Bojan Šarčević

Bojan Šarčević has made several videos, but never before has he used moving images to shake up the ground beneath his sculptural practice, which, until now, has had the peculiarity of tight, precise construction. Curved crumpled sheets of copper, a bare twig, two-plane angular forms in Plexiglas, two-plane forms in torn sheets of wood veneer, rectilinearly bent brass rods, construction paper, simple angular matboard structures, concrete fragments, and a piece of raw meat—his five arrangements of these small objects for the series “Only After Dark,” 2007, could never plausibly be presented as sculpture. Mostly perched upright and freestanding, these various elements would inch out of place or fall over at a sneeze. And yet these arrangements are presented distinctly as sculpture here on film. The camera explores these static elements from near and far, and from different angles, allowing us to contemplate their exquisite formal qualities and spatial relations. Because the objects were set up specifically for the camera, as implied by the plain photo backdrop on which each group stands, all thought of their imminent deterioration is dislodged and unloaded onto the film medium, which, intrinsically, is damaged with every showing.

“Only After Dark” is a series of five works, each comprising a roughly two-minute 16-mm film projected from an open-structure pavilion. There is something absurd and matryoshka-like about the five projection pavilions arranged in Le Crédac’s three elongated, sloping exhibition spaces (originally built as movie theaters but never used as such). A vitrine built into each structure showcases a 16-mm projector, and speakers are embedded in the ceiling. Though on a loop, the film plays through only once; the viewer can then either activate it again (via a sensor) or activate the next piece in the same room, an apt reply to the problem of showing film in an exhibition space.

Each pavilion has a different shape and size. All-white, monumental sculptures, they seem antithetical to the improvised lightweight sculptures on film. Their flat roofs and perpendicular planes afford the handsome reassurance of modernist architecture, and once a film starts playing, its pavilion acts like a shelter from which we gaze out, as if it could start raining at any minute. This is the closest Šarčević's work has gotten to functional architecture. Yet these constructions have, in the artist’s words, a synthetic quality. Their combination of regularity and permutation intimates use of 3-D interactive software. The biggest pavilion is less structurally sound than many of the peculiar objects in the films. Its white glow in the low light might have detracted from the cables suspending it, but its proportions suggest that it can’t balance freestanding. However, illusionistic though the pavilions may be, they are veritable Brancusian pedestals for the sculptures they project, sculptures of a sort that can only be investigated in the dark.

Šarčević commissioned musical accompaniments from Cologne-based musician Carlo Peters for the first two films and from the Turkish traditional folk musician Ulas ̧ Özdemir for the following three. Steeped in the melancholy of documentary style, the films present successive three- to five-second static shots of different views and the occasional pan. Šarčević describes them as an attempt to extrapolate a documentary model for representing architecture to the studio. Like his other sculptures, the outlandish objects filmed conjure the outlines of architectural detail, but this time improvisation and materiality are in full force.

Jian-Xing Too