20th Century is a photographic series with sculptures, which the artist created specifically for the 6th Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana. Cibic has worked with a trainer of birds of prey to produce this study of the birds’ movements and their interaction with sculptures which she intentionally made as replicas of some of the most iconic design objects of the 20th century. The co-habitation of the two elements seeks to promote the analysis of two examples of commodification – architecture of display and the work of art as such. The artist uses the image of birds of prey as a strong leitmotif throughout her practice, as a symbol of shifting degrees of souvenir production: hunting birds were initially used by man to satisfy the basic needs for food, only later did the humankind begin to substitute their value for a cultivated experience of nature, as a trophy and an ornament. People who possessed sufficient power were placing stuffed birds and other animals next to precious and famous art and design objects. Stemming from this fact Cibic questions the status of the work of art, its significance, its policies of representation and its relationship to the spectator.
The theme of the new series of works by Jasmina Cibic is the investigation into the level of meanings of those objects, to which the West ascribed the ability to trigger experience. These objects are instruments that allow the subject to experience that what is from various reasons directly unattainable. It is for this reason that the surplus value (mythical, subjective, market, aesthetic, political, cultural and ideal) is inscribed within these objects in the first place. The western knowledge further systematises these objects within diverse frames of meaning: they can be either souvenirs from near or far lands, fictional icons, photographs of existing landscapes, design objects or obviously – on top of the social ladder of values – works of art. Jasmina Cibic investigates the reasons that allow an object to attain this surplus value, which effectively modifies it into a trigger of experience, the process of experience itself and the conditions under which such an experience is made possible.
The series 20th Century is composed from a series of photographs, which depict birds of prey resting on what seem to be – at a first glance – perches. Hunting birds were initially used by man to satisfy the basic needs, only later did they become the bearer of luxury. Their owners substituted their use value for a cultivated experience of nature, a trophy, which within a viewer releases also a feeling of the sentimental, cultural, social and market value of its owner. Perhaps it is for this reason that the genuine trophies, which were gathered on the voyages of the bourgeoisie in far away lands, have been substituted by fake replicas, consumer goods, souvenirs without the essence itself which was supposed to be remembered in the first place, with which an individual decorated one’s apartment similarly to a poster, which substitutes an authentic work of art.
The perches in Cibic’s photographs the birds of prey sit on are in fact objects, to which the 20th century western society attributed the highest value, which was breathed into them by the giver of experience – the artist. The surplus value of these objects vas not added merely by the inclusion into the personal collection of their owner, as the latter included them within her/his collection for the existing artistic value (and effectively cultural, national, subjective, market and ideological value) which was assigned to them by the art world solely for the iconic name of their maker.
There are various reasons for which a certain object is included within a collection. The latter is a space which allows the meeting of the viewer and the object that triggers the internal process of experience. Within the fictitious collection Cibic portrays in her series, the birds of prey and the art works/perches are both accessible to the viewer in the same way. The possibility of experience is in this case not dependant upon the fact whether the inclusion within the collection was of a personal, critical, market, ideal or political nature. It is not the object itself which allows the experience, but the contextual frame within which it is inserted. The experience is different if the framework of the collection within which the exhibited object is placed in, is different.
The object on display, which the artist always carefully reconstructs from or after a real model, is within the series 20th Century never physically present. The viewer only meets its photographic image. It is only with the physical absence of the object that a sufficient distance is established, which allows an insight into the fetishisation that is in fact the real activator of the set up experience. It is only when Cibic removes the object and closes the door upon experience, when the economics of the subjective, material, political, cultural, artistic and other values which were established by the western society of the 20th century, is unveiled in front of the viewer. It is this economics that is still today subconsciously accepted through the context, which all along marks the apparent directness of the object.