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Presence detection methods. A manual for invisibled.
Liza Bobkova

21.01.2022 – 17.03.2022

Curator: Alexander Evangely

Participants: Liza Bobkova

To visit the exhibition, pre-registration for the session is required: https://myth-gallery.timepad.ru/event/1897320/ 

The works in this project are pulled together and reflected in each other through an ephemeral web of mutual allusions and associations, passing exchanges of meanings, flashes, glitches and similar inspirations. Its hermetic foundation is undoubtedly the invisible lava of personal experience, with its searing intensity, open to the alienating dimension of the universal. Its implementation is a result of swift inner evolution towards a process and state rather than an object or space. It is a step from a static mediation of relevant meanings in sculpture, whose forms Liza has used with virtuosity, to the performative dynamics of video, which she was previously content to do without.

The sculpture revealed the landscapes of open meaning, where its artefacts transformed into shapes, and words were shed like dried petals – the excess of articulation made it unnecessary for Liza to overcome it and be visible. At the same time the video, which grows out of visibility and presence, unfolds in an articulation which the sculpture guarded against.

Expelled from the paradise of static representation and plunged into the hell of an alien medium, Liza had to break through her fear and move in the direction of its growth, aware that a collision was inevitable. This step, which showed fearlessness, oscillated between self-erasure and attempts at integrity, breaking boundaries, making the impossible no longer welcome as it slipped out of the embrace of the darkness. So for Liza, video is something more complex than just another expressive tool.

The exposure brings into focus the mediations of concealed tensions in social communication through the tools and time of the video. These are artistic interpretations of basic constructions and interactions in a proposed situation. The basic construction in performative communications pulls together the structure and reception of the work, while as a series it captures in a sensory sign the emotional topology of the social fabric– always more elaborate and whimsical than the coordinates in which it unfolds.

The excesses, deviations and disruptions in social communication become graphic in the series within a common framework. This torn flesh of meaning speaks of the subject of the works – for example, of communication where there is no understanding, but which still goes on for some reason, or of misunderstanding that persists in spite of insistent efforts of a dialogue. A clear unifying framework converts the familiar minimalist codes of Liza’s aesthetic into video.

 

 

The key point of the project and also a very important point for Liza is video documentation of the performance “i am here”.

In the work “i am here”, Liza documents her performance with cameras fixed in different points, which absorb the performance without viewers or other participants with the indifference of falling snow.

/ snow evenly covered the mine and the forest beyond it up to the horizon, it painted the space white and transformed it into an abstraction.

 

The video “i am here” unfolds in the sterilized emptiness of an abstract winter without time prompts or people – like in the unconscious, a VR or a chat, that is in a dimension not of a physical, but of a phantasm-like reality and in an experience of duration. This timeless ambience is filled with Liza’s voice in a dialogue, but its integrity immediately stuns you with the understanding that there is no interlocutor. Liza experiences their presence – flickering on the verge of hearing, weakened by distance and obstacles, distorted and vanishing in the noise, but still certain – and talks with them, hoping to overcome lack of understanding and distance, to correct the distortions with affected articulation, on the verge of a scream. In the empty snowy landscape, Liza experiences the interlocutor’s illusory presence and emotionally captures us with a strange duality: disbelieving the presence of Liza’s interlocutor, we continue to believe her.

We are convinced by the intensity of the conversation. It seems she can see who she is talking to, and they can hear her, the dialogue continues despite the silence of reality, and the illusion overcomes all resistance of the facts. (But what makes us think that the affective artefact of duration, at the same time an excessive and incomplete conversation with a nonexistent interlocutor, is addressed to reality? To convince us? so long as we consider ourselves to be its agents? To actually find an escape?) In reality there is no communication without an addressee.

The performative construction of this work is fundamentally ambiguous in each point of its movement, including the flickering of the addressee, reality and even the possibility of verification. We doubt the visible and suspect it to be an illusion that is capable of making it complete.

The physical limit of utterance, which goes as far as a scream – highlights and emphasizes the problematic nature of communication and the impossibility of being heard, but also gives it something of the primeval and traumatic, where this scream as a key if not of subordination, then of a way to resonate.

