Bettina Pelz: SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019

How to make a site-specific, context-sensitive and light-based exhibition project?

Ljubljana is a buzzing city with bars, cafés and clubs, a great diversity of microbreweries and an international food scene. The inner city is closed for cars and in the middle of June 1000s of visitors are strolling between the many museums and the many shops, testing wine or checking the second-hand market. Today Ljubljana is the largest city of Slovenia and its cultural, economic and political center. Like many other cities in Europe, it hosts a festival of light, but this one is unique.

Since 2008, Ljubljana hosts the only Slovenian festival of light. Founders were Katerina Mirović (KM) and Alexandra Stratimirović. In 2019, the annual project SVETLOBNA GVERILA happened for the 13th time. The four-week festival was curated by Katerina Mirović and Matjaž Brulc. “When we arrived at Ljubljana,” recalls Aymen Gharbi, one of a small collective of visiting curators, “we were excited to arrive in a city with a pulse. But walking the city by night, we were even more excited when we noticed that the sky over Ljubljana is less polluted than over other urban agglomerations in Europe. With a bit on online research, we found, that 12 years ago, Slovenia, was one of the first countries to pass a national law to curb rising light levels.” Awareness and sensitivity for the excessive use of artificial light in urban environments is a great canvas for an exhibition project that reflects on light as artistic material and medium.

BP// “Where did the idea come from to work on a light-based format for Ljubljana?”

KM// “The idea of the festival came through our co-operation with Aleksandra Stratimirović. We knew each other from different art projects and at first, I wanted to present her work in Ljubljana, and she suggested to do presentation of the LIGHTING DETECTIVES NETWORK instead, of which she is a member. For me, the network was especially interesting for sharing knowledge on light design with everyone. So, Aleksandra and me, organized a tiny festival devoted to LIGHTING DESTCTIVES with 2 exhibitions, lectures and 2 workshops, one of them resulting in ambient lighting in underpass in the center of the city. We transformed an ugly underpass into party space for one night.

On the same workshop, we met Tomaz Novljan, Professor at the Faculty of Architecture that became our important co-worker. From the second edition, we put a focus on art and light and decided to have each year festival rounded up around a topic. … Recently, Aleksandra has been less active due to her own artistic work and also, she lives in Sweden. But she’s still involved in the festival with the program suggestions and as an artist. She has a permanent (for 5 years) installation in Ljubljana. She’s an interesting artist with unique expression and very nice person to work with and have fun too. If we weren’t so far away, we would be probably doing much more things together. … Since 2014, Matjaž Brulc is the co-curator. He’s also been writing texts since then. He’s a great writer of art critics also and has published some literature books, with short stories. He’s been also part of the technical team as we are very small crew and we all also work on set-up.”

The decentral exhibition program of SVETLOBNA GVERILA encompassed objects and installations, responsive set-ups and site-conditioned interventions that use light as material or medium. Most of the works premiered at the Slovenian version of a festival of light. The program is a mix of works by professionals and by students as well as of participative, sociocultural projects (33%). “We started at the Match Gallery and then strolled the in-between streets making our way down to the Ljubljanica river. It was interesting to see that the chosen site where outside the main attraction in the city’s center. Only a stone-throw away from the touristic activities, we found the works in very interesting, but hidden corners, in somehow intimate space/time zones that were not affected by the buzz around it. We meandered through beautiful streets, found all the works and enjoyed the calm atmosphere.” _ recalls Aymen Gharbi, visiting curator from INTERFERENCE Tunis.

“Every light festival or any art festival has its own identity and atmosphere. As a literary semi-underground festival SVETLOBNA GVERILA is surprising a lot by the variety of the works and locations.” _ said Ilkka Paloniemi, visiting curator from LUX Helsinki. The spirit of the experimental minted the atmosphere. SVETLOBNA GVERILA is a meeting point of artists and cultural activists, a transdisciplinary melting pot with co-operations across art institutions and sociocultural collectives as well as with a broad variety of academies and universities. Rooted in the alternative cultures of the Yugosphere, SVETLOBNA GVERILA cannot be compared to the formats that have been coined in Berlin or Prague, Eindhoven or Lyon competing for the attention of citizens and tourists alike. There were no large-scale installations nor projection mappings, no massive crowds following a given trail to get a glimpse of all what is going on. SVETLOBNA GVERILA is rather a creative exploration of the urban sphere than a media and marketing statement.

