With her successful exhibition at London’s Carlos/Ishikawa gallery having just come to a close, Glamcult would like you to meet the artist Darja Bajagić. But be warned: this is not for the faint-hearted—picture photographic installations portraying naked, decapitated victims, amongst others. Delving into brutal, past tragedies sprawled over the Internet, Darja visualises and creates new contexts around the harsh realities of today’s society. Considering the importance of her audience, the artist stresses never “directing viewers on how to feel or think”—and her work will make you think.
How would you describe your work to someone who hasn’t seen it before?
I am terrible at this question. In this situation, I usually just say I make figurative paintings.
Tell us a bit about your recent exhibition, Nobody Knows I’m Funny, at Carlos/Ishikawa.
The driving force of the show was Bianca Brust, and the headless images I found of her years ago on Best Gore. I used images from this set (of her) in the past, in collages and paintings. However, I wanted to create a show “for” her this time.
There were three “head” paintings in Nobody Knows I’m Funny—the first was Bianca’s, the second was Maddy O’Reilly’s, and the third was Kali Michaels’. Maddy and Kali existed as the faces of Comedy (Maddy) and Tragedy (Kali), touching upon Bianca’s story, her love affair with Matthias Schoormann, also known as Karathorn, a bassist and vocalist in Carpe Noctem, a German Black Metal band. Matthias led her to her tragic demise, and his, too (he committed suicide by crashing his car, with Bianca’s head in the passenger’s seat, zipped up in a backpack).
Then there were the two “jail cell doors” sculptures, which house collages using images of and relating to Bianca, a few other similar fates. Most of these collages featured images taped on top of texts. These texts (pages) are copies from one of my favourite books, Extermination Zone by Dr. Randall Phillip. I covered his images with my own so to morph, play with, and add additional perspectives to his accounts. Another one of his texts appears in the show’s accompanying booklet (in the first chapter, I, The First Amendment).
When discussing a photo of a decapitated woman, a prologue follows that shows the comments on the photo. It reads “pardon the pun, but he would’ve made a killing in the art world”. As an artist, what is your opinion on extremities to which you can go?
This long discussion was a copied-and-pasted comments thread in reply to the set of images of Bianca on Best Gore. I believe in the power of art. It is the duty of every artist, and individual for that matter, to dare to break the bonds of the mediocre status quo, to stand up for what is Truth, and not be the claqueurs and repeaters of what namby-pambies and wishy-washies say.
Perspective is everything. I represent pre-existing things in new contexts to open up (and free) meaning. This applies to all things—“extreme” images of all sorts: violence, hate, or pornography, head shots of smiling girls recently found murdered which are suddenly overladen with despair, fear, grief, hate, sadness. “Extreme” is subjective, anyway.
I absolutely do not believe in directing viewers on how or what to feel or think. An artwork is an open object, and all thoughts and conclusions, if there are any, are relevant. A lot of times I feel as though my objects are grossly misinterpreted, but I am fine with that. The worst fate of art would be for it to become a dull, puritanical depository. Art is a means to enjoy freedom. It is an access to Truth.
As a combination, the use of pornographic imagery alongside (sexist) comments about a naked and decapitated woman deliver a strong undercurrent of a theme delving into sexism—especially with the heading “a piece of meat with legs”. Can you elaborate on this?
That caption was written by Phillip. “Pieces of meat with legs!” can be applied to males, too. You (often) see in an image as whatever it is you’re predisposed to see. Maybe you wouldn’t experience sexual arousal from an image of a horse, but someone else would. Objectification, sexism happens in the mind. Somebody may be offended by being called a piece of meat with legs, but somebody else may find it funny.