The Dawn of Day (2020) is a collaborative work produced in the context of the exhibition GOREGEOUS at the Confort Moderne, Poitiers. The video depicts scanned, zoomed-in details of pictures portraying the atrocities of war and its ensuing devastation. In an attempt to reach a heightened sense of closeness and intimacy with the picture, the scanner, regardless of its technical prowess, delivers a deadened, flattened vision.
Words by ALLAN GARDNER
It seems like whenever Darja Bajagić is mentioned, the word extreme is never far away. Presented in conjunction with the artist’s retrospective exhibition GOREGEOUS curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos & Charles Teyssou at the Confort Moderne in Poitiers, the video The Dawn of Day (2020) takes this notion of extremity and shifts it into a new perspective. One that screams instead of whispering, crawls instead of running.
Bajagić does not aim to shock. In fact, it’s the opposite. The intention of the work is to emancipate the images, creating an experience in which their physicality and impact is determined by the inference of the viewer—with aesthetics that owe as much to teen goths as they do to power electronics, the brutality is underpinned by humour. Speaking of the art world, Bajagić described an “unwillingness to deal with complexity” as an important aspect of her work, which goes beyond the aesthetic of shock and speaks to our cultural fascination with violence, inextricable from entertainment.
The aesthetic language of Bajagić’s work exposes hypocrisy within popular culture. It reflects our insistence on didacticism, the continuing pollution of our critical gaze and in turn the art we produce. TV shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Forensic Files. feature the same content, dramatized in a different aesthetic and emancipated and emancipated from its horrific context. They make the material consumable for a lazy audience, one seeking thrills but only providing they’re banal enough not to make them look up from their phones.
In The Dawn of Day, the notions of humour and entertainment are stripped entirely from the work. The 23-minute film is uncompromising, churning through a series of still images soundtracked by the work of pioneering experimental musicians Fifth Era, Die Kombination and Ferro Mortem. The collaborative soundtrack sets the tone for the work, lurching alongside the images. The humour is gone. There is no respite for the viewer, the images shift with simple dissolving transitions and immediate cuts, mostly grainy and abstract scenes of destruction, occasionally landing on a corpse.
It evokes the sense that, with her previous work, Bajagić was offering the viewer an opportunity to get in on the joke, to be part of the complexity she describes. This access point is no longer present, potentially due in part to the critical reticence to engage with it in the first place. Undeniably, Bajagić seems to have a nihilistic perspective on the art world, a lack of faith in the viewership and a suspicion of the motivations of those involved in it. For someone fascinated by the underbelly of popular culture, this social despair is twofold, in tow with the increasingly sanitised underground. It’s possible that this piece marks a new stage in her work, one in which the juxtaposition is removed entirely, replaced by a palpable sense of dread. Bajagić was not an antagonistic artist, however the argument could be made that she is becoming one.
Darja Bajagić (Montenegrin, b. 1990) is an artist who lives and works in Chicago. Bajagić completed her BA at Pacific Northwest College of Art (2012) and her MFA at Yale University School of Art (2014). Solo exhibitions of her work have been presented at New Galerie in Paris, Spazio Maiocchi in Milan and the Hessel Museum of Art in NY.
Photo credit Oliver Vereker
Film courtesy of the artist and Confort Moderne, Poitiers, France.
Sound by Fifth Era, Ferro Mortem, and Die Kombination.
Darja Bajagić’s solo exhibition GOREGEOUS, curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos & Charles Teyssou, is on view at Confort Moderne, Poitiers (FR) until 19 December 2020.