Me is Someone Else - Anja Markovic
Me is Someone Else
To be a man, to have been born without knowing it or wanting it, to be thrown into the ocean of existence, to be obliged to swim, to exist; to have an identity; to resist the pressure and shocks from the outside and the unforeseen and unforeseeable acts – one’s own and those of others – which so often exceed one’s capacities. And what is more, to endure one’s own thoughts about all this: in a word, to be human.” (Ivo Andrić)
Sexuality (especially female sexuality) never ceases to shock, and remains taboo (no matter how hard the West tries to shed light on it, explain it and accept it). The naked body, lust, the ecstasy of love and relationships, even in art, fail to resist the strong criticism of various religions and their strict rules. However, erotica also has its own aesthetic, which very often derives from the forbidden and the secret, and, in a refined and subtle way, it “speaks” about those things that are usually whispered.
The suppression of desire has always brought with it complete debauchery and liberation. And then, when it was pushed deep below morals, desire found cracks – to show a part of itself only in some places. Naked skin, hidden for centuries under a mass of layers and wide dresses, was first shown shyly at a time of mass protests, Chartism and suffragettes. In the Victorian era, the era of uncomfortable corsets, long dresses and high collars, women began to wear fishnet stockings, thus revealing, at least to a small extent, their ankles. In the 1920s, women found their freedom in shorter dresses, feathers, fringes, pearls and fishnet stockings. Fishnet stockings gave the impression from a distance of covering the body, but at the same time they revealed skin when one’s gaze met their legs. Such freedom and comfort were abundantly used by cabaret dancers because they allowed ease of movement without too much nudity. From then until today, fishnet stockings have remained a symbol of promiscuity, sexual freedom, cabaret and hiding under dim lights. Punk embraced them (they were blamed for “too much free behaviour by young people and total anarchy”) as its most recognisable fashion detail. By further tearing mesh garments, the rebels made it known that they were “tearing up” tradition, prejudice and established opinions. Despite everything, they are still a symbol of female sexuality and freedom. They still attract the gaze and hide the skin beneath them.
Freud, a pioneer in emphasising sexuality and the important place it occupies in the structure of the human personality, contributed to the understanding of the fact that, in addition to having a vital, reproductive and evolutionary function, sexuality determines our personalities in many ways. The (im)possibility of suppressing or accepting it and controlling it either completes or cripples our personality. However, identity is like a diamond. No two people are the same, just as no two diamonds are the same. The personality is composed of many facets which, when light passes through them, radiate other colours, unique in their intensity and colour. The question “Who am I?” has never been and will never stop occupying humanity, because with self-determination we gain security and the right to live (and not just exist).
Identity – who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others (Cambridge Dictionary). But it is easier to say what we are not than what we are – a set composed of a trillion cells, a bunch of traits and emotions, a product of reactions and actions, many roles (personal, professional, family and social ones), a set of experiences gathered from years and situations. Made up of the id, ego and superego, shadows and persons... Then the legitimate question arises – Am I one, or are there many of us?
The artist Gordana Kuč re-examines the notion of identity in the series of works “Me is Someone Else”. Across pure white canvases she stretches black fishnet stockings, creating, it is concluded at first glance, geometric shapes – a circle, a cone, a roller... These are parts of the body, the only visible and tangible part of our identity, those we do not doubt, which we know well. These are often those parts that define us as members of a particular sex (the female hips and waistline, breasts, intimate zones), but also those details that are only ours (scars and wounds).
White is a symbol of the divine, the pure, the undefiled, the innocent. A tabula rasa on which life is later written... Black represents the earthly and the underground, the demonic. The symbols of good and evil exist only opposite each other, otherwise they lose their meaning. In each of us there is a battle between Eros and Thanatos, the desire for life and the desire for self-destruction.
In the works of Gordana Kuč, white represents our identity, still not modelled by the rules and norms represented by the black network. Regardless of how dense or stretched-out the fishnet stockings are, the whiteness of the canvas always comes to the surface. Fishnet stockings only seem to cover the white canvas from a distance (just as social norms and rules only slightly obscure our identities from a distance), while from close up it is visible through every void in the stockings. Gordana stretches and pulls them, in all directions, almost to the point of bursting – she crumples and wrinkles them, thus testing their durability and elasticity. By choosing fishnet stockings (whose voids resemble diamond facets), “painting” with them on canvas, she has created special identities for each work. The works look like each other because of the same material and technique used, but, just like people, each work is special and unique. Like humans, the work can be separated or grouped, and therefore an exhibition of collective and individual identities is created in the gallery space.
In his book “Childhood and Society” from 1950, Erik Erikson pointed out that dealing with identity began only when it became problematic. A hectic time with an infinite number of choices, drastically shifted boundaries and changed rules, leaves new generations to look for a way on their own, because the knowledge of ancestors is no longer enough, it is no longer applicable. Political, economic, social, technological and other great changes are occurring continuously and without a break, without space to get used to them and settle down. Where are the limits of our ability to constantly mutate, what determines us, how far can we stretch or contract, are we constant ourselves, can we really measure and explain ourselves?
Gordana Kuč is recognised on the Montenegrin art scene as an artist who always thinks about current or universal issues in a unique and, in many aspects, unusual way. By the choice of unconventional techniques, and then their combination, the audience is always surprised, interested and – most importantly – asked questions. Her art is not engaged, but it is the still waters that run deep, into us. Today we stand in front of paintings/objects, thinking about the fundamental question – Who am I? And more importantly: Who are we when we take our fishnet stockings off?
Anja Marković, Art Historian