Artist Duo Fights Commercialism—with Commercialism

Cheesy portraits, concrete beach toys, and incarcerated flowers come together in the work of the talented Žižić/Kožul.
September 4, 2015, 8:00pm
Happy Couple, (inkjet print, 8 works, each 52 x 72 cm). Images courtesy the artists

Damir Žižić and Kristian Kožul, known jointly as Žižić/Kožul, are a Croatian-German artist duo whose work utilizes the language of commercialism and tourist culture as the basis for social commentary and new insights on long-developing ideologies. Wonderful Things Will Happen (WTWH) was a mini-retrospective of the duo’s work together, held at the Mali Salon in Rijeka, Croatia earlier this year. WTWH is a perfect encapsulation of the duo’s practice—a shallow exterior of funny, recognizable forms leads viewers into a re-evaluation of their own beliefs.

The first portion of the exhibition is located outside of the gallery space. Inflatable Realities is a group of sculptural works in the familiar and iconic shapes of inflatable beach accessories. But the works aren’t spectacular, glossy iterations of reality like Jeff Koons' inflatable flowers or balloon dogs; Žižić/Kožul’s inflatables are made of stark, unpainted, and fading concrete, each piece piled upon each other in way that you can feel the density of each individual sculpture. Instead of glossy plasticity, they emanate like quite the opposite, becoming anchors to a reality less easygoing than the accessories they represent.

Happy Couple Installation Image

Within the actual space, #partyloversplaygone appears, a mounted neon and grey sculpture. Flower arrangements that are just colorful enough to give off a sense of artificiality are spread across the wall like wild chemical growths in the generally sterile white space of a gallery. Barred by floating gates, the flowers are partially visible and partially obscured, partially accessible and partially not, seemingly appropriate metaphors for the “ever-unattainable dream of the middle class’ comfortable life,” a concept the duo actively imbues into their work.

Inflatable Realities (concrete, variable dimensions) 

Further in the exhibition, there is a room with a long series of portraits displayed horizontally across two different intersecting walls. The portraits are all the same size, each with the same thick white frame, depicting the same subjects; a very generic couple smiling directly towards the viewer, with a white backdrop suggesting the work of a professional photography studio. Viewing a single portrait shows a happy, easy-going couple in their 30’s enjoying the prime time of their life together. But viewing the entire sequence of Happy Couple alters the experience entirely: slight variations between their expressions and body language in each progressive image reveals increasing levels of discomfort, a friction in the way they emote. They could just as easily be actors, and thus complete strangers, rather than the intimate relationship suggested by the style of imagery. Happy Couple confronts the way we’re trained as a culture to view images of this nature, focusing on a surface-level reading of the works; never questioning and always idealizing this form of intimacy.

#partyloversplaygone (neon, polyurethan, mirror, plexyglass, variable dimensions) 

While Damir Žižić and Kristian Kožul have relatively discreet online presences, you can view more of their work together, and that of other artists, on Nomad, a platform for bringing artists together for the sake of producing work by giving them supportive infrastructure. It was co-founded by Žižić and Kožul.

Click here to learn more about Žižić/Kožul.


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