digital C-print, 70×70 cm, 2005
Over the past 25 years, Goran Bertok has consistently worked on documenting and portraying the human body in all its fragility, vulnerability and mortality. At first he focused on depicting staged mythological scenes, wounded bodies and unconventional sexual practices. Later, he went on to explore the human body in even more radical ways, following through to the very end – its physical death.
The series Visitors (2004-2010) depicts the gradual decomposition of the human body, testifying to the ending of the life cycle. Eschewing all sentimentality and moralising, Bertok obsessively documents and displays the mortality of the body, turned by physical death into a mere lump of insentient flesh doomed to decay. The motifs of burning corpses in an abstract non-space are a testament, naturalistic if aestheticised to the extreme, to the now ubiquitous process of cremation of the human body, hidden from the public gaze. Old age, disease, death and the encounter with the dead body have been pushed to the margins of contemporary society, whose information channels are abuzz with the imperatives of health, youth and vigour. Bertok approaches death from the standpoint of life: he is interested in its mythology, which has echoed the notion of »death with dignity« throughout human history; he is fascinated by the psychological effects of the inescapable mortal terror and by the remains of what was once a living organism. Death is not idealised, since it unavoidably causes fear, pain and suffering, but perceived as a consequence of life.
Goran Bertok was born in 1963 in Koper, Slovenia. In 1989 he graduated as journalist from the Faculty of Sociology, Political Sciences and Journalism in Ljubljana; the same year he was conscripted for military service in the Yugoslav People's Army and released after a month with a diagnosis of »psychopathic personality«. In 1990, he held his first solo exhibition.
Artist's web page: www.bertok.si