Bricks of Enlightenment
Ministry of Love, 2010. Installation: Wooden structure, audio work, text on the wall (plus an architectural model). Approximately 200 m2.
Brick of Enlightenment, 2010. Sculpture: bricks, 500 cm x 250 cm x 200 cm.
Leaning on George Orwell’s dystopian sci-fi novel 1984 from 1948 Čirkinagić has created a spatial, composite installation Ministry of Love and an outdoor sculpture Brick of Enlightenment, both focusing on political power and its staging. Without being limited by the current, conventional geopolitical definitions, the artist elaborates on the relationship between the regime and the individual in a more open and speculative way, where the border between what we consider Western democracy and Eastern totalitarian dictatorship are being blurred. This balancing between apparently contrasting political ideologies and a general openness towards speculative reflection as well as an autocritical gaze, can be explained by the fact that the artist lives in Denmark, a country considered to be one of the most advanced models of democracy, but that he grew up in socialist-communist Yugoslavia, which positioned itself politically between the east and the west bloc.
The key element of the installation is a site-specific artwork representing a 1:1 scale fragment of the Ministry of Love – a significant governmental building from 1984. The public can access the construction and sense of the monumental size of the fictional building. A sound piece with a voice reading a description of the interior of the Ministry of Love supplements the experience. So do two quotation texts on a wall saying, “Yet you cannot get people to understand what you mean unless they have themselves experienced what you have experienced” (from Legion of the Damned by Sven Hazel) and “The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states. It is the existence within our own personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions similar to those which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon the Leader in foreign countries. The battlefield is accordingly here within ourselves and our institution” (from Theory of Valuation by John Dewey). The public is introduced to the texts on entering the main exhibition space. These statements are chosen by the artist to help visitors set the intended perspective.
The making of Ministry of Love was a collaboration between the artist and the Norwegian architectural firm A-lab. Together, the artist and the architects carried out a historical and visual research on what the interior of this dystopian building might have looked like. They drew on the information from the novel 1984 as well as a number of other sources, namely from the domains of literature, art history and politics. The research was supported by architect drawings which the artist used to create a model of the building. During Bricks of Enlightenment in 2010 at Nikolaj Kunsthal, this approximately 200 cm x 120 cm x 100 cm model was exhibited in an adjacent room as a visualisation of the creative research process that preceded the construction of the real-life scale fragment of the building shown in the main exhibition hall.
The outdoor sculpture Brick of Enlightenment was positioned in the public square in front of the venue. Built with bricks and being accessible from all sides, it had the qualities of a classic sculpture or a memorial. Its shape bears resemblance to a chimney and thus an allusion to to the terrifying Room 101 – a basement torture chamber located in the Ministry of Love, from where the only way to freedom would be through the chimney.