Revisiting Heritage

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REVISITING H E R I TA G E Material from the conference Revisiting Heritage 7-8 June 2018, National Museum, Warsaw edited: by Marika Kuźmicz Conference Board: Liesbeth Decan, Sandra Križić Roban, Marika Kuźmicz, Annika Räim


Proof-reading: Christopher Smith Translation: Łukasz Mojsak Graphic design: Tomasz Zapała Reviewed by Dr. hab. Marta Leśniakowska, Associate Professor (Institute of Art, Polish Academy of Sciences)




Liesbeth Decan / “A” View on Belgian Art: Notes on Guy Schraenen and the Belgium-Poland Connection


Sandra Križić Roban / Not only on Women’s Day: Women in Croatian photography after the 1950s


Marika Kuźmicz / From Forgotten Heritage to Unwritten Stories


Leonida Kovač / Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Transmission, Transformation, and So Forth


Elnara Taidre / Discovering a Total Work of Art in the Home (and) Archive of Tõnis Vint


Jelena Pašić / The Transformative Potential of Gorgonian Photography: The Case of Miljenko Horvat


Lana Lovrenčić / The Petar Dabac Archive


Radosław Maciej Przedpełski / Elements of Think Crazy Topology. Encountering Neo-Avant-Garde Practices of Marek Konieczny through Ludwiński and Deleuze


Peter Tuka / The Avant-Garde and Post-War Totalitarianism: Július Koller and Conceptual Art under Communism1


Wiktoria Szczupacka / Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s

Warsaw, 2019 © Arton Foundation, 2019 © Akademia Sztuk Pięknych w Warszawie, 2019 Published by Fundacja Arton Foksal 11, Warsaw 00-372 Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw 5, Krakowskie Przedmieście St., 00-068 Warsaw ISBN 978-83-938029-6-8 ISBN 978-83-66098-32-9


Petra Skarupsky / Official Exhibitions from Czechoslovakia in Poland as a Tool for Remapping the History of Art in Central Eastern Europe during the Cold War


Łukasz Jastrubczak / Recollection of the Last Exhibition


Karol Radziszewski / Queer Archives Institute: Institution as an Art Practice


Pavlína Morganová / Performance Art: Remembered, Photographed and Filmed, Exhibited, Sometimes Even Re-enacted


Daniel Muzyczuk / Is It Right to Perform an Installation? Between Reconstruction and Performance of a Score


Agnė Narušytė / The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography1


Barbara Borčić / DIVA Station and Artists’ Archives


Laura Leuzzi / The Fourth Encounter in Motovun (1976): A Platform for Experimentation for Early Video Art


The great interest in neo-avant-garde art, especially from ex-socialist European states, which we are witnessing during the last decade, confronts art historians and other researchers in the field with new and raising questions about methodology, the interpretation and reinterpretation of dominant narratives and the “official art history”. This becomes more acute when dealing with so-called “new media” art. How to approach this huge body of material found in official (state) archives as well as “private archives” of artists and collectors? For example, on an interpretational level, is there a common source in neo-avantgarde practices throughout Europe that has been missed in dominant west-oriented canons? Or should researchers instead focus on the particularities having in mind different geo-political as well as social circumstances? These kind of questions raised frequently during the research process of the FORGOTTEN HERITAGE project. Gathering researchers from Poland, Estonia, Belgium and Croatia, the project focused on neoavant-garde practices in the countries of the “European rim”, with the aim of (re)discovering, (re)interpreing and promoting art practices that were mostly forgotten in the official international histories of avant-garde art. In our opinion we can change this situation by sharing digitalized artworks. Today


it seems it’s a common practice, but the question is if we use its all potential. This is why the core of our „FH” platform is the digitalized database, the repository, where we share a big number of data, like artists’ bios, critical texts and possible connections on many levels that link our artist together. Using the tools of digital humanities, this project will deliver an online platform – a repository with a vast amount of data and descriptions of particular artists and artworks but also revealing connections between artists and institutions throughout Europe. As part of the project took place also an international REVISITING ARCHIVE. We wanted to consider different ways of discovering and showing the past of art, as well as the reasons for such activities. The political and social situation before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain has shaped an artistic map that abounds in blank spots. Dominant narratives of continuous division between East and West discouraged research focused on the connections and similarities between artistic practices and the mutual impact from the late 60s onward. By having in mind the discontinuous and porous character of the Iron Curtain, the conference invites scholars who research different dynamics within “uncanonical” artistic centers and exchanges between artists in the East and West. The barrier had

