40 x 50 x 6 cm
Copper(II) sulphate, salt, water, zinc, plexiglass
When Lina Rica had all the elements ready for the first realisation of the experimental project Everything fifteen minutes before the opening of the exhibition Partly to Mostly Changeable,1 everyone present was holding their breath with anticipation and tension. The chemical reaction on which the work is based is simple but has a fascinating effect. Each iteration is a repeat of an implementation with the same components, which is restarted each time, but is never exactly the same as the previous one(s). It is a work in process, involving slow and steady emergence in real time. The artist immerses a zinc plate in a Plexiglas chamber filled with a solution of copper sulphate, salt and water. The mixture reacts on the plate and etches unprotected areas on it – letters, inscription. This reveals the word “everything” in clear, easy-to-read typography. The reaction begins immediately and is most intense at the start; the visible, gradual etching is accompanied by bubbles, changing hues of the blue-green liquid and copper shades on the plate. Over time, the reaction subsides, changes occur more slowly and unevenly, and the rest of the ejected material accumulates at the bottom of the chamber. Some letters disappear completely, others to a lesser extent. The colour of the solution also wanes: over time it becomes more and more like water, which seems like a return to the beginning, a kind of completion of the cycle. The stillness is potentiated by a gaping, expanding void on the plate, through which we read the inscription. The seemingly meaningful, simple message contains ambiguity, even paradox. Just as everything (the word itself) literally disintegrates in front of us, everything also remains simultaneously present in a variation of its form, a different materiality and, ultimately, its semantics. Deliberate use of words in artworks is a common practice of Lina Rica. Most often, she uses online databases, archives and software as a tool to investigate the frequency of use of selected words, their relationships, etc. By using and isolating words that seem straightforward, but are at the same time very open in meaning,2 the viewer is drawn to a reading that is immediately followed by uncertainty and doubt after the initial impression of comprehension. The artist’s effectiveness, which can be formally linked to the tradition of advertising strategies and content-wise to conceptual art, engages the viewer in her own exploration of the power of language and the questioning of possible readings, meanings and contents. The work also summarises the topics with which the artist is concerned: she is interested in the perception of time, social and environmental processes and their effects on the individual; processes of permanence, mutability and transience. It is not surprising that her works tend to be processual in character, but they also contain elements of performativity. Consider the From Sea to Sea action (2006 – ongoing), in which the artist transfers 3 decilitres of water from one sea to another. The action shows the banality of human perception and the confusion of something that is in reality a single entity (water), and the temporary, intangible quality of this apparent confinement. With a poetic gesture, she introduces an (in)visible. change into an existing system, while on the other hand, in the Everything project, she herself creates a system or the circumstances, the conditions for its emergence. With its relative autonomy and predictability of operation, and above all its visible transformation, it gives the impression of a living system. Its key elements are precisely the aspect of time and duration along with the aspect of life. It is not insignificant that in the project under discussion, the artist does not explicitly refer to either a personal history or to a specific, measured historical time.3 The project can be described as distinctly universal, timeless in terms of semantics, thus touching on two things; the general condition of contemporary entrapment in the ongoing present,4 and the question of one’s own temporality. Whenever a viewer approaches a project, they can only guess which phase (of the system) they are currently observing. Even if they return to it, they will only catch the subtle dramaturgy, some moments in the life of the artwork. The iterations of a single concept, which happens in several manifestations, each time show points of change dictated by the internal structure of the system, the invisible principles of self- organisation; this is precisely what evokes a sense of aliveness. Therefore, the project inevitably raises the following questions: do we even know when the reaction is complete, and does this also mean the end of the work, at least of one of its modifications? Given the possibility of endless iterations of the process, what do we understand as its interruption and/ or is it a continuous cycle? Despite the independence of the system that Lina Rica implements in the (fairly) neutral environment of the gallery, it is she who manages it, which implies parallels with the understanding of systems and processes in a broader sense. The latter is still based on confidence in their certainty and predictability, which, in a highly unstable and timeless contemporary world, calls for constant questioning and reflection. Nina Skumavc
1 Lina Rica, Partly to Mostly Changeable, 16 September to 5 October 2021, P74 Gallery, Ljubljana.
2 This time Everything, previously for example the animated light installation NowHere, 2018
3 Unlike some of the other works, especially those in the P74 Gallery installation.
4 Without looking to the past or the future.