THE ART OF CROSSING
Drivers are know that the cross of St.Andrew or St.Andrew’s cross is a slant cross (lat. Crux decussata), i.e. it is a Christian symbol which represents the crucifixion of the apostle Andrew. According to the legend, this Christian cross has the form of the letter X because the apostle Andrew was crucified on exactly such type of a cross. That’s why this cross is used in heraldry and vexillology, whereas in transport it is used as a traffic railway sign. Hence, in transport it is used as a sign which announces a dangerous passage, i.e. a railroad track without a ramp and this is why it presumes, requests and indicates that people who cross it to be very careful.
On the other hand, in the art ‘traffic’, the animated experimental film Crossing Signs, 2022, formed on the basis of the artistic substrate of Tanja Balac’s paintings and the animation and visual effects of Nikola Drvoshanov, is a piece of art signed by those two artists as directors and producers. On this occasion, we should obviously highlight that this film was lately selected, out of the large number of submitted works, by the expert jury in the frames of the 13th edition of the International Videoart Festival Magmart in Naples, Italy. Thus, this 7-minutes long film, together with 31 resembling works, became an integral part of the SAM Museum (Casoria Contemporary Art Museum) as well as the Magmart Festival in Naples (https://www.magmart.it/winnershow.php). By the way, Magmart is an international videoart festival on which 1,400 artists from more than 80 different countries from all over the world took part with thousands of submitted videos throughout the past years. From 2014 this festival has become a biannual festival, and in 2024 Magmart will be celebrating its 20th year jubilee.
However, before approaching to a discursive visual entry in the art Crossing Signs, we should indicate that Tanja Balac (Skopje, 1968), since her graduation at the Painting Department from the Faculty of Fine Arts (FLU) in Skopje in 1991, and her magistrate work at the same faculty in 2008, till nowadays, with her unquenchable energy, has been incorporated in our contemporary artistic scene, constantly experimenting in style and genre, successfully shaping both her artistic and professional status.
Tanja Balac is an active member of the Society of Fine Artists of Macedonia (DLUM) from 1991 and, later, during the period from 2006 to 2013, was also its president. She has also made numerous professional visits abroad, one of the most prominent was her study visit to Paris in 2003. Balac shapes and constantly enriches and upgrades her professional and artistic experience participating in numerous international festivals and exhibitions in Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, England, Austria, France, etc., where she received a great number of international recognitions and awards. Beside her basic determinations in the frames of painting, Balac, in the new century, actively examines in the field of the new media and the videoart, and she also appears with her installations and experimental and documentary films.
And right on the borderline and the pass-over from painting to engaged documentary film, and also to the artistic videoart, we can interpret her last achievement, the film Crossing Signs, a work which is in direct creative and imaginative link with her previous documentary and videoart achievements, among which are the video-installations of the videoart trilogy TRIP@TIH (composed from the films: Kiss, Birth, and Game, 2014), the videoart film The Birth of a Nation (2016), and the films Citizens I and II (2014 and 2016), The Red Earth (2017), Memorabilia (2018), Stuck Together (2019), until the last work of Balac, Crossing Signs (2022).
And this last film of Balac as if also opens a far more intriguing question connected with the relation between art and reality, namely, what happens when crossing the velocity and acceleration of the world happens – with the sublimity and slowness of art and videoart?
If velocity and acceleration in the spirit of the esthetics of Paul Virilio (1932 to 2018) lead to a dangerous crossover from speed to power, in the context of his learning about “dromology”, then in contemporary art hence it is also a question about certain genre transitions, or as the long-living Italian art theorist Gianni Vattimo (1910-2018) used to say, it is a question of dislocation (Ital. spaesamento), about unique sliding (Ital. slittamenti) of genres that make art itself be in a constant transition. Old media gradually die out and their basic functions are overtaken by new media the destiny of which is the same as of their predecessors! And exactly this process of ‘media transition’ is kind of a mixture of ‘tradition and innovation’, poetic mix of Eliot’s The Waste Land and Enzenberg’s Titanic, a mixture of reality and the context in the frames of installations and videoart achievements of the Shamans of the new media, Nam June Paik or Bill Viola.
Be it as it may, it is obvious that the sublime as critical and esthetic notion in the everyday communication is assigned in the sense of something high, elevated, dignified, noble, spiritual and morally positive. The sublime is therefrom all comparisons, which is absolutely large, either mathematically in terms of unlimited size, or dynamically in terms of unlimited power. This is the standard derivation of category sublime such as it was determined in the philosophy of Emanuel Kant. On the other side, the modern approach to the sublime, the one from the French postmodern Jean Francois Lyotard (1924-1998) indicates that the postmodern work of art, in the spirit of the aesthetics of sublime, introduces us in ‘disproportion’ which exists between the work of art itself and our (dis)ability to present and interpret it as the postmodern work of art is a sublime attempt the show the unrepresentable.
Hence, the postmodern sublime, contrary to the classical sublime, constantly links with the presence – therefore the headline of the essay from the famous American artist Barnett Newman (1905-1970) is The Sublime is Now in 1948. Therefore, the examples given by the theoreticians of the postmodern sublime connect with the spectacular reality – for instance that of Guy Debord (1931–1994) in his book The Society of the Spectacle (La société du spectacle, 1967) or, again, for the sublime ideological objects – in Slavoj Žižek and his favorite book (The Sublime Object of Ideology, 1989).
Perhaps this is the reason why in the film Crossing Signs seems to be realized this postmodern feeling of sublime which introduces us in a world of negative dialectics and fascinating alienation, a world where humankind is crucified on the cross of destruction – whether it is a matter of global ecological destruction or both global and local social anemia and numbness.
Hence, in the film of Tanja Balac and Nikola Drvoshanov – and it can be noticed if we carefully observe in the artistically processed Andrew’s cross inserted between the two words of the title of the film – this sign of crossing or a crossing sign is also manifested as a crossing the railroad towards the emptiness, from aboveground to the underground, but also as a crossroad and crossing with the fenced and tabooed world of Otherness, with the waste land that longs for splashes of water, with the ocean where increased temperatures melt icebergs which create waves higher and more destructive than those of the painter Hokusai.
That is why, in the context of consideration of the videoart Crossing Signs should be also pointed out that for its authors one literary phrase is still not worn out to say and show that thinking over our overall reality matters – as much as it is important to breath unpolluted air, or that it is crucial – as it is crucial to drink fresh and biologically and chemically safe water. And at the end, or at the beginning, that it is essential – such as ecology and ecology of consciousness are essential.
And about the context and the crossing of the videoart The Crossing Signs with the artistic installations and the paintings of Tanja Balac on this exhibition, we can testify with slow and focused tranquility, as the Italian sociologist of culture also said Franco Cassano, (1943-2021) in his book Mediterranean Though (Il pensiero meridian, 1996) that ‘slow thought offers a refuge to refugees from fast thought, at the moment when the machine starts to tremble more and more and no amount of knowledge will be able to quell the restlessness. Slow thought is the oldest aseismic construct.’
And what is the videoart, especially this one from Tanja Balac, but one artistic and slowed-down bridling of the accelerated and frantic world.