Ivana Bašić, The Ground is Gone (Kad nestane tlo)

July 14, 2018 | Ana Simona

The November Gallery opened in April this year in center of Belgrade, and it mainly supports the work of young Serbian and regional artists. The purpose of this new art space is to reconnect local audience with artists (from Serbia and Balkans mostly) who are exhibiting in international galleries and lost their connection with the local community due to poor working conditions for artists. 

The exhibition The Ground is Gone (Kad nestane tlo) by Serbian artist Ivana Basic (Basic) opened in the November Gallery on the 7th of June and it is going to remain open until 30th of July. The artist is born in 1986, and grew up in Serbia during the wartime in the 90s, which influenced her choice of topics and the overall atmosphere of her artworks. She is currently based in New York, working as an international artist. Ivana had her solo exhibition in London Annka Kultys Gallery in 2016, several group exhibitions in London, East Hampton and Miami and this is her first exhibition in Belgrade. 

The exhibition consists of two big sculptures-installations done in various materials, several small forms hanging on the wall, which can also be described as done in mixed-media, and one video artwork presented in a separate room with no light. The moment spectator enters the gallery in front of her-him emerges a big hanging body, on the edge of being elegant and grotesque at the same time. It is named Stay inside or perish (2016) and done in wax, glass, pressure, oil paint, stainless steel, leather and elastic band. Deformed, bent backward, the armless and headless body is hanging from the ceiling while its legs are supported by the steel construction. Wax body is done in a realistic manner closely resembling living body with muscles skin and bones, but in the same time without an essential part of the living body – head and in color that gives the impression of marble sculpture. The work speaks about the limits – liminal spaces between life and death, reality and fiction, human and inhuman, pre-natal and post-mortem, nature and industry, naturalism and fiction, beauty and ugliness. When the look is turned to the left part of the gallery room there is contrasting but similar figure hanging. The other one is bent forward with arms pressing the head which is unrealistically bent almost to tights. The body has disturbingly extended, distorted legs, ending with horse hoof. The presented character, The Bridle, is an entity created by the artist which she explains in one interview for Artspace: 
Bridle is a character. She came out of trying to name and address these two forces that I have been employing in my work—one being this force that propels life forward and creates life, and the other one that suffocates life in order to bring its fragility to the surface. Those two things have always been present in all of the works, playing the role of both the blade and the wound. 

This fragility that she mentions is especially present in this hybrid, wounded bodies that cross the borders between living and dead. In her video work the animated character, with a body similar to the one in installations, is moving and bending unnaturally until it loses the human form. The look on the body in the video is causing feelings of disgust and unease, but simultaneously it fascinates and causes empathy. Her artworks seem to embody contemporary and already classical feminist theories about body and identity. When I observe works of Basic, visions of Donna Haraway from her Cyborg Manifesto comes to my mind. Harraway is speaking about new cyborg identities, based on postmodern realities which erase fixed meanings, stable states, and determined identities. Erasure of borders between human and animalistic, humans and machines and borders of physical space and body lead us to abandon the binary oppositions in defying meanings, bodies, life, and reality. Fiction and realness became one, contradiction became part of our identity, and the perception and understanding of the body quit the long-lasting cartesian dualism of body and mind. These deformed bodies present in Basic’s artworks clearly depict Harraway’s point, but they also evoke theories of the embodied subject, present in the works of Rosi Braidotti and Susan Bordo, corporeal feminism of Elizabeth Grosz and identity theories of Judith Butler and Wendy Brown. These feminist theoreticians emphasize the need to analyze bodily experience, to take into consideration lived subjectivity, embodied identities and differences. The depiction of the body in these artworks may also be analyzed through Michael Foucault’s theories of biopower and biopolitics, which speak about the discipline of the body through various institutional, collective or individual practices. The artist herself wrote a thesis on Mediating Bio-political body - Abandoned bodies in which she questions the relation of man and his body using Foucault’s theories. 

Remaining four sculptures are smaller hanging pieces from the series called Breath seeps through her tightly closed mouth from 2016, made from glass and steel. The glass is used in a humorous way that questions the materiality as such, and the title of the series seems like a witty comment of the artist on possibilities and conditions in which one lives and expresses oneself. 

Formally, her artworks evoke many different artistic traditions. Bridle seems to be a dialogue with Marcel Duchamp’s Bride, since both are entities that combine human body and machine and question the very essence of human identity. Also, they both use a similar type of humor in using materials, giving titles and mixing realistic traditions with abstract forms that are quite associative. The return to the body, both in humanistic studies and art, typical of postmodernism is present as an artistic tradition in the works of Basic. Thus, being able to communicate avant-garde humor and formal (neo)avant-garde tradition of mixed media with postmodern heritage, but also giving a fresh, contemporary insight into problems of body politics, identity, and gender, Ivana Basic offers the new inspiring perspective on bodily experience and embodied subjectivity in artistic form.
Belay My Light, The Ground Is Gone, 2018

Belay My Light, The Ground Is Gone, 2018
Breath Seeps Through Her Tightly Closed Mouth, #12, #13, #14, #15, 2018
Stay Inside or Perish, 2016

Still From Video Work SOMA, 2016

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