The way to light

White tunnel installed in the island church "Gospa od Skrpjela," dressing of the interior in white cloth, causes instant, "learned" associations based on the similarity of material and artistic process: the installation irresistibly reminds of Cristeau's "packing up", enwrapping with white cloth some visually marking, historically, culturally and symbolically powerful puncta of the world's cultural centers. However, Cristeau's "packing" of objects reflects logic, esthetics and practice of wrapping things, pretentious arranging and exposing something's appearance, it is a kind of showing off with the exteriority, visuality, emphasizing and marketing of the image, look and their ultimative character to which, in the era of mass production and dominant consumption mentality does not resist neither the existence nor the reception of objects from the artistic or cultural past. Natasa Djurovic's white tunnel is reversion of forces, reacting towards the inside, reacting in the inside, reacting by the inside. It is not concealing of the core, simulating of fullness nor actual or assumed filling of the emptiness, but sublime filling with the emptiness. Like monochromes, i.e. onecolor images by Yves Klein, this is conscious and controlled, subtle and balanced "manipulating with the forces of emptiness." The canvas becomes a particular screenfield, which does not "catch" the image as a visual category, but the "image" understood as a mental or spiritual state/being, like the stretched nets that in ancient American Indian culture functioned as dream catchers.

The white tunnel in the church interior, the reaction in a "protected zone", in the space of the sacral object, is an input, implanting of the artificial that starts to modify its ontological status by crystallizing the characteristics of the subject, assuming signs and distinctive marks of the organic, the live, and the living. It is constituted and it works as an embodiment of the sign, archetypal, which is the signsituation, condition of the preorganic and prenatal beginning; that is a regressus ad uterum. It also becomes a place of incubation, maturing, interiorizing, but also an initiation not in terms of sublime, mystical experience, but as constitution of "this world's" personality, rehabilitating the identity of an individualvisitor.

Natasa Djurovic's white tunnel assumes and generates an awareness of the historic, symbolic and real life function of the place, the "usable" dimension of the space. The white tunnel is a breathing tunnel, it fills with air like ship sails while sailing seas in good fortune, invoked by prayers of devotees of this temple, the inhabitants of this maritime town. The white tunnel blocks the view of the church decor, the luxuriant Baroque painting and frieze of silver plaques (ex voto), special iconography and formalization of Christian prayer. The covering, pragmatically interpreted as an act of blasphemy, produces an affirmative effect which purifies and refines the experience, emotion and usage of the place, intensified by the fact that viewers are required to "pass through it," linking two points of light, the real and the symbolic, (exterior) daylight and light of the altar and the altar icon.

In writings of Paul Florensky, icon is understood as a window through whose frame we see "what is behind them the living witnesses of god". At some other place, Florensky says: "Icons have often been not only icons through which on painted faces could be seen, but also doors through which those images entered the world of senses." The quality of that reversal journey is decoded as going upside and going downside. This white tunnel makes that passage, that knot possible and obvious, it reacts, it is "at work," initiating a humanization or "naturalization" of the icon, its introduction into the real space, bringing forward the everyday or chosen moment in which the artist creates.

The experience of being in the white tunnel and "feeling oneself" is deprived of drama, of painful confrontation with the interior self, suppressed deep in one's subconscious. This is not the Platonic "image of the world," where the world is presented as a place of darkness and illusion, ignorance, suffering and punishment, where the light of the invisible sun "burns from above and from a distance... behind backs," nor does the icon figure as a realization or objectification of the desired world of Ideas. The white tunnel, the white "veil," is not a mark of secrecy or hiding; it is a crystal white purity and complete exposure, an impression with no remains. Religious sentiment is not a primal or final state; it is an essential secularity, a "profaneness" so pure that it possesses something sacred, a sublime nature, with "naturalness," without pathos or "astral projection." Like the music that "stitches" the tunnel, the hymns sung in honor of the Madonna, who is the protector of the place, and the artistic act which "welcomes the guests," for the viewer this tunnel is not leaving but coming, it is not disappearing, or self oblivion in religious ecstasy, but self consciousness and pleasure with oneself, enjoyment in the place, the happy experience of physical presence and existence.

Putting it in Benjamin terms, "here nearness watches itself", it is a "world of overall and complete actuality, which is also the space of the body. The metaphysical materialism.. is turned.. into anthropological materialism. The body is organizedů only in the space where prophane charm makes us feel at home".

This passage is not a vertical path, an aspiration to ascend; the vectors of its forces, deprived of the linearity of their functions, are grouped in a horizontal line. It is a horizontality that means dispersion, not in terms of squandering the force, but in terms of an economy of its own kind, an expansion on every side, in all directions. It is a horizontality that means to bring together, to balance the energy of the two points of light at the ends of the passage and to confidently attach oneself to the natural and constructed place in which we find ourselves, with the "architecture" of the coastal landscape and the interior "landscape" of the island church.

The tunnel does not rivet itself to one point, it does not trace a path, or limit or dictate movement; the movement and mobility are its inherent forces, its potential, its possible. This tunnel made of "stretched sails" includes and counts on temporality, changeability, shift, catching a good wind, a new lucky chance to sail away until the next fortunate recognition of a place where one wants to be, in the manner in which the icon of Madonna has indicated, chosen the place where she wanted to exist, a place in the sea that "stabilizes," marks, the "newly" created island and the church upon it, the island church, the church of the town of sailors, which bears a sense of traveling.

Svetlana Racanovic, art historian,
Nansen Dialogue Centre director

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