„I will call an apparatus literally anything that has in some way the capacity to capture, orient, determine, intercept, model, or secure the gestures, behaviors, opinions, or discourses of living beings.”
– Giorgio Agamben: What is an Apparatus?
In the past couple of years, Damir Očko has produced a vast body of work consisting of artist films, objects, installations, poetry and works on paper such as photo-collages and graphic musical scores, shaping his artistic interest based in exploring poetic and political potential, by placing the human body in the center of a kaleidoscopic image that reflects positions of power, fragility or violence and their relations to modes of representation.
The artist’s first solo exhibition in Romania, Repeat After Me, which occupies both gallery floors, is conceived as a vast immersive panorama and is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of his works to date, giving an insight into Damir Očko’s artistic practice.
The exhibition builds up around the ideas and artworks explored in previous projects such as Studies on Shivering: The Third Degree, which saw Damir Očko representing Croatia at the 2015 Biennale di Venezia. It brings together the artist’s recent film production: four major film works since 2012 – We saw nothing but the uniform blue of the Sky (2012), Spring (2012), TK (2014) and The Third Degree (2015) – presented as film installations in the basement exhibition spaces. Films are set in dialogue with a series of newly produced and older interrelated works presented on the upper floor. Thus, aesthetic, conceptual and formal frameworks behind Damir Očko’s artistic practice, that are mainly shaped around a central position of a moving image based work, become fully discoverable in the gallery space, inviting the audience to explore them and establish new connections.
Each film follows a fragmentary narrative, a dialogue between the languages of film and poetry, as an architecture of partially connected images, texts and contexts, fluidity of language, camera moves and cinematic procedures. At the first floor the display is structured by a series of visual, textual, aural works generated from concepts found in the artist films, as taking off the skin of the film itself. Based on photographic background of images such as production photographs, the collages are intervened upon by a layer of minimalist abstract forms.
The artist often gives observers and visitors the role of explorers ready to grasp the many layers of his works either intuitively or rationally. Therefore, by saying Repeat After Me, the artist is performing a speech act, inviting us to follow him as he embarks on the exhibition as a journey.
Choreographing our way through the exhibition we are actually following the artist’s request from the title. The speech act Repeat After Me implies a performativity inscribed in the theatricality of the exhibition display. Damir Očko’s meticulous presentation turns the gallery space into a device, an apparatus dis/orienting and shaping a dramaturgy of the exhibition, in both the physical and the discursive space it occupies.
Text by Branka Benčić, curator
Partner of the exhibition