The gallery was dark. A solemn music filled the room. The light was focused on five wooden crucifixes which hung in front of a purple velvet wall. The satues were rough, as if they had been made by a local artisan. The floor in front of them was carpeted with multiple photographs of dead, run-over cats. Nevertheless , it was obvious that the crucifixes differed somehow from those that were to be found in churches or graveyards - the Christs' penises were carved in erection, and the bodies were covered with hair. Franc Purg ( born in 1955) called this installation "What makes me look like this?" It was first shown in Triskel Art Centre in Cork, Ireland, in 1996. The vulgarity of this piece, underlined with several means of expression, provoked visitors.
Facing this unskillfully executed and elementary rude piece, we ourselves must reflect: "Aren't we so proud of our refined connoisseurship which enables us to consume the rebuses of contemporary art?" Indeed, Purg faced censorship and irritaded reactions; he was forbidden to exhibit the statues in the show "For Your Eyes Only" at the Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, Poland , and has been reported to the Commision for Religious Questions at the European Union (while exhibiting in Ireland).
But below this "public relations" surface, the exaggeration of these images suggests that the artist would like to exclude any misunderstanding, although every single item of the work has been taken out of its "natural" sorrounding and transplanted into another context. Purg's message appears moralistic: man is God's domestic creature (the pastoral metaphors in the Roman Catholic vocabulary are not a coincidence) as the cat is man's. He may be saying that something is wrong with the master's responsibility towards the created species. But Purg is also cocerned with human pleasure and its postponement. Purg's work seems to be a field where ecstasy (where all the social and psychological functions of the subject have only one dimension) and prejudice (where the subject's standpoint has only one dimension) meet.
In the "Auto Portrait" exhibition (first shown in 1997 at ZDSLU Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia), Purg displayed a series of black and white photographic portraits in one room and a child-scaled Ferrari in the other. The weels of the automobile-toy were bound in concrete and the photographs documented the artist in the moment of orgasm. A trivial everyday activity was thus transformed into an estatic drama , once again expressing the matter of life (pleasure) and death (suffering), In traditional art (for example, Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Theresa ) the ecstasy
is transcendental and depicted in an aesthetically idealized form. In Purg's work allegory is replaced by metaphor. The ectasy's origin is no longer the transcendent worshipping of the immaterial (God, demon, energy, or such) but is literally rooted in the consumer's system of values (the expensive car). Therefore it is not suprising that for his portraits, the artist carefully chose the proper outfit (a business suit, uniform of the "little man") and other elements of style. In the postmodern time we have been trapped in the global techno-ecstasy of mass culture, and could therefore consider Purg's work as slightly anachronistic. Not so, however, if we know the picturesque overlapping of the rural tradition, shaped through centuries by Roman Catholicism, and the new capitalism, shaped by a pre-natal form of consumerism, that we are witnessing in Slovenia. Regardless of his or her origin, today's protagonist is the "little man" who is trying hard to realize his story of success. For him or her, Purg's work is a perfect bedtime story.
(first published in Sculpture magazine,sept. 1997)
Even if Franci Purg carves the Crossed as hairy and
pricky one, even if he moulds it as smooth and feminine in wax,
even if he performs an orgasm (i don't mean that he fakes it) of
an ordinary man in a business suit with bushy moustaches, ( we'll
call him a Romanian businessman because we like ourselves), and
even if he embarrasses and irritates the vegetarians as well as
carnivores in the SKUC gallery, at the end of his actions is always
a Photography. The photography not only as a document but as a full
blooded artefact that works regardless of public or private show.
is a dangerous artist. Dangerous in the best sense of the word,
a condition which only artistic discourse can produce. His works
are uncompromising, savage and powerful and he always makes sure
that his point hits the target.
exhibition I remember was May Height, it was conceived as
a model of a group of petit-bourgeois suburban houses trough the
windows of which the spectator could see robust oak male figures
fucking polished Barbie Dolls. This allegory of the impossibility
of coexistence of suburban and urban lifestyles, a constant trauma
in Slovenian society, became even more grotesque because these scenes
were observed trough windows made out of the bottoms of emptied
which Purg fattens up to “healthy” common sense, is shaped by a
rigorous Catholic up-bringingwhich has invested in him big expectation
of life. Distorted ideals and the emptiness of Christian ethics
have become central issues in his work. What makes me look like
this? was an installation in which religious icons sprung from
a literally interpreted liturgical commandment. In the room full
of death the crucified one is alive; even more, he at the crucifix
who must be loved, expects our love to come with an erection. “Blasphemy!”
said those who recognised themselves in this work. “But where?”
the wax Christ with the rasped-off genitals in his next project
asked (And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off). Whether the thing
is there or not, a taboo is suspended over it.
death. In its extreme: orgasm and murder. This is a border the artist
demonstrated with a performance (Where is the line?…here, here)
in the gallery in which with clinical precision he killed a
young bull. The borders are many. As many as there are points of
view, as numerous as the borders are different worlds: administrative,
physical, written and unwritten, public and personal…
speaks about one of them. The point of orgasm is his only
undiluted personal moment. Beyond this there is only one more border:
death. Such are the limits that Purg evokes in his projects along
the way, which concern us all. Aesthetics here is only a method,
ethics is its sublime goal.