Milan Tepavac – Abduction / Felix culpa

Reality is universal. Or it is nevertheless partial, made of one, two, many, up to an endtess number of individual realities. Like philosophers and aestheticians, numerous artists also face this basic problem of our civilization, using language of artistic media to surmount obstacles that stand in their way towards understanding, interpretation, and solution of the problem. If philosophers, in their complex systems, gave categorical statements intending them to become final truths, artists created visual structures which, like suitable ambience, aimed to induce and to direct individual thought in its entirely free searchi for possible answers. Through the whole history of art, as well as in its modern periods including avant-garde, it is easy to trace, like specific artistic belief and attitude, a constant interest for this immense topic, which still attracts contemporary artists, proving to be inspiring also for them. And like stylistic and aesthetic changes which are obvious in its development, also striking are changes in media devices used for its artistic embodiment, which in fact lead towards necessary visual condition in the field of fine arts. 

Literary basis, according to the instructions of Milan Tepavac – Tarin, author of the complex installation “ABDUCTION – FELIX CULPA”, is the story of “lucky mistake” taken from the ancient Greek mythology. Famous, and fatal for human destiny, abduction of Persephone (daughter of Demeter, the goddess of fertility and agriculture), which was accomplished by Hades, the god of the underground world, had many important repercussions on life on the Earth. Angry with Zeus for giving Persephone to Hades as his wife, Demeter left Olympus; being herself the goddess of fertility and flora, thus she caused the flora on the Earth to expire, including those herbs on which men’s suvrival depended. As Zeus did not want mankind to extinguish, he granted Demeter’s reguest and returned Persephone to her mother, allowing her to live with her mother for two thirds of the year, but she had to spend one third with her husband Hades in the underground. So, while she dwelled on Olympus and in the temple in Eleusis, life on the Earth followed its normal course, but while she was the Hades’ kingdom, all the flora simply declined waiting for the goddess to be back. Because of this twofold life, Persephone was the only one among gods and goddesses who was able to see both the life on the Earth, and the underground destiny of the dead. What Hades did – the abduction of Persephone, because of its conse-guences, is taken as felix culpa, “lucky mistake”, obviously alluding to some unexpected benefit from the event. 

On this literary matrix Tepavac has build a complex visual and metaphoric story which, like searching for meaning of reality, is being multiplied by means of different media and artistic devices. In the middle of this installation there is a big “well” made from circular mirror, which is filled with wheat. In reflection of this mirror we can follow a video-film in which Tepavac obviously examines a twofold, ambivalent status of electronic media, which like the mirror itself identifies material/nonmaterial situation of the performance. Finally, the whole of this optical structure is being once more multiplied (once, twice, many times) through one another big mirror placed in the gallery, where all the contents and elements, like all the visitors, are reflected. Relation between unigue, universal reaiity, and individual, partial worlds of each individual, then video (as a new reality, not only technidal but also semantic), and everything which can be seen in the mirror (inverted reality, or reality on the other side of the empirical world), all of it, generally speaking, is intended to point in a symbolic way to an existing difference between reality which can be seen through different mediators (eye, mirror, video screen), i.e. between reality which exists, and the reflection of that which can be seen, and which exists – which all depend on individual understanding of the visitors of the exhibition. Somewhere in between this ambience, and personal experiences of visitors, for all of us there originates a new inception of “lucky mistake”, an individual mythic perception, which provokes to inguire what remains between duality (of universal and partial reality), and in numerous interactions of the real, false, artefactal and artificial. 

To such an spiritual adventure, always personal and individual, induces us Milan Tepavac – Tarin with his story of Abduction – as Felix culpa.


Jovan Despotovic 

Art Gallery of the Cultural Center of Belgrade, Belgrade, 1995