The Beban and Horvatic retrospective at the Whitechapel Art Gallery consists of 10 single-screen tapes made between 1986 and 1994, ranging from one to 43 minutes in duration. The entire programme goes under the banner 'Taking on a Name', a title given piquancy by the fact that the artists' homeland, the former Yugoslavia, is currently nameless. Yugoslavia looms large in the videos; its landscapes, its Byzantine heritage and its iconic richness are a stark counterpoint to the self-conscious modernity of their English and Canadian locations.
In the opening sequence of The Left Hand Should Know (still, right), the well-known contours of a man's head are presented as a terra nova, a landscape that the travelling camera explores and makes strange. In Geography a vision of the enigmatic, almost lunar Lake Ohrid dissolves into images of its constituent element - water, in its everyday guise - rain.
Water and fire make regular appearances in Beban and Horvatic's work, anchoring it in a language of fundamentals and essences, but also suggesting that the unexpected transformations in life are governed by forces greater than ourselves - forces of nature. If there is a philosphy underlying this work, it is perhaps summed up by the statement uttered by a woman at the beginning of The Left Hand Should Know: 'Everything is connected'.
Breda Beban and Hrvoje Horvatic, 'Taking on a Name', at the Whitechapel Art Gallery 12-19 Jul (071-377 0107)
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