Damir Očko. Bird's milk and other spirits

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Damir Očko (b. 1977, Zagreb) is the most important Croatian artist of his generation. His work has been exhibited in major venues, including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, and he represented Croatia at the Venice Biennale in 2015. Očko rose to fame as a filmmaker, dealing intensely with how image, language and sound interweave. He is part of the queer community, performs as a drag queen and deals with queer topics and content in very abstract ways.

Očko is producing his first new film after the pandemic for the Dominican Church in Krems. Following a period of isolation, he returns to celebration and the community, using a drag queen event in Zagreb as the starting point for his video work. For another project, Očko collects the remnants of such queer events, which include such things as dust, dirt, fallen eyelashes, make-up and glitter, to produce a surreal-melancholic installation. Three party tents stand oddly in the once sacred space. They feature over 200 cocktail glasses, artfully filled with party relics. Next to them are empty alcohol bottles on which visitors can read homophobic slurs. The tents and their contents are set against the backdrop of a sound installation which features a church organ interpreting bird songs. The tents transform the former church space into a place of current queer being.

The exhibition’s title is a poetic allusion and refers to an impossible semantic connection: birds don’t produce milk. The other "spirits" refer to mental spirits, but, banally, could also refer to alcoholic spirits. Očko explores the twists and turns of language and their ambiguity with these terms.

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