Breda Beban and Hrvoje Horvatic

The Shape of Pain 

On entering the installation ‘The Shape of Pain’, the viewer is immediately aware of his/her own presence. The floor is layered with shattered glass and by going in, the viewer cracks the glass. Then, a red square appears in the middle of the installation. As the viewer approaches, the square disappears and is replaced by the video image of razor-blade cutting a palm. Exposed to the vulnerability of the body, the glass on the floor suddenly takes on a different meaning; it changes from being a well-known solid layer into elements which hold within them the threat of destruction.

The originally Yugoslavian video artists Breda Beban and Hrvoje Horvatic are not unfamiliar to IMPAKT; in 1990 and 1992, the festival showed special programs of their video work. This year’s festival presented ‘The Shape of Pain’. The work of Beban and Horvatic is at the same time subtle and powerful. From their first videos on, their work is inspired by the rich Middle European culture. Their early work is characterized by a low rhythm and meditative nature. Long shots, fixed camera, subtle changes of light and repetitive ritualistic movements by Breda Beban are prominent in these early pieces and bring to mind associations with the visual style of Andrej Tarkovsky.

In 1989, ‘Geography’ was a change of direction; ‘Geography’ is more singular than the early videos and seems to anticipate the civil war in Yugoslavia. Since the breakout of the war in 1990, Beban and Horvatic have been living in London and Stockholm. However, the connection with their homeland is always present in their work. The short video ‘For Tara’ is, for example, a celebration of life in a hostile and divided world. The installation ‘The Shape of Pain’ is also, albeit indirectly, connected with the civil war.

This indirect approach is another characteristic of Beban and Horvatic’s work; it never grips the viewer directly, but circumvent the real subject. The viewer s forced, very effectively, to watch the work carefully. This method is also evident in ‘The Shape of Pain’.