This is Not a Name
With the invitation from the director of the International Centre of Graphic Arts, Nevenka Šivavec, to join forces and try to confront the renewed reduction of the biennial’s significance to dichotomous debates about outmoded binary positions such as old/new, graphic/non-graphic, media/contemporary, the members of the biennial’s collective have been given a far-reaching task to consider. In its experimental form, the new format of the biennial is expected to question the established protocols of exhibition conception and realisation, curating, the central concept and theme, and the ensuing choreographies of contemporary exhibition practice. However, this was by no means a principled decision against the system, a withdrawal from it and pretension to an external position, but rather a shift in emphasis and an attempt to open another horizon in the field known as contemporary art. The biennial has thus acquired the form of a spontaneous self-evolving mechanism, which is not driven by a central figure and concept but rather by its own history and the unruly, dense poem by Jure Detela, which dictates reaction and resists being illustrative.
Poetry in general was a decisive reference point when conceptualising the biennial, although neither in the central exhibition nor in the exhibition at Škuc Gallery will the visitor encounter immediate evidence of this. Nevertheless, the exhibition This is Not a Name works as a unique and compact articulation of the principle of the biennial experiment encircling poetry. This is Not a Name is by no means a didactic device or a key unlocking the reading of the central exhibition; in many ways, it is just the opposite; the viewer is additionally confused by the unexpected eclectic selection of works that prevent easy reading in the idiom of contemporary art. Namely, the idea for the exhibition was to reconstruct the trajectory leading to the special format of the biennial, and to do so precisely through works and propositions that served, at some point, and for various reasons, as starting points and points of reference. To reconstruct our path (in an inconsistent and discontinued manner) and thus convey to the audience not a logical line of development, but rather a displaced experience that explains, via a sideway, the intention of the experimental concept of the biennial: why such a biennial and what prompted it.
While conceiving the exhibition This is Not a Name, in an attempt to come up with the ultimate reflection, the members of the biennial collective in fact went back to the beginning, namely, to the question that haunted us all the time and that we never fully unpacked: why poetry and in what form? Why is it poetry that seems interesting at the outset, regardless of the fact that it does not provide our thematic starting point or interpretive moment? Instead of the horizon of reading poetry as poetry, poetry as a special attitude to language came to the forefront; a transcendental view of language in the sense of the condition of its possibilities. Poetry as a question of how language is possible. This decision determined our thinking about the format of the biennial. Applied to the situation of being trapped in the paradigm of contemporary art and its protocols, via a consideration of new approaches to designing exhibitions, this initial commitment found its ultimate motivation in searching for answers to the question of how art is possible today. How can it be thought outside the protocols of contemporary art and spoken about beyond the weary slang of art? Our thoughts were aimed at some transcendental (NOT transcendent) view referring to the conditions of possibility of art. The selection of works comprising the exhibition This is Not a Name can thus serve not to revive our thoughts and considerations, the doubts and concerns of the biennial collective, but rather to open another entry into the main biennial exhibition by interrupting some established paths and opening up new horizons, which is also the spiritus movens of this year’s edition of the biennial in general. The exhibition This is Not a Name functions as an obstacle to the generic experience of art and it does not provide an explanation for the intention of the biennial, but rather reiterates it by insisting on works that cannot be fully captured by any context.