To Watch the Polis, To See Politically

by Dr Maja Ciric

From the first appearance of Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s urban landscape in the 14th century1, to the research in panoramic painting by American artist Marc Lombardi, which indirectly served him to make Narrative Structures, authentic but at diagrams as a critique of social order – physical environment and politics are intertwined with artistic means. In the wide span from Lorenzetti’s allegory The Effects of Good and Bad Government, located at Palazzo Publico in Siena, to the diagrams as a formalization of illegal elements of the drug trade system in Lombardi, urban landscapes essentially have, if not corrective then at least the character of social commentary.

At first sight it appears that Nemanja Lađić, by digital manipulation of the formal structure of urban tissue in the Extended Landscape, avoids any narrativeness, and therefore dramatization, in order to focus on the ambiental character of the landscape. Each of the three video works (Pop Up, Spieluhr, Squares), in its own way, represents a possibility of negotiating with the landscape. By articulating the fragility of the view and fragmentality of the representation, which are common to all three works, Lađić corresponds with what Nicolas Bourriaud determines as a problem of contemporary aesthetics, which is the organization of the multiple, i.e., multiplicity in a dynamic context.2

In Pop Up, through the process of opening and closing, Lađić considers the relationship and rhythm of the intimate and the city, which results in a collision of the formed sets. In Spieluhr, he resolves the political question by poetics, by illuminating the points of night landscape, which he translates into the abstract: light is translated into sound. The basis for the video Squares are archived video records from different town squares, which are building on the procedure of changing places through time and the accumulation of frames. The result of this procedure is the simultaneous recognisability and unrecognisability of the described landscape. Squares could be defined as an exform in the sense in which Bourriaud determines it – as a sign between centre and periphery, floating between dissidence and power. For him, the point from which an exform is derived acts as an organic connection between aesthetics and politics based on including and excluding, a constant exchange between the significant and the insignificant.

The interweaving of the physical and political in urban (from urbs Lat.) landscapes, the so-called vedutas and/or panoramas, can be explained by emphasizing the double meaning of polis: as a city and as a body of citizens. In Nemanja Lađić’s Extended Landscape, the human body is present as deformed, and the landscape is a character that, through aesthetics as politics, is the effect and cause of citizenry at the same time. The displacement it will o er in relation to the existing exhibiting of the space, and the degree to which this displacement will act either as a commentary or as a critique of the existing politics depends on the artist’s ability. Lađić deals with the central issue of contemporary aesthetics that corresponds with the current and dominant matrix of the present epoch, which is the organization of multiplicity and heterochrony (different times at the same time).3 According to Bourriaud, it is characterized by the reticular vision that implies the interconnection of points with visible or invisible connections, in the way in which the forms have a dynamic character.4

To what extent is it possible to abandon speaking about formal articulation and focus on the political structure of the Extended Landscape? If city squares are made up of pixels (tiny squares), they point to the separable spirit inherent in the insecure universe of our political systems.5 Since Lađić’s Extended Landscape affirms the multiplicity, it supports the sensibilities of the 21st century man. Lađić establishes a relationship of the formal and urban, aesthetics as politics, which is resolved in three different ways: by a temporary abandonment of politics (Pop Up), by its poetization (Spieluhr) and by the oscillation between significant / recognizable and insignificant / unrecognizable elements (Squares). These relationships, this ongoing negotiation, are where political disagreement is read.6

In all three procedures, there is a process of including and excluding, and a political entity is constituted on an imaginary line that connects multiplicities through the landscapes. Optical mutations are the effect (and cause) on the ways of thinking and feeling and they reconfigure the boundaries of their territory, and therefore restructure or extend categories. Placed in a dynamic context, urban forms secrete the content, and through the diffusion of their processing, the video works composed of complex structures indirectly provoke political deviation.

translated by Vesna Strika

1 Michel Collot, La Pensée-Paysage, 2011

2 Nicolas Bourriaud, Exforme, 2017

3 Nicolas Bourriaud, Exforme, 2017, p. 79 

4 Ibidem , p. 84

5 Ibidem

6 Dissent in the sense Jacques Rancière uses it as disagreement with the official politics.