What does Kata Mijatović dream about?

Ružica Šimunović

What does Kata Mijatović dream about?

Ružica Šimunović

Uconsciousness in/about the unconscious:
What does Kata Mijatović dream about?

Life of art,  Journal of Modern and
Contemporary Art and Architecture,
Vol. 69 No. 1, 2003

The awareness of the illusionary wholeness of the subject within itself and of the architectonics of the world is a chronic symptom of contemporaneity, paradoxically resisted by an attempt to form an identity by endlessly multiplying it. According to Renata Salecl, the roots of being traumatized by the authorities that are not up to their symbolic status are in collision with the mantra of the skillfully packaged demand for self-realization, as well with the cynical recognition that this demand is impossible. This anxiety has been deepened by the upsets of AIDS, the unsolved legacy of colonialism and totalitarianism, the globalization confusion, the promises of ecstatic cancellation of suffering in cyberspace, or the hope of annulment of consciousness by mutating into one’s own clone. The crisis schizophrenically culminated in wars, either in a direct way, as is the case here, or indirectly, by aggressive waves of emigrants and refugees who threaten the Western “peace” to collapse. In Croatia, the war left physically maimed and mentally tortured individuals, both literally and metaphorically. As Julia Kristeva noted, commenting the Balkans situation in a conversation, they definitely feel that they cannot get the minimum that would allow them to continue living without being exposed to such mental and physical exhaustion as a consequence

of social and economic uncertainty. Although in the work of Kata Mijatović we immediately notice the very initiation neurosis of the urgency to balance one’s internal and external beings, one’s conscious and subconscious, or more precisely, unconscious, it is not possible to read the questioning of the personal while neglecting the experience of such social reality.

 “I am made up of the matter of my dreams”, wrote Gaston Bachelard. Kata Mijatović says the same thing in her Web-work Dream Net (www.miroslav-kraljevic.hr /dreams) (2001), in which she combines short descriptions of her dreams from 1991 with photographs which her partner Zoran Pavelić has been taking during the last ten years. Plowed fields, an umbrella in an empty room, a tidy bed; these scenes are not devoid of a sense of rejection, a residue of nostalgia, and of melancholy, but only when they slowly fade out from the screen into a blackness from which emerge words that describe a dream, the story really becomes a web of fragments of the artist’s subjectivity. The title itself, which contains the word “web”, followed by the Web design by Ivan Kraljević – the work is initiated by a scheme resembling a molecular structure, circles numbered 1 to 30, which is the number of the dreams, and of the lines connecting them – suggests a navigation without a definite beginning or end. Moreover, after a while, tracking the work becomes more conditioned by the internal logic of the work than we could control and make our choices. We delve deeper and deeper into streams of subconsciousness, and we don’t know if it is the artist’s or ours. When Rosalind E. Kraus analyzes the role and the meaning of the notion of web in art, she lucidly notes

how its nonlinear structure, from the structuralist viewpoint resembles a mythical one, or, if we talk about psychoanalysis, it resembles the structure of the subconscious. As we have already said, Kata Mijatović appropriates both viewpoints, by choosing the title of the work, and choosing her visual material – for instance, when she invokes the legacy of romanticism using a version of a web, a window. The window – locus of the reconstitution of the being, according to Krauss – is closed in one of the dreams; a curtain is drawn over it. Contrary to this scene, in which the camera is characteristically aimed from the room to the window, in the second scene we see the artist standing

in the open, and behind her, windows, both open and shut, filling half the cadre. In one of the dreams, a window offers a dim view of the kitchen, and this scene is labeled by a text containing a maternal reference, which is not insignificant. Personal mythology and the subconscious intertwine.