a dissimilar impact in different periods of postwar history in Europe. Obviously, it was also not the only line that formed exclusions for these are present in every environment and result from both general and personal factors. The political turn at the early 1990s abolished the division between the East and the West only to

search? What do we find? Can artists have a real influence on the present by managing their past, making it available, mythologizing it, rationing it? What are their strategies pertaining to the past and what strategies can be adopted by institutions? Can we reclaim something that was once forgotten? To which degree the digitization of

a certain degree, and in many situations it seems to have contributed to a further loss of contact with the past. At the same time it revealed that the socalled artistic margins were extremely productive. Seen from the current perspective, the space “beyond” mainstream turns out to be much broader than it appeared from the vantage point of time and geography of the Cold War, which flattened and simplified the image of the world. In this case, “loss” is not only a figure of speech. Addressing the situation, we realize now how many works by artists who shaped the art scene in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s failed to enter the museum as a result of neglecting (at a global and local scale) and remained at the artists’ studios or apartments – inaccessible or poorly accessible to researchers, let alone viewers. The contemporary multitude of narrations, which we are witnessing at the moment favours challenging the (genuinely or seemingly) consolidated visions of the past and gives rise to several questions: What are the motivations of our research of this particular art of the past? Do our investigations imply that we still refer to a certain canon that we aim to verify? If so, what canon is it and who needs it? How do we

the artefacts and artworks from the past may re-create the image of art of the past and influence the image of the present? Is it possible to build a history that largely reflects our common experience even though we did not fully realize it? Researchers dealing with private archives of artists, who either worked in Central or Eastern Europe or had connections with these regions, are especially encouraged to propose papers so that research methodology can be discussed. The conference REVISITING HERITAGE is aiming to examine the ways of discovering and revealing the past of art and the reasons to do it. It is a pleasure to present you this book, which contains papers presented at the conference REVISITING HERITAGE. Conference was organized by Arton Foundation (Warsaw) in collaboration with KUMU Art Museum (Tallinn), Office for Photography (Zagreb) and LUCA School of Arts (Brussels) as a part of international project FORGOTTEN HERITAGE – European AvantGarde Art On-line. Marika Kuźmicz, Fundacja Arton Liesbeth Decan, LUCA School of Arts Sandra Križić Roban, Ured za fotografiju Annika Räim, Eestiu Kunstimuuseum


Liesbeth Decan / “A” View on Belgian Art: Notes on Guy Schraenen and the Belgium-Poland Connection

Liesbeth Decan / “A” View on Belgian Art: Notes on Guy Schraenen and the Belgium-Poland Connection

“A” View on Belgian Art is the title of a publication which in the context of the Forgotten Heritage project deserves special attention (fig. 1). It is a historical document that connects Belgium with the project’s initiating country, Poland. The booklet, which is not much more than a stapled pile of stencils, was edited by Guy Schraenen in 1984. It can be considered a sort of handout, accompanying a “lectureexhibition”, organized and performed by Schraenen, which featured eight Belgian artists (Eduard Bal, Leo Copers, Luc Deleu, Denmark, Filip Francis, Jacques Louis Nyst, Guy Schraenen himself, and Philippe Van Snick) and travelled to several cities in Poland (Łódź, Poznań, Wrocław and Warsaw) over a period of thirteen days (10–22 May 1984). In one of the first pages, where the calendar of the tour is included, the BelgoPolish enterprise is quite funnily visualized in a collage, juxtaposing a map of Poland with an image of Silvius Brabo, symbol of the city of Antwerp (fig. 2). (Legend has it that Brabo, a mythical Roman soldier, freed the Antwerp citizens from a giant who asked them for money to cross the bridge over the city’s river, the Scheldt. Just as the giant did with people who wouldn’t pay, brave Brabo cut off the giant’s hand and threw it into the river. Hence the etymological explanation of the name Antwerp


