barbara knezevic

in pursuit of a state of uncertainty
Pallas Contemporary Projects, Dublin
26 - 30 August 2009

When I was about ten or eleven, I remember flicking through a department store catalogue, where I came across a picture of a giant kite. It shimmered and danced—it was perfect. For my birthday that year I was given the kite in bright green. On the first breezy day, I headed out to a small park near my house, kite in hand, with visions of flying. I carefully set the kite down and walked about twenty or so metres ahead with the ball of string. I started running as fast as could, with both arms in the air. The kite caught the wind and hovered for a few moments before collapsing and nose-diving to the grass almost immediately. My second and third attempt were pretty much the same. Suddenly the wind picked up. I ran. This time the kite sailed higher and higher. It surfed the wind and twirled gracefully.

In pursuit of a state of uncertainty is a new installation by Barbara Knezevic recently shown at Pallas Contemporary Projects. The work demonstrates the tensions and relationships between objects and physical forces of gravity, mass, air and magnetism. Objects such as weather balloons, stone, and rope are used as tools for research and understanding. Over time, these objects may fail, break or lose the ability to stay afloat, underlying the temporal nature of things. Moreover, the exhibition is an exploration of the human condition. These objects describe the self—the volatile, unpredictable self that is, itself, temporary and deflationary over time.

The gallery space is long and thin; it lends itself well to Knezevic’s installation. At the front of the gallery are two stands that secure a thin black pole. Neon warning stickers on the side of the stands are peeled off and I can just about make out the maximum weight allowed—30 kilograms. At the centre of the pole is a piece of thin rope, knotted several times. Hanging from the rope is a massive stone—more boulder than stone—I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near it if it falls. The surface of the stone is two-toned, as if lightened by the sun, and rough. The rope is knotted tightly, both top and bottom. Here, two forces act in opposition to each other, causing friction. The pull of the string and the pull of gravity are evident—the string is frayed, taut and stretched.

Beside is a photograph of a small anvil, hung below eye-level as if too heavy to reach higher. Anvils are typically used for hammering and shaping metal. The iron block is decayed and very small in size. On its surface, the text reads: ‘Try to break me’. The text seems to challenge the viewer to dispute its strength and power.

At the centre of the room is a small white book on a plinth. The title of the book is Imaginary objects. Inside the inscription reads as follows:

this is a collection of imaginary objects that have never been made

they are perfect because they exist only here in these drawings, in this book

they can never break, fail or destruct

they can defy gravity, physics and can be impossible

The book is filled with photographs of pencil drawings on post-it notes. Weights are perfectly balanced, balloons are forever floating. Each image will never change, or decay, or fade. On the other hand, post-it notes are, themselves, temporal. Their function is short lived—they are temporary reminders that become loose and fall. By photographing the drawings, Knezevic offers up a sort of dream world where nothing will change; where anything is possible. These imaginary objects are perfectly preserved. Yet, this pursuit is flawed as the book materials—the paper, glue, binding—may break down and deteriorate over time. These imagined and impossible attempts by Knezevic to control or to create a world of perfection only further illustrate the impossibility of such an endeavour.

At the end of the room, there is a bundle of several large weather balloons made of latex, in different sizes. Weather balloons are used to obtain information about atmospheric pressure, air temperature, and weather forecasting. Each balloon is tied to the ground by rope. The balloons are weighed down and suspended, yet there is also a possibility of escape. The oversized balloons seem more appropriate to a fairytale than to reality or practical use. It is as if Knezevic’s post-it drawings have come to life. The fairytale will not last, however, as they will deflate and lose air almost immediately. By my second visit to the gallery, the balloons were slightly shrunken and the ropes loosened.

Knezevic creates a dream-like world where, for a moment, the viewer may step into a place where the implausible becomes real. Virginia Woolf, in an essay titled ‘Street Haunting’, asks: ‘…is the true self neither this nor that, neither here nor there, but something so varied and wandering that it is only when we give the rein to its wishes and let it take its way unimpeded that we are indeed ourselves?’1 These objects become tools to plumb the shifting human consciousness an d the varied self. In pursuit of a state of uncertainty acts as a reminder of the mutability of life. Nothing is permanent, indestructible or limitless. The only thing certain is change. 

notes: 

1. Virginia Woolf, ‘Street Haunting’, from The Art of the Personal Essay, An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, Philip Lopole (ed), Anchor-Doubleday, New York, 1994.