AAA: Arbitrariness, Alienation, Absorption
Zoran Todorović has established a complex and controversial art practice of exploration of the critical (bordering, transformational and provocative) relations of art, science and micro-politics towards the human body within the contemporary culture of arbitrariness, alienation and absorption.
It is about arbitrariness because he deals with regulating motiva-tion and de-motivation of the relation towards the body (anatomy/ figure, physiology/system, system/behaviourism) and not with the causal and mimetic systems of relation between the “human being” and “nature”. Todorović takes on a role of subject of both motiva-tion and de-motivation of the isolated existential pattern, showing that today’s culture is not ruled by an order of “natural” (Darwin’s) or “social” (Marx’s) laws, but by an order of constructed cultural algorithms and their socially situated derivations. The derived situ-ation or event are not expressions of author’s state of mind (body/ mind) but constructions of a singled-out, located and indexed event, which is a symptom of danger, uncertainty, transformation, of a possibility of micro-culture creation, etc.
It is about alienation because the artist deals with the decentring of human reason (deeper, meta-meaning) and pointing at a literary event or situation i.e. a relation that is not justified within the great humanistic meta-language. On the contrary, Todorović derives pro-vocation of these great humanistic meta-languages (of science, technique/technology, religion, politics, sexuality, everyday life, culture, art) creating “small” or “localised” excesses (like the con-struction of a machine that produces sound waves of a dangerous frequency, or offering food made of human flesh, exposing body to insects, using serum that changes certain sensory body functions). His world is not one of integration of human principles, but a world of disintegrating the ideals and the “white lies” of great humanistic reality constructions. Todorović faces us with an uncertain literal-ness, for example of pain, and with the certainty of cultural articu-lation of each unspeakable or uncognizable confrontation with pain or danger within a value system of a society, culture or even civilisa-tion. There is no actual pain or actual danger. The pain or danger in question are the ones that become polysemic “currencies” invested into the construction or deconstruction of a social reality (truth, norm, everyday life).
It is about absorption because human body is introduced/pulled into a complex production system of a potential world which se-mantically, behaviourally and truly existentially takes a “human being” into a game of transformation (technology of transformation or at least the technology of provoking its’ stability) from “being” into “symptom”. That is why Todorović’s work belongs to the art practices that were labelled as art “strategies” or art “tactics” in the culture of the 90’s. The author does not deal with science or art in the manner of a scientist or an artist, but rather explores in the manner of a “culture worker”, which means author-producer of situations or events in which science and art are provisory — but always powerful — frameworks for testing an individual. For all that, this testing possesses a characteristic of bio-politics and “bio-politics”, according to Foucault, signify a “practice of managing” or “practice of governing” the body. For us today, managing and governing can mean neutral testing and ecstatic consuming and uncontrolled exchange of bodies (or body effects) within specific channels of experience communication in western civilisation after the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the era of social globalisation.
Todorović’ practice of “art as a construction of micro-culture” is an investigating one, because he undergoes phases of initiation, con-ceptualising, contextualizing, articulating and performing altogether unpredictable processes (situations, events, artworks). He deals with critical relations between art, science and micro policies since he provokes openly unstable and often dangerous (hurting, lethal) symptoms of arranging an individual and social field of existence and behaviour. Here we speak of open symptoms because they in-clude the possibilities of unpredictability. This unpredictability that occurs within seeming predictability of respecting scientific and technical procedures is a basic effect of setting in motion a mecha-nism of the “dangerous” (frightening) as a provocation of that which is socially acceptable, normal or “straight”. Within a seeming cer-tainty of the scientific steps he promises uncertainty of an existen-tial confrontation of the actual body with an encompassing and invisible system. He offers us a potentiality of acquiring the expe-rience of fear, incertitude and certainly, of horror. The point in question is, these really are dangerous “artworks as symptoms” since exploration participants are exposed to a potential, real or fictive danger (injury, transformation of body or bodily functions, transgression of the usual norms of social body-derivations, etc.) For Todorović, art is “an extraordinary polygon” of investigation and positioning differing objects, situations or events into easily surve-yed form of expecting the decentred experience (as the knowledge of experience of danger, pain, body change or exposing oneself to government over body), aesthetic experience excluded. His work is post-esthetical. For example, when micro-camera is placed into a strip-dancer’s vagina, he annuls the “idea” of strip-tease which goes as: phallusly ideal body is being offered as the object of visual or even haptic enjoyment in a body of the female-object. Albeit, Todorović offers displacement from aesthetic-erotic towards pornographic-or-ganic. This is the place of unease. Here, the pornographic should not be understood in a sense of a moral category but in the sense of an intention to bring to obscene presence a single body “detail”. At the same time this dissables the look to “slip” into the “innocent” bourgeois enjoyment in idealised erotic body-as-object-of-desire. He shifts the look from the object to be watched onto look that is enacted from the “organ”.
