International group exhibition | Curated by: Mara Ambrožič Verderber | 

Piran City Gallery | 3.06.23 – 28.08.2023 (extended until 15.10.2023)

Press Conference: Friday, 2.06.2023, at 11 a.m., Piran City Gallery

Opening of the exhibition: Saturday, 3.06.2023, at 7 p.m., Piran City Gallery

Saturday, 3 June 2023

  • 5 p.m. at Monfort Gallery Portorož: POINT. NO RETURN by Sanja Nešković Peršin
  • 7 p.m. at Tartini Square, Piran: THE PARTY WALL by Corinne Mazzoli
  • At 8.30 p.m. musical evening and social gathering will follow

(Everything Is) Not What It Seems is an international project curated by Mara Ambrožič Verderber, director of the Piran Coastal Galleries. The exhibition was premiered in Summer 2022 in Norway, at the NITJA – Centre for Contemporary Art in Lillestrøm-Oslo. he concept of the exhibition is designed around questions and themes that explore what is going on beyond the visible reality of things and may help us to understand the mechanisms that govern our society. The project has been conceived as a travelling exhibition and will be expanded in each museum or location that will host the project, inviting local and international artists to investigate the topics addressed in the show.

On display at the Piran City Gallery the works by: Primož Bizjak (Slovenia), Vincent Ceraudo (France), Einat Cohen (Israel), Igor Eškinja (Croatia), Andrea Fraser (USA), Meta Grgurevič (Slovenia), Anawana Haloba (Zambia/Norway), Ane Mette Hol (Norway), Corinne Mazzoli (Italy), Hanna Filomen Mjåvatn (Norway) & Kira Senkpiel (Germany), Victor Mutelekesha (Zambia/ Norway), Nika Neelova (UK), Tobias Putrih (Slovenia/USA), Tomás Saraceno (Argentina), Kathryn Smith (Sudafrica), Andrej Škufca (Slovenia), Lučka Šparovec (Slovenia), Miha Štrukelj (Slovenia), Robert Watts (USA), Dani Žbontar (Slovenia). The exhibition includes a selection of artworks from the public collection of the Piran Coastal Galleries as well as works from the public collection of UGM Maribor and several Slovenian and international private collections (including Noire Gallery Turin, Alberta Pane Gallery, Paris & Venice, Gregor Podnar Vienna, Pinksummer Genova).

The themes of the exhibition will also be explored through performance and dance. Hanna Filomen Mjåvatn and Kira Senkpiel will present the film on their choreographed work performed at NITJA lat Summer that explores power dynamics, while Corinne Mazzoli and local collaborators will present The Party Wall, a performance exploring visible and invisible barriers in public space, which will take place on the opening evening on the main square of Piran (Tartinijev trg).

The exhibition is also accompanied by a performance by Sanja Nešković Peršin, which will happen on Saturday, 3 June 2023, at 5 p.m. in the Monfort Gallery Portorož. The exhibition will be open for visits until 20 August 2023.

In the frame of (Everything Is) Not What It Seems during this Summer, a rich accompanying program will be organized. This includes workshops led by artists, guided tours with artists and curatorial team, as well as with gallerists and partners of the project.

Special notice: the specifics this exhibition setting in the Piran City Gallery will allow people with reduced mobility to visit the show during special visitts, planned on selected days. For more info: info@obalne-galerije.si


Tomás Saraceno, Zonal Harmonic 60,000, 2022, 55 x 60 x 60 cm

Corinne Mazzoli, The Party Wall, 2018, performance


Mara Ambrožič Verderber, Director of the Piran Coastal Galleries

(Everything Is) Not What It Seems includes a selection of artworks by 21 artists well established on the international art scene and evolves around the idea that our knowledge of the world is incomplete and uncertain, and that our most deeply rooted beliefs about reality – as the physicist Carlo Rovelli reminds us – may be wrong or at least extremely naïve. The exhibition thus reflects precisely upon the ability to look beyond the usually visible and beyond the given reality of things in order to tackle the ordinary and try to understand the mechanisms that rule our perceptions of everyday life.

The purpose of the exhibition is to convey an understandable and clear message, so that the observers and participants become aware of the processes behind the scenes and understand that everything that we have learned in life is organized based on evidence and information from a given past. This knowledge has been communicated to us through narration and other sources of information, for example through visual data and other images that form approximations of objective reality (Georges Didi-Huberman). By becoming aware of the limitations of visual material we can understand that with our creative ability we can dismantle any imaginary of images and observe the effect of this deconstruction on people’s consciousness, in search of a more objective interpretation of the present and a peaceful coexistence.

The artworks on show will challenge the limits of what we think we know, as they were conceived in a truly investigatory spirit – using media ranging from new technology to classic techniques – which give the viewer an experience that is scientific, humorous, beautiful and widely accessible to the general public. These artworks are the result of the visual artists’ individual research methodology. We may see that the act of observation has already taken place in the artwork itself, although not in the phase of producing a definitive answer.

