In & Out
by Iara Boubnova
This would have been an overly sensuous work if it wasn't so shocking…
Any suggestion in a visual art work about movement from outside to inside and vice versa is so loaded with Freudian connotations that they might eclipse other readings completely. This is even more so when there is a tube and an invisible body trying desperately to make it through the passage in a looped dead-end action. The presence of an additional blocking device, a wallthat separates the exterior from the interior space that the passage is connecting suggests the primeval passage out of themother's womb and the ubiquitous desire to go back where one has come from. These associations are so heavily ingrained in people's subconscious that very often an everyday action can activate an avalanche of anecdotal comments. The simple act ofputting on and taking off - a sock, a glove, a shoe, a sweater, a stocking, not to mention a condom - runs the risk of creating anew dirty local colloquialism.
Emanuel Licha is playing with all these possibilities of connotation in the passage from "in" to "out". The video installation In & Out the moving body is the artist's while the "womb" is the site of a recent monstrosity, a school building in Sarajevo that was bombed out during the war. The sound and the montage rhythm of the video component of the installation in which flashing light alternates with totally dark sequences creates a dramatic stroboscopic effect. It's a direct "re-creation" of what the artist has heard described so many times in Sarajevo: what it feels like to be under bombardment. Although the sound is of children shouting during a loud soccer game, the environment doesn't become any brighter in mood. On the contrary, the womb-like spacein the video is doubled up by the addition of a wall with a clubbed out hole in it (paralleling the hole in the wall from the video)which visitors are pushed to climbed through, in and out…
Thus, the dubious experience of going in and out of what appears to be a "bombed out womb", or a "war womb" is anything but escapist; it is actually the opposite. This is a powerful work in which two extreme opposites in human life, war (death) and birth, are linked in a such a way that they become not only equally dramatic but reveal an unexpected similarities.
Iara Boubnova is a curator and art critic. She graduated from the Moscow State University in 1983. She lives and works in Sofia, Bulgaria. She has curated over 25 individual and group shows in Bulgaria and abroad. She was co-curator for the 1st Moscow Biennale, 2005, Manifesta 4 European Biennial of contemporary art in Frankfurt am Main, 2002 and of Talk with the man on the street, part of Reconstructions, the 4th Biennial in Cetinje, Montenegro, 2002.
This text was edited in the journal published by YYZ Artists' Outlet in Toronto, Canada, on the occasion of Emanuel Licha's exhibition In & Out, June 11 - July 26, 2003.