SVETLOBNA GVERILA took place from May 16th to June 15th and it stretched across the city’s center to the autonomous zone Metelkova and to the Fužine park off the city’s center. We were there for the last weekend to see the exhibition project in public space and a variety of art venues. Katerina Mirović had asked us, some curators from other projects and festivals around Europe, not to come for the opening. “I will be too stressed to have everything working. We are a small team and we need every hand to get things done.”, she said. Empathically, we agreed and went to Ljubljana for the last days of the festival. And we found some time to talk.

BP// “Now that it is over, how did you like SVETLOBNA GVERILA 2019 in person?”
KM// “I loved it for more than one reason. It was quite different than previous editions. In the former years, we had some bigger projects on open space like squares or big façades. This year we had only one that had bigger dimensions and still, that was a bit hidden.

BP// “How do you see the festival in the city scape? Does it need more visibility than it had in 2019?”

KM// “I am not sure what you mean. We don’t have a big promotion, no billboards …, we don’t have huge press coverage, but people can find about it through social media, flyers … Or did you mean we should have bigger projects? Well, this year the topic was “Borders”, so we were discovering a sort of secret places like underground electric shafts, bars … I think next year’s edition will be different, we will try to balance between less and more visible. … anyway, we put a lot of emphasis on urban space. The audience rediscovered sites and spaces, some saw some architectural elements for the first time or even a tree in the middle of a square that has been there for years, got overlooked.”

Katerina Mirović refers to the work of Slovenian artist Neža Jurman on Novi Trg. She used with metal springs to build an electronic audio-visual instrument around a single tree in the middle of the square. Visitors were invited to improvise with the sound and light effects triggered by pulling on the strings of the “urban harp”.

Neza Jurman. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (1)
Neza Jurman. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (2)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Elcke van Gorkum (21)
Neza Jurman. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (3)

Neža Jurman. Photo: DK, Privat.

KM// “Lots of projects were responsive to audience’s action. You had to find them and touch them to trigger the light and most of the times also get sound from them. It was quite a big experiment and I am glad that it worked.”

There were several responsive works that were results of the SVETLOBNA GVERILA Lab headed by the artists Tilen Sepič and Luka Frelih from Ljudmila. All of them were on display around the Match Gallery and all of them were responding to visitors’ activities.

KM// “We started last year to do also workshops for artists to make them less dependent on engineers. Last year, the workshop was about basics of electronics and about Arduino. With this year’s workshop, we wanted to show tools which can be used to make interactive projects combining sound and light. Most of the workshop and results were based on Bare Conductive touch board that uses Arduino for programming. Bare Conductive has also many useful information and instructions on their page, so artists can also learn by themselves how to use them. We finally realized 5 interactive projects, 4 of them were installed in the public space and one on the window of the gallery.”

Lab. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK

SVETLOBNA GVERILA LAB. Photo: DK.

Katja Štesl (KŠ), member of the SVETLOBNA GVERILA team, shared the audience’s point of view: “The importance of these interactive installations lays in raising the questions such as How is it made? Could I have designed something like that? What is the technology behind it, is it simple, is it complicated? What are the materials used? It also answers to the theme of this year’s festival edition, borders, since audience is asked to overcome their shyness, the border of merely critically observing art, and explore the displayed objects. It is somehow connected to a moment of playfulness, which supports creative thinking. It was a joy looking at the reactions, all the “ooohs” and “wooows” and the laughter that accompanied them. The moment in which an observer starts participating in the creation process and experiences the fondly unique way of being a part of something interesting and appealing.”

