As a longstanding art and primary school teacher, artist Boris Oblišar is very much involved in the school environment. Within his profession, he is constantly trying to look for creative pedagogical opportunities as permitted by the formal educational framework, thinking about his own and the child’s position in school as an institution. Art classes actually still oscillate between the formality required by the school curriculum and a general desire to encourage the child’s creative thinking. The results of art as a subject are ultimately measurable in the same way as the results of other subjects, whereas pupils’ behaviour is in close relation to expected results. John Dewey wrote in his work The School and Society in as early as 1889: I believe that the ideal school contains a reconciliation between individualistic and institutional ideals. The fluctuation between the “human factor” and the formal structure of the educational institution is also pondered upon by artist Boris Oblišar. Except that he is not seeking the ideal, but is asking how to understand the freedom of the teacher and the pupil within a defined system of rules, norms and evaluation criteria. An insight into what is actually happening in the background, either during the breaks or secretly during the lessons, this other side of the school story, has become the basis for the Zero Hour project, which has been going on over a number of years. Through observation, treatment and collection of various materials (drawings, discarded art objects, creative tools …) Oblišar examines how children, who spend a large part of their lives in school, respond to the situations of their micro and macro environment. And how he responds to it himself. In Zero Hour he highlights the reflection of the teaching profession, which contains individual curiosity and creative desire. He primarily records the informal dynamics of the school institution through the view of a teacher on the one hand, and that of the artist on the other. Oblišar exhibited his project Zero Hour for the first time at Likovni salon in 2003, the second time at the Slovenian Fine Artists Society DSLU Gallery in 2004, followed by presentations in various forms in Koper in 2006, and Velenje in 2008.1 Zero Hour became a trademark of an individual deconstruction of the system (…)2, for the unconventional activities of the users of this system, a sign for the space of freedom and dialogue within a more or less rigid institutional machine.
In this spatial installation, the artist primarily questions his own position in the school education process. Given all the internal and external characteristics of those involved, the school environment is very unpredictable, variable. And controlled and defined, on the other hand. This is why the artist asks himself about the nature of his role in selecting teaching methods, addressing knowledge, assigning responsibilities and creating truth. He reaches deeply into the core of his own interests that raise the question of whether the teacher is primarily an executive figure or can he be the creator of a defined school system. The installation thus contains static elements – sculptures, adapted from products from art classes, the artist’s portraits and self-portraits as well as dynamic elements – prepared materials and compositions which can be manipulated by the visitor. The exhibition is a symbolic reflection of two sets of combinatorics. One belonging to formal teaching and the other to the artist’s personal viewpoints. The applying, replying, complying of the “prohibited” school material with the artist’s interpretation acts as a mirror in which the human factor within the artistic field comes into conflict with the institutional ideal.
1 “BESEDAPRESEDA”, Nultaura, multimedia spatial installation, MC Velenje, 2008, “NULTAURA”, photo/video installation with lecture, PINA, Koper, 2006, internal installations and actions at Elementary School Šalek Velenje as part of the Nultaura (Zero Hour) project, 2003–2015
2 Nevenka Šivavec, O privlačnosti lokalnega [On the Attractiveness of the Local](lecture), Svet umetnosti, SCCA – Ljubljana, 2003 http://www.worldofart.org/0203/predavanje-NS.htm
Boris Oblišar (1964) graduated from the Academy of Pedagogy in Ljubljana. He has been teaching art since the 1990s, therefore his interest for the school discourse takes a prominent position in his art practice. He has received several accolades for his work as an art mentor. He uses a variety of artistic media in conceiving his works, particularly spatial installation and performance, and is a regular contributor to the Free Admission festival with his artistic actions as a member of the Association of Fine Artists of Celje (DLUC).