Eclipse

The name of this Slovenian artistic duo is rather apt, since the name in fact conceals the artists’ true identities. It also potentially conceals the duo themselves – just try doing a Google search for “Eclipse” or even “Eclipse Slovenia.” “You have to really look for us,” the blonde one tells me. And no, that’s not an objectification of the blonde-headed artist of the pair – that’s the way they refer to themselves in their work (blonde and redhead) – yet further maintaining anonymity.

The anonymous aspect in their authorship is a surprising contrast to the public exhibitionism one can witness in their performances and installations. These two artists have bared all, literally, and even presented and photographed themselves in some shocking situations. Take, for example, the performance Mysteries of an Orgasm – a Study (2006), when redhead was given a gynecological exam in the Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana. The results of this study will be available, according to the artists, in 2023.

The female orgasm and female sexuality are often the subjects of Eclipse’s work, and they use their own bodies to draw attention to significant issues regard sex and sexuality. They provoke in order to challenge received wisdom and social norms. As they explain on their website, they want to “radicalize the visual interpretation of our intimacy and public normalcy.” Just because the sexual revolution has already occurred, doesn’t mean that the discussion is over, the blonde tells me. There is a lot of work still to be done.

Take, for example, one of their earliest performances, Venus Test (1999). The readhead strokes the penis of a blindfolded man, lying in the pose of a reclining Venus, while reciting the names of female artists from Slovenian art history, and waiting to see which name provokes a reaction, or an erection, in the male. Of course, his penis remains limp regardless of which name she recites. The artists describe the man’s penis as a “potency-meter,” as if it can indicate the strength and effectiveness of these female artists in history. The blonde tells me that now, more than ten years after this project, nothing has changed. Slovenian art history has not yet gone through a reassessment of its cultural heritage to bring the names of these artists into recognition, or into the canon. They remain relatively unknown.

The artists have tackled issues other than gender and sexuality, such as the EU and religion. As such, their work has created quite a stir – in fact, the city of Ptuj had to be “cleansed” after one of their performances, which featured the iconography of St. Mary, the patron saint of that city. Shocking imagery aside, however, the pair approach these issues through an intelligent combination of historical and art historical references, and an intricate exploration of iconography. Their debut piece, for example, was an installation consisting of over 300 photographs of the artists themselves, in various settings, with various objects and symbols surrounding them, and which then became neutralized by the presence of the naked bodies of the artists. The photographs are installed on an artificial grass floor, a reference to the name of the piece: Breakfast on the Grass, which is itself a reference to Manet’s painting of a similar title.

Eclipse are not afraid to put their own bodies in extreme situations or expose the details of their own personal lives as a vehicle for the exploration of more serious issues, such as the role of not only women, but female sexuality, in contemporary society and the modern media. They impose extreme visual imagery and experiences on the viewer in order to confront him quite startlingly with his own prejudices and personal beliefs, with a view to challenging and perhaps changing them.