Shady Laguna Resort

Marija Avramović & Sam Twidale

1/2/2019 - 20/3/2019

Welcome to the Shady Laguna Resort! This place can be anywhere on Earth: in an exotic paradise, or a place of your own imagination. Who knows? Enjoy, have fun, but be careful!

Two girls, Ada and Milica, are curiously sneaking around through the mist of hot air and wet steam. They are passing through dense tropical vegetation, which makes the system of swimming pools look not only as a recreational venue, but also as a desirable spot for rest and escape from reality. Scattered footsteps indicate that, just before the girls arrived, it was a site of wild partying. A radio is still playing some music, which is blending with the gurgling and splashing sounds of the water. A pair of shoes, nonchalantly left in the middle of the room, suggests their owner didn’t mind leaving the party barefoot. Ada and Milica now go into action. You’re wondering what kind of action? Well, that is entirely up to them. They might start behaving childishly or sophisticated, or even a bit wild; they might hug or push each other, or try on shoes with high heels, or….

Ada and Milica are two characters in a real-time animation who, thanks to a simple artificial intelligence, react to one another and their surroundings. Non Playable After Party is a unique video work by Marija Avramovic and Sam Twidale created in Unity[1], whose language and aesthetics resembles video games. Although the work formally looks like a video game, it is not interactive, which is suggested by the title itself.  Ada and Milica are two quite likable and playful friends created as non-playable characters (NPC); with the help of an algorithm, they autonomously choose, from a group of animations, how they react in real time. As After Party is created as a generative video, the girls never react in the same way, so it is different every time you watch it. In their work, Marija and Sam tend to combine artificial intelligence and contemporary storytelling, drawing the viewers into this new world the moment they enter the exhibition space.

We are introduced to this non-playable video by small displays showing us the portraits of the girls. It looks like the two of them are waiting for something. While they are observing the visitors, they seem dreamy, impatient, intrigued. The portraits are accompanied by the text written exclusively for this work, whose author, Luka Tripković, was engaged by the two artists to create unique narratives inspired by the Shady Laguna Resort. As we watch the portraits, Luka’s stories become part of the scenography. The stories do not offer explanation of the work: only some of the indefinite number of solutions and interpretations.  Marija and Sam see the cooperation with the writer as one of the approaches to their research of narratives, fictional characters in fictional landscapes, where the ambient manipulates the attention and empathy of the viewers. By using the catchy aesthetics of video games, they deal with the undeniable and everlasting need to endow the non-living phenomena and characters with personality, value and meaning.

Like film frames of the Shady Laguna Resort’s scenography, Marija Avramovic’s series of paintings called After Party allow the viewer to guess what kind of party took place at the pool that simulates a tropical paradise. The pools are often empty of people, with rippling water, surrounded by tropical vegetation and nice, yet slippery tiles covered, not only with water, but also red liquid (like in the work humorously titled Bassin des caresses or The Petting Pool) indicating an impossible and unstable place, sometimes completely abstract. Dominantly bluish tones of the wobbly shapes range from transparent to darker shades of blue and, quite opposite from the expected peace and quiet, might seem a bit disturbing to the viewer. The female characters, in their teens, occasionally come into sight: innocent and naive at their play. After Party gravitates to the point of exaggeration in portraying the pool as a place of both ultimate fun and great danger, as it takes only one wrong step to fall or crash: for everything to end in tears. The girls in the specific stage of life, known to be accompanied by turbulent psychological, emotional and ethical crises and questioning, are half way between childhood and adulthood. The works deal with the modes of behaviour and typical interactions related to childish desires, privacy and female friendship. In order to depict the moments so banal, every-day and characteristic of youth, Marija uses nostalgia as a means for the narrative and allows the viewers to identify themselves with the story. The work titles, such as I Can Always Tell When Adults Are About To Cry, He Thinks It’s The Ocean – It Is Just A Pool… are alone rather storylike, humorous, absurd and ironic, and quite often, intentionally written in bad English. As a young artist, Marija does not reject the influence of contemporary pop culture, but instead, wholeheartedly draws inspiration for her works from movies, books, rep music and video games.

Wet, with blue lips, exhausted from playing, swimming, jumping, we find rest on beach towels. In the Shady Laguna Resort, the two artists exhibit a dozen of embroidered towels, whose inscriptions in the corresponding style, wrap up the concept of the exhibition. Textile and embroidery are often present in Marija’s art. By the act of piercing, the textile and thread become one: a new, autonomous work that creates a paradox in which the softness of the textile and fineness of embroidery confront the aggressiveness of the very process.

After the party is done, we can only simulate it. Just like Ada and Milica, we can try to play out, over and over again, our own scripts that might have taken place in the real or virtual world. Free and light as the water that connects the four segments of the Shady Laguna Resort, displaced from reality, we transform our values easily and abruptly. In mutual interactions, these works create a fluid and associative story that illustrates the artist’s world of childhood, fantasy and memories.

Finally, we leave you to explore the Shady Laguna Resort on your own. The activities are unpredictable, and the utopias flexible. Enjoy your stay!


Sonja Beljić, Art Historian

[1] A programming language