The text was written for the solo exhibition of Damir Očko titled SPRING / We Saw Nothing But The Uniform Blue Of The Sky at Photon – Centre for Contemporary Photography, Ljubljana (1 April – 8 May 2015)
Damir Očko is also representing Croatia at the 56th Venice Biennial 2015 with the project Studies on Shivering / The Third Degree (6 May – 22 November 2015, Palazzo Pisani S. Marina, Venice)
The text analyses two of his films, SPRING and We Saw Nothing But The Uniform Blue Of The Sky. Both films connect elements of cinematic language, sound compositions, music scores, and poetry on different associative levels into an indivisible whole whose motifs are based on profound examination of boundaries of man’s mental perception and of physical limits of the human body.
In his artistic practice Očko touches on the significant issues of intimate and collective realities of the present by exploring the limits and resilience of the human body thereby subtly dealing with a range of contemporary socio-political topics. His works are usually positioned in the open field between poetic (in its visual form) and socially conscious (in its substance) approaches. If the former is reflected in his carefully assessed and refined use of cinematic language, complex poetry and experimental sound compositions, then the latter i.e. the substantive component of the works, is usually hidden in the undertones and metaphors opening up questions about the place of an individual within a society, about social molds and expectations, about constrains and fetters.
The human body itself is at the centre of the artist’s recent works, which besides its physical presence also serves as a metaphor for a type of socio-political reality, i.e. the insignificance of an individual set against the inviolability of power structures and the mightiness of nature. However, he does not refer to historic romanticism or modern utopias but rather to his own sensitive vision of mechanisms of current politics and economics that pave their determined ways regardless of the aspirations and the needs of the individual. He refers to the weltschmerz of a human being who is fully aware of his or her powerlessness and inevitable subordination to these structures. For Očko, this powerlessness, pressure and enormous resilience are symbolised in the individual and collective body. On the other hand, the artist is actually fascinated with exploring the utmost limits of the human body, detecting its dysfunctions. He is interested in its flexibility, resistance against external factors, its system errors and its position within its own environment. Thus he introduces us to his viewpoint on interpersonal relations and social constrains.
Every collective structure is therefore characterised by the specific politics of body, with expectations and archetypes that position the individual in his or her own surroundings on both a mental and a physical level. Even though Očko’s works appear to be very expressive, violent and, from time to time, painful, he always brings to the forefront the pure audio-visual sensation that accentuates the beauty of texture of the body and of nature. The structures of his films associatively connect moving image with sound and add to that the complex meanings generated by the spoken word and together they trigger a wide field of potential interpretations; they consider the inaccuracy and inconsistency of image, ambiguities of text, and ambivalence of sound. The works are typically composed of only a few motifs, which despite seeming disparate, are nevertheless interconnected into a unique entirety, charged with allusions, meanings, visual stimuli, and atmospheric impressions.
© Miha Colner, 20 March 2015