In the last two decades, new forms of mass communication have had an extensive influence on our daily life. Catherina Zavodnik’s works are the authentic reflection of contemporary society defined by the eclecticism of styles and a wide variety of messages conveyed through mass media. The distribution of a personal culture has become a self-evident requirement for active participation in real-time communities, where each of us involved in the process of data search can act as a recipient of information or as its sender.
The artist’s exhibition in the Bežigrad Gallery consists of a series of plaster cast plaques with sayings consisting of letters patterned on a surface. These often occur in the form of a continuous text, or at times consist of only separate words or dates, whilst some of the plaques are completely blank, with no signs patterned on a surface.
Covered with thin layers of red clay on plaster, they have a slightly textured surface. On the plaques patterned with texts, we can notice the gaps between separate letters, which produces the play of light and shadow, as well as the light of raised reliefs symbolically illuminating. The combination of plaques with sayings and those without them creates the impact of visual reality that rhythmically vibrates, and in front of us is a repetitive modular design. Although the arrangement of these works follows a certain pattern, design patterning is not what concerns the author, but rather how to create works focusing on the impact that colours and shapes of letters can produce. She arranges the plaques in a well-premeditated order: the reliefs with messages are placed on both walls, deliberately vertically, but the message-free plaques are laid horizontally on the floor, covered by a track of artificial grass. All the plaques, made from the same material, produce an effect of a co-existent and monochrome image; however, it is a wide range of design elements and specific meanings these convey that defines the whole set-up. The arrangement of plaques in a premeditated order is meaningful: each of them has a specific meaning, but when placed next to each other they form the shape of the letter U, which we can notice the moment we step in the gallery. The letter illustrates the process of communication; vertical lines signify how it begins and ends, whilst the horizontal shows it carried on.
How communication develops is supposed to be less significant than how its starts and ends; however, this indicates that the course of communication can alter, changing its initial direction. The tripartite composition can also represent the triad of a speaker-speech-listener or an artist-art-viewer, for the plaques occur as the co-existence between visual and verbal communicative systems. These seem to co-exist; however, they explicitly vary from one another, characterized by their particular traits. Owing to this, the tension between visual and verbal signs is building up, which emphasizes the barrier between the concept of creation and the material used to embody this. The author is trying to narrow it by applying uncoloured plaster and emphasizing the letters patterned on its surface by raised relief, which makes the plaques acquire the shape of a PC or mobile phone. This leads to the uniformity of an idea and the material of its embodiment; a message intimate in nature, put in a new context, has become an aesthetic object. The bordering line between the personal and social has been crossed, the barrier between high and popular culture bridged.
These works contrast the personal and the public, the general and the individual, and it becomes possible for the viewer to see these objects from a different perspective, based on so-called “relational aesthetics”. For the artist the work of art defined as “the society inter-space” becomes a means of communication.
Catherina Zavodnik is in this project an author, selector, editor, designer, mediator, spiritual healer, for she evokes the viewer to get over the traumatic experiences they might have had in the past. As she takes up a variety of roles, she also brings up a question about authorship: an unauthorized idea that appears on the web does not belong to any individual, but can be adopted by anyone and disseminated in another surrounding. This places it in both the public domain and the privacy of a free individual. The new, freedom-fostering technology, which has become a means of manipulation and thought-control, is at the same time alternating the ratio between verbal and visual communication in the process of social interaction. To generate and convey messages we nowadays use modern ways such as sending SMS and e-mails. These two seem to dominate our communication, which deprives us of non-verbal ways of communication like body language, gestures, an eye contact, and leads to a great amount of misunderstandings among us. When a language defined by its codes and conventions, flexible in nature, involving the free admission of foreign words, loan words, slang expressions starts to change, individuals using such an altered language start to change likewise, sometimes unaware of what is going on. Personal iconography starts to flourish alongside standard socially accepted language, defined by the principles of certain aesthetics, rules of common use, ideology. This gives us an insight into the world of an individual living in the world of a consumer’s society. The author communicates to us in a kind of street art language and focuses our attention on stereotypical and other socially accepted views.
Catherina Zavodnik concerns herself with the connection between sculptural tradition and modern communication technology. Establishing a link between technology and the work of art, she relocates the words and moves from the sphere of the intimate to the world of public concerns. In her visual project of interactivity, she makes the viewer plunge into his memories of the past, at times presented only by a certain date. Being an exhibitionist with a voyeuristic interest in his past and the associations he used to have, the viewer fills in the blank fragments on the plaques. He is open to self-examination, defines the meaning of quotations and in this way achieves his ambition of taking an active part in communication, with the author, though being an uninvolved bystander, constantly provoking him. In the ritual of communication, the author unveils uncomplicated stories of relations among people, and symbolically defines our world of thoughts, senses and emotions through the specific features clay and plaster have.