In 1961, an art student decided to create an abstract sculpture piece that would fit in a quiet park area in ‘Rožna dolina’: students’ accommodation complex in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Between 1971 and 1975, students of Yugoslavian art academies followed his example and organised five editions of sculpture symposiums, during which they created the concept of ‘Forma viva’, a group of sculptures that would enrich the surroundings of the campus. After some restoration work in 2018 (once again organised by local students), the collection is now being revived by Dominic Mahnič, an artist and the author of this post.
Everything is written in stone. From the first signs of life to the first traces of art on Earth, stone preserves the evidence of time. I have been observing the stones of Forma viva in Rožna dolina for decades, firstly as a student of the High School of Design and Photography and later as a student of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, when I myself resided directly on campus. The original sculptural collection aimed to represent depoliticisation and a desire to integrate into the broader artistic cultural context, and while the statue of Branko Koneski (first erected in the settlement in 1961) reminds me of the national struggle for liberation, I do not recognize the same attitude in the works created within the 1971-75 sculpture symposiums.
The pieces are contemporary, but openly seeking connections with Mesopotamian and neo-Mesopotamian cultures, and alluding to ancient inspiration. They deal with both archetypal and contemporary topics, and while also including personal stories, they deliver a rather timeless narrative which is also reflected in the simple titles: e.g. Birth of Energy, Lungs, Ants, the Duel, Incomprehensibility of walking, The wave, Mummies, the Trojan Horse. Moreover, the works successfully introduce contemporary elements in a very uniform way, connected by the use of a single material - a highly prized stone, bihacit, brought from Bosnia for the purpose of their creation.
'Capture the world' is a self-initiated 3D exhibition showing and honouring the original stone sculptures, following on from my previous 3D focused work (see my website below to find more).
Forma viva is slowly starting to receive the attention it deserves, even more so as there are not many sculpture parks in Ljubljana. Sharing the scans of these works on Scan the World is a wonderful way to show their beauty and importance to the world and it’s an honour to be a part of such a project. Scan The World's online archives have indirectly also influenced my understanding of sculpture. I have already used many models from the archive both as a basis for my artistic practice and also for simply printing wonderful pieces to appreciate in a tangible form. When I printed miniature replicas of the Forma viva, a series of small poems appeared before my eyes, expressed through the form regardless of their small size and execution in plastic - further proving that there are no mediocre materials, only mediocre forms.
The original works were photographed and captured with a smartphone with limited resolution as my old computer was unable to process the full resolution files. I would therefore like to emphasize that the reviving of Forma viva was done using affordable equipment and all of the processing was done with open source software: the photos were reconstructed with Meshroom, which is wonderful and very user friendly, and optimization, smoothing and cleaning of the objects was done in Blender.
With this in mind, I invite you to the ‘Capture the World’ exhibition in Cirkulacija2, Ljubljana, where you can confirm the above statements about Forma viva, and I hope you enjoy the digital versions as well, find them here: https://www.myminifactory.com/users/kinimodcinham
In 2018, a student initiative collected the data and did a lot of restoration work for which I thank them - I would have had to do it myself otherwise. Some of the data, mostly collected through word of mouth, is available in the Modern Gallery archive.
They published their work here:
Special thanks to Tomaž Kolarič and the Archives of the Modern Gallery for helping with the search of data, and to Circulacija2, which offered the space for public presentation.
Find the exhibition here: http://www.cirkulacija2.org/?p=6177
Find my portfolio here: https://app.assembla.com/spaces/dominik-mahnic/wiki