in Dutch: Antwerpen, coming from “hand werpen”, which means “throwing hand”.) Thus, Schraenen visually connects Antwerp, the place where he was based and one of the most vital centres of contemporary art in Belgium, with Poland. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, Belgium (with the cities of Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Liège as its most important artistic centres) was part of an extremely vivid area of artistic activity. Together with its bordering regions, that is the Dutch provinces Limburg and North Brabant (with Eindhoven as artistic hub) and the German state of North Rhine–Westphalia (with major art cities like Düsseldorf and Cologne, but also Mönchengladbach and Aachen), it formed the heart of the internationally known “artistic triangle” of Paris-Amsterdam-Kassel (or “quadrangle” if you include London), where every travelling artist passed through, often stayed for a while, and met or even collaborated with local artists, curators and gallery owners. For example, in 1969 this region hosted the first international group exhibitions of Conceptual art (including many American artists) on European soil: Konzeption-Conception in Leverkusen, Prospect 69 in Düsseldorf, When Attitudes Become Form in Bern, Krefeld and London, and Op losse schroeven in Amsterdam. However, despite the highly active artistic scene,

1. Cover of ‘A’ View on Belgian Art, edited by Guy Schraenen (Antwerp: Archive for Small Press and Communication, 1984).

2. First page of ‘A’ View on Belgian Art, edited by Guy Schraenen (Antwerp: Archive for Small Press and Communication, 1984).

supported by progressive curators, gallery owners, and collectors, until the mid-1970s Belgium lacked serious “institutional” attention to contemporary art. Whereas in the Netherlands, for example, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam was established as early as 1895, the Museum Boijmans in Rotterdam in 1935 (expanded by the addition of the Van Beuningen collection in 1958), and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven in 1936, Belgium’s first museum of contemporary art – the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent (now SMAK) – was only established in 1975. This is certainly one of the reasons that Belgium, despite its favourable geographical location, has long

been considered “peripheral territory” within the international art world – a characteristic it shares with the other countries participating in the Forgotten Heritage project: Poland, Estonia and Croatia. As of the 1960s, Guy Schraenen was an important “promoter” of avant-garde art and artists’ publications in Belgium. In 1964, in Antwerp, he founded Galerie Kontakt, where many young Belgian artists had their first exhibitions. Following from the program of the gallery, with the intention of disseminating more widely the works of the artists he exhibited, in 1973 he founded the publishing house “Guy Schraenen éditeur”. The goal was to publish not only (artists’) books, but


Liesbeth Decan / “A” View on Belgian Art: Notes on Guy Schraenen and the Belgium-Poland Connection

also magazines, postcards, posters, multiples, visual poetry and sound works.1 However, the general lack of interest in contemporary art in Belgium and the limited commercial success of the publications of Guy Schraenen éditeur persuaded him to send the works to other small publishing houses and to artists interested in the same artistic forms. The response to this initiative was an immediate success, demonstrated by the publishing house receiving publications from all over the world. To preserve and classify these works, he founded the Archive for Small Press and Communication (ASPC) in 1974 together with Anne Marsily. The ASPC aimed at making its collection accessible to the public through the organization of exhibitions, lectures, radio programs and publications. The publication “A” View on Belgian Art, created for Poland, is part of this “mission”. In his introduction, “curator/lecturer” Guy Schraenen explains: “For material reasons and also because I mean that to approach the work of contemporary artists documents can be as relevant as original works, I conceived this lecture-exhibition by the presentation of various documents, slides, catalogues and posters.”2 So instead of being a classical catalogue of an exhibition of artworks, it is a sort of guideline or syllabus that goes hand in hand with a lecture he gave on this tour through Poland – the lecture being called a “lectureexhibition” as it was largely illustrated with documents, books, magazines, posters, and pictures the artists had provided him. Regarding his selection of artists, in the be-


ginning of the introduction he states: “I deliberately excluded traditional painting and sculpture. … My interest went to artists exploring unknown fields, using unexpected materials and where the conception is fundamental for their creation and also that those artists are acquainted with an evolution out of the traditional commercial network.”3 In line with his publishing work, which he saw as a form of critical engagement and an alternative to the marketdriven art world,4 his travelling, lecturing and performing with artists’ documents, among other ASPC activities, aimed at dissemination of work that was conceived in a free artistic manner, unspoiled by commercial pressure. Indeed, the eight participating artists were young (they made their debut in the late 1960s and early 1970s – with the exception of Eduard Bal (1927–1999), who was older and started in the 1950s as a classical painter), and, following in the footsteps of figures like Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1976) and Panamarenko (born 1940), worked in the conceptual field, having left academic rules behind and using unconventional materials to create their art. Hence their work was excluded from traditional art venues, but exhibited in places where the commitment to contemporary avantgarde art was certainly more important than commercial motives. These included many private galleries, e.g. Galerie Kontakt, Wide White Space (Antwerp), X-One (Antwerp), Galerie Richard Foncke (Ghent), MTL Gallery (Brussels), Yellow Now (Liège), Galerie Vega (Liège), Plus-Kern (Ghent), and