The affective underside (or premise) is encoded and energized by several levels of the original text assembly, transferring context-dependent phrases into a deserted void - the unconscious, the space of the language. In dialogues and chats with her loved ones, Liza marked the moments when the interlocutor selfishly collapsed, stopped listening to anybody but themselves, or read what they wanted to hear into her words, and so they were lost as an interlocutor. Over the years, the list of evidence of misunderstanding has grown into a monument. In the original, they probably rewrote the context and replaced what they heard with something else, and just as the rest of the signs of miscommunication multiplied by egotism, they were not interesting, but the way Liza presents them, this assembly turned into something else.

“It’s just that you have a peculiar idea of time,” Liza shouts all alone, continuing to develop the illusory dialogue that does not need an interlocutor. In the landscape, clearly visible to the horizon, there is no one but Liza. Her lonely scream at the top of her throat makes frozen lumps of clay crumble off the slope, then the performance becomes site-specific, the vast space pervades everything around her and there is nothing on the planet except for it and Liza in its center. When the camera switches over to the background, the viewer realizes just how huge and deserted it is, Liza vanishes into it. The viewer’s eyes become used to its scale.

At some point, her admirable self-compulsion for duration makes one think about the pleasure of screaming (like the pleasure of the text described by Barthes) and remember such moments - almost all from childhood - of absolute sensual fullness and satiation with the world; it’s even better when it's deserted.

"Let's do it!" Liza screams. To whom? Well, actually to herself. These are words borrowed from someone else, and they must be wrong – there should be other words instead. But then we wouldn't hear them.

Sometimes she repeats still louder: “... do you hear me; do you hear me? I'm here" – why does she fail to be heard? We will never know. But the refrain “i am here” echoes, as it were, “i am,” that formula of resistance to the blurring of consciousness, which helps to protect the boundaries of subjectivity when they are under attack.

 

2.

The video "the only way to be rescued from the disappearance is a transition into another person" - as if the role inversion of the first one: it is not Liza who reads, but she is read: people in the video read letters written by Liza at their request. More than a year ago, Liza announced on Instagram Stories that she would write to everyone who sent a video of themselves reading her letter. 73 people wanted to receive a letter from Liza, and 26 sent a video. Liza describes the origin of this project in letter #60, read by Valentin Dyakonov.

For many, Liza's letter becomes their reflection about it, the reader is identified with the letter. It is so striking that it’s like some kind of miracle: as if years of therapy are resolved in this letter and the patient finally gets everything that they’ve been missing all their lives.

In this work reading becomes the reflection of the reader, and letters - their own confessions. It is no less surprising that from the presumption of identification with the narrative, practically its appropriation, the scene of the letter, reproduced by the addressee, returns to Liza, its original author, after which it is finally presented.

Liza plays the role of a censor here - she allows us to see all this. The censor is always invisible, and embodies power as a natural force like a law of nature, which manifests itself, when necessary, invisible and as if non-existent outside these effects.

In Sophie Kill’s project “Take Care of Yourself” (2007), the last letter of her former lover is read by women of various professions; they fill its empty rhetoric with their own experience, which indicates a subtle rift in the linguistic fabric, in communication, in the very substance of this letter. It shows us that language can reveal an unbridgeable rift between people.

Liza's work is mostly her experience, regardless of how it is reproduced in the acts of utterance. The letter neutralizes it, even elevates it narcissistically, indeed, it’s a wonderful text, there is also a miracle in it:

3.

The third work "conditions of absence" is a series of photographs with disappearing portraits. Strangers responded to the offer to take pictures of everyone who wanted to, they ignored the distance between them and talked like best friends. Liza stopped visiting friends and began to meet people in public places. She asked people to close their eyes and took several pictures. There was only presence, just like in the social reality of the city, with its numerous accidental meetings, where voluntary blocking of one’s vision protects them from glances from strangers.

Portraits of random models exist on the verge of discovery; they cross this line and then light up - the traces of people’s presence dissolve in a stream of light. Erasing the portraits, Liza sends them back to the original unknown, where they were before they met her and where they now return.

Perhaps they return to the obscurity of an arbitrary unseeing presence, to its utmost transparency in the stream of light and to absolute social and digital visibility open to control. Will it remind the viewer of the conditions of absence — or a fact of reality? It depends on how you see things. Reality changes as does the attitude towards it. And then another person comes along.

 

Alexander Evangely, project curator

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