Miha Colner & Jasna Jernejšek: Violence, Death and Decay

Bertok’s early work is distinctive for its dark imagery, resembling diverse mythological scenes based on ancient or Christian art, or even science fiction. These photographs, with their fictionalised narratives, merge the notion of history with the future, mythology with imagination. The models are placed within the infinite emptiness of a studio environment, devoid of any additional context. What remains are pure visual sensation and metaphor. Whatever is to be seen or sensed in these gloomy photographs, it is only a reflection of things unspoken and unseen; a dreamy glimpse into the realms of our conscious or unconscious, our desires, and fears. His earliest works, the Animal series, were entirely staged in a studio with the bodies of models serving as elements in highly symbolic compositions. This symbolism soon transgressed into pure naturalism with motifs of unconventional carnal sexual pleasure on display, namely sadomasochistic and fetishist rituals of (self)injury, performed by real practitioners. Despite being staged, the artist grew close to his models and performers and managed to closely observe their behaviour and practices. The photographs are therefore extremely raw and eager to show the vulnerability of the human body as well as the ambivalence between pleasure and pain.

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