Theory open trilogy / The shirt of san Francesco, St. Lazarus, St. Teresa


Mladina, Jurij Krpan, Artistic dirrector of the Kapelica Gallery, January 2003
"The all night installation" La casa parlante, The shirt of san Francesco" by Barbara Novakovič made the finest impact upon me. "Talking house" was set at the Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana. A sublime ambient, producing (constructing) its poetry with quite simple, everyday elements. The projection of the forest on the circumference (the limits) of the space, and the floor covered with opened books made the landscape in which the birds who transmit the messages, are living. The unexpected scale of the installed elements produced the impact, which we usually experience when we look into something but we do not see it, because it is too big, too obvious or too close. The visitor had to - in order to get the sight of the stroke, sharpen his senses on the diopter that was evoked by the ambient. Lynch like, I would say."

Toward a new performativity and processuality
Marina Gržinić
The Speaking House (La casa parlante), Ljubljana 2002, Barbara Novakovič
The Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana invited us to a 12 hour installation by Barbara Novakovič with the title The speaking House. In one of the central exhibition rooms, a thick paper carpet awaited us; the space was covered with books, hundreds of them lying on the floor, opened at different pages. On the wall of this room, static images of a forest were projected, and the space was "occupied" by special trained pigeons perching on shelves on the walls. These books where speaking, literally - through the help of ventilators, the books' pages where mingling, or just lightly vibrating and thus producing a truly morbid spectacle. We could learn that in our daily life, we are literally receivers of signals and frequencies; received through our eyes and ears and transmitted to our brains for "digestion". It was a very spooky feeling to come out from this desert of knowledge, from this dead suburbia of remnants of the printing industry, a really tragic spectacle. The only sign of life where the pigeons, once important carriers of information, today mere tropes of devotion and of animalized aspects of a certain, although very brief, but obsessive memory. Books: subjects of knowledge. Books are bearers of knowledge equated with pigeons; both are used for the transmission of information. What we get here is an uncertain residual fascination of the interplay between the desert of books and a certain, definitely, our proper, desertion of books and knowledge.
Novakovič's project is a collaborative environmental installation provoking disturbances in the memory and the body. The movement is the result of the air from the ventilators forcing the books' pages to tremble. It is choreography within a desert of memory. Instead of reading we are listening! Here, the motion is important: it is what generates the only true emotion. As Giuliana Bruno states in her latest book, which charts history of the spatio-visual arts, focusing on the representation of affect and place, motion and emotion, with the title Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film (2002): Motion produces emotion"! For her, the meaning of emotion is historically associated with moving out, migration, and transference from one place to another.
This is why the contemporary emotion needs to migrate into other spaces. In fact, all three plays under consideration here are almost emigrants within places that were not designed for them, which is why such a move produces such intense emotions. Emigrants are always compelled to move, to escape, to translate their physicality into a variety of ways to hide, to survive.
The part of The Speaking House performed/ "put as a single scene" in Moderna Galerija is called St.Francis of Assisi's Shirt. Barbara Novakovič's Speaking Hous has three parts. St. Francis of Assisi's Shirt questions stigmata - a process I would rather call scarification (after scars left by God, but also with reference to the process of scarifying skin like paper; I will return in a moment to this) - memory and the transmission of knowledge ( the pigeons and the books are bearers of information and certain knowledge). The second part is called St.Lazarus (presented in the City Gallery) and dedicated (again) to devotion, but instead of the scarred face of knowledge, here sacrification has an important role! The third part has to take place in the very near future.
The story of St.Francis of Assisi's shirt and the question of stigmata is the question of how to understand that "Frances lived in sin", and that this sin left a visible, a scarring imprint on his body tissue surface. Novakovic's installation finally offered us a path of purification/liberation: the next day, at 7.00 in the morning, we where able to witness the liberated flight of the pigeons of the gallery, although I still searched for a deeper connection between the two parts that can take us to an (auto)referential level. For both St.Francis and St.Lazarus the question of facing a leper is of crucial importance. Hence Lazzareto is the place where, in the past, lepers were segregated, and the name of such a place is derives directly from the encounter with Lazarus and the lepers. St.Frances himself also received a strong revelation and a devotional act towards God after he smelled the body of the leper. Both parts come to a synchronicity, therefore, through an encounter, an encounter with the skin. And moreover, the lepers, also contemporary ones(from AIDS patients to lepers in Africa and Asia, to all sort of people with skin diseases). Have skin in layers; skin peels off like scraps of paper. Skin = paper!, Yes! Both are re-articulated in Novakovič's play as visual expression that merges pain with total contemplation. Both parts of Novakovič's Speaking House deal with a frustrating estrangement of the skin. Seen in particles, being ill, almost burned like paper. The skin is here the symbolic motor of different expressions. This is why I used scarification (the process of making small cuts in the skin and onto paper) to precisely name this inscenation, or better, incineration(!) process of performativity. St.Francis and St.Lazarus are sinners, and Novakovič is, too (what a relief!); she shows a painful ambivalence towards technology and memory in this always endless and obsessive auto-referential process! There is certain repulsion in all that we see, but the moment of re-encounter with the gaze can never be one of indifference!

An excerpt from the essay "Toward a New Performativity and Processuality"
Marina Gržinič lives and works in Ljubljana as researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of ZRC SAZU (Scientific and research Center of Slovene Academy of Science and Art)
Maska, performing arts Journal, volume XVIII ,no 2-3(80-81) spr-sum.2003,
Zarez, performing arts Journal, www.zarez.