The Fakery of Rhetoric: Fragmentation in Jasmina Cibic’s Work

December 10, 2018

Jasmina Cibic: Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage in-depth explorations of key concepts evoked by the works presented in Jasmina Cibic: Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear.

Composition: Fragmentation

“Collage is the twentieth century’s greatest innovation.” [1] “[It] is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.” [2] “There’s this chance thing that happens [with collage]—you don’t always control things. Why did you find this today and not this? But you’ve got this thing, and you make it work. It’s the way life is, I suppose. Whatever happens, you deal with it.” [3]

A Pragmatist, a Conservationist, a Nation Builder, and an Artist/Architect walk into a room. The architecture demands attention and immediately foreshadows an intense, veiled, and sinister ambience. The four characters, female allegories of contradicting belief systems linked to state architecture, voice the words of (predominantly) male politicians from various speeches throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Like all-female productions of Shakespeare plays to counter the practice of boys playing female roles until the 1660s, [4] this is, to a certain extent, a feminist re-visioning of history. The scripts are the same; the delivery, manipulated. When taken out of context, decorticated, and mixed with other ideas, the meaning of these speeches—and the intention of their speakers—becomes open to multiple interpretations. What do we think we know? Whom do we think we support, and what do we think we believe?

Jasmina Cibic forces us to face these uncomfortable questions with Tear Down and Rebuild (2015). Fragmented bits and pieces of script are woven together, like threads forming a tapestry. Figures such as Adolf Hitler, Margaret Thatcher, and Frank Lloyd Wright rub elbows or throw daggers at each other, in an outpouring of rhetoric at its best (or, rather, at its worst?). There is no conversation, just an amalgamation of thoughts, pieced together in a manner that is directed, but confused—a four-way monologue by self-centered allegories, determined in their appropriated words.

Cibic’s work is based on multiple realities from different time periods and political regimes. Even though the quotes are all historical, the final product is a work of fiction: this points to the fact that the whole truth in history is rare to come by. We must usually contend with one account, from one perspective. [5] Interestingly, in the creative realm, having access to only “part of the story” can work really well. Cibic’s work can be seen as a spoken counterpart to Christian Marclay’s video mash-ups: Marclay’s The Clock (2010), in which every hour of a 24-hour period is depicted in real time from clocks in various films, was so well edited that critic Daniel Zalewski claims Marclay “exposed the fakery of editing;” [6] Cibic’s Tear Down and Rebuild seduces the viewer into considering a dialogue that is so well assembled, it exposes the fakery of rhetoric. It is a war of words, one slogan following another, as if the four parties involved can only hear themselves. It is a collage.

Choose a subject linked to the exhibition (politics, art, architecture, feminism, and so forth, and put Cibic’s strategy to the test: write one paragraph made up of a combination of quotations from various parties. What did you learn from this exercise?

Christian Marclay and Jasmina Cibic are two among many artists in the contemporary scene who use collage and fragmentation in their work. Think of a few more artists who employ the techniques of collage with di erent media (magazines, sound, photography, danceand so forth,) and compare their work to Cibic’s.

Amanda Beattie
DHC/ART Education

[1] Robert Motherwell
[2] Max Ernst
[3] Christian Marclay quoted in ZALEWSKI, Daniel (2012). “The Hours: How Christian Markley created the ultimate digital mosaic”. The New Yorker, March 12 edition.
Online. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/03/12/the-hours-daniel-zalewski. Consulted September 19, 2018.
[4] MCMANUS, Clare (2016). “Shakespeare and Gender: the ‘Woman Part’”. British Library Newsletter, March 15 edition. Online. https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/shakespeare-and-gender-the-womans-part. Consulted September 19, 2018.
[5] One has only to think of the “classical” narrative of art history that ignores the contribution of women, Indigenous, non-white or gender-non-conforming artists. These narratives are incomplete fragments recited from a single perspective. To give but one example, the so-called Bible of Art History, Janson’s History of Art, did not include a single woman in its pages until 1986. The absence of women in these classical narratives has been addressed by feminist art historians such as Linda Nochlin since the 1970s.
[6] ZALEWSKI, Daniel (2012). “The Hours: How Christian Markley created the ultimate digital mosaic”. The New Yorker, March 12 edition. Online. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/03/12/the-hours-daniel-zalewski. Consulted September 19, 2018.

Photo: Jasmina Cibic, Tear Down and Rebuild (still), 2015.

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