MKC Amphitheatre
Split, 2023.

The relocation of the exhibition from the gallery to the stage of the amphitheatre’s space can be associated with its name. It is an anagram of the second part of the folk saying “koliko para, toliko muzike” (You get what you pay for). Therefore, the situation on the stage simulates the performance of a vocal-instrumental ensemble. The band on the stage consists of three installations, one in the role of the rhythm section, the second in the role of frontman, i.e., lead guitar, and the third in the role of the choir, i.e., backing vocalists. The concert, however, apparently has not yet started. The instruments are being tuned, Tikolo mikuze vocal-instrumental ensemble is ready for the performance, but the program will begin only when the audience by making an offer fulfils the first part of the proverb – ‘kokoli arpa’.

In anticipation of the start, we present the performers: at the position of the rhythm section is an installation consisting of a Bernardi chair, an electric motor, a stick, fishing line, a rubber ball, and a wooden object. This object, about thirty centimetres high, irregular in shape, like an island on an indented coast, is obviously hollow because a rubber ball hitting its surface produces a sound very similar to that of a bass drum. The shots are regular, like a metronome, but the echo is irregular. After the ball hits the island, it bounces several more times. The regularity is determined by the electric motor located in a box on the chair, under the left armrest. It drives a stick with fishing line on its top, which, like a fishing rod with a hook, has a ball at its end. The drummer does not sit upright on his low chair, but, like a fisherman, is reclined in Bernardi armchair.

Just as the fisherman took over the drum through Bernardi, so Don Quixote took over the guitar through the windmill. Namely, the frontman of the Tikolo Mikuza vocal-instrumental ensemble, is a mechanically and technologically rather complex installation composed of a metal structure, as a support, on the top of which is an axis that carries four levers on which, like the sails of a windmill, four guitars rotate. In front of the iron-guitar-electronic construction is a tripod on which, instead of a microphone, there is an elongated piece of driftwood with a guitar pick on top. That piece of wood certainly did not expect that after an eternity spent in the water, it would suddenly find itself in the role of Don Quixote’s spear with which he manages to brush the windmill, that is, touch its sails. And, thanks to the windmill’s precise performance, it produces chords in the same minor chord on all four guitars.

At the same time, the backing vocalists are tirelessly determining the intonation. The third installation is made of six wooden gymnastic vaults arranged in a pyramid. It is a simulation of a readymade, because the vaults, the wooden legs, were not bought at Bauhaus, but made by hand. Not only are the carriers’ legs not straight, but they are wavy, and these waves are all different, all vaults are different. Like soldiers in a machine, acrobats in a circus, or equally dressed girls in a choir who also have a choreographic task, stopped in motion, the waves are the folds of dresses. Yet, the backing vocalists are not producing the sound. The mu box produces the intonation before the concert begins. What resembles the bleating of a sheep, although from its name it would rather be the mooing of a cow, comes from a banal device for testing children hearing. The sound produces the turning of the device, the air compresses a membrane or a bellows, and the device is rotating by the windmill. That means that there are no backing vocalists, the frontman is the lead vocalist, and the vaults’ swaying on wavy legs is a scenography that suggests a dance movement that is, just like the musicians in the tones, stopped in it.

On the other hand, the blows of the ball, the chords of the guitar, and the sound of the mu box define a sound image, so if the ensemble’s program is conceptually determined by the name of the band, it means that it is not a rehearsal, but a performance, and there was money for one beat only.

Remembering Ruf’s former installations in which, too, the sound appears as an integral part, and even on a narrative level in his vocal-instrumental performance, it turns out that he has turned over a new leaf. Gone are the days when, for example, in “Medvjedolav” and “Pećina”, he sang and played the entire song without asking for money. Now he leaves his place on the stage to his instruments, which play as much as they are paid for.

But, regardless of the use of the singer-songwriter’s talent, Ruf is still not a musician, but a sculptor. He does not charge for a concert, but with an installation he portrays a contemporary scene that is in a standby position, waiting for someone to take out the ‘money’ for a gig.

At the same time, the protagonists of the contemporary scene are profiled. While some are leisurely rocking in their armchairs and are throwing bait sure of a catch, others are constantly trying to break through the membrane without reaching beyond the beginning, the trio are imperceptibly progressing during this time, finding freedom within the given framework, continuing to the previous attempt. Translating their characteristics into a universal symbol, the trinity on the stage illustrates the unity of the artistic being, which simultaneously includes surrender and renunciation and what is in between. And it is exactly the balancing on that border, as thin as a razor blade, that he recommends as a permanent form of existence.

It is not excluded that Ruf had a different starting point and that this interpretation does not affect his intentions. Especially if you take into account that in the previous exhibition “Acoustic turbo sonic momentum”, in which two of the three members of the current band appear, his basic setting was to remove any link; all three installations seemed to be surprised by the joint performance. If any link could be found, it would be the link to Harms, the one that introduces a development that the beginning of the story did not promise at all. In this case, however, he eliminated such a tendency by placing the installation on the stage. The intention is clear: his objection is dismissed.

In this sense, profiling and almost personalizing the actors, and since the text must be finished before the exhibition, I have to guess at the set up, that is, the arrangement of the band members on stage. Will Ruf be guided by medial, spatial, or metaphorical logic?

If the windmill is moved to the right, the vaults are placed in the centre, and Bernardi with the island on the left, an unusual audio-visual portrait is created. The impact of the ball and the chord of the guitar repeat cyclically and produce sound circles. So, it turns out that the visual triangle has an audio circle on each side.

If, on the other hand, it is similar to the usual set-up of a band on stage, the drum in the middle, the guitars on the left, and the choir on the right, then the plans gain priority, imagining the continuation of the paths that the movements, the stick, and the guitars have, a coordinate system is obtained from circles that are turned vertically one in regard to the other, so the path of the stick determines the left and right side, and the path of the guitar determines the upper and lower. And in this way, the coordinates within the spatial system of the scene are determined invisibly to the visible choir.

In the third variant, Don Quixote is in the middle, the fisherman is on the right, and the girls in dresses are on the left, which is the most logical thing, the installation with guitars, a “washed-up” guitar pick, and a mu box that plays the leading role in shaping the sound, so it is justified that it dominates the scene. The central position of Don Quixote is justified also in a figurative manner (following the analogy, the fisherman would be Sancho Panza, and the girls are virgins), as a symbol of artistic endeavour, a tireless fighter for an experiential interpretation of reality, the leader of the band Tikolo Mikuze.