Following the idea to create a productive dialogue between artists and audience, not only responsive artworks were developed, but as well a series of activities, among them some context-conditioned works in the Fužine Park.“ About 20 minutes by cab for the city-center, the Fužine Park is part one of the peripheral neighborhoods. So, we really went to one of the edges of the city where is transits to luscious green landscapes. What stroke me most was the darkness in the park what was a perfect canvas for the site-conditioned works to shine. We had a very peaceful and slow visual experience _ that was truly great.” _ remembers Aymen Gharbi.

SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (26)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (27)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (23)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (24)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (25)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (6)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (21)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (28)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (22)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (17)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (20)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (19)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (7)

Fužine Park. Photos: DK.

KM// “For the first time, we did a larger project in the suburbs and involved residents. It was great to get them involved and to see locals at the opening. They really liked that something happened and were asking if the installations could stay longer. This was our main intention and it worked. But going to suburbs means less public because of the distance … We would have to work on that if we go further with the projects in suburbs. Anyway, our main goal was to reach local people, that don’t have so much interaction with contemporary arts, and they came. SVETLOBNA GVERILA is not only about light art, but also about the space, public outdoor space, not just a show but invitation to research your surrounding and society”.

KŠ// “Working with locals in Fužine district was my favorite part of working for SVETLOBNA GVERILA this year. I was working with Andrej Štular when we were interviewing residents of the district who varied in ages and their time spent in the district. From their statements I got a feeling of a connected community, people taking care of each other, felling comfortable, safe and accepted in their environment, which should never be self-evident. I enjoyed the fact that they were happy to spend time with us and share their thoughts and observations, sometimes even personal stories. They were all aware of the stereotypes regarding the area and were confident in disproving them.”

Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (10)
Andrej Stular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Damian K (12)
Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (9)
Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (8)
Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (11)

Andrej Štular. Photo: DK.

BP// “For the first time, you worked with volunteers. What is your evaluation of that?”

KŠ// “This edition of the festival accepted generous help of a small group of local volunteers, who helped with the preparation of the exhibition space in the Match Gallery and who were also site guides for interactive installations on the night of the opening. When we did a short evaluation, they all exposed the fact that most of the audience was ready to try to explore the installations on their own. But their presence made the installations more visible, since some of them were not immediately noticeable (which is somewhat connected to this year’s theme).”

The guiding theme of this year’s edition was “Borders”. In the press info, the curators explain: “This year’s focus of the festival is on exploration and comprehension of different aspects of borders, be those physical, optical, social, psychologic or purely spiritual, borders that both divide and connect. We will thus put on display works that explore the boundaries between the public and the private, between past and present etc … works that examine the limits of human perception and imagination and thus offer a deliberation on this phenomenon which is attracting lots of attention due to current events in the world.”

Some of the works, literally made fences and border their artistic material. In the Fužine park, Slovenian artist Andrej Štular staged a rural wooden fence with a ping-pong of light and shadow. The empty space on both sides of the fence, the flood flighting from left and right, and the continuously altering of harsh shadows on both sides created a dramatic scene.

Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (12)
Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (14)
Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (15)
Andrej Štular. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (13)

Andrej Štular. Photo: DK.

At the Alcatraz Gallery at Metelkova, the German collective RaumZeitPiraten used temporary fences to build a space-filling installation in a blackened space. They added a wandering light that was easily associated with visibility and control. Jan Ehlen, one of the members of the RaumZeitPiraten collective explains: “We worked on a rhizomatic structure made of various fence elements and added some searchlights … we liked the curatorial theme and followed that … quite different to what we do otherwise, but good, too.”

SV19 _ Raumzeitpiraten 2
SV19 _ Raumzeitpiraten 1
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (6)
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (7)
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (5)
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (4)
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (2)
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (3)
RaumZeitPiraten. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (1)

Raumzeitpiraten. Photos: DK, Privat.

In the city’s center, in the street Križevniška Soteska Slovenian artist Tina Drčar installed a composition of illuminated paper boats upside down, hoovering over public space as a reminder of the refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean.

SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (4)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (2)

Tina Drčar. Photos: DK, Privat.