I sit in the kitchen, in the old house; my mama is here, standing by the stove and watching through the window. It is dark outside; the sky is far away and full of stars. I approach the window and I see two stars falling, I loudly say that now one should make a wish (I am sure that my wish will be fulfilled), and at the same moment I notice a hole opening in the sky, black on the dark blue background of the sky. In fear, it comes to my mind that one of the stars did it, but the scene slowly changes and I understand that what I see is not night sky, but an improvised wooden facade, a screen with a hole in the middle.

When she speaks about the states of crisis and fragmentation – both of the artist and of the esthetic object – Julia Kristeva asserts that, to talk about artistic work as an expression of these states, we must invoke the experience of psychoanalysis. Freud’s conception of the unconscious as our hell, Kristeva concludes, is crucial to the notion that the crisis cannot be separated from the human being. Kata Mijatović locates her project on the vague border between the conscious and the unconscious; as with an inverted glove, she plays with possibility tom equate the illogicalities of dreams with the experienced everyday life. And the everyday, narrated thorough a dream, is gloomy and uncertain, and contrary to dreams, it does not imply the relief of waking up. It seems that the journey thorough the labyrinths of dreams is a frantic browsing the tangled areas of consciousness, as well as a comment of the nightmarish reality. This is precisely why Dream Net is not completely hermetic; a collective memory is woven into it, in which everyone is invited to recognize one’s own levels of consciousness, conditioned psychologically and socially.

Kata Mijatović realized this purpose most transparently in her project Selected Dreams (2002), which she presented in three separated units. In Močvara club in Zagreb, she presented a performance in which she was sitting on a ladder, inside a cage, and together with the audience she was watching the projection of the texts and photographs from Selected Dreams. But, while she based the Dream Net exclusively on her own dreams, now it is about recorded dreams and private photo-portraits of Ivan Kožarić, Marijan Crtalić, Ksenija Turčić, Vlasta Žanić…

I dreamt about meeting a painter, a friend  of mine who had died not long before (Fruk). I met him on the beach from Fellini’s dolce vita. Surprised to see him, I greeted him cordially and asked him how it was over there. He answered it was fine. Somehow unhappy with the answer, I continued to ask: “Well, what do you do, do you paint?” He said he did paint and that everything was somehow similar to “down there”. The only difference was that there were no systems of values. I explained this to myself, then and many times after that – so, there is no good and bad, up and down, beautiful and ugly, black and white, nor blue and red… etc.

The experience was deepened by Gershwin’s Summer Time, song by Ella Fitzgerald and Janis Joplin. The second presentation of Selected Dreams, in Hannover, is a shift from the Self to the Other. Lit by a spotlight, the artist was reading the dreams of her friends, and the translator was sitting in the dark part of the stage, translating the text into German. Again, Bachelard comes to mind – “Vision tells too many things at once. The being does not see itself. Maybe it listens to itself.” Therefore, the dreams were spoken, and the music, which is for Kata Mijatović what is madeleine for Proust, was replaced by voices, thus multiplying their meaning and reception – through experiencing the two colors, the rhythm of the voices, intertwining the two languages that not everyone in the audience understood,

and, of course, thorough the presence of the author and the translator, acting either as catalysts or as hindrances for the reception. At the Urban festival in Zagreb last summer, Kata Mijatović  was putting the prints of Selected Dreams on tram stations and bookstore windows. On this occasion, she says, passers-by were taking the texts that had just been exhibited and leaving with them. This poses some new questions, which will, at the least, directly provoke suppositions that, when Kata Mijatović speaks about herself, she speaks about the Other, that is, that she never stops to contemplate the outside where she/Other resides. In this way, the perception of private and public work is being distorted; it is being reactivated also as a critical manifesto of reality, but always from a distance and only provisionally. For example, speaking about presenting Selected Dreams on the street, one could speculate about whether the public really became sensible for art, or is it only consumer ideology of accepting everything that is offered, and finally, is the artist herself interested in these interpretations at all. Is she intrigued by how many people have read, let alone decided to keep a paper offering them a dream, and not an invitation to a demonstration or to join a yoga class?

