Spela Volcic. Reality Has Disappeared
Roberta Valtorta


In her works, Spela Volcic highlights two fundamental questions concerning not only the essence of photography that she uses besides installation, but more generally the nature and the making of art: reproduction and fiction.
In art just as in life, every single production is re-production. Nothing stems from nothing, and everything is generated from the reproduction of something. Photography – that was invented in the 19th Century, in the so-called machine age, evolved through the 20th Century and transformed in the present era of digital technology – reproduces not only the world but also itself, for its identity is contained in the very concept of reproduction.
In this complex research, Spela Volcic uses photography to reproduce artificial flowers which, in turn, are reproduced. We are presented with two passages: the first from nature to the constructed that imitates nature, and the second from the constructed that imitates nature to the photographic image that reproduces it. All this causes a mise en abyme, a significant concatenation, a superimposition between the real, the re-made/re-produced and the image that reproduces and is itself reproducible. This is what constitutes the strong conceptual basis of the artist’s work.
The question of fiction and remake, camouflage – a topical theme in contemporary art – represents the “theatrical” aspect of Spela Volcic’s works, that is of its “presentation”. Joan Fontcuberta, a Catalan artist, firmly dedicated to the theme of fiction, said that “according to Jeffrey Deitch, it is possible that the ‘end of modernity signifies the end of truth’“. He refers to the words of the curator of the famous exhibition Post Human (1992), a premonitory exhibition in relation to the phenomena of communication and virtualization of reality that are so characteristic of our contemporaneity. Since 1980’s we have been increasingly involved in the new visual representation: the idea of reality entered a crisis and with it also the idea of truth that in the past oriented and enhanced human choices. This was caused also by photography that is so present in mass media communication and capable of creating what Jean Baudrillard named “simulacra”. It is also true that our current perception of reality is almost totally mediated by images that are always and inevitably dispositifs of fiction. It should be noted that the Latin root of the word fiction comes from the verb fingo that means “to imagine”.
Spela decides to use flowers, the most beautiful and poetical products of nature, gentle elements, open to phantasy, that we have totally charged with symbolic meaning, emblems of our sentiments and our passions. It is not surprising that flowers have become the main mysterious and sophisticated elements of the Japanese Ikebana and the marvellous western depicted still lifes that reached its peak in the 17th Century and persisted in the centuries that followed (used, among others, by photography). However, Spela Volcic chooses to use artificial flowers that represent the negation of nature itself. Extraordinary vivid colours, turgid and gentle perfectly remade forms, attractive and Baroque-style fullness of the dense compositions created by the artist. The images are strong, powerful, evident. The close-up images reveal these splendid and uniform flowers: the contact is so direct that we can notice a too round petal, too perfect pistils, too dense corolla, too smooth the leave beside it: this is no longer nature but its eye-catching remake.
But Spela Volcic’s artistic process does not stop here. Having reproduced photographically the industrially reproduced flowers, the artist decides to reveal the backstage of fiction, the scene of the crime, so to speak: that is the photographic set containing the signs of a complex creation of flower compositions that form the artist’s “place of work” that would then become an installation (and composition at the same time), with a further strengthening of the dimension of ambiguity and a much deeper enhancement of the process of construction of fiction. In this sequence of thematic variations founded on the “nested doll principle”, the artist works with various lights and flashes as well as intersections of interacting sources of light in order to create the unique effect of the presence of flowers that are no longer physically present: these are flowers created with light, simulacra, real appearances, pure images without any referent. And they are photographed. Reality has disappeared, and we do not know where.
Spela Volcic passes through photography, installation, photography of installation, and then again through photography – the art in which she has formed as an artist – and in this process that is not finished yet, she arrives to light: light that generates light but also photography – the art that reproduces and imitates life, the technological mother of all other arts of fiction.

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ET FIAT LUX

Natasa Kovsca

The title of the last project of the visual artist Spela Volcic is taken from the quote from the Genesis (1:3) Dixitque Deus: Fiat Lux. Light is not only the most important, but also the connecting element of individual parts of the multi-layered and homogeneous project that consists of a set of photographs and a photographic installation.

