2006, Božidar Jakac Gallery, Kostanjevica na Krki, Slovenia

Nataša Petrešin, 2006

The exploration of perception, states of consciousness and the recording mental or ‘cerebral’ landscapes with which Uršula Berlot has been working for a number of years now corresponds to the German concept Hyperplastik that Éric Alliez and Elisabeth von Samsonow used to designate conceptual art that broadens the boundaries between perception, digitally generated or analogue images and ‘mental’ art. For Alliez and Von Samsonow this broad concept included, among other things, the Moscow neoavant-garde group Collective Action, the web-based and telepresence performances of Ken Goldberg, exploration of the total visual field within the Art and Technology programme in Los Angeles in the 1960s, but also experiments with consciousness, different mental states and the treatment of the medium (the mediator between the spiritual and real worlds in spiritualist séances) as a creative figure equal to the artist, which date back to the beginning of the 20th century and represent the main catapult for the development of surrealist automatic writing. What all these hybrid artistic forms have in common is conjecture and consideration of the function and role of the body and the brain in the comprehension of reality within the framework of and beyond sensuous reality, in other words the connecting of artistic creativity with creative discoveries and explorations in the sphere of cognitive science. Uršula Berlot’s work derives, on the one hand, from the observation of the action of the forces of gravity and materials and following the protocols dictated by coincidence, its inner order, its repeating patterns and the laws of chaos theory. At the same time, Uršula studies in her installations the behaviour, response and perception of the viewers in the exhibition space and encourages associative games with the help of the organic shapes produced by reflections of light through the compositions on transparent supports.

Included among the biomorphic forms for the first time are pre-planned compositions, some made on the basis of images of the artist’s brain with the help of magnetic resonance imaging. These shapes, Uršula says, associate with codes, schemes and diagrams that are a kind of score for kinetic projections of light. The moving reflections that create the effect of phantom limbs, produced by an unknown brain, are created in a purely analogue way. The composition of a virtual and kinetic stained-glass window in one of the bricked-up windows of the church likewise derives from a standard kaleidoscopic phenomenon that the artist has filmed with a video camera. Brian Massumi, one of the modern philosophers of movement and perception, understands the analogue as a digital process that is always already exceeded and talks about the predominance of the analogue over the virtual or the digital: ‘Whenever we talk about as yet uncoded potentials, possibilities, forms and inventions, these are not the result of coding but of its turn to the analog. Processing can be digital – but the process itself is analog… The paths of cooperation between the digital and the analog – transformative integration, translation and exchange – are all analog operations. The analog is always a fold ahead of the digital.’ Uršula reveals potential forms and affinities between the material and the non-material and persists in presenting the high complexity and co-dependence of the external and internal activity of every system, be it biological, artificially generated or spiritual.

Barbara Rupel

The church of the Cistercian monastery of the Fons Beatae Virginis Mariae (Spring of the Blessed Virgin Mary) in Kostanjevica na Krki, abandoned over two hundred years ago, has been the Božidar Jakac Gallery’s main space for temporary exhibitions ever since the gallery was founded in 1974. The immense space offered by the early Gothic three-aisled basilica, with its series of historic features, demands a very carefully considered presentation of works of art. In order to avoid a collision between the character of the space and the works of art, the selection of artists is made very deliberately with regard to their artistic practices. Artists are encouraged to create site-specific exhibition projects. Some have coordinated their projects so harmoniously with the building that houses them that in a sense we could even talk about "total" works of art (Gesamtwerk). On the other hand such an orientation in the planning of exhibitions has also been dictated by the principles of an ever more clearly established form of conceptual art (installations).

And if our general visual perception is based on the comprehension of contrasts, the same applies to fine arts. Works of art are therefore even in their expressive origin a set of more or less contrasting elements (light/dark, chromatic/achromatic), something manifested in all fields of artistic creation from drawing to painting, from photography to video, or from relief to sculpture, and naturally also in architecture. Contrast is achievable through the selection and method of use of expressive components that can be substantial (the materials, the selected exhibition space) or insubstantial (light, visual media, sound).