Galerie Albert Baronian (Brussels), and a few public forums, such as the ICC (Antwerp) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Ghent). One of the artists in Schraenen’s publication, Leo Copers (born 1947), even explicitly interrogated the role of the art museum, especially criticizing its tendency towards big, sensationalist exhibitions. This can be found for example in his performances as “The Blind Seer”, a picture of which is included in “A” View on Belgian Art (fig. 3). For the first time in 1977 at Centre Pompidou (Paris), and since then repeated about five times, Copers visited a number of large-scale exhibitions, keeping his eyes closed, wearing sunglasses, and holding a white cane, in which an eye is engraved.5 This absurd, tragicomic “guerrilla action” serves as a metaphor for many museum visitors who – according to him – do not really look, and for people who only pretend to be interested in art. Surprisingly, Schraenen also included himself as one of the eight participating “artists”, although he had no artistic practice as such. He explained that “publishing, collecting, archiving, organizing exhibitions or realizing collective projects with a certain constancy and a personal view, neither as an art critic nor as an art historian, contributes to the contemporary art scene.” He continued: “All these activities, if not creation, are undoubtedly re-creation.”6 To emphasize this statement, he included a copy of a typewritten text by Iowa-based artist Fred Truck, “director of The Performance Bank”, who supported Schraenen’s activities,

3. Leo Copers, ‘The Blind Seer,’ 1977, photograph of performance, published in Guy Schraenen (ed), ‘A’ View on Belgian Art, Antwerp: Archive for Small Press and Communication, 1984: n.p.

4. Poolse Avant-Garde, exh. cat., Berchem: Cultural Centre of Berchem, 1985: 1.


Liesbeth Decan / “A” View on Belgian Art: Notes on Guy Schraenen and the Belgium-Poland Connection

describing them as “no performances in the usual sense” but “straightforward everyday work in a corporate or institutional framework he set up in order to promote art.”7 Following Schraenen’s criteria to select artists working with non-traditional media such as documents, photocopies, etc., on the one hand, and international examples such as the pioneering initiatives by the New York curator and art dealer Seth Siegelaub, on the other, his inclusion as editor-artist or curator-performer in this hybrid field of artistic creation could indeed be defended. Besides, Schraenen’s photocopied publications and his mission to show contemporary art-work outside of the gallery space in the form of lectures and publications are closely connected to Siegelaub’s activities in New York in the 1960s and 1970s: The Xerox Book (1968), the famous exhibition in the form of a book, in particular. Conspicuously absent in Schraenen’s “A” View on Belgian Art are women artists. “Were there no great women artists in Belgium in the 1960s–1980s?” Of course, there were. However, very few are known. One immediately thinks of Lili Dujourie, Jacqueline Mesmaeker, Ria Pacquée, Liliane Vertessen, Marie-Jo Lafontaine, and Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, but then it becomes difficult to quickly add more names. Apparently, notwithstanding the supreme quality and originality of their work, when it came to presenting their work, certainly until the early 1980s, they could not emerge from the shadow of their male colleagues. Whereas on a global level the rise of the


feminist movement played an important role in the art of the 1970s, in Belgium that seems not to have been the case.8 This deficit corresponds with Gabriele Schor’s finding that “the movement was more visible in New York and California than in European cities”, as well as Lucy Lippard’s conclusion that “much of women’s work came out of isolation and feminist enclaves rather than a general ‘scene’”.9 Only sporadically did Belgium’s major forums for contemporary art display their work. In this sense, Schraenen’s catalogue is a typical example of the then strongly male-oriented Belgian art world. That said, what Guy Schraenen definitely did do was promote young, unknown Belgian artists on an international level, in particular in Poland, a country Schraenen felt a great affinity with. Interestingly, during his 1984 tour and other travels to Poland he met many Polish artists and curators/ publishers like himself, and also collected documents of their work. This eventually resulted in a huge exhibition in Belgium in 1985, entitled Polish “Avant-Garde”, displaying books, catalogues, magazines, photographs, posters, and all kinds of documents by over 140 Polish artists (fig. 4). His appreciation of the Polish contemporary art scene appeared to be reciprocal, as testified by a statement by Józef Robakowski (born 1939), a prominent figure of the Polish art world since the early 1960s, an experimental filmmaker, artist, curator, academy lecturer, cameraman, editor, and, for example, in the 1970s one of the core members of the Workshop of the Film Form.10 It reads:

