Nika Oblak & Primož Novak
17 September – 18 October 2020
DLUL Gallery, Breg 22, Ljubljana
The new work by the duo Nika Oblak & Primož Novak entitled Infinity (Digital) focuses on the influence of contemporary means of communication on one’s life. Their artistic practice over the past fifteen years has continuously addressed the position of humans in the clenches of consumerist doctrines, media cacophony and popular culture. Along the same lines, in their latest work they have created a spatial video installation consisting of screens, cables and other heralds of everyday modern life.
Employing a good measure of humour and self-irony, the artists focus once again on the human being that is – no less than in the past – caught up in the absurdities of daily routines and subjected to the conventions of tradition and the patterns of dominant culture. Infinity (Digital) shows the motif of running, symbolised by an ordinary man involved in the multilayered mechanisms of today’s neoliberal reality. The image of the protagonist running in an infinite and senseless loop from screen to screen can thus be seen as a manifestation of the myth of Sisyphus who, by means of divine punishment, was condemned to repeatedly roll a boulder up the same hillside. With this gesture, the artists point out people’s self-evident attitude to technological progress, show the imperative of adapting to all kinds of changes and call attention to the loosening of basic humanistic values. Even though, in the last few decades, society and technology have advanced to the degree that there is seemingly less and less monotonous work and jobs, the abundance of everything that is available in the material and virtual world can still make one feel caught in the metaphorical aimless run. Contemporary society worships constant fulfilment, whether through work or leisure activities. Subjected to all kinds of stimuli, people today are consequently overloaded with activity. Regardless of whether it relates to one’s job or one’s vacations and travels, activity is ever-present, such as on social media networks where there is a constant absorption of information.
That is why the video’s protagonist, dressed in casual clothes, who persistently and endlessly runs through the screens, can symbolise precisely this inevitable entrapment of individuals in the shackles of prescribed lifestyles and activities, which they cannot resist – at least not without the risk of extreme social deviation or ostracisation, The monumental, white, spaceless environment of the video, into which the runner moves in an even straight line, metaphorically suggests the self-evident fact that an individual is always subordinate to the collective – that is, to society – and always has to adapt to it, for his or her own comfort. The infinity examined by the artists is highly abstract and formless. But, at the same time, it is very familiar since people are consciously or unconsciously prone to repeat patterns, which actually fulfil them and provide them with a feeling of security. The infinite run and its monotonous sound could thus be a lucid depiction of the artists’ relation to the world and their own position in it.
Nika Oblak & Primož Novak have been working collectively since 2003. In their art practice they examine the influence of media and capital on contemporary society, dissecting its visual and linguistic structure. Oblak & Novak have exhibited worldwide, in venues like the Sharjah Biennial (AE), Japan Media Arts Festival, Tokyo (JP), Istanbul Biennial (TR), Biennale Cuvee, Linz (AT), Transmediale Berlin (DE), FILE Sao Paulo (BR), among others. They have received numerous grants and awards, including the CYNETART Award by the Trans-Media-Akademie Hellerau in Dresden (DE), an honorary mention of art critics at Biennale WRO, Wroclaw (PL), the White Aphroid Award for artistic achievement by MMC KIBLA, Maribor (SI) and a Rihard Jakopic honorable mention, awarded by the Slovenian Association of Fine Arts Societies, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, Moderna galerija and the Slovene Association of Art Critics (SI).
Authors: Nika Oblak & Primož Novak
Accompanying text by: Miha Colner
Translated by: Maja Lovrenov
Co-production: Aksioma – Institute of Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, 2020
Supported by: The Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Ljubljana