The article reflects on the work by artist and photographer Vanja Bučan, entitled Placebo and Mauerhasen; both projects are showcased at Fotogalerija Lang, Samobor, Croatia (10. 12. 2017 – 4. 2. 2018)
In the years following the first industrial revolution the face of the planet has been changed immensely by humans, more than anytime before, and extremely fast in comparison to the entire history of earth. The past two centuries have also brought to relentless abusing of all possible resources that were accumulated here over millions of years. But ecological catastrophes caused largely by expansionist political and economic aspirations of world’s rulers, be it governments or corporations, are in fact older than the invention of steam machine. It must have seemed fascinating and liberating for the people to be able to conquer and subordinate the nature which was traditionally seen as almighty power of unknown. Nowadays in the period of Anthropocene man made interventions in natural environment are very common and ordinary. Therefore the relationship between natural and artificial is mostly being questioned by experts, environmentalists and artists. However, visual culture is still fascinated and inspired by structures, shapes and patterns that stem from nature and found way to fabricated products that humans use in everyday life.
The photographer and artist Vanja Bučan commonly raises these profound questions as her work constantly fluctuates between documentary-based narratives and staged images. Moreover, sometimes it is difficult to assess whether her pictures were being taken or being made; in this way the artist aims to challenge the perception of a spectator. In the Placebo series of photographs she looks at the relationship between nature and culture, between natural and artificial. In her images humans hold a role of mere object within the natural environment, in the same way as nature often becomes a mere object for humans. These performative photographs showcase very ordinary objects and situations merging together fabricated products and natural structures. However, when observing these objects through mediated image it becomes less important and obvious whether the thing we look is are actually the moon or only yellow balloon. The image making in the digital age is even more prone to manipulation, adaptation and retouching, and many iconic images that might look like photographs are actually constructed and composed. The photographs from the Placebo project are not manipulated in technical sense but they entice to the question of the nature of what is being seen; are the situations real or constructed, are the objects natural or artificial?
On the other hand Bučan’s sensibility and interest for the interventions in environment is also reflected in the brand new project entitled Mauerhasen that focuses on artificial structures which were initiated by geopolitical events. The Berlin Wall, and all other walls on earth that serve the purpose of proofing the border between diametrically opposite religious, ethnic or ideological systems, cut brutally through the city and its populations and unnaturally divided people from both sides of impassable border. It was an alien intervention into nature and urban planning. By creating bizarre situations in symbolic parts of the former wall the artist questions profound influence of various physical and mental dividers in everyday experience.