Gel Chambers
January 20 —
March 13, 2022
Gosposka ulica 16
1000 Ljubljana
CURATORPiera Ravnikar

Timotej Prosen
Mario Zupanov

            The set-up consists of materials with varying degrees of plasticity and viscosity. However, the shapes they form share the properties of a chamber, a mould or a support structure, i.e. certain basic mechanisms that enable amorphous materials to assume a particular shape in relation to a particular external barrier or support structure. At the most direct level, then, we can observe how less rigid materials become caught in the chambers of more solid structures, how plastic chambers deform under the pressure of their contents and how amorphous substances penetrate the barriers of their support structures. This is reflected in the sculpture in quite a recognisable way, evoking a kind of pool or tub, although beyond this generic functionality, it would be difficult to assign a more specific context and purpose to the object as its form is deliberately incongruous. Even more difficult to place are the hanging plastic compartments filled with shower gel. The gel, easily recognisable by its characteristic scent, probably represents the most homely element of the installation for the viewer, but here, removed from its everyday context, we can see it in a very different light.

            We could say that the whole installation creates a kind of "uncanny valley" effect, where the homely and easily recognisable on the one hand, and the unlocatable and foreign, on the other, overlap. In the exhibits, we can see connections to aspects of private living spaces, to generic decorative objects of public and commercial centres or virtual spaces created in the context of internet "aesthetics", such as Poolcore. The exhibition objects thus act as fragments torn from a wide variety of spaces and their either functional or ornamental contexts. However, the fragmentary character of the set-up cannot be attributed solely to the transfer of the object from its "natural" to its artistic context, i.e. the way in which the exhibition space incorporates aspects of other spaces that have long been known under the term readymade. It was possible to speak of the readymade as a special type of artwork up to the point that art was still limited, at least to some extent, to the production of objects of a particular kind and the space of art production remained excluded in a special way from other types of production. Nowadays, however, according to Lotringer, it is difficult to imagine anything that could be excluded from the field of art. Simon thinks similarly, arguing that the field of art has “expanded exponentially to include the entire society. Along the way, it grabbed anything that could be used for its own purpose—recycling garbage, forging communities, investigating political issues, tampering with biology, and so forth—simultaneously appearing and disappearing with an ambiguous promiscuity.” Although this kind of indefinable promiscuity is not unique and perhaps not even predominantly characteristic of art spaces. The fragmentary character of the objects in the present set-up is not primarily due to their exclusion from their usual context, but to the fact that they come from spaces that, like art, are less and less closed and demarcated from others, that open up at all points of intersection with other spaces and whose contents are subject to a constant pressure of fragmentation, decomposition and reconstruction. What makes such objects unplaceable is thus exactly their generic quality, the fact that they could find themselves in any of the listed public, corporate or virtual domains, and it would be difficult to say that they belong entirely to a particular space.

            In this respect, the set-up has much in common with so-called liminal spaces, places that we experience not as spaces with their own identity, but as points of passage, like waiting rooms or airports. For the needs here, however, we have to expand the idea of liminal spaces – the exhibition does not evoke spaces through which we travel ourselves and which retain a special generic character precisely because of their specific purpose of transit. The exhibition space is a place of transit not only for people but also for all the elements that make it up. From this aspect, it evokes private and public as well as virtual spaces – for none of the spaces mentioned is clearly separated from the others, and the specificity of each can only be sought in the temporary form of the overlap it forms with the others. The liminality or transience of the exhibited objects thus lies primarily in their own movement, therefore in the way they break down and weave new aesthetic, functional and commercial contexts within our environment, and in the fact that we cannot keep up with this movement as it exceeds all possibilities of human transit.

            The exhibits themselves are therefore the main agents in the dynamics to which they refer. From this point of view, one could say that the exhibition steers us back to the materiality of the exhibits themselves, i.e. to the aspect of the objects that belongs to them and through which they are independent of our gazes and the meanings we ascribe to them. In this respect, the exhibition is clearly "object-oriented" – it shows the object in all its autonomy, but it is not an impossible requirement to see the object directly in its independence from the position of the viewer and the artist. In this respect, the speculative aesthetic of the exhibition is even closer to Morton's idea of the hyperobject, which is an object that transcends the viewer's gaze in that it includes the viewer himself as only one of the factors contributing to its form. The material aspect of the work could certainly be sought in the substance caught in the plastic chambers or in the structure that serves as a support for the form of the objects on display. However, a trace of materiality can also be found at the level of how an object steps into a relationship with the viewer and other objects, and how the object simultaneously establishes and intersects these relationships. In such a way, for instance, shower gel is suspended in plastic containers and at the same time in that usually brief moment after it leaves the packaging and before it is flushed down the drain. At this point, as at all others, its form is of course not just a matter of its materiality. Perhaps we could say that the material aspect of things in general does not allow itself to be caught otherwise than in a certain relationship, either to us or to other things that act as chambers or moulds in which matter takes on a certain form. However, we can observe how, in this specific interweaving of more or less plastic and viscous materials, substances assert their form and formlessness, how they become caught in various chambers and frames and how they seep through them.

          R SPACE, a new artistic initiative of RAVNIKAR GALLERY SPACE, was launched in collaboration with ZRC SAZU and is aimed at the youngest generation of artists who present themselves mainly in the mediums of painting, drawing and sculpture in all its dimensions and forms.

            Maks Bricelj (1991) graduated in 2016 in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana, where he is currently completing his master’s degree in Sculpture. His work includes installations of hybrid assemblages and material accumulations in which he explores the incompatibility of artworks with exhibition spaces and alternative ways of presenting them to the public. More recently, he has been exploring the use of new materials in sculpture-making. He has produced two album graphic designs for the music project SsmKOSK. He has exhibited in several solo exhibitions, including Not Being Able to Function Properly at Kino Šiška (2019), Brief Silence at Hiša kulture Pivka (2019), Cobwebs at Night Window Display Gallery (2019), and group exhibitions, Open Call at Škuc Gallery (2017) and Community Kit at MAO Project Space (2017).