For Todorović, science and technology are a complex multitude of historical, actual and futuristic procedures, contexts, institutions, effects and — certainly — knowledge that can be relocated from its’ fundamental framework (of positive scientific purpose and meaning) into the realm of uncertain work and performing both positive and negative possibilities of producing micro-realities and physiological, anatomic, subjective and other reactions to the former. His work has features of “micro-politics” since it is political, which means performative (performed) in a relation towards social constructions of identity, norms and modes of expressing/presentation, i.e. beha-viour. For all that, “micro” in micro-politics means that TodoroviĘ is not dealing with the great classes’ meta-politics (social classes as the situated instruments of a big real politics, national ideology or system conception of society and civilisation) but with the politics of micro-climates, isolated and presented in the art world as a seg-ment of the world of culture. All of this takes place within specific epoch — the transition from the 20th to the 21st century — a time of breaking down of firm borders between art, culture and micro politics, so that we speak of “the art” that lies outside a modernist autonomy and thus becomes the means for realising or de-realising interests and power in culture. In such a situation his work is trans-gressive cause it provokes, inverts and renders vague (ghostly) all of the utility of public discourses (expectation of and from within the culture). Today, artwork does not become transgressive by obviously breaking some essential or unessential social law (system of be-haviour rules or political correctness /PC/), but rather, transgres-sion is connoted in the work which — upon its own effect — de-monstrates that “social law” is the true and only place of social transgression. So, TodoroviĘ’ seemingly cold and rational artworks confront a spectator or a spectator-participant with a fundamental uncertainty, even worry of what he/she faces or worry of what is expected of him/her. He causes us to be uncertain within the world and he makes the world around us uncertain. For Todorović, expres-sive effect of the artwork is not an expression of an artist’s inner states but the effect of rationality and utilitarity that reveals its im-perfections, hoarseness, resistances, faults, hollows, vacancies, ide-alisations and censorship.
Todorović’s artworks are not entirely privileged “innocent” artistic and aesthetically centred works in relation to an assured and privi-leged, most often disinterested spectator as one who enjoys the work (piece, installation, situation or event). On the one hand, TodoroviĘ uses the privilege of art world in order to create “problematic”, “exotic” or “dangerous”, that is “uncomfortable” work — of a kind that could not be performed without that contemporary art world legitimacy, which means “art world” as a polygon of non-utilitarian and provocative or excessive or dangerous experiments.
Activating various micro-politics is the basic issue not only for the contemporary politic theory but also for the “art” set as a cultural experiment. For an artist such as Zoran Todorović, it is not essential to offer work as such, or work as an excess within culture, but to show — via the “artwork” — how minority or dominating paradigms within contemporary societies are activated, enabling the actual bo-dies to confront effects of those activation or their re-direction. In one of his works, Todorović produces food out of the human flesh. However, he is not a cannibal as was “acted” or “simulated” by the surrealists from the late 20’s or 30’s or the Vienna actionists from the 60’s and 70’s. Together with the work, “the flesh offered”, information on its’ institutional origin — plastic surgery residue — is shown. He does not deal with the actual flesh phenomenon or the phenomenology of consuming the human flesh but rather with the phenomenon and phenomenology that includes complex institutio-nal “micro politic” traces, values, relations, promises and censorship.