Ksenija Turčić : Sunt Lacrimae Rerum?

The picture of perpetual dripping projected on the wall of the gallery is reflected in the mirror placed on the floor. The size of the mirror is the same as the size of the surface of the wall under the projection. Both the mirror and the projection are touching along the whole width where the wall is connected with the floor – a drop is joined with its reflection. The sound of filling and then emptying of the quantity of water is being rhythmically repeated during the whole process. 

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Only the waters of body easily
accept someone else’s secrets

In the clearness of these waters
things incessantly dissolve & shut themselves

Miroslav Kirin, Tantalon *

The sound that suggests the dripping is a simultaneous and monotonous rhythm of repetition. The quantity of the liquid is being collected, the new drops are falling into bigger and bigger puddles of water, and then everything disappears, to be repeated from the beginning, infinitely. The continuously filling and emptying, drops of water presented through the video projection, awaken a symbol – the tears. When reducing the visible, Ksenija also in her earlier works – installations proportionally increases the notion of the invisible. A symbol is always placed instead of a non-present object or reference, because only the missing thing can be symbolised, therefore formally presented. (1) The place where the drops are created and where they disappear is invisible, as well as their symptom. What is presented is only the mechanism: machina lacrimalis.

It is possible (medically) to present a part of the invisible. A teardrop is consisted from 98% water, 0,6% proteins, 1% minerals, especially NaCl ,and antibacterial solution that has vitamins A and C. The ciliary process wets the eyeball, and the tears are taken through various channels, and excreted through the nose. But, when there are too many tears, the liquid cannot be sucked in through the cornea, and is pouring over the eyelid. The excretion is performed under the control of the autonomous nervous system: the sympaticus that regulates the normal secretion, and parasympaticus that regulates psychogenic and reflex secretion. (2)

The other part of the invisible, the symptom, the one that effects the parasympaticus, is signalised but hidden. ‘The material model is a mere transmitting of the implosion of space…’says A. Maračić (3), ‘the possibilities of a sudden insight into the inside of our individual universe.’The material pattern in this installation is also being subjected to reduction, almost to the utter dematerialization ( unless tears are things?). But the same as in previous ambiences there is again the mirror as the royal symbol of the imaginary.

In the search of starting point of affections, we inevitably encounter Narcissus, since according to the contemporary psychoanalysis its origins are based on the margins of narcism and idealization. As Freud says, it is not Eros, but the kingdom of narcism that represents the explosive, and probably dominates the physical life. ( This illusionist permanence is being rehabilitated, brought back to normal in spheres where the desire is being fed on the breasts of my reality…love, and since love creates the ocean-like feeling of content narcism, nothing affects more than the deprivation of love).(4)

In order to reach the personal physical space we need emptiness. For the contemporary analysis it was discovered as the constituent element of human psyche. Therefore the symptom as the mediator of the emptiness is more easily transmitted on the sphere of the metaphor that is condensing the phantasms.
The narcism is protecting the emptiness, it enables its existence, and the emptiness through inversion enables the returning to the sphere of elementary differences: ourselves and/from Others. ‘Without that solidarity between the empty and the narcism, the chaos would destroy every capability of differentiation, trace, symbolisation, bringing into confusion the limits of the body, the words, the real and the symbolic. A zone is needed in which the emptiness and Narcissus, in interaction present the point zero of imagination.’(5) Psychoanalysts claim that the problem of abolishing of the physical space, i.e. the lack of the connection between the imaginary and the empty, lies in the roots of contemporary problems.

The contemporary Narcissus is like the mythical one: fascinated by his own reflection, which is running away, is actually someone who is deprived of his own space. He does not love anyone, because he is nobody. For him Anotherone is his own reflection, and in the end he is incapable of bearing that presented, but non-existent self. Like a refugee, deprived of his own spiritual space, Kristeva calls him an alien that cannot be reflected in the mirror because the mirror is constantly running away and twisting, like the one from the circus. ‘A child, confused, in rags, impatient, without the body and without the precise images, because it lost its self, an alien in the universe of wishes, it wants nothing else, but bringing back love.’. (5)

The space of the psychological in Ksenija’s installation is coldly reduced to a process, a rigid psychological mechanism of filling and emptying. The set mirror, the same as in her previous ambiences, could be an attempt of reconnecting the kingdom of imaginary with the energetic space that emanates emptiness. For the distracted Narcissus who tries to capture his own reflection in vain, for the tired Narcissus who is no longer capable of distinguishing his own tears from the glittering waterfalls of false reflections.

Radmila Iva Janković

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* translated by the poet
1) John Lechte, Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers, ‘Lancan’, Routledge, London & New York, 1994
2) K. Čupak and others, Ophtamology, Globus, Zagreb, 1994
3) Antun Maračić, catalogue of ‘The Garden’exhibition from Zvonimir Gallery, Zagreb, 1997
4) cfr. Julia Kristeva, Storie d’amore, pg. 392, Editori Riuniti, 1985, quote Sigmund Freud, Il disagio della civilta
5) Julia Kristeva, Storied’amore, Editori Riuniti, 1985



What holds together Ksenija Turčić’s (1) ambiences, without taking into consideration the materials she uses and kinds of spaces she ‘invades’, is a sort of absence of events, absence of a story. This emphasised non-event, which we can follow in the contemporary art all the way from the fifties, John Cage and the Fluxus to the contemporary postminimalists in the nineties, most often as an expression of a longing for erasing of the borders between art and the everyday life, for Ksenija Turčić at the same time it also means building of a harrow before the attack of intimacy, before her own vulnerability. Being an artist means, of course, to accept in advance the possibility of public disclosure, but the forms of that disclosure can start from the utterly impersonal speech to the passionate disclosure and confession in the ‘I’form.

