International Festival
of Computer Arts

MARKO ORNIK: artist, producer, program director


MARKO ORNIK: artist, producer, program director

  • 29th MFRU
  • Retrospective exhibition
MARKO ORNIK: artist, producer, program director

The exhibition at the Vetrinje Mansion (Vetrinjski dvor) will focus on the work of the renowned Maribor-based multimedia artist, producer, and program director, Marko Ornik. The exhibition will present segments of his broad field of activity, starting from his artistic beginnings to later works such as Coffee to Go, video works collected and edited for the exhibition by Mirjana Rukavina, sound works produced by Tomaž Štandeker, and Central Station (Centralna postaja) posters designed by Sašo Gorjup based on an idea by Marko Ornik. Finally, it will feature important excerpts from his many years of work as the program director of the MFRU festival.

Architecture of Levitation
Video works by Marko Ornik

Ornik's early creative period spans music, drawing, and painting. In the 1990s, he combined all three into video, computer animation, and graphics, beginning his creations in 1994 at the New Media Department of the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. During his so-called »analogue period«, Ornik transferred photographic motifs of family portraits, self-portraits, and athletes onto canvases. Usually using one colour, the images were depicted on the canvas as silhouettes, shadows, or outlines of figures. In his search for multifaceted layers of images and content within the »analogue«, he often used multiple small-format photographic slide films, stacking them into a pile and projecting it onto a wall or painting canvas. This created multiple visual layers.

Ornik treated found photographs of athletes with red oil paint, isolating them in a hermetic space, a recurring theme in his subsequent video and computer animation works. The analogue-to-digital transition expanded the possibility to process »found footage« video materials in depth, creating abstract animations, his own videos and graphics. He combined, layered, and processed these elements using sophisticated video editing, often intertwining them with sound to create an equal relationship. It was the technology of the 1990s that enabled him to do this, contrasting the technology and visual images of the 1980s, which primarily relied on »simple« contrast and symbolic imagery.

In his editing, Ornik transformed video materials into living matter, building spaces of contemplation with a sense of sinking and levitating, a description of his video works and computer animations he often liked to provide. These newly created, hermetically sealed video spaces by feel, to a certain extent always in darker colours, could either project abstract sensations or depict a hero and a Formula One driver navigating through them.

Computer-animated tunnel journeys, along with the building of corridors and video spaces for navigating and levitating, are defining constants in Ornik's original works. These moving images recurrently reflect and reinterpret the thought of Ayrton Senna, the tragically deceased Formula One driver, and Ornik's inspiration: "As soon as you touch this limit, something happens, and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high."

– Mirjana Rukavina, September 2023

Maribor, 26 Apr 2021

Dear Marko,

I've hung the flag. It’s flying above the river that runs through the middle of our city. Tomorrow is the Day of Uprising Against Occupation.

I’m late, I know. Late with this letter and late with finishing your Small garage book, which Bela has designed perfectly and which Brigita is calmly overseeing during its production. I haven’t seen much of Svetla. And yes, I must apologize to you again, once again, as I've done so many times before. Life gets in the way, and often we don’t make enough time for the most important stuff. And that's it.

Marko, on the following pages we will read Melita's text about you again and then your photographs, your snapshots – the moments you’ve pinpointed, collected, and captured – will come to life. I think, I hope, I know that you'll be happy with our work. Surely you would've done something differently, but… That's it. As it is only here and now.

I miss you.
– your friend, Miha

Random Access Memory

In 2009, Random Access Memory was the title of the 15th International Festival of Computer Arts (MFRU), marking the first occasion on which Marko invited me to participate. Reflecting on this makes things even more unfathomable. It was a multimedia event and exhibition entitled Arheonavti, which explored restored analog archives, the languages of television and its experimental processes from 1976 to 1979. Apparently, Sen/za TV, my reinvented satellite project, from which Maribor's Arheonavti also originated, came to Ljubljana in May 2009. Marko didn’t want to follow the project's anniversary broadcast via satellite signal, although, as he used to tell me, the idea of browsing the AMOS 3/EU communication system and its channels rattled his cage.

Later, while we were working on Arheonavti, he discussed the installation and the broadcast like an expert on the original footage and materials. I was surprised when he expressed his desire to move the entire reinvented event, satellite transmission included, to Maribor.

