Jovan Čekić: Layers of the Real (The Accident of the Real)

In his conversations with Bernard, even Cezanne complained on the inflation of images in galleries and museums of his time. With the emergence of technical reproduction and particularly new media, this inflation has been accelerating without any sign of stagnation. Moreover, what at the late twentieth century still had a form of the galaxy of images, now transforms rapidly, through an uncontrollable Brownian motion, into a kind of ‘chaosmos’ in which Heideggerian statement that the world became an image is merely a hint of the things to come. If the pictures once originated in mapping the events, they now refer to almost nothing else except to themselves in a kind of endless circulation whose final effect is the emptiness and loss of any notion of the arrow of time. The icons and propagators of this emptiness establish the very circulation as an event, and the basic body movements as eroticism. The worriless treatment of ‘chaosmos’ as a database from which anything can be copied and pasted anywhere indicates that Duchampian experience of ready-made as well as the whole avant-guarde had been set aside or even completely forgotten. Behind this negligence emanates the naive belief that content of the database is miraculously emptied of any ideological, political or economical residue.

It could be said that, within the perspective of the ‘real’, the ‘reality of chaosmos’ – just like the computer-generated images of fractals – repeats the elementary procedures of digital image composition. That ‘reality’ is structured as a play of order and/or transparency of particular layers of the real so that what is visible/readable in one layer can, by the minimal intervention, be masked or hazed in the other. At the same time, each layer retains something of the holographic paradigm in which even the smallest fraction of hologram can still project the whole image, although with reduced sharpness (resolution). The layers thus form some kind of unstable net that remains open to various nomadic strategies.

Within this model of ‘chaosmos’ in art, the strategy of minimal interventions is relevant. In this new ‘minimal’, there are no more radical moves or the all-encompassing critique, but there is a different, quite virtual, lapse of layers in which something masked can be revealed or sharpened in order to get released from the opacity. The artist, like the detective in Blade Runner, discovers distortions, anomalies or cracks in the seemingly ordinary images that surround him, in one of the layers of the ‘real’, pointing to the curvatures and slips of the sense from something local toward global, from the subjective and personal toward social or political. The effect of this artistic strategy is closest to what Virilio calls ‘the accident of the real’ in which the virtual not only gets ‘more real/true’ than the actual, but also tends to replace it. In such strategy, no medium or material is privileged for the minimal interventions but there is a cynical distance or dada-mockery to everything that could be pronounced as ‘real’. Only from the experience in the language of new media and technologies it is possible to work with ‘the accidents of the real’ and that is exactly where the subtle and deceiving line between the traditional and non-traditional use of new or classical media is drawn. At the beginning of new millennium, ‘the accidents of the real’ substitute the critique and radicalism of the historical avant-guarde, just like the society of surveillance and discipline is replaced by the society of control.

This text is dedicated to the young artists: Jelena Radić, Bojana Romić, Mirjana Stojadinović, Ivana Smiljanić, Isidora Fićović, Veljko Onjin, Vladimir Vinkić and Zoran Ljubinković.

Flu_ID exhibition catalogue, Dom omladine, Belgrade 2002.


Works at Flu_ID exhibition 2002, Dom omladine Gallery, Belgrade.