Eindhoven

David Maljković, Images with Their Own Shadows, 2008, projector, stand, screen, metal studs, plasterboard, 16-mm film (color, sound, 6 minutes 16 seconds). Installation view.

David Maljković, Images with Their Own Shadows, 2008, projector, stand, screen, metal studs, plasterboard, 16-mm film (color, sound, 6 minutes 16 seconds). Installation view.

David Maljković

Van Abbemuseum

David Maljković, Images with Their Own Shadows, 2008, projector, stand, screen, metal studs, plasterboard, 16-mm film (color, sound, 6 minutes 16 seconds). Installation view.

A few short years ago, there appeared to be substantial common ground shared by certain artists of different nationalities from the former Eastern Bloc. At least from a distance, this group, who came of age in the post-Communist 1990s, seemed to similarly deploy a mixture of film and other media to worry over the broken monuments and movements of the not-so-distant past. The Albanians Anri Sala and Adrian Paci, the Romanian Mircea Cantor, and the Lithuanian Deimantas Narkevičius spring to mind as representative of that moment. This shared ground has receded from view somewhat, perhaps inevitably, as their practice has evolved and diversified. “David Maljković: Sources in the Air,” a scrupulously modulated overview of ten years’ work by the artist (who was born in Croatia in 1973), in many ways epitomized this sense of shifting vantage points, and did so in deliberate, self-reflective fashion. For a start, the artist (working with curators Charles Esche and Annie Fletcher) allowed for multiple routes through the exhibition, all of which involved negotiating momentary obstructions, a forking path, or unexpected dead ends. This emphasis on exhibition design will doubtless be amplified by the disparate architectures of this touring show’s subsequent venues—BALTIC, Gateshead, in the north of England, and GAMeC—Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Bergamo, Italy—producing further realignments of perspective.

In Eindhoven, the show’s meticulously disorienting scenography was graphically rendered in a one-sheet exhibition brochure, whose origami-like design echoed the pleats and folds of the neo-Constructivist wooden framing devices in which Maljković presents some of his videos. These can variously—and sometimes simultaneously—suggest the proscenium of a theater or cinema, the iris of a camera, a detail from an ornamental pavilion, or a convoluted department-store display. Such sculptural forms may also be more obliquely related to specific, historical works of monumental architecture alluded to in the artist’s best-known works to date. For example, Scene for New Heritage, 2004–2006, consisting of a trilogy of short films, their shared sculptural setting, and sundry related drawings and collages, was inspired by Vojin Bakić's 1970-designed World War II monument in Petrova Gora, an isolated, mountainous region in central Croatia. In this show, the work was accompanied by two original models of the incongruously futuristic silver structure, in or around which all three films are set. Against this anachronistic and, it seems, now infrequently visited backdrop, a sequence of scenarios is played out, largely in an imaginary future, by nonprofessional actors with the aid of rudimentary props. Phrases such as “Times were different” and “We can’t change its function” rise and fall; sandwiches are eaten; a Frisbee is tossed to and fro, a football kicked around; some of the day-trippers idly explore the monument’s interior. Themes of absence, loss, and remembrance, of dereliction and repurposing, are intermittently invoked with what might best be described as a concerted lack of urgency.

The more recent works in the exhibition indicate a number of intriguing developments and promising new departures, as Maljković cautiously augments the historically particular and geographically localized underpinnings of his earlier work. The two-part video Out of Projection, 2009, for instance, features the test track at the Peugeot headquarters in Sochaux, France, whereas the enigmatic Temporary Projections, 2011, whose three-room mise-en-scène is obliquely cinematic, appears to be unburdened by any specifics of time or place. There is an underlying irony in the intelligence and inventiveness with which Maljković stages a set of discrete environments largely bound together by recurring intimations of distraction, frustration, and occlusion, of things not quite heard or easily seen or readily comprehended.

Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith