JAŠA Mrevlje-Pollak & Gorazd V. Mrevlje
‘In Conversation with my Father’

 

A Blue Skies Conversation

01_JAŠA_Bela

Image 1: Bela, Photography (2016)


“From the experience of my family (that would be us) I know that, if a change happens, it does so because people in their dialogues express their inner needs better than they could with a mass uprising. I simply do not know what kind of political regime comes out of these inner needs. But I do know that the regime, which offers no deeper reason for people to be interested in one another, cannot maintain its legitimacy for a long time.”
           
          – Gorazd V. Mrevlje “Dilemmas of Contemporary Life”

That was when my father called me from the hospital.
“Whatever you do, do not publish any of what you just sent me.”
“What?” I was confused as I had no intention of publishing anything, yet. It was just an email with some of my thoughts on the current, unfortunate political situation here in Slovenia. Some talking points we might consider for a planned recorded dialogue. “What happened?” I asked.

What followed was a string of surreal moments, actions, talks and consequential decisions.
A situation that pushed us to reconsider what we’d planned: that we should go public with a dialogue based on a sketch I’d sent in the form of an email. Sure, we all know, in theory, that hackers can read our emails, look at what we are looking at as we leave our fingerprints all over the internet. But usually this results in some unwanted ads and such offered mainly by algorithms. Rarely does this turn into something that could seem like a real threat, a situation that feels more like some dystopian noir-style thriller than real life. Then again, it sure feels like we’re living a movie right now to many of us. I realized that I was being surveyed, most likely by our government.

It was a surreal turn of events, but not entirely surprising. I’ve been on the radar as a troublemaker since I was one of the hundreds of protestors meeting throughout the Corona crisis to speak out against a government that was behaving in a manner that is unfortunately in keeping with far rightist, quasi-fascist global trends. I’d instinctually hopped a police barrier when I saw a fellow protester being manhandled, and then got badly manhandled myself—a photo of which wound up on the cover of the leading liberal news magazine. Since then, when I walk through Ljubljana, I see that police recognize me and take note. I’m on that sort of list. Me, an artist without the slightest political motivation. Hardly the type to scare a government. But apparently I do.

So much for the idea of a recorded dialogue on this subject with my father, Gorazd V. Mrevlje. He is famous around these parts, a psychiatrist, long retired. He’s confronted many dramatic incidents and is seen as a national father figure, given his warm and multi-layered public persona, a man highly respected and loved for his professionalism and charm. He is also an incredible father. He taught me how to be a good (hu)man.

Throughout the years of growing up and through my work and adult life, my father has been my number one guide. When my travels became more frequent, often life did not allow us to talk when we needed to, so I learned to have an ongoing imagined conversation whenever I would feel lost, lonely, abandoned or hurt.

What follows is one such imagined conversation.

Video: In Conversation with My Father, text and voice by JAŠA, sound recorder and edited by KALU, image and edit with Rosa Lux (2020)

“How? Why? Can I or should I be right? Can I be wrong? Can I be both? Can I scream out loud my most hidden desires without hurting anyone? Why were you and Mom such an incredibly beautiful couple, a walking dream, a pretext for the setting sun to rest upon your skin. After needless periods of never ending arguments, many years later I was happy to see you separate and find somebody new. How can that happen? Why did I feel honored, thrilled and so fucking incredibly special when you said that you knew, since my early days, given my restless and deeply problematic character, that I would either end up being a brilliant criminal or perhaps end up doing something incredible and unique? Why did I steal your socks and wear them to school in order to gain points with classmates, even though you found out and were furious? I only stopped when I saw how it hurt you. Why did it make me feel whole when I saw you cry? Why did it make me feel so scared and audacious when I upset you? When we would scream our lungs out, or you would mostly, as I would withdraw into my tears, but we would both then end up laughing at our own stupidity? Why did I feel ashamed when I would see you both naked in the morning? Why would I secretly observe your member and think of mine growing up? Was it a simple comparison of the strangest tools of function and pleasure? And we could talk about it, as I shared my worries or perplexities about my own appearances or that of my rather smaller fellow, especially in your own company. It took me ten or more years to beat you in a game of tennis, even though I thought my youth and strength should have been the sole reason to triumph. When I did, your reaction was the most dignified thing I have ever seen. Dignity, charm, honesty. Why did I start communicating with poems in high school, only to find my harshest critic, only to realize my words were made of stones and hard dark edges? Why did I fly when we got drunk together, discovering this wide world of music, colors, taste, smell and passion? Why, every time we hug, even though it now feels that we might be reversing roles, does our hug feel like a universe becoming whole?

“Why is the silent presence the most reassuring and most beautiful presence I learned to miss and love, that of a parent swimming in his own thoughts and dreams in the same room with you? Why will one of my most beautiful moments forever more remain the memory of both of you on a Sunday morning in your bed and me jumping in between you, sharing my dreams with you and simply believing everything? You taught me how to dream my own dreams and then turn them into reality made of palpable material. You taught me how to cherish my loneliness and simply tune in to the buzzing of my zig-zagging thoughts. You taught me how to cope with all the different shapes of my own mind, of all the dark pockets, of me hearing voices and turning that into something constructive and positive. You taught me how to persist, resist and use my own head when going through walls. You taught me how to get my ass up and open the door to the other, how to let them in and talk. You, above all, taught how to believe that all differences and conflicts can and should be talked out, no matter how long it takes or how hard it gets. You showed me that through talks, through everything we have been through, since the very beginning, since I could not learn how to read, or sit still or listen or follow written rules. You taught me how to question and how to make those questions, as unpleasant as they might have been, as risky as they might be, as stressful as they might feel. You taught me to act upon my most hidden desires in order not to regret things when they pass. As hard as this may feel right now, I still know that somehow we will get things right. Eventually. You taught me that. That we need to get it right. If we let fear take over and we might consequently stop talking or simply comply, we will not sleep soundly at night. We will not wake up and shake the colors out of our sleeves, just to paint another day for you and me.”

02_JAŠA_the both of them

    Image 2: Them both, Photography (1980s)

The above images conclude the story from my perspective, along with the video, which I hope you like. In tune with the sound (which we have retouched a bit), I was looking for a perfect fit in terms of an image. I tried other, more figurative images, especially one with two empty chairs, but the more Rosa and I worked on it, the more I realized that I was looking for a mental image. It all went back to an image I have never used before (image 1). It was towards the end of the summer in 2016 when Bela was nine years old. I dreamt of an underwater image, of something I used to do as a kid when diving. I would go as deep as I could, holding my breath, then I’d turn my chest up and letting the air in my lungs slowly pull me up. I used a compact analogue underwater camera, one of the types you can find in local summer joint for a few bucks. One image out of twenty-seven came out perfectly, freezing that moment of Bella growing up. We never knew what happened with this photo, but I knew that, one day, I would think of it, and it happened yesterday when I started thinking of colors that would fit the sound recording.
 
For the sound for the video, I went to Kalu’s place. He just moved his legendary music studio to his home, his living room. It was located in a studio in the heart of Ljubljana’s legendary squat, Metelkova, where we recorded and mixed out an album called White Rooms back in 2014 with Leftfinger. It was home to some incredible music. Due to the many consequences of COVID 19’s new realities, he had to cut down on his expenses and settle for working at home. He opened the door in his Japanese gown and sunglasses and walked me into his sunbathing apartment. I was exhausted and completely devoid of any real inspiration, nevertheless a fitting idea of how to shoot the sound arrived. He was working on a new tune that right away gave me that familiar buzz, the one that only making music does. “I love the text, bro,” he said with his chilled Beck-like groove. “This is what we will do.” He went into his bedroom and came out with an old-school flat Sony tape recorder (ever heard of cassettes? We from the nineties are still suckers for this bygone piece of technology) and looked at me. “No mic for you today. We go old school. You press play and have one go at it and that’s it.” The adrenalin did the trick so I pushed play and went for it. Once I was back from the corner shop with a beer or two, he transferred the recording directly into the computer while recording it again in the room with him adding his magic, and that was it.  
 
Once I found the underwater image, it brought me to an image I have observed on a wall during the lockdown, one of flickering lights coming through the window. Something went wrong with the recording, which gave me the opportunity to bring it closer to the image I had in mind. It is a tricky process, but then it clicks, and you usually do not know exactly why that’s the moment to lift your hands.
 
I took this photo (image 2) with me when I left home back in 1999 after my parents separated. It happened somewhere in the 80s and it captures both of them and some of the closest friends in one of their best moments, of which they had plenty in my childhood in the Yugoslavia of the 80s. It’s an image I grew up with, learned to mimic and keep close.
 
Text edited by Noah Charney

The Blue Skies Conversation Series is presented by International Curators Forum and made possible with support from Art Fund.