GOREGEOUS is the first survey of Darja Bajagić’s work, spanning the first decade of her artistic practice. Born in 1990 in Titograd, former Yugoslavia, and raised in Zamalek, Egypt, she immigrated to the United States with her family in 1999. It was during her preteen years that she began to walk down the Via Dolorosa of the World Wide Web, hunting for images of excessive retinal impact. Por- no-capitalist totems, thanatological subcultures, and hermetic symbols progressively emerged from the datacombs towards wide necro-sensitive surfaces. The fruit of a meticulous knackery of the Black Atlantis of the Internet, GOREGEOUS reveals the foundation of a cathedral devoted to the cult of phallocentric misery. Its chapels are inhabited by a secular martyrology of she-devils, acephalic babydolls, and cum-junkies.
Bajagić’s practice is born in the autopsy of the Greenbergian cadaver. She has transplanted the formalist pursuit of the latter to the bodies condemned to satisfy the priapism of the global masturbatory system. Imagine the Ultimate Paintings of Ad Reinhardt spread out alongside an XVideos.com cast on a dissection table. In unifying the modernist obsession for the degree zero of pictoriality with an obscene iconography, she has joined two radically opposed forms of flatness: aesthetic and pornographic. While the first is recognized as abyssal and pure, its pornographic double is maculated and void. By re-appropriating the images manufactured by the capital-power-pleasure triumvirate, her work follows what sociologist Sam Bourcier described as the “critique of western pornographic reason”. Like Manu and Nadine of Virginie Despentes’s Fuck Me (1994), Bajagić’s protagonists suspend, struggle, or collapse under the phallocentric matrix of desire. One of these protagonists is a recurring character by the name of Dommino, a retired pornstar of the 2010s. She is constantly depicted staring back, brazenly, into the eye of the camera, like a post-porn version of Mona Lisa whose ultimate objective would be to return the voyeur’s gaze. By deactivating the libidinal apparatus at play in pornographic representation, she responds to Giorgio Agamben’s call to profane the unprofanable.
The belief in the Museum as a catalyst for moral, political, and social consensus is a conception crucified by every Bajagić exhibition. Even more so, her work criticizes a second history of the museum, one that walks hand-in-hand with the dominant one. Inherited from the tradition of the Wunderkammer, this genealogy is composed of museums forbidden to the public due to their obscene content that could only be enjoyed by a special category of viewer: men, either wealthy or experts in the applicable fields. From the Secret Museum inaugurated in the wake of the discovery of erotic art in Pompeii’s ruins, whence the term ‘pornography’ was defined in 1850, to the Black Museum devoted to crime-related artefacts, these institutions championed a political segregation of the gaze.
As detailed by Paul Preciado in Museum, urban detritus and pornography, the definition of obscenity was used in order to trace an invisible boundary within the political fabric of the city, between the persons able to enjoy it publicly, as “connoisseurs,” and the rest of society. IT IS PRECISELY THIS BOUNDARY THAT BAJAGIć.
By inaugurating a new type of Musée Imaginaire in which everyone can freely marvel at a carnival of human atrocities which interlace the extermination of corporal integrity, the pursuit of the abject, and moral annihilation.
In order to invoke a demon, one must know its name and write it in blood. Darja Bajagić summons demons in her expansive textile layouts, whose chromatic depths recall a flattened, touchable vision of Web portal layouts. Is it a coincidence, then, that in the 1960s, MIT researchers named one of the first computer operating systems Daemon? Computer screens have substituted for altars in occult ceremonies. From the sacrificial rites uploaded to its servers, to its polyethylene veins innerving every corner of the Deep Web, the Internet is built with blood magic. Long ago, it was held that the sun never sets on the global village. Yet the proliferation of extreme right-wing groupuscules appropriating Celtic, Greek, or Slavic symbology in order to celebrate nationalism proved otherwise. Further descending the nine circles, the path of Leilah Wendell, notorious necromantic and founder of Westgate Necromantic, a cult devoted to Azrael, the Angel of Death, may be crossed... or the figure of the late Aleister Crowley, assuming the central place in self-intoxicating occult rituals performed under drum ‘n’ bass.
Moralism has become the new junk food of cultural politics. It is ubiquitous, easily metabolized, and cheap. These statements do not raise transgression to the level of luxury in the arena of ideas, far from it. Yet GOREGEOUS intends to inject the well-oiled machine that is visual ecstasy with a critical dose of morbidity, pain, and doubt. If you are hoping for a soothing and consoling exhibition, stay away. The reality of Darja Bajagić is a nightmare from which we do not want to awaken.
Alongside the works of Darja Bajagić, this exhibition will present works by Linda Dement, Boyd Rice, and a new video in collaboration with the musicians of the group Ferro Mortem (Chicago).
Maddy O’Reilly (2016), Kali Michaels (2016), acrylic-latex paint and UV print on canvas, hand-painted wooden frame, UV print on Plexiglas. Photo credit Pierre Antoine
Exhibition view. Photo credit: Pierre Antoine
Um Vitia (2014), Video. Photo credit: Pierre Antoine
Exhibition view. Photo credit: Pierre Antoine
Linda Dement, video games Typhoid Mary (1991) Cyberflesh Girlmonster (1995) In My Gash (1999). Photo credit: Pierre Antoine
Boyd Rice, various POP collages and Untitled (2018), mixed media. Photo credit: Pierre Antoine
Featured image: Darja Bajagić, GOREGEOUS, Exhibition view, Le Confort Moderne, 2020. Photo credit: Pierre Antoine