Critics’ Picks

Renata Poljak, Porvenir, 2020, DCP, color, sound, 12 minutes 10 seconds.

Renata Poljak, Porvenir, 2020, DCP, color, sound, 12 minutes 10 seconds.


Renata Poljak

Galerija Kranjčar
Kaptol 26, 10000
September 24–October 20, 2020

In the late nineteenth century, the discovery of gold in Tierra del Fuego, the archipelago extending from the tip of South America, curiously spurred a mass emigration from the Dalmatian island of Brač, more than 8,000 miles away. Many of these sailors would settle in the town of Porvenir—the Spanish word for “future”—effectively creating a Croatian ethnic colony at the very edge of the inhabited world.  

The Split-born artist and filmmaker Renata Poljak’s great-great-grandfather was one of those sailors. For her twelve-minute video Porvenir (all works 2020), Poljak retraces her ancestor’s journey to this “promised land” at “the bottom of the globe.” The voiceover is limited to two scant lines, allowing the artist’s camera to do the majority of the storytelling. It holds a steady gaze over the town’s wide-set streets (pausing briefly on the intersection where Croatia Street meets Magellan), never flinching as the near-constant winds batter the bleak but brightly painted houses. The blustery climate, a brief epilogue informs us, helped send Poljak’s forefather to an early grave. The video addresses this only obliquely, juxtaposing shots of the windswept landscapes with close-ups of the artist’s own skin while she slowly inhales and exhales, as if forging a single breath, a seamless body extending over “two seas and an ocean” and multiple generations.

The sense of propulsion continues in Ovoga Je Mora Previše (Too Much of This Sea), a two-channel video installation that projects footage of the churning tides in two vertical columns that flank the corner. The imagery reflects in a mirrored square on the floor, amplifying our vertigo as we hurtle toward an unknown future.