Kochi: Spooky vignettes of the globe in an era fraught with the dangers of mankind’s increasing use of atomic energy are on show at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Radenko Milak’s three-channel projection film at the main venue of the art festival is virtually a metaphor for a journey of memory — of humans facing catastrophes one after another, though none of them appear on the screen in the literal sense.
On display at the sea-facing Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi is ‘From the Far Side of the Moon’, showing sections of landscapes featuring the natural movements of water, air, smoke, plants or living creatures one after another. Then there are shots that depict human beings and the mechanical rhythms of machines made by them. Adding to the value is the music by renowned French composer Gaël Rakotondrabe.
The animated movie by 37-year-old Milak, who was born in erstwhile Yugoslavia’s Travnik in Bosnia-Herzegovina, presents no linear narrative or chronology across its visuals in black-and-white. The only direct reference to anyone occurs in the form of fragments from an interview with Robert Oppenheimer, the late American physicist considered as the father of the atomic bomb.
The 13-minute film moves between sequences of natural landscapes, and the humans and machines that utilise and occupy them. According to the artist, the film tries to place the audience in movement in a succession of sequences where all linear narration disappears. “Instead, they get replaced by a chaotic narration,” he points out. “Within that, the darkening over to black becomes the metaphor for what cannot be seen. That’s because they are unrepresentable. In other words, they are beyond human measure, our imagination.”
In his paintings, drawings and films, Milak creates ominous and dystopian scenes from the many images that circulate and proliferate in the new age of digital reproduction. “I try to cull out images from scientific journals, films, photojournalism and elsewhere,” says the artist, who lives in Banja Luka of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Across his practice, Milak’s painterly and digital manipulations transform found images. Often culturally or politically significant, they tend to become uncanny depictions of whatever they originally represented.
Milak had earlier shown this movie in 2017. That was at the 57th Venice Biennale and for the Bosnia and Herzegovina National Pavilion, where the work got slotted in a dark room with a central screen and two lateral screens.
The work shows a play with binary opposites: light receding into darkness and a “curious relationship between desire and disaster” throughout history, says the artist. “To me, ‘From the Far Side of the Moon’ depicts a bleak vision of the world in the nuclear age that can’t be attributed to the past, present or future,” adds Milak, who studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Art in Belgrade.