[Schraenen] used to travel to Poland seemingly as a tourist to organize an exhibition of Visual Poetry. He came to Łódź … and Lublin. The time of martial law in Poland and the immobilization of public life…. Our contacts were broken mechanically. Letters were controlled and all parcels destroyed. But soon Guy Schraenen from Antwerp, an independent publisher, helped us and started to cooperate with us very actively. This contact was extremely fruitful as far as the exchange of information beyond official, institutionalized channels was concerned.11

control, censorship and suppression of political criticism or opposition, Poland didn’t allow as much freedom as Belgium did. The exchange between Schraenen and Robakowski, and the Forgotten Heritage repository, revealing all those artworks, produced in different contexts yet created in the same artistic spirit (e.g. using and questioning the same media), shows the potential of art as a powerful binding element, regardless of political or economic restrictions.

Schraenen and Robakowski must have been “soul mates”, for in addition to his creative practice Robakowski also initiated and led Galeria Wymiany (Exchange Gallery), which aimed at exchanging artistic ideas and instigating creative initiatives. Just as Schraenen’s activities reached beyond those of a traditional gallery owner or editor, the function of Robakowski’s gallery went far beyond merely displaying (and maybe selling) things; as we read in the Forgotten Heritage database, it also collected films, videos and documentation, produced video films and served as the contact office for the international artistic movement Infermental. Of course, as Robakowski indicated above, it was also the political context that made the encounter between the two “art promoters” special. As a communist state with varying degrees of state

1. Johan Pas, Artists’ Publications: The Belgian Contribution (London: Koenig Books, 2017), p. 131; www.guyschraenenediteur. com/about-1/ (accessed 26 October 2018). 2. Guy Schraenen, “Introduction”, in Guy Schraenen (ed.), “A” View on Belgian Art (Antwerp: Archive for Small Press and Communication, 1984), unpaginated. 3. Ibid. 4. Pas, p. 136. 5. Wim Van Mulders, Leo Copers: De Tentakels van de Schone Schijn, (Zedelgem: Stichting Kunst en Projecten vzw, 1988), p. 24. 6. Guy Schraenen, “Guy Schraenen”, in Guy Schraenen (ed.), “A” View on Belgian Art (Antwerp: Archive for Small Press and Communication, 1984), unpaginated. 7. Fred Truck, “Bond of Performance”, reproduced in Guy Schraenen (ed.), “A” View on Belgian Art (Antwerp: Archive for Small Press and Communication, 1984), unpaginated. 8. Gabriele Schor, “The Feminist Avant-Garde: A Radical Transvaluation of Values,” in WOMAN: The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s. Works from the Sammlung Verbund, Vienna, ed. Gabriele Schor, exh. cat. (Brussels: BOZAR, Centre for Fine Arts; Vienna: Sammlung Verbund, 2014), pp. 10–11. 9. Ibid., p. 15; Lucy R. Lippard, “The Pains and Pleasures of Rebirth: Women’s Body Art”, Art in America, 64 (May–June 1976): 75. 10. Marika Kuźmicz, “Workshop of the Film Form”, in Marika Kuźmicz & Łukasz Ronduda, Workshop of the Film Form/Warsztat Formy Filmowej (Berlin: Sternberg Press; Warsaw: Arton Foundation, 2017), p. 145. 11. Józef Robakowski, “The Conservator of Ideas: An Interview with Józef Robakowski by Maria Morzuch”, Kolekcja Multimedalna. Galerii Wymiany Józefa Robakowskiego (Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki, 1998), p. 10.


