(Co)Incidental Authorial Face

Looking back at Goran Trbuljak’slast exhibition season, starting in Spring 2018 with the opening of the retrospective exhibition in Vienna, it is easy to conclude that this is one of the most favourable moments in the conceptual master’s career, which continued throughout the year with a series of more or less retrospectively intoned “institutional presentations” that were organizedboth internationally (Geneva and Bologna) and in several Croatian cities, so after Zagreb (Museum of Arts and Crafts, Gallery of Croatian Designers’ Association) and Rijeka (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) Split is now also joiningthis garland of exhibition events. However, assuming the retrospective viewpoint is inherent to the artist’s practice of self-reflexive examination of the effects of actions he is devoted to, which is most often reduced to minimal gestures of creating a hint of the artist’s presence, or technical procedures of forming traces of that presence, in expected and unexpected public spaces. In one of its segmentsimmaterial, the processual and performative multi-dimensional opusis difficult to reconcile with attempts at rhetorical summary, it rejects materiality of the work that reflects the author’s representation. Trbuljak engages in revealing the essence of an art event as a specific meeting point of different perceptions, unified by the spatial and temporal framework of place.
Incidental principle of his “exhibition” staginglies inthenotable intermediary role of the works (regardless of whether they are posters or objects) in the presentation of a relational situation that subverts the unequal relationship between the privileged, unique, known, even recognizable authorial face and, the diffused, mass identity of the anonymous public. Ever since his first exhibitions this method representedTrbuljak’s philosophical constant –i.e. opening of an unexpected, potentially discursive situation between equally “anonymous” thinking individuals, thus initiating a negotiation game about clear, known and unambiguous assumptions that the social consensus is constructed upon, namely that within culture there exist the public and the artists who are connected through the process of specific communication about certain works or performances, and that there also exists an artistic creation that we, as observers, exhibition visitors, approach with a degree of trust or expectation from theartist’s mythical personality.In that game, Goran Trbuljak as a methodist and a commentator of artistic activity elaborates general conclusions into more complex questions, guiding us from the clear towards the unclear, from the known to the unknown, the usual to the unusual. With his gestures Trbuljak introduces entropy in the orderly world of artistic rules and widely recognized canons, empathy in the communication with the public,and the question of whether art can happen to us in the simultaneously overlapping chaotic life, moreover, precisely when the artist himself is not entirely sure if he wants it to happen or not. Devoted to the “hunting” continuity of pursuing accidental coincidences, of something that may appear valuable, perhaps as a combination of the “forgotten” aesthetic trinity of the good, the beautiful and the true, as an unexpected extraordinary insight into meaningful connections between different concurrent events, Trbuljakcomposes his experimental authorial face out of perceptual nuances between what is displayed and what remains hidden, condemning it to an unfinished process of vacillating self-conception through repetition of the act of authorship.
A potentially elusive authorial face was one of the importantdirections of meaning atTrbuljak’s recent exhibition in the Museum of Arts and Crafts (MUO), as part of the exhibition programme entitledContemporary Artists in the Permanent Collection of MUO. The exhibition had a character of the narrative performance or archive – an installation entitled Back Wash Sink as an intermediary between the two Trbuljaks, that the artist conceived based on an idea of a true event, formulating the viewpoint of a curator and a documentarian of unusual life events. The exhibition in the Milesi Palace has a related representational character, however besides documenting the exhibition in Zagreb it also reflects upon the first public declaration of the authorial face expressed at the exhibition in the SC Gallery in Zagreb in 1971. The poster with an authorial thesis of “I do not want to show anything new and original” also shows the earliest pre-academic photographic self-portrait of Goran Trbuljak, created as an assignment in a photographic department of the School of Applied Arts, for the purpose of illustrating an imaginary book cover that the high schooler notably titled “Autobiography.” An undiscerning visitor might conclude that thereabout, withthe declarative unease of a postponed beginning, Trbuljak’s artistic adventure ended, that he decided to be an anonymous artist until proven otherwise. Perhaps Trbuljak cares so much for regularity of public presentationprecisely for this reason, and he approaches the conception of his exhibition plotline more like a pseudo-scientist, like some kind of an applied physicist interested in selecting, in an appropriate manner, parameters in which the conditions of the prescribed experiment will take place and the proposed thesis be verified.
In the neutral space of the Milesi Palace Trbuljak establishes the precise scheme of three analogous situations that mirror the subjective and inter-subjective experience of making a decision on authorship. By isolating several points in time between 1971 and 2019, from the general dynamics of movement and earth’s rotation around its axis, Trbuljakexamines thespecimens of two acquired institutional relations whose perceptive sequence would reveal the symbolic coincidence between the conceptual construct of the artist’s dubious rolepresented with a formula of monograms and its situational realizations. Like the monogram GT that symbolically represents the artist’s identity, the choice of medium also reflects the symbolic genealogical ambivalence of the relationship towards the real dimension in painting and readymade, as well as an ambivalence of the material appearance of the original and its photographic reproduction.The dual-ended paintbrush, the Back Wash Sink and Trbuljak’s photographic self-portrait are all instruments of symbolic mediation. Moving signs whose trajectories form reflexive relations between the internal and external perception of selfhood of Trbuljak’s authorial face, between physical existence of the two namesakes-Trbuljaks and between the equal valorisation of academic and anonymous artists. Authorial face, whose cheeks are formed through reflections in a continuous game of dual images is only a coincidental collection of traces of the complex social reaction of selected ingredients of this exhibition. According to formula, those would be the Author, Museum of Arts and Crafts and the Academy of Fine Arts, however the versatile Trbuljak employs what is available, in this case GT, JF and ABS. Unambiguous image of unity remains unattainable, thought is broken down into letters, experience into traces of events. Nevertheless, the secret of Trbuljak’sshrewd continuity, the anticipatory potential and the fulfilled promise of devotion to something more serious than mere youthful humour is revealed to those individuals who have a propensity to readsigns. In the realm of signs there is no clear division between the artist and the public because they are both creators. Each of us, depending on willingness, is a potential portal for a higher degree of understanding reality, while Trbuljak, with this study of signs in the Milesi Palace,provides a fertile ground for practicing this existential instinct.
JasminaFučkan, May 2019

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