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P74 Gallery

Špela Škulj: Kunming Zoo

6 – 25 February 2018
KAPSULA, Trg Prekomorskih brigad 1, Ljubljana

You are kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition by Špela Škulj Kunming Zoo at KAPSULA, on Tuesday, 6 February 2017 at 7 p.m.

In the exhibition Kunming Zoo, photographer and video artist Špela Škulj presents black-and-white photographs from the eponymous series. The title of the exhibition is misleading, as we hardly find images of animals on the photographic works. On the majority of the photographs we follow images of the visitors to the zoo while resting or playing or shots of them from behind while there are the cages in front of them. In the latter images, we see only the bars on the cages, not the animals. On one such image we notice a little girl dressed in a leopard-print outfit. On another, a little girl has braids that are bound with elastic bands in the shape of bear heads. These details direct our view towards understanding a deeper meaning in the content.

Špela Škulj lived in China for several years. She marks her artistic practice as personal documentarism. She is interested in the relationship between humans and nature, the dichotomy of the concepts nature and culture. She observes culture in its widest sense and attempts to analyze it through her photography. In the series Kunming Zoo, she exposes the attitude of Chinese people towards animals; animals are the main heroes in popular animated films and favorite motifs on consumer goods. But in real life, animals in China mostly represent food. It’s normal for them to serve dog or cat, to remove the gall bladder from a living bear for medicinal concoctions, etc. Along with that, China is the largest country for the manufacturing of fur. What should we then expect in a Chinese zoo? Zoos in China are outdated, the conditions are poor, animals appear in performances and visitors pay for the spectacular feeding of beasts with live animals. The situation is slowly improving, since the recent years have seen an increase in the number of organizations that are fighting for the rights of domesticated and wild animals. Through small, non-spectacular scenes, associations and connections she leads us in reading between the lines. Only thus does she reveal the narrative. The artist’s visual commentary isn’t full of drama or moralizing; we only recognize the criticism only in the refined dramaturgical play between the details and the whole.

Curator: Nina Skumavc

Špela Škulj (Šempeter pri Novi Gorici, 1982) graduated with a degree in Culturology from the Faculty of Social Sciences. As a visual artist she works in the field of photography and video. She deals with the theme of the relationship between humans and natures and the analysis of society and ecology. She is also active in the field of theatre as a theatre technician and lighting designer and collaborates regularly with Radio Študent for recording and editing sound. In 2016, her book Premiki/Movements was chosen as the winning entry on the competition for the Photon Gallery photobook. Between 2011 and 2013, she lived in China, she currently lives and works in Ljubljana.

In recent years she has presented her work on solo exhibitions We reflect light, Central Station Maribor, Maribor (2017), Fifteen positions of the hands on a cup when you feel tired and annoyed, Chef d’Oeuvre, Osaka, Japan (2017), Evidence Book, AQ Gallery, Celje FOKUS Festival, Celje (2016); and has participated in many group exhibitions at home and abroad: Different Worlds: Young Contemporary Photography, Kino Šiška/Photon, Ljubljana (2017), [Where is the space?], Yamamoto-Seika, Osaka, Japan (2017), Allstars: Slovenian Independent Biennial: Arts & Culture Alliance, Knoxville, TN (2017), Gallery Aila Seppälä, Lahti, Finland (2015), Kino Šiška, Ljubljana (2015), Embassy of the Republic of Slovenia in Washington, Washington, D.C. (2015), Young Visual Artists of Goriška, Veno Pilon Gallery, Ajdovščina (2016), Ghostwriter project, Action #2, MoTA – Museum of Transitory Art, Ljubljana (2015).