Sandra Križić Roban / Not only on Women’s Day: Women in Croatian photography after the 1950s

Sandra Križić Roban / Not only on Women’s Day: Women in Croatian photography after the 1950s

The role of women photographers was rarely considered in the history of art in Yugoslavia. Existing reviews of this topic are inadequate as they largely bypass the problem of women’s rights in photography, while a discussion of their economic and social position has yet to take place. Before introducing the work of a few artists active in the second half of the twentieth century whose aspirations in photography represent their own position as well as the wider position of women in culture and society, let me draw attention to a few innovative female photographers active between the two World Wars. Ivana Tomljenović Meller (1906–1988) was a photographer and graphic designer who studied at the Bauhaus art school. A small number of photographs from her student days, in the typical Bauhaus style, are mostly portraits taken from dominant, diagonal angles. She also used photography in her own graphic design projects, and several of the photographs she took while she was studying can be related to New Objectivity, mostly because of their characteristic visual accuracy and focus on a precise form. Anita Antoniazzo (1907–2003) appeared on the city of Rijeka’s photography scene some time before the Second World War. At the first Inter-City Exhibition of Artistic Photography in Rijeka and its Sušak neigh-


bourhood (1940), she displayed Photogram, one of the first such works by a female photographer in Yugoslavia. Double exposures and photograms with screws, nails, and pliers were presented to the public as her “boldest works”,1 and her interest in futurism was also touched upon. In the first years after World War II, there was only one event bringing together women photographers: the traditional group exhibition held in Zagreb every year to mark Women’s Day. In that period women in Yugoslavia entered photography relatively late and not without problems.2 Although women achieved an equivalent gender status and could work without being paid less or treated as a “weaker sex” after the end of World War II, the situation was different in the field of photography. Among other reasons, this may have been because photography was considered a “skill” that was therefore more suitable for men than for women. The fact that there was no academy where one could study photography meant that the majority of people learnt about photography through photo clubs. Moreover, the theory and criticism of photography were insufficiently and, indeed, rarely taught at the university level.3 The rare overviews dedicated to women’s photography from the 1950s until the 1990s often include only basic information, without

approaching the topic of the female gaze in greater depth. It is known that Đuro Griesbach, a photographer and the president of the Zagreb Photo Club for many years, used to speak of “tender emotions of the female type” whenever women performed in public. In his introductory speeches, he often “praised female beauty and wisdom, invoking Zeus, Olympus, gods, and elves”.4 Despite his peculiar statements, Griesbach supported the establishment of a female offshoot of the Zagreb Photo Club in 1973, which allowed women who had joined the club in the preceding years – and up until 1950 about a hundred such members are mentioned – to form stronger connections with other female members, and begin exhibiting their work together. The mass media did not treat female photographers any better, however. Slavka Pavić, a photographer who is still active today, was often described in media coverage as a housewife. In texts published in popular newspapers and magazines specific – and mostly banal – motifs photographed by women were often mentioned: “Women work unobtrusively, they photograph landscapes, portraits… they choose quiet places where nobody disturbs them, models whom they know well, motifs they are familiar with.”5 Exhibitions dedicated to the work of women photographers started taking place in the early 1970s at a small gallery in Zagreb that was to be dedicated to the general promotion of photography. The Art Photo-graphy Gallery was inaugurated in 1973.6 However, only a few exhibitions have been organized to date. The first exhibition

featured already-familiar female photographers of various generations, and judging by a leaflet for the exhibition, a standard range of motifs and visual poetics were chosen, all of which show an adherence to the general characteristics of the art scene of the era. In the same year that the women’s photo club held their exhibition at GUF, the Croatian Association of Artists of the Applied Arts (ULUPUH) held an exhibition at the prestigious Art Pavilion in Zagreb. Only one female photographer, Marija Braut, participated in that exhibition, and this ratio of female to male artists would remain a fixture of most such exhibitions for a long time. In the period after World War II, there was a growing interest in, and research on, avant-garde experiences from the period between the wars. As for the Croatian scene, a crucial phenomenon was the emergence of EXAT 51 (Experimental Atelier, founded in 1951), an art group whose members abandoned the conventional norm of separate art disciplines in favour of their synthesis: it was the first time that the difference between the so-called fine and applied arts was disregarded. They functioned as an opposition against the dominant cultural doctrine of academic realism, which suited the political climate in the postwar period. In that period, the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb was founded (1948). It existed for only six years but left a considerable mark on the many artists who were trained there. One of them was Lidija Laforest, a designer whose opus has been acknowledged only recently, towards


Sandra Križić Roban / Not only on Women’s Day: Women in Croatian photography after the 1950s