With an almost scientific approach to image restitution, the artists use, invent, extract and appropriate objects (moving sculptures, ceramics), images (photos, paintings, drawings), books (texts, data) and a number of techniques so that, through their synchronous action, they create a shift in our experiencing and reading of their meanings. Alternative knowledge is produced to encourage the observer to question the seeming reliability of the world, which is actually based on an intertwining of coded rules, mediated global trends and stereotypes. In this way, the observer is asked to look at the given present from a different perspective.

As we have learned from the photographer and philosopher John Berger, images have the ability to fascinate and deceive, but they can also illuminate and restore the memory of historical quests and open up a whole range of current socio-political issues. The image has the power to analyze, contest and reconfigure our perception, thus encouraging new creations and free ways of understanding our history and the contemporary world.

If we use images to profane the unprofanable, they can become a tool in the process of emancipation from the visual strategies and political ideologies used to both violently trade with culture and art and even accelerate their industrialization and politicization. The exhibition points out that this has never been more important than now. The artistic imagination and imaginary must be considered primarily as a site of resistance, as a means that contains the potential to challenge our beliefs and awaken the sense that it is possible to imagine new regions and novel forms of reality.

The entrance hall of the gallery premises offers an in medias res in the exhibition with the installation Synthetic Zero by Andrej Škufca. This impressive sculpture is made of black synthetic material with a shiny surface reminiscent of endless pipes filled with oil. These wind through the space like unfulfilled consumer desires that have led to the threat of non-degradable plastic on a global scale. This work of art could also be understood as a metaphor for a virtual (sub)world where the publicly accessible Internet and the “dark web” coexist, where parallel life takes place.

The central part of the exhibition's first floor is dedicated to the sculpture Eizelhof by Tobias Putrih. The work reflects upon the disappeareance of old traditional farmhousing in Trentino and South Tyrol and the growing expansion of farm tourism. The work also simbolically points also to the current European trends conceive traditional farming (as well as countryside life) of foremost importance within the expansion of turistic-industry's desires – while people's traditional and local identity turnes out to be a matter of purely political negotiations. A similar dedication to the impacts of human and political imprints on art and nature underlines also Nika Neelova's (2022) Ripple Stones. The two paintings, in fact, mimic the pockmarks on the planet’s skin: the thermokarst hollows that cover a wide stretch of northern territories of Planet Earth.

The drawings of Miha Štrukelj follow the guidelines of space investigation of urban voids, where abstract colour or empty fields reveal multiple structural layers of the painting, making his matter-of-fact depictions of city streets and construction sites appear heterogeneous and fragmented into the basic elements of a digital image.

As spectators continue to explore, one can feel the fascination with optics and movement in the works of Ane Mette Hol and experience her studies of natural phenomena such as light and darkness. These are also the basis for the works of Primož Bizjak, whose poetic night photographs in the Carrara quarries show the intensive exploitation of this non-renewable natural resource. The locus of the show is also the sound work of Anawana Haloba with his immediate, critical approach to political structural systems, while Vincent Ceraudo deals with a particularly interesting perspective on unsettlingly empty urban landscapes. These are the result of capitalist greed, which turned megalomaniac utopias into their complete opposite: urban dystopias.

Keeping time and controlling it are the central themes of Meta Grgurevič’s kinetic art, which explores the illusion of permanence through mechanics and other technologies. With the work Zonal Harmonic 60,000 by Tomás Saraceno the viewer is invited to imagine the universal web of interspecies, to reflect upon the process of life extinction, calling for an ethical collaboration with the atmosphere. We will also encounter the works of Robert Watts (1923–1988), best known for his contribution to the iconic art group FLUXUS and its conceptual and playful enigmas. The decoding of a mathematical rebus is the fil rouge of a pair of ceramic sculptures by the artist Einat Cohen that draw attention to the political and social divisions in the Middle East.

Kathryn Smith and Andrea Fraser present two investigative art projects that were completed in the form of book editions. Andrea Fraser analyzes the public and private politicized structure of American museums, while Kathryn Smith uses an analytical and detailed forensic approach to examine data on extremely difficult topics, such as the disappearance of missing persons in South Africa.

The central themes of the exhibition will also be explored through performance and a dance documentary. Hanna Filomen Mjåvatn and Kira Senkpiel present the film documentary of the performance To Carry that reflects on the power structures within the social pyramid, while the performance The Party Wall by Corinne Mazzoli, performed in collaboration with actors and dancers active in the community of Piran, will explore physical barriers and obstacles in public space and the “fencing of” urban parts of the city.

These are just a few thoughts on some of the artists featured in this exhibition whose works trigger a profound (self)reflection. The invitation is to walk through this sensory experience, which can also be seen as a visual record of attempts to understand the limitations of scientific and humanistic paradigms. The artistic imaginaries that appear here challenge our beliefs about reality and contain the power to weaken the totalitarian grip of the gaze, which is the only way to achieve emancipation and learn the unexplored limits and truths of our life.

Exhibition view, photos by Jaka Jeraša