Kata Mijatović is interested in communication; she insists that one should consciously cooperate with the unconscious, because it never lies. The Dream Net originated in cooperation with Miroslav Kraljević Gallery, based on K+Z installation (2001), presented in Galerija umjetnina in Slavonski Brod, where Zoran Pavelić had his exhibitionsimultaneously. The artist’s texts, handwritten on a transparency, were laid out on the floor and on the walls, while the upper parts of columns in the backyard were painted white, and the lower, black, thus alluding to the binarity of yin and yang, earth and sky, night and day, dream and wake. A happy coincidence – the best that happened, Kata Mijatović revealed in a conversation with Željko Jerman, was that rain began to sprinkle “my dreams” – was a sign that dreaming could actually be a state of awareness, contrary to the desensitized state of wake. In accordance to the practice in the 90s, which largely leans on the feminist art of Susan Hiller, Annette Messager or Martha Rosler, but Kata Mijatović, disillusioned and rejecting any political angle, is primarily oriented towards self-examination. Aware that the attempt was impossible, she searches for the primal fragments of the self, aiming to articulate at least a part of the truth about being in crisis. As we have already pointed out, works by Kata

Mijatović are not deaf to the social context in which they originate.

In Temporary Accommodation (2002), a project that she realized with Zoran Pavelić for the Museum of Contemporary Art, she touched the theme of war, perhaps in the most direct way, as well as refugees, and everyday life in which artists are marginalized and deprived of possibilities to make a living by doing their work. However, the tenant status that she and her partner are bound to endure, or the experience of refugee status of their families, are themes that the artist presents from her peculiar poetic angle. In Forsythia video, realized in this occasion, she finds inspiration in the blue flower in the back garden of a rented apartment. We see her trying to enter, she starts toward it twenty-odd times, and every time she disappears in a dash of it. Did the attempt to enter/move into the apartment succeed, or her constant efforts and vanishings suggest that such a wish is only an illusion? At the same time, the Web work Visit (www. katamijatovic. mi2.hr), offers to enter her and Pavelić’s home, and the homes of thirteen of their friends – Marija and Zlatko Kopljar, Tomislav Gotovac, Markita Franulić and Boris Cvjetanović, Branka Stipančić and Mladen Stilinović, Marijan Molnar, etc. Among them is Georg Trakl, whose poetic greatness, which ended in a schizophrenic cocaine- induced dream at the onset of World War I, is a permanent inspiration for Kata Mijatović. In the texts within the Dream Net, certain words are emphasized by color-coding- coal, narrow passage, feather, light, snow, dust, night – or, otherwise – I am lying, I am sitting, I am seeing. The artist systematizes, she makes a list of her personal vocabulary that she started in a series of earlier projects; among them was The Life of Trakl installation (1997). Presented in Zagreb Nova gallery, it was based on three elements forming a triangle – a black cardboard box on one wall, a white shirt on the other, and on the floor, a circle of salt with a glass of water in the center. The materials used, as the artist herself says, are actually embodied words. As she describes, the black ink she used to color the box means silence to her, a cessation of empty talk about war and politics. The salt and the glass of water symbolize desire, a thirst for silence that she equals with poetry. Kata Mijatović argues that the conscious can approach the unconscious only in the language of poetry.  Trakl did not endure the damnation of the exiled form Eden, said Kata Mijatović, explaining her exhibition entitled Preparations (1998) for Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art. With its six installations, it was a continuation of The Life of Trakl and of earlier  Desire (1996), presented in Dubrovnik Otok gallery. In this installation – it consisted of a large square, painted in black ink on a newspaper, and of a circle made of salt – the artist, annoyed with politics, had already stepped on the territory of silence, the only acceptable space of distance from direct, ineffective participation. In Preparations, assembling the installations from the whiteness of feathers, canvas, salt, glass, and water, the artist suddenly puts the warmth of wood within the loud whisper of the embodied words, as a powerful counterpoint. In this way, the sober discretion of the materials is broken by a strong emotional incursion, a remembrance of childhood, when “Grandpa was beautifully arranging chopped wood”.

