existed both in the past and present dictatorships.5 Brajnović’s works show a sort of resistance against the cult of supremacy related to a religious devotion to personalities and things. Light installation Gold (2003 – 2004) is one of the examples. instead of the pop- ular saying In God We Trust, amidst an ironic wordplay we read, In Gold We Trust, Gold And My Right, So Help Me Gold, Gold
Is With Us, Gold Be Praised… Therefore, the need for reversing the dictate of time and finding a better future becomes crucial, with an open question as to how to attain this.
Exploration of the scope of (own) artistic protest, but also a warning against the chronic tensions caused by accumulation, frenzied production and exploitation of mate- rial resources, is described in the work Genesis (2009). Genesis
is staged in the wastelands of the farthest north, in the space between nothingness and the beginning of life. it is presented to viewers via the image of a radio and the sound of the artist’s voice who conveys the message of a demiurge. Motivated by the isolation and silence of the surrounding landscape, Bra- jnović evokes the act of life’s creation, standing on the symbolic zero point. The situation is as magnificent as it is absurd. The question of survival in the unsurpassable nature and in the mo- notonous, hostile terrain, provokes the feeling of insecurity, of being cast into the world. Simultaneously to the dispersion of words about the beginning of life, on an invisible level, icebergs and polar caps melt, habitats vanish, more and more species
is endangered. The attempt of creation – creation of the world but also of a work of art – is immediately suffocated in the
whiteness of this vast landscape.6 Genesis is the parable that speaks of the ephemerality of artwork and the dedication to being an artist. it arises from the need of maintaining spiritual gravity that works on the principle of an ungraspable love
and which does not care for external features. The intangible gravity is Brajnović’s constant preoccupation. Any deviation from this form of gravity leads to a fall, regardless of the fact that the fall does not happen immediately (as it would happen if we disobey the physical gravity). Instead, this fall is gener- ated and accumulated throughout a longer (historical) period of time. I am putting forward a theory that the force holding things together is love and that there is a spiritual optimum whose abandonment inevitably leads to aberration and, finally, to perdition. Appearing as visual echoes of devastated terri- tories of globalism, many of these works symbolize vibrations of Earth, the collapse of balance and discomfort of physical immobility. Sometimes a sound of transcendence can be heard, a transcendence that seems elusive under the pressure of everydayness, where the clashes of reality are conveyed into the anxious feeling of time flow. From silence to turbulence, like in the installation titled The Flag (2016). The possibility of a different beginning is suggested by a confession of failures, both on indi- vidual and collective level. This is visible in Soldier in Ripe Wheat (2015), the acoustic composition that contains reflections on the artist’s previous work, remarks on social and political events and comments on the world of art. This is a satirical chronicle of daily politics, but it is also an intimate story about own position and the obstacles faced by artists in general.
The main difference is that some want to enter the Promised Land by believing in Man, and the others by
believing in God! The only (im)possible revolution is the revo- lution of consciousness. Human consciousness today does not differ much from the consciousness that existed before or after the French or October Revolution. Nothing has changed here; the only progress that has been made is the progress in HD broadcast of the never-ending revolution… The idea of Earth as Eden and the question of who (if anyone) can reach it and how, represents the core of my artistic personality.
Full Circle — notes on im/possible revolution, in first person singular – Ksenija Orelj