Vajd’s project Zona has originated from the artist’s critical and investigative attitude to people, from her visual fascination in general, and from her pleasure in looking at images, as if it were possible to discern in photographs what is indiscernible in real life.

For Vajd, to photograph means to exist; she charts her existential experience with her photographs, so much so that a manifestly personal, autobiographic note permeates her entire oeuvre. This is perhaps least apparent in the Zona project presented here: the photographs of the public areas of border crossings refer to some general, not individual, reality.

Vajd’s fascination with these architecturally cold and grim places, designed to exert control over people and, until the fall of the Schengen border in 2007, used for inspecting travelers, does not stem from typological research, but from psychological investigations. As a rule, the shots contain no human figures, but are framed in such a way that the constellations of various “furnishings” suggest a sinister atmosphere. The suggested restricted freedom, confinement, control, and general submission to certain social norms are associative rather than descriptive, becoming more explicit in the few photographs in which the presence of uniformed officials is discernible.

Psychologically, the photographs offer little chance of escaping from the forbidding places, despite the fact that some of the shots were taken after the places had ceased serving their original function. Without revealing the identities of the places, the artist brings the images together in a conceptual whole with a title that adds ambiguity rather than clarifies: Zona. In Slovenian this can mean either “zone” or “shudder”. On the one hand, the title identifies the content of the photographs, which is meant to be pure denotation, while on the other hand it gives the whole a specific connotation, whose significance the observers must unravel themselves.

 — Essay by Lara Strumej,
Head of the Photography Department,
Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana, Slovenia

Aleksandra Vajd was one of three photographers chosen to represent Slovenia this year at the nightlong projection of photographs from 27 European countries at the Rencontres Festival in Arles. Lara Strumej served as curator for the selections from Slovenia.