“The Border of Time”, 1994
“The act of observation is comprised of the observer and the observed. Between these two entities there is a pause, a completely unpredictable reality that I perceive as an open dialogue with life”, said Vlado Zrnić, an artist and film director from Zadar, in an interview with Slobodna Dalmacija in 2008.
After having obtained a degree in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice in 1989, Zrnić turned to film and video art, and by the end of the 1990s he had already received several awards for his work at national and international festivals. The critics characterised Zrnić’s films (Mirila, A Day Under the Sun) as ‘poetic documentaries’, emphasising the importance of the visual over the narrative aspects of the film.
In the video “The Border of Time” from 1994, one of the early examples of Zrnić’s exploration of the moving image, we find all these attributes in nuce. It is a recording of a stormy night on the coast near Zadar. Scenes of the sea surface and distant shore can only be recognised thanks to lightning strikes, that is short flashes of light. Strong contrasts between the darkness and lightning flashes interfere with the camera technology in an unexpected way. When the lightning strike is extremely powerful, the image dissolves or is full of glitches, rendering the scene unrecognisable. In moderate cases of flashing, on the other hand, the camera manages to briefly show the surface of the sea, however, almost entirely abstractly: the water surface is then nothing but a vague luminescence, a phenomenon that can belong to anything. The video ends with a kind of catharsis. The storm has, in fact, reached land and the sound of rain has overpowered the thunder. This is the moment Zrnić marked with a shot of the lighthouse lantern and its lamp. However, as the rain intensifies, and the camera lens becomes more and more obscured with water, we can only make out the lighthouse at the end of the video as a bright spot that pulsates unremittingly in the darkness.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023