With the cultural marginalization of animals, as John Berger calls the relationship of modern man to animals, which took place throughout the 20th century, animals, along with a number of other products of capitalism, became primarily consumer goods. The relationship of coexistence and magical belief that man once cultivated to animals is a surviving archaism. Today, animals are needed by humans primarily for food, for entertainment, and as pets. In the meat processing industry, animals are handled like any other production product. On the contrary, pets are completely personified, as their owners often perceive them as extensions of their personality or as independent persons who are part of the family. Exotic animals, completely isolated from their natural habitat, shown off as rare commodities in an artificially constructed zoo environment and are a spectacle for the masses.
The series In the Gallery of Tomaž Črnej was created for reasons that are the driving force of all the author’s projects – questioning certain cultural and behavioral patterns. By differentiating production and consumption within the capitalist system, the customer of the final product is completely separate from the process of their creation. This type of separation also makes it possible to conveniently cover up parts that could distract, upset or otherwise deter the consumer from buying it. At the same time, the author (self) questions whether we are ready to actually see what we know to exist. In the series In the Gallery, he thematizes that part of the meat processing industry that we are often unaware of or ignore when buying finished meat products – the slaughter of animals. As a meat eater, he was interested in that part of meat production which he is spared as a buyer of the final product – the slaughterhouse. Unlike the Koline series of Ptuj photographer Stojan Kerbler, first exhibited in 1982, in which the author documents the custom of koline in the village of Haloze in the 1970s and also contains scenes of slaughter, Črnej avoides the part where animals are actually killed, and focuses mainly on the premises where meat processing takes place. The emptied premises of the slaughterhouse, with their cold aesthetics and sterility, look surreal and give only a hint of what they are for. If in Koline, however, one can feel a touch of ritual sacrifice, slaughterhouses are primarily an excess that is symptomatic of capitalism. They talk about overproduction and general exaggeration, about the fact that man has finally established himself as the most powerful animal, but by cultivating other animals he has encroached on nature to such an extent that there is nothing more natural in it.
Tomaž Črnej (1963)
Tomaž Črnej is a graduate economist who has been more intensively involved in photography for the last seven years. He is a self-taught photographer who has perfected his photography skills at various workshops in Spain, Slovakia and Latvia. Since 2010 he has presented his work at various solo and group exhibitions at home and abroad (Austria, Italy, USA, Israel…) and received several awards and nominations, including the first prize at the Slovenian Press Photo 2010, in the category of people. In addition to photography, he is also interested in a moving image. He made a music video (Les Machines Molles feat Son of the Velvet Rat – You Know, 2011) and two documentaries (Marcos López frente a la pizzara, 2011; Napalm Your Personal Disco, 2010–2011, in collaboration with Marko Požlep). He lives and works in Celje.