Zeitmasse: Chronoscopes of Božidar Plazinić

Catalogue essay for the solo exhibition Noah s Ark Library, Prodajna galerija Beograd, May 2018. For the text in Serbian click here. 


The artist’s books of Božidar Plazinić (1954) are situated within the phenomenon of memory, where the diary/book serves as the basic unit for recording, absorbing, organizing and alchemical transformation of thought. The memory in Plazinić’s work is shown as an alluvium(a natural formation of matter) or a block(statistical formation of information); while the alluvium is the poetic response to grotesque narratives historically enhanced to the point of deafness, block is a mathematical concept closest to Karlheinz Stockhausen’s relation towards the compositional form where the composer (or in this case the artist) starts from the established statistical criterion as an organizational principle of stacking the elements until the object/book doesn’t reach its unique form.

Each artist’s book/object from Božidar Plazinić’s collection establishes two levels of perception, with an end result that is simultaneously a recapitulation of the total accumulated activity, and a collection of precise distinctions that stand out at boundaries of perceptivity through its various elements orchestrated from the lowest to the highest registry, crystallizing into a cascading conglomerate of experience. At one level, the viewer is called upon to grasp the general forms and processes of the works, while simultaneously observing individual intellectual connections, details, connotations and links between the events. The entire body of Plazinić’s artist’s books can be described as a dimension of time (Zeitmasse), a simultaneous recapitulation of large formal organisms of history.

Inherently content intense – most of the works were created as diaries during the decade of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia – Plazinić’s books/objects pass through periods of compression/coagulation, and expansion/dilution. On a primary level, they serve to organise time (“Autobiographical notes”, 2005; “From a personal diary”, 1999; “Illustrated history of memory”, 1992-94), to articulate the absurd (“Yugoslavia”, 2006; “The epic time”,”Shumen Basel”, 2012), and to provide a rationale for forgiveness (“The price of soil“,”Noah’s Arc”).

The similarities with music do not end with Stockhausen; Plazinić’s objects possess a component of music of obsession(Gilbert Rouget), a series of riddles that serve as rhythmic declarations or time-forms woven into suites that ought to be viewed as ways to restore and regenerate time, whilst preserving its overall coherence. By transforming the sense of time and space in the viewer, the object/music changes our being-in-the-world.

In this way, the visual diary/book becomes a ritual originated from the desire to change the consciousness of ourselves in relation to ourselves and to the world, where each isolated letter or line play the metronomic role of measure, breath, tempo, pulse. The elements of earth and fire appear in search of lost innocence of the ancient times, and the difference between that which is living and not living becomes hazy as in a shamanistic ritual. Humans, animals, plants and objects have souls (or drawings put in the place of souls); that which is invisible revives the visible. Thus the presence of super-material forces becomes manifest in the object-book, and localised in the grieving rituals of obsession and bargaining.

The series of works “A novel about patience” and “Notes from a personal diary“ are studies that establish the inner world and a relationship with the outside world dominated by affect. The artist uses the free-flowing gestures and script (the durational lines) and the healing powers of the trance: “A novel about patience” was created during the daily scriptwriting over the period of 6 months, while “Notes from a personal diary“ record “meaningless” texts of ritual sub-articulation in the state of affective response. The gesture and drawing as paths towards Dionysian healing continues with the works “Reading to Albert Mangel”, 2006, and “Words in stone for Momčilo Nastasijević”.  Plazinić understands that nulla poena sine lege(judgment can only be made under the law that existed before the crime) is always in conflict with the clichés of revisionism. The collection thus records the 1990’s policy of destroying the books deemed ‘unsuitable’ for the new nation-states (“The Book and the bridge”, the work devoted to Ivo Andrić, is a book found discarded under a bridge), but also other types of mark-making and records such as “The history of earth” (the imprint of the epigraphs made in wax and soil), or 42 frottages of the pavement blocks from Hiroshima. In a constant search and discovery of a point of contact, Plazinić returns to the complementarity and interpenetration of elements, invention and abstract gesture at the level of sensory experience.