In her projects before Dream Net and Written Dreams, Kata Mijatović also materializes her personal vocabulary, made from dreams/remembrances. Her installation Coal from the subconscious (1999), inspired by a dream from 1989, which consisted of a cage and a heap of coal inside it, with a handcart in upside-down position on top of it, she presented in the open, near the Zagreb Student Center. The cage, which was to be use again in performances I am not Conscious (2000) and Shift (2002), signifies reality, or as the artist says, the consciousness. “I wanted it to look as I really descended to the mineshaft of the subconscious, dug out three tons of coal and put it in a cage – the conscious”, she writes. In this installation, and in the performances, Kata MijatoviE also deals with oppositions of warm-cold and consciousness- subconsciousness. She impregnates the rationality of consciousness with love, a yearning for home, which we recognize in her materials: flowers, wood, coal, fire. Freud is on the scene:

Das das Kind an seinem Bette steht, ihn an Arme fast, und ihm vorwurfsvoll zuraunt: Vater, siehst du denn nicht, dass ich verbrenne?

As a sequel to Coal from the subconscious, in ambient installation Back from the Unconscious (1999) in Zagreb Miroslav Kraljević Gallery, the artist added new words materializations to the longing to dive into the unconscious: she put scissors into a blue pot and filled it with water, and she presented the fabric of her cut-out clothes, also infused with water, as a series of canvases. As in the most of her other projects, the sense of hearing plays a part, too – the viewer hears water splashing. To further examine the theme she treated in Coal from the subconscious, to open the door of the unconscious, Kata Mijatović returns to SC and performs I am not conscious – in a closed cage, she sits at a table covered with a white tablecloth, with the blue pot, which she had used before, on her head. Her persevering urge to understand, to hear and to feel is almost painful; in her performance Shift, presented in Zadar, she silently stands beside the very same table and watches its video projection. Sara l’Aurora, a song by Eros Ramazzotti, provides the sense of sweet and sour nostalgia – Morning will come / there is a hope / everything will change / you only have to believe/. How it is in the Unconscious? (1999), a performance she presented with Zoran Pavelić in Zagreb Gradska Gallery is not based on a dream, but is inspired by remembrances from childhood.

The awareness that we have lost the protection of childhood forever, reinforced by losing one’s home, amounts to cutting the umbilical cord connecting us with ourselves; a realization, as Boltanski says, that we all have a dead child lying inside us. When Kata Mijatović for her performance installs a table with slices of bread, a glass and a plate, as well a bed, a mirror, and monochromatic canvases, she once again asks “who am I?”, measuring the permeability of borders between remembrances and dreams. Their overlappingm mutates into a hallucinatory performance, a theatre of the absurd that, in real time and space, inarticulately mumbles not about remembering, but about experiencing the experience of remembering. Dressed in diving suits, Kata Mijatović and Zoran Pavelić spill

water from big blue pots on everything that is presented, trying to reestablish the broken

circuit between the inside and the outside, between parts of consciousness and subconsciousness that might confirm the subject. As well as in her other works, the artist postpones the reconciliation of identity split. She is aware of the failure. Appearing in a diving suit, and inviting her partner to do the same, she in a comical way performs a ritual game without a solution, to the very exhaustion. Moreover, in the same way as in her other works – for instance, when she puts a pot on her head, or sits anonymously among the viewers, looking at her own work, or when she, under a spotlight, reads other people’s dreams, presuming that the Hannover audience did not understand it – now she leads

an intimate conversation with her own personal past and the trauma of separation from innocence that she hopes to find in the unconscious. Using the tactics of constant avoidance, Kata Mijatović nonviolently leads the viewer to do the same action. By letting go, we learn more about ourselves than the artist had ever told us about herself.