Exhibition - Katarina Zdjelar: Proximities, A Rehearsal, An Archive

Friday, Dec 24, 2021 at 12:00 p.m.

Oregon Contemporary
8371 North Interstate Avenue,
Portland, OR 97217

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Proximities, a rehearsal, an archive will be the first solo exhibition of Katarina Zdjelar’s work in the US, an artist who represented her native Serbia at the 53rd Venice Biennale and has exhibited in galleries, museums, and biennials worldwide.

Working mainly in the medium of video, Zdjelar explores the ways in which the potential for transformation and change are held in the body. Several of Zdjelar’s works revolve around forms of rehearsal, an open-ended space in which things are destabilized or in a state of emergence. Voice, music, sound, language, body movements, and posture are focal points within her practice, often as explorations of social conditioning and how people reinvent themselves to assimilate to new and changed social and political conditions. 

Proximities, a rehearsal, an archive will form a new iteration of an ongoing project by Zdjelar, inspired by archival documents from an all-women’s dance studio, founded in 1945 in post-war Dresden by Dore Hoyer, a choreographer and expressionist dancer, whose choreographies took the graphic works of artist Käthe Kollwitz as their departure point. Zdjelar proposes this artistic meeting between Kollwitz and Hoyer as a manifestation of shared affinities with (proto) feminist pacifism, solidarity, and collective transformation across the barriers of time, class, and social difference. 

Hoyer’s company worked in a state of poverty and hunger in the single un-bombed room of Mary Wigman’s former studio. Little remains of Hoyer’s production today, except for some photographs and an incomplete music score. Zdjelar has developed a body of artwork around the fragmented material remains of Hoyer’s Tanz für Käthe Kollwitz in the archives of the Dance Museum in Cologne, Germany. The installation at Oregon Contemporary will consist of a number of new sculptural elements and an existing multi-channel video work “Not a Pillar not a Pile (Tanz für Dore Hoyer)” (2017). For this filmic portrait Zdjelar gathered together a group of dancers, activists, and performers to explore how the “archived bodies” in Hoyer and Kollwitz’s works might speak to living bodies in the present. The embodied language of human proximity is a potential source of alliance and agency across the boundaries of class, race, gender, and orientation. Yet nothing is taken for granted in this enterprise, which navigates the continuous possibility of its own failure. Speech is bypassed, as if the intensity and fragility of emerging solidarities are not ready to be spoken. The installation’s sculptural elements evoke the graphic lines of Kollwitz, recalling her work as a portal to empathy, to transgenerational concerns, to the frailties, regrets, sacrifices, and unexplainable ideals of people, living and dead.

Katarina Zdjelar: Proximities, a rehearsal, an archive is the final exhibition in Turnstones, Lucy Cotter’s program as Curator in Residence 2020-21. “Turnstones” is a word found in a poem that, being unfamiliar, might offer the freedom to imagine. Recalling how every structure that has sedimented over time contains another possibility, it hopes to evoke that which becomes the means to an act of turning. Cotter’s program brings together artists who refuse the readily available vocabulary and prefer to seek alternate frameworks for future thought and action.

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