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Spaces of cleft
Ana Dević

A dense grid of complex interactions, intimate and social situations in which intersects a spectrum of different identities generated by gender and social castings, stereotypes, formal and informal social contracts define the slippery ground on which Tanja Dabo continuously questions the intensity, dynamics and contradictions of interpersonal relationships.

Social rights, house keeping, art and work, relations between social and private are only some of the issues that Tanja Dabo deals with while examining her own intimacy.

By bringing the dynamics of everyday house keeping into the gallery spaces, the artist also intimately questions the sense of art production and her own place in the art system. Her positive effort is directed towards the filling of clefts in social connections and overcoming of distances between institution and artist.

Although initially feminist character of Tanja's projects is not caused by the direct influence, it seems that this very segment continuously directs and marks her artistic work. The artist turned almost 'instinctively' toward questioning of woman's position in contemporary society and family as integral part of her life and one of the issues she could by no means avoid while disclosing herself. Although in the '90s the strategies of feminist visual practice were already accepted as legitimate and indeed dominant artistic procedures, Tanja's provocative examination of parallel identities of the roles of woman, housewife and artist and her questioning of manifold relationships are specific continuation of and outlined on the background of the basic issues of feminist practice. The problem of 'invisible' or underestimated work Tanja examines within the context of close family relationships, relations to different social institutions, within the wider complex of male-female relationships, social differences, evaluation models... Tanja participates actively by changing her roles and initiating various interactions, but her participation is almost always on the very edge of social and concrete visibility. In this context, the artist?s continuous actions of floor polishing present a symptomatic example of the senseless, absurd gesture, but also a metaphor of concern, maintenance of everyday resources and spaces that surround us and where we operate. Such doubled statements and evaluation models as well as general ambivalence characterize Tanja's performing statements.

The common term of reference of the series 'Meeting point' is utilization of usual, everyday rituals by which Tanja explores the differences of her own positions, roles and identifications in relationships with the people from her closest environment as well as in relation to various and often marginalized or underestimated social groups.

The process of participation, 'democratization' that unite the different participants in the open dialogue enables her to actualize her personal identity.

'Meeting point: You and Me' is an intimate work that examines the relationship, the connection between two people. In spite of the disclosure of intimacy, the interrelationship field opened by the project is in a specific way narrowed, almost reduced. 'Meeting point: you and Me' originates from the background of some kind of private performance that develops in seven days' rhythms during the exhibition. After many years of cohabitation Tanja and her partner Ivica are forced to separate. The joint ritual of feeding is one segment of their common life that became even more precious by the separation. 'Regardless of the kind of meal or food, time of the day and how hungry we are, waiting for the other one to have a meal together is part of our everyday life', Tanja points out. The action takes place in Zagreb and Rijeka where, according to the previously established menu, Tanja and Ivica separately prepare and eat the same food. 'Meeting point' does not use the gallery space as a place of possible real encounter, but the gallery functions as some kind of mental interspace - a cleft that enables the artist to reconstruct the common life overcoming the separation and loneliness. Feeding as a basic need is, of course, also an aspiration towards symbolic unity and formation and preparation of a meal are equally important as the consumption itself.

The video installation exhibited in the Miroslav Kraljević Gallery is a direct interpretation of the recipe: Tanja and Ivica, in kitchen ambiance, in his and her own way explain how and with which ingredients they are going to prepare every single dish. Alternate, collage-like editing of their instructions and explanations humorously underlines the particularity, individuality and diversity of the seemingly same 'matrix' offered by the possibility of a single recipe. During the action Tanja will everyday e-mail to the gallery one photograph of the actual menu that will be fixed on the wall in the gallery. The other segment of the work 'Meeting point', exhibited in the Križić Roban Gallery, is an ambiental video installation taken from the prow of the ferry-boat that connects islands Cres and Krk. This relation is Tanja's course when she visits her parents on Lošinj. Close-ups of approaching and withdrawing from the island are taken in real time and they are projected to give the impression of the islands simultaneously increasing and decreasing, drawing near and apart from each other. Two courses that intersect and overlap in determinate moment, half-way between the islands, are the 'virtual' bond that is also present in the dynamics of relationship between two persons who rhythmically over the years, months and days withdraw and bring closer to and reflect each other. When we display what and how we eat, we display not only our intimacy and life style, but also a certain system of values that transmits from generation to generation just like the cooking and eating or the recipe itself.

Risotto with mushrooms, gnocchi with goulash, pasta with sauce, minced meat sauce, pork shops with peas, fried calamari and chard, chicken breast and cauliflower salad - they are all quite traditional and locally coloured dishes. These recipes are mostly inherited from Tanja's mother, but Ivica and Tanja bring into them their minimal, but unavoidable inventions that come out from living together. At the same time the food, of course, materializes many 'impalpable' essential notions as concern, warmth, love, élan, co-operation, health... The way of preparing and consumption of food reflect the aspiration towards realization of these principles. Tanja's realization of redefinition of traditional roles and inherited system of values is not negative. On the contrary, it seems that she directs her efforts towards an attempt of reconciliation of oppositions such as art-life nature-culture, public-private. Not accidentally, while doing so Tanja and Ivica disclose only the surface of their intimacy while everything that is crucial and final - in this case symbolized by feeding - still remains protected and secret.

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