The project is based on the cycle of photographs Fuscum subnigrum from 2011, in which the author used for the first time the theme of flower still life. The series – theoretically founded on the work of Gilles Deleuze's The Fold (1988) – is dedicated to the Dutch baroque painters. The French philosopher founded his thought on the modern subject, who is in continuous evolvement and transformation, on the theory of monad of the German baroque philosopher Liebnitz.

Compared to the works from the cycle Fuscum subnigrum, formally representing variants of classical baroque still life, the flowers on the photographs from the series
Et Fiat Lux (2016-17) are shown in the first plane and close-up. The creative process, however, remains unchanged: the author makes plastic flowers arrangements; balanced compositions in terms of colour and form that are illuminated in a well-thought out manner. The light on the photographs creates an extremely expressive atmosphere, since illuminated are only colourful blossoms on black background. Emphasis is given on the chiaroscuro effect – the dramatical opposition between light and darkness. A particularly baroque effect is represented by the multiplication of the more than two hundred different elements/flowers that produce a sense of artistic effervescence and congestion.

A close look at the flower arrangements allows the viewer to clearly delineate the texture of the artificial material, prompting him/her to reflect on the deeper meaning of the images that transcend the limits of their appearance. Obviously, the author's still life – a simulacra of real flowers – accentuates the contrast between appearance and reality, original and copy, artefact and kitsch. Cheap flowers, today representing a mere commodity, have been produced in the Chinese province Guangdong since 1980 and exported in numerous countries worldwide. Thus, the author exposes the problem of global economy, inducing us to think about the nature of arranged photography, over which she has absolute control, since each flower arrangement, after being photographed, is disassembled and the flowers used to create new works of art.

Already in Baroque, still life was considered a genre that included a moral theme for its symbolic and allegoric meaning: cut flowers for example were synonyms of the human transience. In this sense plastic flowers have a longer life and their durability represents a serious threat to our planet. Obvious is also the artist’s critic of the society of consumerism marked, in her opinion, by external glamour and internal emptiness.

In her last series of photographs After Et Fiat Lux (2017-18) light takes on an even more significant role. Špela Volcic makes flower arrangements from various kinds of foliage, while blossoms are substituted by patches of light that give the images the appearance of abstract figures. Again, there is the desire to deceive the viewer's gaze and simulate reality in a special way, i.e. by exposing the film in the phase of production: the artist inserts the film into a non-transparent and at spots perforated wrapper and exposes it in the darkroom with lights of different colour that create glowing light prints on some parts of the images.(1) Each image is therefore unique and unrepeatable because the effect of light is completely unpredictable.(2)

A similar tendency to revive "still life" can be noted in the interactive installation, composed of six photographs done with the technique of lenticular printing – a technology that creates an illusion of depth and movement simulates the eyes and brain so that a two-dimensional image is perceived as a dynamic, three-dimensional one. Each image is composed of two photographs of a flower arrangement: one with closed and the other with open blossoms disposed one above the other. The images that are mounted on a wooden frame can be moved by the viewer who can then contemplate the fictitious opening and closing of the plastic flowers. In this case, fiction is even more intensive for the artist brings to life nature that was never alive.

A particularly explorative aspect of creating is evident also in the photographic installation Untitled (Tesla), 2017, conceptually inspired by the thought on photography as sculpture. The image that shows the artist's studio, in which she makes and takes photographs of flower arrangements, is printed on a cheap perforated canvas and exhibited on an advertising stand. Moreover, the photographic image as a concrete neon light that is connected to Tesla's generator continues into the gallery space, illuminating it with a pulsating light.

Added sculptural elements in the work Untitled (Tesla) of course emphasise again the duality between the real and the produced, the commercial and the artistic. At the same time the installation connects the different parts of the project Et Fiat Lux into a formal and contextual whole. The artist unveils to the viewer the whole process of her work, at the same time clearly showing to him/her that the images on the photographs are, in reality, inexistent. From this perspective, the works of Špela Volcic can be defined as provocative images with which she creates continuous tensions. Her projects – an intertwining of reality and fiction – question the reality of the photographic representation, inducing the viewer to contemplate more deeply not only the exposed works, but also the media representations that dictate our everyday life in general.

Natasa Kovsca

(1) - The artist uses the sensitive film Tungsten that at daylight makes images in accentuated blue tones.

(2) -  On the one hand, the colour of “blossoms” depends on the selected light as the artist uses red, blue, green, yellow and magenta and, on the other hand, on the film on which light filtrates.