A highlight was the experience with the work by the transdisciplinary artists’ collective TRAN 22 titled “Soap Opera”. Centerpiece of the installation is a large-scale membrane made of soap water as we know it from soap bubbles. The fragile skin is produced by mechanics, hidden in the dividing wall, moving up and down across a large open circle. Entering the gallery space, the visitors found themselves in a black room viewing a circle of light. The light emerges from the other side of the wall where there is a white space filled with high intensity white Halogen light. To enter the white space, visitors must destroy the soap membrane.

TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (5)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (4)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (8)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (9)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (1)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (11)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (7)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (6)
TRAN 22. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (2)

Tran 22. Photos: DK.

When viewing the membrane from the white space, a complex play of colors appeared on the soap film. Visitors in awe are seen from the other, the dark site of the work as figures in an over-illuminated, super-natural frame. They appeared as abstract human constellations mostly silent while observing the ever changing play of light and color, The high contrast of the black and the white space and the various constellations of human figures in the screen were very photogenic in their luminous setting. More important than the known metaphors of here and there, of black and white, of inside and outside the bubble, was the experience that has been shaped by this participative work. It was a very alluring invitation to step through the bubble, it was a great surprise to find the hypnotic play of colors and it is a wonderful way to stage the audience and to confront them with themselves.

In the same gallery, there were two more works working with screens. Elcke van Gorkum alias Surreal Visuals brought two works made of LCD screens with moving abstract graphical materials, several layers of Plexiglass refracting the image surface and mirrors producing infinite repetitions. Elcke van Gorkum has been supported by the Festival GLOW in her hometown Eindhoven.nl.

SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Elcke van Gorkum (24)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Elcke van Gorkum (26)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Elcke van Gorkum (25)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Elcke van Gorkum (22)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo Elcke van Gorkum (23)

Surreal Visuals. Photos: DK.

Ronald Ramakers, director of GLOW since 2016, commented: “The light art festival GLOW Eindhoven has been recruiting and facilitating new talent in the field of light art and technology for several years and sees itself as a breeding ground for “bright talents” to stimulate and attract new talent.” GLOW Eindhoven was founded in 2006 and has been part of the International Network of Festivals of Light which has been joined by SVETLOBNA GVERILA in 2008. It is an informal network for peer-review, exchange and co-operation between festivals of light across Europe and beyond. In 2016, Katerina Mirović saw Elcke van Gorkum’s first exhibition in the Vanabbe-Museum in Eindhoven and it took three years to find the right opportunity to host her in Ljubljana, but it shows how important the presence of international curators and producers during the festival is to generate the next exhibition and participation opportunities. “It is a great experience to become part of this network – with all the discussions, the great human beings and the experiences we shared. “, summarized Elcke van Gorkum.

The third installation in the Match Gallery was done by Imaginary Systems teaming the visual artist Golnaz Behrouznia and the sound artist François Donato. They created a walk-in screen made of several layers of semi-transparent organza. Their projection material was animated historic-fictional creatures, semi-transparent themselves. In the interplay of the digital and analogue animation by moving through the screen engendered a poetic associated to being in an aquarium but not getting wet.

Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (16)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (22)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (24)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (25)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (23)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (20)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (21)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (18)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (19)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (1)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (27)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (17)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (14)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (12)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (8)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (10)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (9)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (5)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (3)
Imaginary Systems. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (2)

Imaginary Systems. Photos: DK.

For Katja Štesl, “Lumina Fiction #2” was a great work: “Golnaz Behrouznia and François Donato created a story of connectivity between different forms of beings. My light finds and touches your light and it doesn’t just stay merged, but exchanges. Isn’t this how bonds between (human) beings are formed? Thin layers of fabric hanging from the ceiling evoke the idea of parallel universes and distort the images of organic-shaped creatures. Do they come from deep sea, the universe? Do they seem familiar because of our dreams? Their psychedelic, soft and slow rhythmic movement is as inviting as it is mysterious. It takes a while for one to discover the fact that the creatures react to his or her presence, that they respond to our movement in the space, which seems unlimited because of the surrounding darkness. One might feel lost or somewhat disoriented in such environments – and then suddenly, if one takes his or her time, realizes with joyful surprise that he or she is being noticed, recognized and silently talked to.”

