Meta Grgurevič & Urša Vidic
Gallery Škuc, Ljubljana
International Centre of Graphic Art, Ljubljana
Meta Grgurevič and Urša Vidic’s Galanterie Mécanique is a symphony of kinetic objects, videos, performances, and music that the two artists combine into a unified spatial whole, driven by reflections about the man-machine relationship, collaboration and cooperation between individuals, and the position of the individual in wider social relationships. The motor of this spatial presentation involved the coexistence of all elements, both necessary and seemingly unnecessary. Precisely the latter, revealed in the title, took on the role of tiny links in the chain that entered a dialog about the apparent routine and functionality of mechanical elements, thus imbuing them with a lyricism and organic note, while at the same time assimilating a part of the mechanical essence themselves. The emerging amalgam became a working system that functioned alone to some extent, though its perfect realization needed the combination of all components, both organic and mechanical.
The main starting part of the project, in terms of content, was Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times. Grgurevič and Vidic do not make a direct descriptive connection but rather show the film in a parallel and – despite formal and substantive associations – independent narrative. Through a lucid and somewhat romantic critique of the Fordist method of production, Chaplin illustrates in Modern Times the capitalist tendency toward mechanization in the name of increased efficiency and profits. The worker becomes imperfect, an always inefficient part of the mechanized production process that has gradually forced the worker into a union with the machine, transforming his actions into passive repetition.
The mechanization of work with the assembly line actually entered performance and merged with the tradition of Russian avant-garde theater – most notably, with the principles of Vsevolod Meyerhold who, in his post-revolutionary zeal, tried to created a theatre of the new industrial era. Meyerhold rejected naturalism and text-based plays, and promoted movement and gesture as the central expressive means. With total control over the body, actors created rhythm and movement and at the same time produced the form and content of the performance. In contrast to Chaplin’s critical perspective, Meyerhold, in his futuristic pursuits, incorporated progress into his theatrical credo. His actors moved with mechanical precision in a collective synchronicity that gave meaning to individuality. They became cogs in a complex theatrical machine.
Constructivist scene design played an important role in Meyerhold’s productions. Similar to the stylized movements of his actors, he was inspired by the increasingly mechanized everyday life of the proletariat. These projects, demanding both in terms of scene and costume design, were the first useful incarnations of constructivism. The complex, often mobile, constructions in the scenery of Meyerhold’s plays often dictated the movement of the actors.
A collage of chain mechanisms plays a similar role in Grgurevič and Vidic’s project. With an eloquent interchange of small and large, light and shadow, the collage transforms the gallery into an evocative ambient that coexists with the movement of the dancers and the rhythm of the music, the latter being the element that unites the whole performance. The two artists have created a functioning system, a complex living mechanism, composed of small machines, their large shadows, performers, sounds and videos, that all contribute to an organic whole. Galanterie Mécanique is a vision of the harmony of equal actors in solidarity with one another, preserving the movement and life of their shared environment.
Coreography and dance: Nina Fajdiga in Leja Jurišić
Music: Tine Grgurevič, KALU, Jaša
Costume design: Nika Ravnik / niOka
Text: Žiga Dobnikar
Light designer: Borut Canjko
Design and 3D modeling: Johnatan Podborsek
Electricity works: Tomo Markočič in Martin Podlogar
Construction: France Petač
Graphic design: Janez Vidrih
The project was made for Lighting Guerilla Festival (programme selector: Katerina Mirović), and U3 – 7th Triennial of Contemporary Art in Slovenia (curated by Nataša Peteršin – Bachelez)
Produced by: Svetlobna Gverila@Strip Core
PTL – Plesni teater Ljubljana
MSUM – Muzej sodobne umetnosti