Dragana Sapanjoš: Back Together Again

30/09/2022 - 23/10/2022

Regenerating the Measure of Art

Back Together Again is the title of the exhibition by Dragana Sapanjoš, whose art once again invites us to rediscover the love for life and art, which today, like never before, keep facing constant danger, exposed to the risks of diseases (pandemics) and wars, both near and far, and their consequences.

The artist deals with these issues on several levels, in a complex and multidisciplinary exhibition. Namely, despite expressing herself in the field of visual arts, i.e., an expressive form that should primarily be concerned with the visual, she does not hesitate to use methods and means that can activate other senses as well. The exhibition welcomes us with music and song that our ears hear before entering the exhibition itself. Yet, it is not about experimental music and songs, not even about ethnic songs and folklore, but about the so-called Italian musica leggera or “light” music, one of the most famous and popular songs in Italy and wider, the song Il cielo in una stanza (The sky inside a room) by Gino Paoli:

When you’re here with me
This room no longer has walls
It has trees instead,
Endless trees
When you’re here close to me
This purple ceiling
No longer exists
I can see the sky above us

Us, remaining here, abandoned
As if there was nothing
Nothing else in the world

A harmonica is playing
To me it seems like an organ
That sings for you and me
Up there, in the endless sky

For you and for me
In the sky

Of course, this is a tender song for romantic couples, but if you understand it through visual art, it means that the artist sees you or wants to show us other things as well, for example, the fact that this song talks about space and the possibility of getting out of it and finding ourselves in a spaceless place, given that it is endless, even infinite. Among other things, visual art, especially in the form of frescoes, but also in the Renaissance theory of Leon Battista Alberti’s “open window”, is born and executed with the intention of breaking through the wall of the room on which it is painted in order to bring in the exterior, usually nature. Therefore, neither art in general nor the art of Dragana Sapanjoš escapes this, as it serves to start a dialogue with nature, bring it into being, which shows how essential it is to human beings.

But let us visit the exhibition, where, alongside an auditory addition to sight, we encounter a sculpture consisting of a black perforated stand that also serves as a speaker from which the above-mentioned song expands-radiates, on top of it is a sculpture of an indeterminate shape made of white plaster and gold leaves. A more attentive look will reveal that this is not just an informal task, but a huge popcorn, therefore, one of the basic foods of humanity, especially among the pre-Columbian civilizations who worshiped it as if it were gold. The artist inserted a gold leaf into the part of the corn kernel that remains visible from the inside after its heat treatment and its transformation into the popcorn. Therefore, the exhibition also deals with nutrition and the transformation of natural matter, as well as a transition of shape from an almost round corn to a popcorn of an indefinite shape. In this exhibition, the artist also deals with the issue of measure, given that the popcorn sculpture is not a 1:1 scale cast, but its oversized representation. In art, everything revolves around dimensions and measure: in order for the work of art to be successful, it has to be given the right shape and the right measure. As to sculpture, just imagine if Michelangelo had not made David
5 m and 20 cm tall, but 1 m and 80 cm instead – it would not be the same thing at all. Therefore, in addition to the entertaining content that the artist puts in this exhibition, which will be mentioned below, I wanted to point out that the exhibition, and thus the works it contains, looks at the internal issues of art, in our case, sculpture. Furthermore, Dragana Sapanjoš’s works make me think of the attempts at answering or asking questions about what art is, how is art created and who creates art.

By choosing popcorn, the artist also chooses an element whose shape is self-created as a result of heating the corn, which is in turn self-created from the seed to the cob – the question of self-creating form remains one of the central questions of art that the artist as the creator of forms confronts. In this case, much like with still life and having to choose between the basket with real fruit or the one painted by Caravaggio, we have to either opt for the real popcorn or the popcorn Dragana carved. On the other hand, the artist also faces the issue of time, given that we eat the real popcorn, which is then gone, whereas the popcorn made by an artist is not eaten because it is intended for eternity, just like the infinity and immensity in Gino Paoli’s poem. Yet, we mentioned that irony, play and fun are other elements the artist has always brought into the game. Thus, the choice of popcorn is almost always related to the context of celebration such as a birthday party, especially related to the cinematographic dimension. When we go to the cinema, there is always a bar next to the box office where drinks, sweets and popcorn are sold, our companions during the screening of the film. In an interview on the occasion of the film adaptation of his novel The Story of Ordinary Madness, the great Charles Bukowski said that the reason he liked cinema was because he could sit back, eat popcorn and drink Coca-Cola. Still, this kind of Dragana’s reflection comes from the past, while she was still living in Italy, when in 2005 she created her work PoMeCA (Park of Modern and Contemporary Art) and made a completely white miniature of an amusement park. Its attractions come from famous works of art, such as a carousel in the form of a miniature of Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel. The attractions were housed in a small box, also white, of a size that allows you to put it over your shoulder and go around selling, imitating the drink and popcorn vendors who used to walk around movie theatres.

These were static miniatures, as opposed to real games, while in this exhibition the artist also faces the issue of technology, namely the work exhibited in the third hall with a popcorn maker on a black stand, therefore dealing with technique and technology. However, this machine does not make popcorn, because it is turned off in the part where there is a flame-switch, with a figure of a little artist on it who is constantly spinning, just like the world. This being tells us that we are in an already created world, just like the popcorn created by the explosion of a corn kernel is a metaphor for the Big Bang of the world the cosmos the universe in the making. This machine is connected to a black gas bottle, from which, however, neither gas nor flame come out, because there is no gas, in an obvious reference to the energy crisis closing in on us in these times of war. However, if we start from the end of the exhibition heading towards the central part, i.e., the second hall, we will find a large glass corn kernel on the wall. It is the seed from which everything is renewed, including the exhibition, which, as we have already said, is visual art. In fact, the reason glass was chosen is because it is a material of vision whose transparency enables seeing the other side, beyond, in the metaphor of the seed of art in which everything is back together,
Back Together Again, from which life and art continue to be renewed.

Giacinto Di Pietrantonio

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