Or an Island or a Boat, the exhibition by the Croatian artist Tina Gverović examines the relationships of unstable, transient subjects and the real and fictional topographies they traverse and inhabit. Staged here, the exhibition functions as a memory theatre in which the artifacts perform in the context of the gallery, snagging our own recollection of past encounters. Paintings and drawings, depicting partial figures at work and rest, are displayed on structures in new constellations. These supports introduce a classic, serial methodology of display, but also act as spatial divisions, rehearsing Gverović’s concern with territorial boundaries.
Despite the intentional formality of the arrangement, there is no division between object and support structure; every part of the exhibition – a painting, a frame, a beam, a sheet of plywood, a video-image, has a material presence and a sculptural form that melds deliberate action, process and display.
A voice speaks and rolls words through the air; speech fills the room, words reverberate off the hard walls, the ceiling and floor, becoming broken and ragged, before settling as gently moving accretions in some corner. Once named, words acquire material form, they become things. The voice that speaks them describes a place, not here, but over there, faraway. Sentences serve to evoke locations not present but imagined. Consider that every travelogue, every story of a journey, no matter how closely observed and truthfully told, as a fiction. But we insist on listening for information, for content, that would lead us to become lost in that place, entirely forgetting, that the instrument that carries the message, the voice, is entirely located in the gallery. Here, the sound is mediated, changing shape as it is transformed: transmitted from the speaker’s throat into a microphone, mixed as an audio file, then cut into the grooves of a vinyl record that can now be seen spinning on a turntable, and finally released from the cone of a speaker into the space. The voice is not primarily a transmitter of messages, but a place.
A film shown on a monitor is made of light and deepest shadow; the story is illuminated, while the cut or dissolve – representing a movement from one place or time to another – plunges us into momentary darkness. But though the darkness acts as frame and mechanism for the action, it receives neither notice nor commendation. This blind spot, this black interval might be called the terra incognita of film, an unknown and unknowable place, a moment without which the explicit plot would be senseless.
The exhibition title references an ambivalence between a nautical craft and a place; one refers to transience and placelessness, the other to stability and permanence. Perhaps the metaphor can be extended to the gallery, to be understood as a ship, an ark that contains a collection of things to be saved from the flood, which has run aground on some hard, distant spit of land.
This text is an excerpt from Terra Incognita by Nicolas de Oliveira and Nicola Oxley published as part of the vinyl record accompanying the exhibition.