Ivan Jurakic provides a powerful assault on the senses with Avatar, consisting of several dozen incandescent bulbs suspended from the ceiling on electrical cords. These apparently random points of light quickly coalesce into the ghostly outline of a plane, a German Messerschmidt ME-410 bomber in fact. Jurakic created Avatar in response to a vintage photograph he also incorporated into a second work, Reclamation. The photo shows a postwar salvage crew posing on and around the wreckage of a downed ME-410. This group includes Jurakic’s father, a young Bosnian Croat who had come to Germany for work near the end of the war (Germany and Croatia were allies). Decades later, his son enlarged this photograph, reprinted it as a transparency, mounted it onto Plexiglas and framed it in steel. When lit, Reclamation casts a double of the image onto the wall behind it. Together, Avatar and Reclamation probe issues of complicity (deliberate or inadvertent) and how later generations stand in relationship to the past. They also reflect a desire for transformation and transcendence.
Aubrey Reeves’s video installation Dagbok was inspired by the diary of Petter Moen, an Oslo journalist imprisoned by the Nazis in 1944. To stay sane, he made short diary entries by using a pin to poke Braille-like letters into toilet paper. Moen was killed in a boat transport before the war ended, but miraculously his diary survived, though it had been largely forgotten when Reeves’s partner discovered a copy in a used bookstore. In tribute to Moen, Reeves transferred translated excerpts from his diary onto a large projection screen, using his painstaking method of poking holes into the surface. Then she projected onto the screen a video of a man adrift on a grey sea. His collar pulled tightly around his neck, he holds strips of paper up to the wind, then slowly releases them. As light from the projection travels through the pinpricks in the screen, shimmering columns of words appear on the wall behind.
“Constellations” resists making overarching statements about right and wrong, innocence and guilt. Instead, it asks us to reflect on the experiences of two individuals. It is also a poignant reminder that before long, nobody who remembers the Second World War will be alive. One by one, their lights will go out. How encouraging, then, that they shine on in the work of Jurakic and Reeves.