A Book with Performing Pictures
The Virgin of Guadalupe appears before a camera crew on a Mexican hillside. A wooden shrine is hammered to a watchtower on a deserted Soviet army base. A stonemason fixes a cross to the roof of a roadside chapel in his family’s village.Launch book website
‘We are used to art that employs the symbols of religion in ways seemingly intended to unsettle or provoke many of those to whom these symbols matter. Yet to the consumers of contemporary art, those who actually visit galleries, it is more uncomfortable to be confronted with work in which such symbols are used without the frame of provocation.’
In 2011-12, I travelled with the artists Robert and Geska Brečević – aka Performing Pictures – to the villages in Mexico and Croatia where they had been collaborating with local craftsworkers.
Five years earlier, the duo’s work had taken an unexpected turn towards themes of Catholic devotion. The results are still sometimes shown in galleries, but their primary function is within the religious lives of the communities with whom they are made.
I wanted to understand the roots of this work in places that had been shaped by the experience of migration, from the journeys made by Robert’s parents who came to Sweden as guest workers in the 1970s, to the workshop in the pueblo of Zegache where women are restoring the altarpieces of the village church while the young men of the community work thousands of miles away across the border.
And I wanted to probe the discomfort which these devotional objects had caused when presented in the urban art-world of Brussels or Stockholm.
From the Croatian island of Rab to the pueblo of Zegache in Oaxaca, Mexico, hundreds of colour photographs chart the making and use of venerative artefacts. Meanwhile, in a series of texts – one essay, four interviews, ten short poems – I trace the intersecting lines of personal and collective experience which meet in this work.
The book is designed by Transfer Studio and published by Elemental Editions. The publishing has been made possible with the support of The Swedish Arts Grants Committee and the EU Cultural Program.