02.03.2018. - 07.04.2018.

Marija Ančić. Morbid Frames

Marija Ančić is a former finalist of the Radoslav Putar Award and an artist whose work takes place at the intersection of traditional art disciplines (drawing, animation) and culture of social networks (GIF, blog, etc.). Ančić graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Split at the departments of restoration in 2005 and sculpture in 2010. She lives and works in Zagreb as an independent artist.

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When the subject of selfhood is broached from the inevitably uncanny perspective, incessantly engulfing the subject and thus becoming its constitutive part, as Marija Ančić does it, the medium of GIF presents itself as an ideal solution. Figurative animation which implies the stylization of the real world, presupposes a subjectively “skewed” gaze. In addition, the minimal form of narration tying together the story’s beginning and end into an integral whole, thereby renouncing causality, is contingent upon the uncanny content: the inability to distinguish dream from reality, the state of security from the state of danger, and self from the other.

Ančić’s poetics can be easily classified under the gothic genre which, among other things, possesses a trans-historic quality (it first referred to the Middle Ages, and then to the Victorian era), so it should not come as a surprise that it also found its place in the Digital era. Moreover, not only does the contemporary gothic draw on the themes and motifs that originated primarily from Victorian and Edwardian literature (during the genre’s inception), but it also democratically spreads onto all the other art forms (visual and fine arts, theatre, film, music, comics…) in which it promptly creates new forms (as is the case in postmodernism), namely in the horror genre. 

Along with the abovementioned, one of the best definitions of “the gothic” which unequivocally corresponds with Ančić’s works can be found in the Introduction to The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales (1992), in which Chris Baldick states that the gothic text should contain “a fearful sense of inheritance in a time with a claustrophobic sense of enclosure in space, these two dimensions reinforcing one another to produce an impression of sickening descent into disintegration.” In this definition, the notion of “inheritance” is connected to the eerie past which, contrary to the expected linear development, cyclically repeats itself – just like in Ančić’s loops where the subject constantly relives trauma and where any hope of closure (or at least an intermission) is in vain. Furthermore, “the sense of enclosure” persists on a physical and a psychological plane. The firm framing presents an insurmountable physical barrier eliminating the possibility of flight (like the gothic dungeon, labyrinth or hidden passages), a 2D surface without air or sound, where an “empty” whiteness – invisible like an apparition – has the power of erasing, fading and squeezing out the subject until he completely vanishes. On the other hand, the blackness engulfs and sucks in the subject, which is in clear juxtaposition with the whiteness and its binary, symbolic meanings. However, that juxtaposition is dual in nature, that is, the categories of good and bad, full and empty, etc. are in constant flux. With this in mind, the selected art technique also becomes a crucial part of the concept: thin black pencil lines (and greyness as a distinct zone) on white paper create a drawing with enclosed lines, signifying sharp boundaries delineating “the inside” and “the outside”. These are again juxtaposed categories with a powerful symbolic charge inherited from the Middle Ages, when one’s surrounding and nature were marked as sources of danger and when walls were erected in order to preserve the inside from “the foreign elements” lurking outside. In the context of Ančić’s GIFs, they take on a figurative meaning: the inside is the self, while the outside whiteness is a system of traps set to devour the self at a moment of carelessness (a time will come when the leap won’t be timely!).

On the other hand, the dungeon of the mind is as eerie as the physically limited frame, if not more so. This doubling, that is, the co-existence of the foreign and yet familiar entity within a personality is one of the prime examples of Freud’s das Unheimliche (the uncanny, eerie). It is a phenomenon which provokes fear and in which the uncanny “is that class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar.” Therefore, as the opposite of “the positive” das Heimliche (homely, familiar, docile, intimate, confidential), das Unheimliche marks “everything that ought to have remained hidden and secret and has become visible.” In that regard, the doubling has dual origins, both of which were addressed by the gothic genre: the one connected to primary narcissism, that is, the omnipotence manifested by denying one’s mortality (like in Oscar Wild’s grisly story The Picture of Dorian Gray), and the other connected to the Superego which, in a paranoid state, gains autonomy (for example, R. L. Stevenson’s The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde). Namely, when in Freud’s threefold personality structure (Superego, Ego, Id), the Ego fails to strike a balance between the despotic demands of the Superego, which plays the role of consciousness, the strict and judgemental censor in charge of morals and prohibitions, and the instinctual desires of the animalistic and amoral Id, it fractures into two polarities whereby the Ego collapses and disappears in its entirety. Thus, the Ego, which cracks under pressure exerted by the two eternally conflicted instances, gets replaced by its “pure” and ideal variation, or the Superego, while the Id is repressed as a separate entity, no longer a part of one’s personality. However, the unsuccessful repression of the instinctual and primordial Id penetrates into consciousness and materialized into a doppelgänger figure: it resides in mirrors, sits on one’s chest and suffocates the subject in dreams (“the realm of the subconscious”), as an alter-ego, as an apparition, existing in bizarre images and illusions between dream and reality… What is uncanny and eerie in a doppelgänger is its constitutive position of that which has been negated, repressed, and, of course, that familiar part of one’s personality which has been distanced, made uncanny and removed in order to preserve one’s “purity”. Psychoanalysis and the gothic, both of which tend to create polarities within the realm of dreamlike terror (also visible in the genre of fairy tales as one of the first black-and-white personality models), are inextricably linked by the same interests in hiding and revealing the dark and the light, the outer and the inner properties of the self. Lisa Hopkins, in her book Screening the gothic (2005), comes much to the same conclusion: “while the Gothic existed without psychoanalysis, psychoanalysis might well not have existed without the Gothic.”

Throughout the 20th century, from the trivial and popular margins, doppelgängers, apparitions, mechanical dolls, ghosts and other spectres have penetrated into other genres and media to such a degree that Ančić’s eerie scenes in black-and-white, temporally and spatially encapsulated animation, unquestionably correspond to popular contemporary gothic production; it equally permeates rock and metal music (Nick Cave, The Cure), horror movies and TV series (Black Swan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tim Burton), video games (Castlevania), comic books (Dylan Dog, Batman, Sandman), literature (Stephen King, Angela Carter), advertising (the burgeoning Halloween marketing), etc. Due to postmodern interests in what is popular, the gothic aesthetic came to occupy a prominent place in the pantheon of arts as a highly potent and rich source for expressing psychological turmoil, the conflict between good and evil, dream and reality, being trapped and saved, passivity and action, beginning and end, and other binary positions which Ančić merges into a unique, fluid continuum. Without beginning or end, that ebb and flow of blurred lines continues to torture the viewer whose modus operandi lies in analysis and categorization, although it does offer a positive resolution to that never-ending torment in the form of survival and endurance. (Petra Galović)

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The exhibition is financially supported by the City of Velika Gorica.

The program of Galženica Gallery is supported by the City of Velika Gorica, the Zagreb's County and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.