In architecture in general, light has always been one of the most important expressive components, irrespective of whether natural or artificial light was used in planning. This factor is even more clearly expressed in religious architecture. The light of the basilica of the former monastery church at Kostanjevica na Krki, with an emphasis on the passage of daylight through the windows of the main apse and the embrasures of the choir, is further underlined by the standard east-west orientation of Christian churches. With the passage of light, which changes daily and over the course of the seasons, the character of the building is transmuted into a unique living organism. It is this characteristic of this space that has already led some artists (among them Matjaž Počivavšek and Mirsad Begić), when conceiving their projects, to perceive and incorporate light as a specially valuable visual element.

Uršula Berlot, on the other hand, has found her basic means of expression in the expressive potentials of light. But her field of interest is no longer oriented towards the natural light mentioned above, but instead towards discovering the new expressive potentials of artificial light. Like every new visual phenomenon, the invention of artificial lighting gradually came to attract the interest of the fine arts sphere, since it offered utterly new expressive possibilities. Quite a number of famous artists of the previous century (including Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy and, from the end of the century, James Turrell) directed their artistic potentials towards the exploration of light effects. Uršula Berlot’s creativity can in a certain sense be understood as a continuation of their work and, at the same time, as blazing a pioneering trail in Slovene art circles.

In searching for new visually perceptive effects she is aiming at the perfection of the interactive coexistence of the substantial (the given or chosen space, artistically interpreted Plexiglass) and the insubstantial (light, sound). The disposition of the space offered the artist specific conditions that have allowed her to construct her narrative in a partial but logically readable way. Through the carefully planned coexistence of selected segments of the space (two apses, an aisle, wall niches) and individual artistic creations, she has made the space uniquely dramatic with a hint of enigma. The experience of this exhibition does not begin, as has generally been the case up to now, at the entrance to the church, but only when we reach the crossing (the intersection of nave and transept). At that moment, our journey through the space begins, as a succession of new "light" spaces begin to be revealed to us, lifting us into higher spheres or moving us to different spiritual planes.

This exhibition by Uršula Berlot does not only offer visual delight, to which we have become accustomed in her past exhibitions; with this project she leads us to deeper reflection. With a magnetic resonance image of her head, or rather her brain (video recording), she draws attention to the fact that the fruit of every creation (including her current exhibition) is a very considered act permeated with emotions. The brain (and she deliberately used her own), which is in constant movement, is the source of all the activity in this space. Consequently the transparent picture of a brain translated into fractal form is in movement – the brain which in an infinite sense expands its capacities (the video recording of reflections in one of the niches) and in this way enables new creations (the transparent pictures in the north aisle of the church). But just as with every production, with mental processes too, by-products are created and must be diverted through careful selection (the light installation in barely perceptible movement in the apse of the west choir).

Uršula Berlot has thus presented to us in her own way the "story" of her creative process, which however also applies to all creatively oriented individuals. And given the visual delight that she offers us in the process, it occurs to us that it is worth setting off on such a journey.

Uršula Berlot

The exhibition Transitoriness is a site-specific light installation, conceived specifically for the meditative and monumental space of a former monastic church. The project explores the phenomenon of sensation and extended perception, from the most non-material manifestation of subtle conscious states to its cerebral physiological basis – living brain tissue. It is concerned with states of consciousness, a fluid-energy current of alternating mental energies and spiritual states, which is inseparably linked with openness as well as the spatial and temporal multidimensionality of our perception. I am interested in the desubjectivation of sensation that does not lead to chaotic conclusions, or in the stabilization of autonomic entities which transcend the object as well as the subject (Deleuze and Guattari).

The dematerialized spatial installation, in analogy to mental processes, creates an abstract landscape of moving, waving reflections and projections of crystal-like fractal forms. Open forms of installations with non-material elements of shadows and reflections extend into space and incorporate it into their body; dealing with the concept of the dissolution of borders between interior and exterior, the transition of material into non-material, the real into the virtual.

In addition to the kinetic light installations the exhibition includes two video presentations as well: Introspection is an X-ray picture of the artist’s brain, taken by means of medical imaging technology. Computer-developed photos, providing this very concrete insight into pulsing brain tissue also serve as the formal basis of crystalline fractal forms/diagrams, which alternate on the plexiglass of transparent objects. Virtual Glazing is a kinetic kaleidoscopic video projection simulating a stained-glass window in an architectural niche, which with its recurrent color patterns creates a hypnotic, meditative effect, thus referring to the aesthetic and symbolic use of light in a sacred context. At the same time it calls into question the borders between the real and the simulated, reality and fiction.

Transitoriness – catalog [PDF]