Not All of Paradise Is Lost


Imagine you are falling. But there is no ground.
Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall

Dreaming of how we got lost can be scary. Of all the forms of disorientation, the situation in which we do not know where we are is particularly challenging. In the most common sense, we are talking about the loss of the route and coordination, that is, the inability to return to the right path. Vivian Sobchack describes how disorientation does not come only from the fact that we do not know the next destination, that is, the place we started off, but that, spatially, it is primarily about losing the current grounding. ” This form of being lost seems an existential condition rather than a hermeneutic problem. Its structure is perilously open rather than hermetic, its horizons indefinite, its ground unstable… The shape of “not knowing where you are” is elastic, shifting, telescopic, spatially and temporally elongated (Vertigo is often described as “the bottom falling out.”)
Numerous contemporary thinkers point out that today’s moment is characterized by a prevailing state of a peculiar detachment and a strong feeling of constant floating. The overriding temporal dimension of this uncertainty is the present, but the present in which the past and the future have collapsed, and now it seems to stretch to infinity.
Things are changing so fast that it’s hard to keep track of them. Time seems to have somehow jumped out of its own base and is running out faster and faster, as if we’re entering the end “where two actants, humanity and the world (in various forms of this binomial – species and planet, society and their environment, subject and object, etc.), go deeper into the space-time conjuncture that we recognize under the controversial name Anthropocene / Capitalocene”.
Today’s news is flooded with information about massive geo-bio interactions, volcanic eruptions, tectonic plate movements, huge erosions and colossal displacements of earth masses, tsunamis and cyclones that destroy entire island formations and dramatic geological events that transform the Earth’s relief. This monumental reorganization and movement of planetary resources incorporates entire physical systems of air, land, water and related actions that transfer them. Our experience of space-time anchoring has changed dramatically and is now characterized by unpredictability, elusiveness and the ambivalent nature of panic before losing control, if not hope entirely.



It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

In the first “Surrealist Manifesto”, published in 1924, Andre Breton wrote that “under the pretence of progress and civilization, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that might rightly or wrongly be termed superstition or fancy”. Influenced by the Dadaists, who reacted to the horrors of the First World War with artistic anarchy and Sigmund Freud’s insistence on the importance of the subconscious, such Surrealism wanted something more than a mere deconstruction of the world as we know it. The ambition was to establish an alternative angle of view on how our world really looked below the surface of the conventional viewpoint. It was time to enchant the world again. The Surrealists did not celebrate technology and modern times. They rejected scientific achievements if they were detached from the poetic and mythical approach to nature. This perspective meant discovering something that got lost in modern society and needed to be restored, and that something, for them, could only be found in exotic places on the planet. They preserved the possible remnants of the lost Paradise, which could provide a direct, immediate and subjective relationship with Nature.
Searching for strongpoints of resistance to the Eurocentric and anthropocentric structure of the world, the Surrealists discovered giant scales of geological time. These events go deep into the history of time and the evolutionary origin of Homo sapiens, and as such they can have a destabilizing effect on anthropocentric legal and political norms and rules of the modern world. This was an attempt to find something else, here and now, even if it was terribly far away in time or space. Before the poet’s eyes, as in an experienced shamanic dream, unknown worlds were born, labyrinths of images and words that can displace space and time.
Not all of paradise is lost, Breton wrote. The human species is always entirely contemporaneous with other forms of life that once existed, carrying such physical and mental traces deep inside. We may be living creatures, but our vitality consists of geological materials such as calcium, iron and phosphorus. Like rocks formed by the accumulation of mineral or organic sediments during geological eras, our memory is also sedimentary, as are our bodies and organs – the brain dates from the Pleistocene, the liver from the Oligocene, the pancreas from the Cretaceous; the spinal cord takes us back to the Jurassic, the heart to the Devonian, the abdomen to the Carboniferous, and the skeleton to the Precambrian.



Waiting for something to happen who knows what.
Edouard Glissant

Through a series of monumental paintings of magnificent landscapes, Lidija Delić continues her search for the possibilities of representing different worlds within our world. Which of the things we assume safe or unquestionable could have been something else or significantly different? The author believes that history, and not only history but also modern society, or what we could call the sum of experiences of modern life – is often the result of contingency.
Topography is very important for the artistic practice of Lidija Delić, which is often based on continuous research of specific locations within the representations of idyllic landscapes. These are not ordinary views of our everyday life. Like-minded to the writer James Ballard, whose work inspired some of her previous painting series, “landscape is a formalization of space and time, and the external landscapes directly reflect interior states of mind.” The objects in her paintings (including the landscape) can be seen as manifestations of the unconscious, whose changes reflect the radical shifts of our subjectivities.
Artifacts of human presence, escalator, chairs, abandoned buildings are shown, but apart from one lone figure that could represent a self-portrait of the artist, human presence is not directly visible. These scenes could easily be created immediately after a certain apocalyptic event in which we identify the disintegration of human systems and processes. However, instead of the presence of the usual imagery from the repertoire of similar cataclysmic fantasies – destruction, fire, flood and death, the scenes of slow intensity prevail here. The silent ecological collapse and the first bio-geo-chemical metamorphoses are accompanied by an indefinite phantom melancholy, rather than the fear that popularly defines these visions.
This approach results in images of landscapes that seem ambiguous or contradictory, provoking our existing established perspectives and opinions. Are these images representing myths of the near future? Or are there hints of hidden but true human subjectivity peeking out from under the deceptive surface of the present?
The images in front of us are in constant fermentation, boiling, flourishing, swarming, tormenting and swirling, uninterrupted metamorphosis of continuous movement that mobilizes, channels, surrenders and (re)merges everything with flora and fauna. They remind us of different views of complex relationships with our environment, such as those in some East Asian countries where the special sovereignty of the Other is accepted and respected in human relationships with various natural phenomena, animals, plants, rocks or soil. Pictorial poetics of Lidija Delić shows a similar tendency to mediate these relationships with unpredictable, inorganic forms, where the interaction is not one-way aimed at recognizing human self-consciousness in them, but towards coincidences that condition such relationship. The artist situates her paintings on a unique fragile and imperceptible membrane that simultaneously separates and connects seemingly different realities.