The idea to extend 2d screen into a 3d space was as well a guiding idea of Bošjan Drinovec and Gregor Mesec. They worked in three sewers on Trgu Francoske Revolucije (en: Square of the French Revolution) staging three different imaginary sceneries: One of a slow floating runnel with light colored pebbles, one with an electronic circuit and one with an underground dancefloor.

BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (59)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (55)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (58)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (56)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (57)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (61)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (64)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (62)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (63)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (54)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (60)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (52)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (73)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (71)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (70)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (67)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (69)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (72)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (68)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (66)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (65)
BOŠTJAN DRINOVEC & VJ MESEC. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (53)

Bošjan Drinovec and Gregor Mesec. Photos: DK.

“But it is not only temporary works. SVETLOBNA GVERILA is one of the few festivals that has permanent art works. They are also included to festivals long-term program. … and it is something very intriguing to witness the opening of talking lamp post with a knot.” _ adds Ilkka Paloniemi. The highlight of the last weekend was the inauguration of the third work of the SVETLOBNA GVERILA PARK. Meta Grgurevič & JAŠA turned a street lamp into an animated sculpture that creates its own space. While easily overlooked during the daytime, in the night the lamp translates a spoken text into a flickering of the light. Sound and pause are equivalents of light and darkness in this audiovisual composition.

SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (9)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (7)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (8)
SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (6)

Meta Grgurevič & JAŠA. Photo: DK.

What started in 2017 as an idea, takes shape with the latest acquiring. The new installation is a part of three permanent ones that are installed along the river.

Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (11)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (9)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (8)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (7)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (6)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (5)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (4)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (3)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (2)
Aleksandra Stratimirovic. SVETLOBNA GVERILA Ljubljana 2019. Photo DK (1)

Aleksandra Stratimirovic. Photo: DK.

BP// “Most of your works _ 16 collectives / 5 individuals _ have been produced by collectives. Is there a reason why do you stage so many artistic collectives working for SVETLOBNA GVERILA 2019?”

KM// “It was not intentionally, it just happened. One artist gathered more artists around his projects … But we always do productions with faculties, academy and schools and each group does one joint project or with another group. This year for example, we had the Faculty of Architecture together with Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Academy of Fine art and Design together with students of computer programing. We wanted to have students of technical sciences together with art oriented students so we can present the art production to students that mostly don’t know anything about arts and also for art students to learn something from them or find new people they could cooperate in future. And … also, we as festival are always looking for young guys in electronic field interested in working in arts, but it is very hard to find them or they are already overloaded with various better paid projects.”

BP// “16 collectives, 3 female and 2 male artists … that is a very unusual gender proportion, do you have a coaching program for women artists?”

“This just happens. We are not intentionally looking for female artists and I’m happy to have them around and that they do interesting stuff. Our organization was established by 3 females and it was not because of some feministic ideas, but because we were there and were all 3 very active at time and wanted to continue to do things in the same organization. We have discussion of the projects with each artist, not specially with female. They don’t need any extra coaching. But I noticed more and more female artists are participating in our workshops.”

BP// “How do you find your artists?”

KM// “We work a lot with local artists who we know, or we find new ones at other events or through friends. Couple of times we had open call for Slovene artists. Foreign artists we also find through internet, or they are recommended by other artists or curators. Sometimes we find them at other festivals., although we don’t have much time to visit them …”

BP// “Why do you have so many new works?”

KM// “We do new works to encourage Slovene artists and students to work with light as material or medium. Also, this year there were less foreign artists than in other editions. Partly it is the fact that it is sometimes easier to do something new that fits in the spaces we have, than find something existing. Also, it might be difficult or very expensive to bring foreign artists to the festival, due to high fees and other costs like travel, accommodation, production.”

Almost all the works, except the ones by Imaginary Systems and Surreal Visuals in the Match Gallery, were made in and for the environments they were shown in. One of the strong points of SVETLOBNA GVERILA is the goal to create opportunities for the next generation of artists to explore light as artistic material or to develop their approach to art in public space. There is only one other festival in Europe that work provides a similar environment what is the MEDIA ART FESTIVAL FRIESLAND in Leeuwarden.nl headed by Andrea Moeller. Both profit from a long-term engagement of their directors to find sustainable ways to support artistic research, production and display in their cities and to provide access to international networks and scenes.

