But this account was
contradictory and full of holes, also because*

Flesh is flesh
wrapped up in plastic
covered with cotton
flesh is a pleasure
but from flesh is thought

Flesh is the little canopy
that pro forma stands
over the beds of young girls
for they are “in that stage”

Faced with flesh
all ideals
are barren

If we say that we believe in flesh
then we believe in nature
and are consistent with
the thinking of our forebears

If we believe in flesh
we are certain of the sphere of Earth,
of Sun and, with no hyperbole, of the olive.

As we said to do with the previous exhibition, the function of the surveillance, or CCTV, image is of an exclusively indicative and instrumental nature – the meaning is not intrinsic to the picture but depends upon the context of some external event. A surveillance camera image is not accessible to interpretation; it cannot be interpreted for it hides nothing, it is not even in the slightest bit ambiguous, and hence can be used for evidentiary purposes, showing whether an action or crime occurred or did not occur, independently of the image. We might incidentally note that it is this kind of use of the image that is dominant in our hyper-medialised everyday life. Images are primarily used because they are indicative, they are used as the means of production of an ongoing scandal, to which must be added the demand for universal transparency; in spite of the morality of the intention, truth often is not identical with patency but in fact just the opposite, the result of a critical interpretation of apparently obvious things.

From this point of view, the gambit of Oleg Šuran is actually classical in aesthetic terms, even old-fashioned in the good sense of the word: he puts into the surveillance footage a secret that it does not in and of itself actually have. He does this by leaving in the exhibition space the transportation crates that contain his works. Since the interior space of the Pavilion is currently not in use, it is irrelevant whether they are really there, or not there – the boxes presuppose the possibility of the work, they are a sign of spatial and temporal presence that obliges attention, requires some moment spent in concentration and reflection. On the basis of what is patent, then, nothing can be concluded. It is necessary to interpret, to speculate.

What the works that should be or should have been in the crates look like, we shall never know. Šuran, however, offers certain hints, teasers in the shape of drawings, photos and lyrical writings, which are put before the viewer in the form of ancillary Internet materials. The fact that we shall never manage to peer into the crates opens up a space for speculation, emphasises the illusionist clause of the work of art – it essentially implies an epistemological illusion, feigned in this way or that as condition of its own sense. Since this is how it is, that the work of art is primarily a matter of imagination – res ficta, and not the consequence of real relations, Šuran’s intervention can freely have the poetic character of a fantastic proposition: we can make out for example that the crates house monsters that feed on human flesh, or that the whole thing ultimately does have some sense, a deeper sense than there would have been if we had hypothesised some more realistic but more trivial contents.

The story that there might have been on the foundation of all this is contradictory and full of holes, but as we have already said, this is the way it has to be for some sense to be read into it, for it to be able to be interpreted. On the basis of general cultural knowledge we might make the following confabulation: the ur-model of these monstrous, chimerical beings hidden in Šuran’s boxes might be the ancient Minotaur. It is known that it feeds on flesh exclusively. It does not need frequent meals, but the donors have to be young and pretty – once a year he would be satisfied with several decent-looking girls and boys whom the Athenians delivered him as sacrifices. The Minotaur dwelt in the labyrinth under the palace of Minos, far from the light of day; no one saw him, but they all knew he was there. The symbolism is not hard to divine, at least in the context of western culture): the Minotaur is the incarnation of socially unacceptable and evil urges, sexual hunger and other aggressive desires that the rational mind suppresses deep into the convoluted zones of the subconscious. The Minotaur thus figures as a constitutive assumption not only of the averagely adjusted psychic organisation, but of every more or less functional structure – the other side of the coin of the rule that is presented by Minos’ lavish palace is always the underground with its monster. Monsters need feeding from time to time; desire needs fetishes, objects that represent and thus indirectly satisfy it. The pink whatnots presented are just such objects – appealing unknowns that cannot be penetrated, but which are very good replacements for the real, the juicy and sensual Thing.

Here we can put a halt to narration and speculation, at least for the moment. The visitor to the site can look at the crates that Oleg Šuran has placed in the Pavilion and, with a number of teasers, let their imagination go. Their purpose is to be able to carry plenty of stuff: one is free to think up anything inappropriate, indecent and improper. As the title of the exhibition suggests indirectly, they function as holes into which various secrets can be told, like that of King Midas. But that is another tale.

Ivana Mance

  • Italo Calvino, Il barone rampante, 1957. (The Baron in the Trees, Translated by Archibald Colquhoun, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977)