The ground is all memoranda and signatures and many objects covered over with hints.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the artistic practice of Ivan Šuković, the idea of the existence of worlds within worlds is rooted in the heritage of the artist’s place of growing up and family environment. Like a geologist (or anthropologist and ethnographer), Šuković uncovers and removes layers of time and historical sediment from disparate archival material, stimulated by an internal impulse to penetrate potential sources of alternative narratives of memory. Aware of the mediation of his own memory, both other people’s stories and shared images, the form of his works is also ambivalent and unstable, while following the course of the process of artistic processing of selected fragments. By dynamically confronting the individual and the collective, the private and the public, the natural and the artificial, the transient and the long-lasting, the artist opens an interspace for different insights.
Through his previous research, he reminded us of the thesis that the fundamental state of human organism on this planet is ubiquitous and inevitable networking, interpreting symbiotic relationships and identifications between non-human (plant) and human artifacts. This time it is a question of terrain, relief, territory, soil, in which, as a species, we are constantly inscribing traces of our own existence.
The artist presents a monolithic sculpture modelled based on a relief topographic map. The surface of the terrain captured by drone is digitally marked and “scrambled” by geospatial software that performs the three-dimensional image modelling. The virtual model was then materialized into a sculptural form. The indexed area is not arbitrarily chosen but represents the territory in which the artist grew up. The sculpture leaves the impression of a glacier in which the stratigraphic layers of reality slide and change in a process that can only be identified from certain points of view and place. A metaphorical exchange between nature and the artificial, between reality and the essential, has been realized.
Today’s Anthropocene geological epoch is the age of ghosts. Everyday life is haunted by things from the past and is destined to be haunted in all its futures. Embarrassed by this encounter with the past, we enter the territory of a haunted place, where violence and misfortune are doomed to be constantly repeated in the insensitive infinity. The term haunting precisely describes the altered state of temporality, historical and ontological disjunction, in which it is immediately present, replaced by the haunting figure, as something neither present nor absent, nor dead, nor alive.
On the spot is a model of a landscape completely stripped of direct human presence – an erased landscape. It hauntingly hovers above the white polyurethane of the sculpture, vibrating on the border between the manifested and the absent. We accept the idea that seemingly mutually exclusive things, and things from different times and spaces, can be brought together. The nature of certain territory is presented as inseparable from history, it is semiotized . On the one hand, this landscape is directly marked by certain human activity. On the other hand, it represents an overview of the way nature itself reacts to human activity.



There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.
Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower

David Harvey describes as the most important contradiction of capitalism the one that exists “between reality and the image of the world in which we live.” The joint project of Lidija Delić and Ivan Šuković staged a convincing presentation of the relationship between the real and the imagined, the banal and the sublime. Not all of paradise is lost is both utopian and bitterly realistic. Artists try to offer a vision of how absence, in practice, constantly intersects with the presence in the disturbed spatial-temporal plans of modernity.
Landscapes in paintings of Lidija Delić show fragments of human existence, but the author’s interest lies, above all, in recognizing the contingency of the relationship between human and his environment in attempts of their harmonization. It is partly a form of commenting on the question of how much landscapes can really reveal to us about the absent, enigmatic protagonist who has passed through them, because there is a possibility that the landscapes remain silent, without registering any of the transitions that transverse him.
Ivan Šuković is undoubtedly more focused on monitoring the transformations that have occurred through the work and life of people in their immediate surroundings, turning to material entries in the location of his own upbringing. On the spot gravitates towards the area that speaks the most about the artist’s family history. Finding sedimentary footprints that index distant echoes of human activities, the author frames the very ground (literal and metaphorical ground beneath feet) as the main protagonist.
For Jean-Luc Nancy, what eludes the category of the landscape eludes us. “The basis of every landscape, its material concreteness, is always mediated by the landscape as a cultural construct. We do not have a direct access to the relief. One might say that the modern fascination with the elemental and geological presence in our environment is precisely the fascination with what we are not and what is unhuman.”
Every fiction raises a dilemma about what is real and what is not. Opening the question of landscape interpretation also opens problems of surface and depth, that is, appearance and reality. Is a certain place substantial or is it substantial what exists below its surface? This re-examination of surface and depth, appearance and reality, is the way the place and space exist. Not all of paradise is lost is interested particularly in this paradox. How can something in whose existence we firmly believe, as unavoidable and present as a concrete background of all our activities as a species, can be completely imaginary at the same time. Also, the project reminds us that our future is not an obvious concept, but a cultural construction and projection, which makes the existence of the world always surprising. In this spatial-temporal conjuncture, also called the Capitalocene, we are witnessing dramatic changes in the scales of human history and geophysical and biological shifts. This causes an environment to change faster than societies. This way, the near future becomes not only increasingly unpredictable, but perhaps impossible too.


Miloš Zec


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