BP// “How do you manage to have so many co-operations with academies and universities? I think there is nobody in Europe who entertains so many productive academic co-operation.”

KM// “We have some insiders :-). Most of the professors or teachers in those institutions are our friends, mostly artists that we’ve been working with, and were interested to involve their students in our program. Or in some case I contacted the professors. SVETLOBNA GVERILA aims to encourage students to try to work with light and therefore for us this co-operation is important. And for them is a practical experience and public presentation of their work. Lots of students of architecture said that it was the most exciting experience for them.”

BP// “How do find your themes?”

KM// “We are looking for the themes that are open enough to allow many different approaches to the subject. We are interested to show different views on the subject. Sometimes we are inspired with an artwork, sometimes with a space, the other time with an idea.”

BP// “How do you take curatorial decisions?”

KM// “Each of us comes with some suggestion and then we discuss what we can do and where. We are pretty limited due to pretty small budget and the fact that the projects stay outdoor for a month without any security.”

BP// “What changed over the last 10 years?”

KM// “We started 13 years ago. At the time there were no events outdoor and there were no events in May. There were hardly any tourists. Now, lots of things are happening, the city center is crowded, lots of tourists and people hanging out at the bars. Also, the city changed a lot, traffic was banned from the center, lots of renovation … And the festival grew. We have now regular co-producers: faculties, academy, high school, city museum … We have a bigger audience than on the beginning, though not so huge as other international light events, we’ve done more small versions of a festival in other towns in Slovenia and more interest is shown from other association to host SVETLOBNA GVERILA in their hometowns. More artists are also interested to try do projects with light.”

BP// “Why are you doing SVETLOBNA GVERILA? Even after more all these years? What is your fuel?”

KM// “I think it is still exciting to do it and that there’s still space to develop it and we have a great response from the public. And for me, the most inspiring things are results of the projects, artworks themselves, and response from the public. If the response was poor, we might decide to make it much smaller because it takes really enormous time to get the festival together.”

BP// “All of the people we talked to told us that they are working with you for 10/20/30 years. What is your secret?”

KM// “I think it is because we all like what we do and we do it to change things, to produce or make something we think is exciting and that we want to share with people. It’s not a job, it is something we want to do and we are glad that now we can also survive doing it. It hasn’t been that way before. We’ve been doing it for a long time without being paid anything for it. The budget is still small, so we are still overloaded with work and we are not able to employ anyone, but …

KŠ// “What I find impressive about SVETLOBNA GVERILA is the fact that it is made possible by a group which consist of relatively few members. Working with people who show so much dedication and are able to work so hard numerous hours a day for weeks is simply inspiring. Motivation is the key, they say, and the team never lacks it. The possibility of saying ideas out loud and being heard shows its value in conditions like these. And then there’s a pleasant feeling of solidarity, the core of teamwork, the ability to be humane. The high-level efficiency as I see it is a result of good coordination.” Aymen Gharbi adds “It is a very interesting feeling to arrive to this community that seem to know each other for decades. We had the feeling of being surrounded by member of a tribe …” And Jan Ehlen from the RaumZeitPiraten comments: “yes, this resonates with us as visiting artists, we are in Ljubljana for the third time and we love to come. Great atmosphere and good people.”

BP// “The association Strip Core by Forum Ljubljana is the producer?”

KM// “Strip Core is a collective of artists and cultural activists and is officially part of Forum Ljubljana, an institute for art and cultural production. We’ve been first part of the legendary Student Cultural Association Forum, but due to some legal issues, we (3 girls) established the institute in 1994.”

