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Anna Cwynar

Bojana Ginn, Plastic Gene, Lightroom

– Look at the clouds. What color are they?

– White? No… not white. Yellow. Blue… and grey… There are colors in the clouds.

– Now you understand.[1]

Conversation between Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and Grier (Scarlett Johansson), in:

Girl with a Pearl Earring, directed by Peter Webber. Zürich: Pathé Films AG, 2003.

A few days ago I was asked by my friend to describe Bojana Ginn’s art works from the exhibition entitled Plastic Gene on view in Lightroom 2.0, Decatur, Georgia. I told her about all of the installations, photographs, and video, but both she and I were unsatisfied with my efforts. A friend of mine also told me she still can’t visualize those objects: “Don’t tell me about the materials or dimensions… That doesn’t help me to see those artworks – instead, maybe you could try to compare them to something I know!” Finally an idea came to my mind. “Imagine a cloud – I started – the lighting not only shapes its form, but also brings out, ‘extracts,’ various color tones of a cloud – from delicate pink to intensive blue. It makes us perceive it once as bright and light, other times as dark and heavy. Now try to picture that you are catching that cloud. You have got a rectangular, transparent box, in which it will not lose its characteristics. I am sure that as a child you wanted to take a ‘piece’ of a cloud and keep it. This is what Bojana Ginn did in her exhibition – she formed her own clouds and gave them a shape of a box.”

The very act of shaping something which can be distinguished by its ephemeral and almost intangible nature, into an angular, hard-edge form, is the artist’s conscious decision, which is worth consideration. Even if Ginn did not envision her works as clouds or anything that might recall the texture of ice in the whole exhibition, as well as in each work separately, she mindfully combines the natural and the artificial, and through that questions the binary opposition between nature and culture, or rather, natural and man-made. This is indicated not only by the title of the show Plastic Gene, but also through the juxtaposition of organic and synthetic materials, the selection of a delicate color palette which is illuminated by hard light, as well as the aforementioned angular frames, which enclose fragile, ephemeral content.

The exhibition title, which is at the same time the title of each object exposed in Lightroom 2.0, is an oxymoron – how can the biological, genetic concept of genes passed from generation to generation be plastic? Or, in other words, how can something natural be artificial? The collision of those two terms is an accurate hint about the concept of the show, which Ginn gives the viewer. It indicates that the exhibition is a form of a conscious play between binary oppositions such as decoration/structure and nature/culture, which illustrate the way we think and organize the world.[2]

This can be observed e.g. based on the sculpture Plastic Gene 4. The work is made of plastic hot glue and natural fiber and formed in the shape of a cuboid. It is placed on a rectangular pedestal, which illuminates the installation. Thanks to its white color and transparency, as well as the shape, it recalls a sturdy, carefully cut block of ice, which could be used as a basic construction element. However, the coexistence of two completely different materials not only form the fragile and delicate installation, but also make it completely non-utilitarian. The very nature of Ginn’s installation, differs from work that consists of a structure on which decorations are applied. Instead the installation questions the opposition between structure and decoration. Here the structure is a decoration, and the form is content. The artificial, hard light completes the impression of perceiving the sculpture as something that cannot be qualified to any of our oppositional fields. The viewer sees a natural-looking sculpture (made of organic and synthetic materials), shaped in an artificial way in a form of an unusable block and floodlit by unnatural light. Thus Plastic Gene 4, by emphasizing the connections between various opposite spheres, makes one reconsider the validity of their existence in a binary way of thinking.

Constructing the installation from oppositions can also be seen in the large multimedia sculpture Plastic Gene 6. In this work Ginn juxtaposed the light, fragile elements (the upper part) with a stable structure (lower part). Both parts seem to be moving, even though the sculpture is still. Whereas in the cuboid this effect is achieved by illuminating different colors and shapes, in the upper part it is realized by the eye-catching way little straws are joined together. On the one hand they form almost the same size cuboid-like shape as can be observed in the lower part; on the other hand however, they make an impression of smooth waving lines. As such they are at the same time angular (man-made) and curved (natural). The reflection of the rectangular form in the top and bottom of the installation merges together these two seemingly completely different parts. The color palette which includes flesh-colored pink with dark blue, and the repeated cloud shape in the upper part (pink fiber on the top and sticks painted blue), is reflected in the lower part in what becomes what I referred to before as a cloud fitted in a box. The entire installation is crowned by a rectangular form with rounded corners. It may become a complement of a video shape irregularly projected on the wall and floor or even a frame through which it can be watched.

This irregular angular shape of the video entitled Plastic Gene 7 can be seen as another artist statement which questions the uncritical way in which films are projected on the screen (one usually sees them in a rectangular, horizontal shape). “Why is it the only manner in which films are shown?” asks Ginn through her work – “Why is the way films are projected not correspond with the architecture of a place in which they are displayed?” In contrast to Hollywood narrative cinema, which uses the 2-dimensional, rectangular shape of the screen in order to present a 3-dimensional world, Bojana Ginn presents an almost 3-dimensional video in a 2-dimensional manner. The former impression is achieved by projecting site-specific video both on the floor and wall in various shapes so it exposes the architecture of the gallery. The artist’s use of layers, which are piled up one on another, makes the viewer look on the surface of the film, rather than plunge into illusionistic depth.

The intentional screening of the rectangular video on the floor complements the reflections of illuminated installations. Together they create a new visual effect – they transform the floor into a light show. At the same time those reflections soften the asymmetrical gallery space, as well as the angular shapes of the art works. The delicate, but rich palette of the objects achieved through skillful use of light, unites such different works as video, photographs, sculptures and installations. Bojana Ginn through her exhibition proves she can create light effects not less fascinating than those made by nature. This gallery called “Lightroom” through this exhibition, indeed becomes a room of light.

[2] Jacques Derrida was pointing out those binary opposition in his theory of deconstruction.

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