In the tale The Kurent and the Flood, the Gods decide to punish humanity, which despite its abundance begins to spread evil, with a deluge and destruction of the world. The Kurent saves Kranjec, one of the four survivors, who must promise to always worship two plants: vine and buckwheat. Kranjec plants the two species, and a new world begins. In her new exhibition project Risk Society, Iza Pavlina reflects on today’s society burdened with risks, instabilities and uncertainties that have become deeply ingrained in it. With the installation Beyond the Great Filter (2022), she sets off taking the viewer right from the start into the gloomy atmosphere of an apocalyptic event. Although with seed balls made of clay, compost and buckwheat seeds, as well as sculptures made of buckwheat husks and sawdust, she hints at the possibility that life will not be completely extinguished one day in the future, she primarily outlines the end of the world as we know it with her work, which refers to global warming. The possible finality is also underlined by the installation Remains of the Anthropocene (2022), a kind of archaeological collection of excavated objects (from a former wild rubbish dump) that speaks of the existence and destruction of a civilisation that is already finding it increasingly difficult to control the dangers it has created itself. By addressing the most critical global changes and threats of today, Pavlina’s question of what happens when border crossings go unchecked seems all the more relevant given capitalism’s total focus on profit and the exploitation of the environment (and people). In her work Risk Society (which echoes the title of the exhibition), Ulrich Beck defined modern society as early as the 1980s as a catastrophic society that endangers itself by producing risks that can have irreversible consequences. In view of the current extreme climatic and economic, political and pandemic events, his prediction that contemporaneity is threatened, that the state of emergency could become the new normality, already seems to be reality. And that Pavlina’s new installations – while warning science that with unsustainable economies and overconsumption of natural resources, we are fast approaching the critical threshold that will mean the collapse of ecosystems, their transition to a new state and the resulting extinction of species – predict a quite possible future. The unsettling feeling evoked by the two works is reinforced by the fact that Pavlina introduces an emotional dimension by placing in the same space, alongside the Remains of the Anthropocene with aluminium, plastic and other discarded objects and a code that leads the viewer to the register of illegal landfills in Slovenia, including hazardous waste, the work The Land of Gardeners (2022–), which emphasises the loving attitude towards and attachment to the space we live in.
In the rest of the exhibition, Pavlina mainly focuses on the increase of temporary and unreliable forms of work and the new risks posed by the digitalised world, the deceptive perception of the world and oneself through the free flow of information and ideas on the internet, and the superficiality of relationships and alienation. The increase in those hardships which characterise private life in particular and which, alongside the uncertainties that inscribe themselves in the body of society as a whole from crisis to crisis, contribute to the increasingly present theme of anxiety today. With the work Hustler (2019), a video documentation of a performance in which the artist “earns money” through an artistic intervention in the pornographic industry, she touches on unemployment and precarity. With the work Tribute to Art (2022), based on the interactions and one-sided intimate relationships (with the artist) of the fans of her online persona Isabelle Peacocks, she focuses on the replacement of traditional forms of reciprocal relationships with parasocial ones and the presence of “lonely strangers”, and with the work Dear Isabelle (2022), she highlights cyberbullying, stalking and the loss of privacy. In the installation Confidential Waste (2021–2022), which consists of a pile of paper strips, discarded and cut-up bank documents and a collage of identity cards of fictitious people that the artist has assembled from found strips, she addresses the issues of protection and misuse of personal data and identity theft.
Iza Pavlina’s Risk Society invites us, on the one hand, to reconsider the contemporaneity of extreme individualisation, multiple choices and (seemingly) free decision-making, which, with the imperative of being you, primarily serve to maintain the capitalist social structure, to reconsider the self-regulation of individuals and the way they take responsibility for their failures on their own shoulders even if they are the result of the given social conditions, and to reconsider the deepening social inequality. On the other hand, it invites us to become aware of the reality of the global dangers that are shaking the world. It invites us to reconsider contemporary society, in which “progress”, as Beck wrote, stands above all in the shadow of the risks it entails and the constant mitigation of the consequences – which transcend all boundaries, including temporal ones, assume apocalyptic horizons and pose a threat not only to the present but also and above all to the future.
Iza Pavlina (1991) holds a master’s degree in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She works with a variety of media including drawing, photography, video, installation and performance. She has presented her work in many group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad. She is the recipient of the ALUO Award for Special Artistic Achievement (2015) and the Crystal Crest of Celje (2019). She has presented her work in many group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad.
Solo exhibitions: Talk to Strangers (Galerija Račka, Celje, 2014), Isabelle Peacocks (Likovni salon, Celje, 2016), Rule 34 (Projektni prostor Aksioma, Ljubljana, 2017 and Galerija Filodrammatica, Reka, 2018) and Confidential Waste (Kino Šiška, Ljubljana, 2021).
Selected group exhibitions: I’ll Allways be There. Allways (Gallery of Contemporary Art, Celje, 2017), Dead And Alive: 9th Triennial Of Contemporary Art U3 (MG+ Museum of Modern Art , Ljubljana, 2019), Bienale Matter of Art – Come Closer (Prague City Gallery, Prague, 2020), Remembering as Therapy (Galerie Steinek, Vienna, 2022).
Production: Zavod Celeia – Center sodobnih umetnosti Celje
Supported by: Mestna občina Celje
Curator: Irena Čerčnik
Text: Irena Čerčnik