Ana Prvački didn’t have to travel to take up her scholarship at the Gropius Bau: the Serbian artist lives in Berlin anyway. Last year she was allowed to see her on her veranda in Prenzlauer Berg as part of “Die Balkone2” – an exhibition that was only held outside due to Corona and could only be viewed from the street.
A few days ago she took part as a mentor in the “Forecast Forum 2022”, which invites young artists from all over the world to the Radialsystem to realize future-oriented ideas – a week of intensive work that touches her own substance is just behind her. And now Ana Prvački gives an insight into her thinking and life, which is always determined by a substance. From the honey.
The artist, who was born near Belgrade in 1976, explains that her grandfather inherited 500 kilograms when he died. And Ana Prvački, who had already dealt with the subject of bees before because there were always beekeepers in her family, suddenly found herself heavily pregnant with what she assumed to be a sweetheart. So much honey to work with; for your own health as well as for art.
He was then irradiated, she says and does not forget to state the reason for this. The NATO bombing of Belgrade in 1999 rendered her legacy useless. But the bees have become an integral part of her art. She loves the little animals, finds them sympathetic to essential for survival and is learning more and more about their behavior as well as the mythical background.
“Apis Gropius” documents all of this as an augmented reality experience in the Gropius Bau, where it hums and flies in the atrium – when you walk through the exhibition room with one of the tablets that can be borrowed at the cash desk. Otherwise, the central hall remains empty, Ana Prvački’s tale of a swarm settling in one of the black-clad pillars is pure fiction.
But not unthinkable: After all, the former Kunstgewerbemuseum was a ruin after 1945, was to be demolished and survived solely through the intervention of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius, whose great-uncle had built the house around 1880.
So these bees stream out of the column in droves. They pollinate flowers that grow out of the stone floor, but the tiles actually show floral patterns. And in the background, the artist raves about the clever organizational forms of these insects, their way of life, architecture and existential function for humans. Actually, according to Ana Prvački, they are the hosts of the people on this planet.
Accordingly, the visitors move politely through the room, where at the end of the almost 20-minute tour, huge honeycombs hang down from the roof of the Gropius Bau. It is dripping from them, the yellow honey stays upright in the parabolic structures. Ana Prvački recalls that an acquaintance quickly took off his shoe while walking through the virtual exhibition – out of fear of the sticky mass.
This speaks for the visual persuasiveness of “Apis Gropius”, according to the artist the first work of its kind in the Gropius Bau. It’s hard to believe, after all contemporary art has been shown here for years. Nonetheless, previous media artists such as Philippe Parreno or Ed Atkins primarily presented film material here; virtual realities unfolded only within these works.
Ana Prvački’s contribution is indeed a first, she herself being the first to receive the Digital Artist in Residence grant. It is to be hoped that the project initiated by Stephanie Rosenthal, who is still director, will remain in place after her departure in a few weeks. It expands the artistic forms of expression on site with an immersive branch that will become even more important, if not a matter of course, in the future.
“Apis Gropius” can be seen permanently for the time being, but still creates something. Admission is free, you can enter the atrium without a ticket, you only have to register for the tablet at the counter. Ana Prvački insists on free access to her art. That’s how she always does it, whether it’s in the Center Pompidou in 2010 or two years later in Kassel at Documenta 13. In Paris, she had musicians parade through the building, doing daily sound exercises; in Kassel, Ana Prvački hired coaches who trained the staff of the major exhibition in politeness.
Her art is immaterial, even where complex technology does not come into play. In return, it leaves an impression, a trace in one’s consciousness that doesn’t go away anytime soon. Ana Prvački doesn’t seem to intend to do more. But it’s not a little either. Bees, even if they don’t have the filigree pattern of the glass skylights on their wings like in “Apis Gropius”, you look at them differently afterwards.