Interview with Damir Ocko

Croatia at the 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale


Author: Nikolett Kadlót
Published on: 14.04.2015

Studies on Shivering: The Third Degree is the title of the project which was selected by the Ministry of Culture for representing Croatia at the Venice Biennale this year. Damir Ocko artist and curator Marc Bembekoff share their thoughts about the investigation of human body and its political context.

Nikolett Kadlót: What was the first concept idea  when you started collaboration with curator Marc Bembekoff?

Damir Ocko: Marc and I have been working together ever since my show in Palais de Tokyo. We have a very productive relationship and he has been more or less involved with the project since the very beginning. For the initial exhibition of this project in Graz I asked him to contribute with an imagined script for “his” own film that we included in the publication. I’d say that there is more substantial contribution by Marc to this project specially developed for Venice Biennale. For Venice, beside working together along the regular modes of thinking and production, I asked him if we could do a “reversed interview” in which I will be asking him questions, reversing the usual curator/artist role. It was an extraordinary experiment for me. It opened a fresh perspective, it challenged me as an artist and Marc as a curator.

NK: As this work is part of a bigger project that you have been developing over the past few years, can you summerize the background of it?

DO: Main idea behind the project draws itself from a relationship between body and its political context. The body as a representation of the social landscape. In two main films that form a core of the project, TK and The Third Degree, I observe and build upon the physical disruptions. In TK there is an old man with Parkinson condition that I asked to write the lines beginning with the word “tranquility”.  He writes the tranquillity with an unrest. Then there are scenes in which I asked young men to shiver naked on a harsh winter day until their body could take it no more. It is about showing the mechanisms of control. Human body shivers when there is no more control over it. In The Third Degree, the film that grew from certain issues regarding filming of the TK, I express the role of the camera differently, showing its body perform itself, but a way it does so, is by integrating itself together with the subject of the film, which are bodies of women heavily scared by fire. So while I carry on with the subject, in the same time I make ourselves, the crew, the camera, symbiotic part of it. Essentially is the idea of togetherness emerging from questions related to violence in social context.

Damir Očko TK, 2014: Film still, 4K transferred to HD video, 19’48’’ Courtesy the artist and Tiziana Di Caro, Naples

NK: You frequently work with language because of its playfulness and ambiguity. Why has it become an important art material for you?

DO: It is not really about the language, but the shaping of ones voice. I am interested in a voice as a kind of a human mark. I work with different materials that utilize the language, such as poetry, film or even music. But my main interest is not in the material itself, it is in the political implications of language.

NK: You have very complex works including videos, poetry or different ideas with paper itself. How do you choose the way of expressions while work?

DO: I don’t choose. I work with what is necessary. However I do think about the expanded film as a space in which other media come from.

Damir Očko TK, 2014: Film still, 4K transferred to HD video, 19’48’’ Courtesy the artist and Tiziana Di Caro, Naples

NK: I am very curious to know who your artistic influences are?

DO: Hard question. To be honest I always felt I was mostly influenced by composers and poets. Ligeti, Lachenman, Nono, Eliot, Ginsberg and Hughes.

NK: What does this participation mean for you?

DO: I think about it as an important step for the project and for development of my work. This will be a first exhibition in which TK and The Third Degree are shown together, and it is an important statement. Works grow from each other, they grew in my studio, through productions as ideas, now I am looking forward to see how they implement the ideas in the space, with each other, against each other, contemplating on each other.

Damir Očko, The Third Degree, 2015 Film still, 4K transferred to HD video, 11’ Courtesy the artist and Tiziana Di Caro, Naples

NK: Will ‘Studies on Shivering‘ be continued or do you have other plans/concepts for the future?

DO: This is not the way I think. I don’t have a predictable schedule. But knowing how my practice functions, I’d say for sure what ever I do in the future will grow from the works I did. I am an artist that develops rather than one that is at all concerned with the notion of “new”.

NK: Your first solo show in Budapest was at TRAPÉZ gallery in 2013. The exhibition called PSST. Can you share your experiences and thoughts about that show?

DO: I felt the TRAPEZ was trying to do something really refreshing in Budapest. I liked it. The show was small, but for me it was an experiment, to make an exhibition that came from a margins of what I was working on around that period, but not to be centered to it. So, it was a small but refreshing.

Damir Ocko

Damir Ocko is one of the most prominent Croatian artist of his generation. His videos, films,  poetry and works on paper have been exhibited recently in Temple Bar Gallery in Dublin (2014), KM – Künstlerhaus Halle für Kunst & Medien in Graz (2014),  Yvon Lambert gallery in Paris (2013), Palais de Tokyo in Paris (2012), Galleria Tiziana Di Caro in Salerno (2012), and Kunsthalle Dusseldorf (2011). He participated in several collective exhibitions with institutions such as MUDAM, Luxembourg, FRAC Le Plateau in Paris, Kunsthalle Wien, and Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb among others. His works are part of many public and private collections  around the world.

Marc Bembekoff

Marc Bembekoff is currently Director of Centre d’art contemporain La Halle des bouchers in Vienne (Isère, France). He previously served as curator at Palais de Tokyo (2011–13) and Musée Rodin (2009–10), assistant curator at Frac Champagne-Ardenne (2007–09) and film assistant curator at Centre Pompidou (1999–2003). As an independent curator, he organized numerous exhibitions including projects with the collective Le Bureau/. He has contributed to several monographic publications and exhibition catalogues. He’s been part of the artistic Board of Flag-France Foundation (Paris) since 2013.