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ETC.: Fever Dream

24. 5.–15. 6. 2023
Kresija Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Artists:  Pavle Banović, Dalea Kovačec, Željko Beljan & Rebecca Merlic, Ava Zevop

All photos by Andrej Lamut
From global news to self-image construction on social media – nowadays, to keep up with the times means a daily struggle to distinguish truth from lies. Not always clearly evident, truth often appears as potential manipulation, raising the following questions: in whose interest is the narrative, what is its purpose, or what is it trying to sell to us? Navigating through such a world is a dizzying, seemingly never-ending task. New technologies are too good at recreating reality, and we unwittingly train them by sharing photos, videos, and countless other data about our lives.

Fever Dream is an exhibition of artistic projects that crisscross the line between the real and the fictitious, between the dream world and the tangible one, exploring the power and boundaries of artificial intelligence and trying to undermine the reliability of human memory. Using various approaches, the featured artists move between the virtual and physical space to display dream archives, artificially created images and false memories, pointing to the complexity of our time, an era informed by the integration and development of new technologies.

In the Internet’s seemingly endless system of chaotic content streaming and posting, random personal notes and images on our screens create distorted dreamlike landscapes rather than construct reality. In their project Dream Streams, Pavle Banović makes a collective diary of dreams, using anonymous poetic notes that people have shared about their dreams. Taking the shape of a spatial intervention, the work uses and challenges the visual language and logic of smart TVs placed in public spaces. Reminiscent of the so-called blue screen of death, a screen indicating system errors in our devices, the fragments of dreams scrolling on a blue background interrupt the stream of advertisements to highlight the workings of the advertising system and its interferences in public spaces, just like dreams reveal the workings of the unconscious. 

In a different way, in the form of AI-generated images and texts, the unconscious also appears in the works of Rebecca Merlic & Željko Beljan, and Ava Zevop. In her project In the Beginning, There Was Static… In the End, There Was the Webbed Wide World, the latter explores the role of synthetic media in image generation, producing various media entanglements. Real-time ties together live footage from a camera to serve as a cue for the automated generation of images and texts. By combining generated images and texts, visual databases, the Word Wide Web, and digital photography into a spatial installation, Zevop explores how the visual media and technologies of the past resonate in the aesthetics and semantics of the new visual paradigm shaped by artificial intelligence processes.
Truth Is a Forgotten Memory, a project by Rebecca Merlic and Željko Beljan, centres on ‘zidnjaci’, traditional embroidery with witty and instructive (often sexist) messages that used to embellish kitchens across the Croatian countryside. ‘Zidnjaci’ are both a reminder and manifestation of the past, speaking of family customs and relations between the sexes, or even echoing the political climate of the era. Reinterpreting their embroidery collection, the artists turn the pieces of tradition placed in the gallery setting and the virtual space of a videogame into a grim hybrid world of the archived past and present. In this context, the pieces are embroidered not with slogans about good housewives but with generated sayings about "the new normal" as both a reflection of the pandemic reality and a new layer of everyday life, one still filled with stereotypes and misinformation despite being a product of a different time and place.

Technology has become an inextricable extension of one’s environment, body, and consciousness. We use it to store our memories but also make new ones. Mnemomat (2021–2022) by Dalea Kovačec is an interactive experience that manipulates photographs to underline the impact of photography and images on memory and one’s perception of the past. The idea for the project is based on the artist’s research into the influence of photography on human memory, the false memory theory, and the changing and construction of memories in the relationship between the personal and the collective. Upon entering Mnemomat and agreeing to their scanned image being stored and used, the visitor is photographed, and the image of their face is inserted in a random photograph to create a false memory of a time and situation that have never existed.
Fever Dream invites you to contemplate the possible, assess the images around you critically, and surrender to the unconscious as if opening windows into the systems we take for granted. The world around us keeps changing rapidly, and information and images of reality are shared even more quickly. Experiencing the processes that make this possible – and sometimes make it difficult to tell truth from falsehood, may shed light on what little there is to rely on.

Kuratorke Curators: ETC. z gostujočo kuratorko Laro Reichmann
Visual Identity: Zoran Pungerčar
Exhibition Design: Dorijan Šiško

The project In the Beginning, There Was Static… In the End, There Was the Webbed Wide World was produced by Ljudmila Art and Science Laboratory 

Partners of ETC. Magazine: Galerija Fotografija, Kino Šiška, Look Back and Laugh, Ravnikar Gallery Space

Project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the City of Ljubljana, Department of Culture and Triglav Insurance Company.

Etc. is an annual magazine, dedicated to showcasing current artistic production from the Baltic to the Balkans.
Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, each issue is dedicated to a relevant topic in art and life. Founded to promote emerging artists, its goal is to initiate a dialogue, inspire collaborations, and challenge set views.