Such programmatic shifts demand vision and a lot of courage. Marko had both. It was his groundbreaking research in sound and image that drew me to Maribor after 2009. We worked in material spaces, including on-site locations and galleries, as well as explored mediums like video, TV transmissions, online environments, film, and music. For the Capital of Culture, we even built a virtual Metro in Maribor, a creative and playful information platform. Unfortunately, our attempts to bring this concept to fruition were in vain. We mapped all the underpasses and concrete holes in the city, which resulted in a detailed map. The provided digital models bridged the real with the speculative, leading the way to Maribor's virtual city centre. As a producer and program director, Marko has always been a patient, diplomatic, and persistent negotiator. I would have lost my sanity long ago navigating the maze of political intrigue and administrative hurdles. But Marko, he would calm down in such moments, settling into a nearby café, rolling a cigarette, and enjoying a coffee. He was able to pause the free fall for a moment, something so banal yet profoundly human, and convert it into a levitating calm. While we were waiting for our coffee, he would roll one, as thinly as only he could, and light it up. Then, he drew in the smoke, long and slow. And like so many times before, he would wait, sketching something in the air with his other hand, without saying a word, as if he wanted to model the future. He then exhaled the smoke slowly and continued, saying that we would sort this out somehow. And he did so in such a credible manner that all I could do was nod in agreement. It seemed as if, and pardon the comparison, his slender appearance was created to squeeze through the cracks within the two-dimensional spaces of hierarchically populated geometric forms that occupy our politically and administratively flat space in Slovenian culture. He knew how to wait patiently, squeezed between parallelograms, hexagons, and octagons, until the moment of success or the moment of rejection and resignation. That was just his way. Every time I visited Maribor and we met at a popular Spanish restaurant for a burrito or tapas and a beer near his studio, he would first take a moment for a cigarette. Only then would everything else follow.

Since the first MFRU festival, we have explored all his ambitious ideas, from the vision of the Udarnik cinema and collaborating extensively with the Capital of Culture 2012, to projects with the Youth Cultural Center (MKC) and the Inkubator Gallery, and planning a creative lab in the abandoned spaces of TV Metka at Koroška 18. In the basement, among other initiatives, he was supposed to be thinking about his own institute for art and technology, Uho;Oko. This is where electronic music concerts would have been hosted, and together, we would have revived one of the Metro stations from the 2012 virtual MetroMar. Ultimately, Pekarna MM secured the space, and Marko retreated to his Central Station (Centralna postaja) on Koroška cesta. We continued our collaboration there, focusing on Maribor’s historicization and set up an interdisciplinary exhibition, Crowbar Between Shopping Windows, in the gallery.

As I listen to his unfinished album Morphine Drops while writing this text, my mind is swirling with the anamorphic soundscapes he recorded and arranged with his then collaborator, Tomaž Štandeker. I remember the moment he first showed me the trailer for Koridor _ Live Cinema in his Radvanje studio. I watched it on a large screen. The images of a drone gliding along the walls of the abandoned Maribor Textile Factory (MTT) amongst the sounds of distant realms played out before me. Marko, a glow in his eyes, spoke of his plans to get back into the music scene and live performances. I had never known him like this, so passionate about his project. While I listen, somewhat absent-mindedly, to the footage of other tracks leaving the abandoned MTT in the video where it still stands today, a melancholic Tod den Maschinen replaces the images of dead machines in my mind with kilometres of distorted anamorphic geoglyphs, as if I were levitating above the Nazca desert in Peru. One cannot understand the scale of these designs on the ground without flying at least a few kilometres above them. Even when the track is replaced by the darkness of Morphine Drops and the noise, mimicking the sound of a gramophone needle at the end of a record, grounds me with its onomatopoetic cuts and scratches, dragging my consciousness back down to the keyboard and the dusty particles of my laptop, the soundscape is still out there somewhere, possibly in the Kuiper belt. It reflects, as constellations are mirrored in petroglyphs, on the black, desert varnish-coated rocks of Nevada, near the mining settlement of Baker. Here, a telephone booth once stood, abandoned and forgotten along a dusty road amidst the volcanic ash of the Mojave Desert.

I told him about it and about the revolving universe surrounding it. Marko wanted to see and hear the booth in person, and he envisioned it as a cohesive project. We talked about sound and calls. How the phone rings on a day covered in dark desert varnish and on a bright, starlit night, up until the moment it rings again and you lift the receiver to talk to a stranger from Japan, Australia, Asia, the Middle East, or Europe. Each of them simply asks you what it's like where the booth is. We likely would have visited it together if Pacific Bell hadn't taken it down around 2002. However, we were strangers to each other back then.

It's all within Random Access Memory. Marko expelled randomness from the fragility of analog memory, from the unwritten project, from the booth. He sent randomness out there, among satellites and into the starry sky, where his world was and continues to be mirrored. It looks back at itself through a glaze made of asteroid dust and reinvented worlds, including those unseen worlds unfolding behind us. Marko knew the Arheonavti, the explorers of the future.

–Miha Vipotnik
Beirut, 25 Sep 2023

MARKO ORNIK: artist, producer, program director
  • Text for the exhibition: Miha Vipotnik
  • Video (selection): Mirjana Rukavina
  • Special thanks to Brigita Strnad, Marko Ornik’s family, Tomaž Štandeker