fOrM OveR suBsTAnce
“Form over content” is the art of silence, the art of asking questions and waiting for the answers, the art of searching and uncertain finding.
Have we all become the same? What specifically defines us and makes us different from others? Is it our exterior or our character? What kind of world are we living in? Are we even aware we are living?
These are all some of the questions which we need to think about when looking at the work gathered in this exhibition by Josip Mijić. Questions that, at first glance, seem without reason, surplus, unproductive- but questions with which this exhibition faces us with. The exhibition returns and sets out that which the contemporary man represses and hides. Made through a minimalist artistic language fraught with deep symbolism, this exhibition is Mijić’s “artistic showdown” against the superficiality that threatens to cover all spheres of life, even the art ones. The exhibition that shows little, but gives a lot to see!
Mijić’s work started with the feeling of discontent in the place he lives in, with noticing the rot of manners and decay of values, by finding mimicry of the individual who gradually, layer by layer, takes on oneself the distorted values, convictions and behaviours which would- if one could accept them and see them for once- completely astound them.
How do you make a man to finally see the emptiness? Mijić shows with this exhibition that he realised he can do that only by letting someone else to recognize it, to face the other person with their own challenges and get them closer to the knowledge, by carefully choosing and articulating problems that interest him. The artist realised that the other person accepts and believes only that which he chooses for himself and filters it through his consciousness. So no man cannot and will not see the same thing in Mijić’s work.
Reflecting monoliths, rotten and half-rotten apples, black earth that the visitors have to walk on if they want to experience this art – complete with a video screening and acoustic background – are Mijijć’s question marks with which he makes us see and know our own and society’s superficiality, and to look for a deeper meaning and the message of the art. By realising his idea in a conceptual spirit, Mijić managed to weave the constants of his earlier work into new problems and questions he wanted to express through art. The reduced artistic language, rich symbolism, the dominance of the colour black, and other elements are the recognizable hallmarks of this artist, but the way he uses their potentials is new and original. To be able to transfer and artistically express the problems that have matured in him while he “resisted” identifying and equalizing with the society and environment. Mijić has transferred the primary importance from the form to the content in this cycle.
Religion grown into the material, education without view into the future, politics without the fight for equality for all, dehumanized society built on asocial and antisocial behaviour, pleasure based exclusively on consummation – these are all paradoxes that became motifs of Mijić’s “Form over content”. In today’s society lack is something that is covered, something that is being camouflaged, skipped over, and side stepped, but in these works, it stops at this very spot. Here it is openly pointed at the fact that the society and individual rot under the veil of functionality and superficial order. It points to the fact that, under washed and ironed robes, healthy and good spirit does not often reside, that, under elegant uniforms, shiny suits and silk scarves, a lack of humanity often hides, that practised and lavish phrases for conscious listeners echo with the void they hide…That the world is playing on the surface, while the consciousness hides in the depths.
It is precisely because of Mijić’s – not at all by accident – red apples, rot in a shiny membrane that wraps around them like aa dazzling cape that suffocates. The symbolism of red paint – the colour of blood, colour of life – discovers the artist’s stance that in our society rots the very essence of life, rots the very thing that should be its driving force. The artist believes that the meaning of life is the very experience of living, growing, spreading, maturing, and even decay, but it also shows there is less and less authentic life, and more patterns and molds in which life drowns in. And so there is a conflict between the outside shine and inner rot, and the unpleasant smells that are created when a juicy fruit decomposes. The form, therefore, remains, but its contents and potentials decay because of the contact with the infertile “dazzling” environment, and all that through a little opening that the artist left to enable the process. Because of the membrane in which the “trapped” apple cannot serve as food to sustain the present or as a seed to create new life because the membrane blocks even the dry, black earth from giving it life.
Ancient fertility and restoration symbols in Mijić’s conceptualization are only a passive, useless field on which visitors will walk on, turn in into an even finer dust which will remind them that they will return to dust with every step, and that maybe they are missing the experience of true life. That is why – after this – the view from the other, non-reflective side of the monolith, will be completely different. After they cross the infertile earth, the visitor stops in front of the monoliths and apples in different stages of decomposition. The apple is the symbol of knowledge and restoration that gets its full meaning under the reflecting monoliths, whose mirrors point to fear of knowing oneself, but they are also a meaning of enlightenment connected to discovering the truth. The mirrors of Mijić’s monoliths give the viewers a foggy, cracked reflection of a physical presence, and they make them search for his real being and to point themselves into their own spiritual world. If they accept this view of themselves and “signs” the artist gives them, the back side of the monolith reveals the entire idea.
It is only then that the individual discovers that the black, infertile earth he has been treading while they walked to the monoliths, was originally a part of those monoliths, that it was the foundation of the “true version” of the individual. This earth – symbolically very significant – is in part mechanically and precisely removed from the back of the monoliths, like “superfluous” individuals who “interfere” with the social order, while in other parts it fell off on its own, like individuals who were not strong enough to try and change things, but they wilt fast and get drawn into the vortex with the others. So its manifestation and symbolism in this context includes all the noble things the individual gave up when they gave up on building individuality and their own path, as all the earthy things he accepted by leaning into the society and social norms to become one of many and disintegrate in the mass. In the place of the emptied and naked black surface, the individual has a chance to see every “compromise” he did, every tacit moment in which they should have spoken, every opportunistic siding with the majority, every backwardness and intolerance, every missed opportunity to change, and every opportunity seized for one’s own interest.
By positioning the rectangle monoliths on two sides of the Franciscan Gallery, Mijić created zones of questioning and a zone of contemplation, i.e ,the zone of receiving answers. The central work, with twinkling ornaments and light projections, is of ambivalent meaning. Depending on what the individual managed to read and create as they walked across the black earth, under the apples and the monoliths, in the light of the central monolith, one can see the pinnacle of emptiness, a more finished, tackier version of the other monoliths. But, if in the reflections of the other monoliths, one has recognized “the message”, if one saw the reflections of light and hope it awakens, then in the organic form of the central monolith, in the glow and white light that shines through its black base, the individual can recognize a new dawn, awakening of real life, return to the primal values and a new beginning.
Instead of a trapped seed of a “framed” apple, in this place stands either a “framed” or a reborn individual, enriched by a cleansing experience. What they give to the world after leaving this place, depends on them entirely.