Securing the neutral, the indirect speech, was the task of an entire epoch – the Age of Manifestos – as the mega-epoch of the Modernism was lucidly called by Arthur Danto.(2) Although this program is still strongly echoing at the end of our millennium, there are more and more rebels and the ones who doubted the necessity of the distancing in order to keep the dignity of the artistic message.

The latest work of Ksenija Turčić, Sunt Lacrimae Rerum? is in more ways a transitional work. It is created in a moment when the author crosses from the youth period to her middle-aged period, the crossing between not any more… and not yet. From the media point of view it is also a question of transition from the ‘classical’ambience into technological art – the audio-video installation. At the same time it is a crossing from the ‘abstract’expression into a speech that uses ‘documentary’pictures of reality. In the previous ambiences the artist was using illusion as her basic principle for transition from the world of art into the world of reality, helped by the mirror as a characteristic media of that changeover. The installation Sunt Lacrimae Rerum? for the first time uses the documentary picture of reality – the video recording of the drop of water.

The title itself carries aberration that takes shape of a question that inevitably carries elements of a ‘story’. This story, however, is very much reduced, but it is still possible to tell it. A drop of water is torn from the top edge of the screen and every few seconds it falls and disappears from sight in order to reappear on the same spot. At the same time it is a visual fact – a changeable, flexible vertical trace that cuts the screen on the basis of the Golden Cut principle – also the acoustic fact. Namely, the drop leaves a sound trace, which, paradoxically enough, increases volume, as the quantity of drops becomes bigger and fills the imaginary container, ending with the intensive sound of emptying drainage that re-starts the whole process all over again.

The multiplication and repetition is at the same time materialistic and illusionist: it takes place on a video screen and a ‘parallel screen’, the mirror of the same size as the projection, set at the right angle on the floor of the gallery. Obviously, the illusion of movement is not enough; therefore the author for the first time chooses the video. At the same time, silence for her is not sufficient to create the ‘weeping scene’.

Associations on Bill Viola and his video-audio installation He Weeps for You (1976), as well as the aesthetics of drains by Robert Gober (3) are inevitable, but it is necessary to distinguish the important differences. Both American artists use augmentation and slowing down as a necessary co-relative of estrangement of reality. Therefore the highly stylised pathos, but not in the pejorative sense, is essential in their work. On the other hand Ksenija Turčić counts on the sight of the ordinary, which is dramatic because of its isolation. All three authors present undoubtful references of Christian iconography, but Ksenija Turčić’s lacrimarium is filled with a significant quantity of self-irony. From the heritage of respecting the tears as a symbol of pain and mediation, from the celestial and sublime, it slides into down to earth and ordinary. Namely, it is possible to ‘empty’the pain with one decisive move – procuring the drainage opening – if for no other reason, then for creating the space for other tears.

Is tear a thing that we throw away after use?

For the first time the author asks this question from the personal point of view. With a little bit of exaggeration, it is possible to see her installation as a tear-ritual of initiation, conquering of maturity and recognising herself. Still, it is a question of transition of a neutral speech into a personal one – maybe even the most provocative shift in this work with multiple transitions. This is the reason why the author uses Latin in the title, not completely transparent, but also comprehensible language. The ‘story’then gets complicated with the mirror-reflections, running away from petrifying the meaning and the literal, using the inverse procedure from the Ann Hamilton’s Wall of Tears (1997) from the New York’s P.S.1. In this ‘tautological’installation the ‘tears’, in the shape of drops of water, literally appear on the wall in regular computer programmed time intervals. The wall is crying, but is programmed for it.

On the contrary, Ksenija Turčić prefers allegory to tautology, the mirror that exists but does not memorise (Borges) as the opposite of the computer. If we agree on Baudrillard’s statement (4) that the most refined allegory of simulation can be found in Borges’s story about cartographers who are drawing the map with such details that it ends up exactly covering the territory, we can rightfully raise the question of the limits of the hi-tech, the limits of human perception, but also of the limits of memorisation in general. In her transitional answer, Ksenija Turčić clearly advocates her silent ‘support’of the Error and Oblivion.

Nada Beroš

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1. Fin de siecle, PM Gallery, Zagreb, 1991; Lectisternium, Gliptoteka HAZU, Zagreb, 1992; Expiatio, SC Gallery, Zagreb, 1993; Do ut des (1995) i Feng Shui (1996), both at the Studio of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; Garden, Zvonimir Gallery, Zagreb, 1997; Ovum, Krško, 1998.
2. Arthur Danto, Three Decades After the End of Art in After the End of Art, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1997, str. 31
3. Robert Gober, Without title, 1997, installtion in the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles
4. Jean Baudrillard, The Precission of Simulacra in Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1984, str 253.

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Ksenija Turčić was born in 1963 in Zagreb. Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts (Prof. Ferdinand Kulmer) in Zagreb in 1987. She went on to study painting with Prof. Joseph Kosuth at the organization Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy in 1995. She lives in Zagreb.