Founded in 1989, Strip Core primarily functions as the comic arts production arm of Forum Ljubljana. It creates Slovenia’s only comic art magazine, publishes comic books and frequently presents Slovene comic art at numerous international events and exhibitions. KM// “In 1989, I co-established the Strip Core collective. Strip Core is still the collective covering more fields of contemporary art, but lately mostly visual arts and publishing. We’ve been doing graffiti, silk screen posters, video clips …, and in 1992 we published first issue of a Stripburger fanzine, which grew into international comics magazine with vivid activity: magazine and comics books publishing, organizing exhibitions, workshops, contests, book presentation …, as much as possible regarding comics.” Alongside its publishing activities, Strip Core organizes workshops, lectures, exhibitions, multimedia projects and, since 2008, the “Lighting Guerrilla” Festival. Its office is located at Metelkova.

Metelkova stands for a large urban squat. Sprawled across 12.500 m² of an abandoned army base, the self-proclaimed city has become the leading center of underground music and art in the region. Vivid, cracked-tile mosaics adorn the walls of the complex’s galleries and studios; rusty sculptures, fashioned from broken bike frames and upturned oil drums, cover its concrete gardens. Every year Metelkova Mesto hosts more than 1.000 alternative events in its illegally occupied buildings, catering to a wide spectrum of subcultures, from theatre performances and punk concerts to disability workshops and LGBT club nights. But Metelkova is an event itself, every night hundreds of artists and activists meet in its streets and bars. Metelkova built its reputation its artistic and cultural credentials. It is an autonomous zone with a its own structures and rules to maintain and develop the squat. The state – both at a local and national level – is still willing to finance many of the cultural projects coming out of Metelkova. And in 2006 the municipality declared Metelkova a national cultural heritage site, which has so far prevented further demolition.

BP// “Why do you have your office at Metelkova?”

KM// “Metelkova area is former army barrack which has been transformed in a cultural space. Half of it belongs to Ministry of Culture and the other half to the City. The City half has been squatted over more than 25 years ago, when the City started to tear it down in a middle trying to trick us and build fancy apartments instead of giving it for culture like they promised. This was a long process initiated by Peace institute in order to give former army barracks to civil society. We’ve been part of this movement since the beginning and it was logical to move here. We had our space before on Kersnikova 4, where also legendary alternative club K4 was, now there are studios for artists there and we are hosting the crew organizing Animateka festival.”

One of the strong points of SVETLOBNA GVERILA is that it links urban spheres like the autonomous zone Metelokova or the marginalized Fužine District to the gentrified city center. SVETLOBNA GVERILA has a truly poly perspective approach and offers no links beyond personal experience. We left Ljubljana with this unique experience. In her contribution to the publication “Out Of Place” accompanying the SKULPTUREN PROJEKTE Münster 2017, the artist Ayşe Erkmen described how she approaches exhibition spaces: “I am interested in structural design of places, the supporting structures of exhibition spaces, the things in the background, accessories, spatial proportions, choreographies, etc. such as the type of lighting or the hanging devices, everything that contributes to it, to present a work of art in the best possible way. Storage rooms, technology, people working in offices, furniture, computers, papers, books, places where art is worked for spatial boundaries, how to behave and move people in the room, structures that hold everything together, walls, the floor, the ceiling, windows. In addition, factors such as politics and geography, the environment that is a space inscribed time as well as the needs, wishes, decisions, problems of the artist – in the end, all this has to do with art.” This overall-radar as a starting point for artistic research and production was experienceable in Ljubljana. SVETLOBNA GVERILA was a great way to discover the city as a very active organism, its creative communities and their way to reflect on the city as public space. We want to be back soon and we made plans for further co-operation across Europe and beyond.

SOURCES

1 _ Katerina Mirović, Series of emails from June 20 to 25, 2019.
2 _ Katja Štesl, Series of emails from June 20 to 25, 2019.
3 _ Elcke van Gorkum, Textmessages from June 21, 2019.
4 _ Jan Ehlen, Textmessages from June 23, 2019.
5 _ Aymen Gharbi, Textdocument from June 25, 2019
6 _ Ilkka Paloniemi, Textmessages from June 26, 2019
7 _ Ayşe Erkmen: Gedanken zur Ortsspezifik. In: SKULPTUREN PROJEKTE Münster 2017: Out Of Place.
URL https://rokfor-muenster.rokfor.ch/asset/410/4302/1492251197_Out_of_Place_DE.pdf, seen on 1 June 2019.