1. Anita Antoniazzo Bocchina, Photogram, 1938, courtesy of Museum of the City of Rijeka

2. Lidija Laforest, Proposal for the cover of No Exit (Huit Clos) by Jean-Paul Sartre, mixed media, 1960s, courtesy of the family


the end of her life, while her photography has remained completely overlooked. Laforest graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in 1955 and then worked as a graphic artist at the photo laboratory and as an aesthetic design counsellor at the Federal Centre for Professional Training in Zagreb. In 1961, she passed her Master Exam in Photography in order to manage the family atelier in Herceg Novi (Montenegro), which secured her financial independence. Laforest was the first woman photographer in the post-war period to experiment with various techniques and artistic procedures, a fact that has only recently been discovered. This inclination can be traced back to her training period, during which she gathered basic knowledge on various media, expanding it through her own research. Her abstract drawings mirrored the aestheticism of the 1950s, in the national context primarily represented by EXAT 51. Owing to this group, artists began to engage more freely with media and forms, combining various procedures and exploring the possibilities offered by their fusion. Laforest primarily worked in the medium of drawing, which she applied in graphic design, mural painting and various other forms. At the same time, she was active in photography, which is why the combination of media in her photo graphics, produced mostly in the 1960s, is hardly surprising. She was also interested in photographs produced without a camera and experimented with a technique, popular at the time, which involved multiplying

contact prints as black-and-white negatives. She also combined anthropomorphic forms, juxtaposed in various positions and at brief time intervals. Some of her artworks seem to have been influenced by the contemporary musical events she attended, such as the avant-garde Music Biennial in Zagreb during the 1960s, and may also be related to some rare similar examples in experimental photography from the first half of the 1950s created by Mladen Grčević.7 His work, in a certain way, evokes Laforest’s biomorphic photograms, and it is quite likely that she attended his lectures at the Academy of Applied Arts. Thus, her abstract photo-experimental compositions from the 1960s may be traced back to the geometric abstraction that emerged in the early 1950s. Some of Laforest’s work manifestly continues that of EXAT 51’s members, especially Aleksandar Srnec and Vlado Kristl. Here one should especially mention the New Tendencies movement, which encouraged experiments with the emerging technical media and optical research of the time. In 1958, Lidija Laforest visited the Expo in Brussels. The preserved negatives document the chronology of her photographic interests: she was most fascinated by the Atomium as the main sensation of the fair, but also by the Yugoslav pavilion designed by Vjenceslav Richter, also a member of EXAT 51, which attracted great attention. In one of the pavilions, she photographed her own reflection in a mirror, with the illuminated Atomium in the background. The almost completely

dark figure of the artist with a Rolleiflex in her hands is a rare example of such a self-portrait in the history of Croatian women’s photography. Even though one might interpret the image as the photographer positioning her-self as the subject (reminiscent of Vivian Maier, for example), it is in fact more of a note made in passing. In this photograph, Laforest documented her professional status, reflected in the position of the camera and her body posture unique to her opus, which she would never again repeat. The national photography scene developed in the wake of life photography, which was largely promoted by travelling exhibitions such as The Family of Man, or the international photography published in the German magazine Stern. The popularity of the basic narratives that the photographs told was easily recognized and accepted by the general public. Street scenes, portraits, intimate scenes – many of these ended up in the local print media. The editors saw such photo-editorials as a way of contributing not just to women’s photography but to the idea of women as social subjects. One of the leading daily newspapers, Večernji list, was up until 1977 the major sponsor of exhibitions featuring the work of female photographers, and other media outlets likewise frequently published articles with titles like “Through the Female Eye” or “Female Admirers of the Magical Eye”.8 Solitude, symbols of ageing and recollection, foggy scenes, crumbling façades, discarded objects: all of these are frequent motifs


Sandra Križić Roban / Not only on Women’s Day: Women in Croatian photography after the 1950s

found in their work. Zlata Vucelić fairly well represents specific aspects of the women’s photography scene in the late 1960s and the 1970s. She was the only woman to participate in the Possibilities 72 exhibition, with an installation featuring portraits of Romani girls.9 However, she did not transform her documentary style into one based on the study of representation, at a socio-critical time when many felt the need to comment on society. Appealing because of its difference, her Gipsy Girls installation maintains a level of formal distance in the observer, who does not take responsibility for the image that they have left us, while the body language of the subjects and the background speak of a complete detachment from the social context. Although certain experiments and research offer an insight into the “ideological diagram” of a photographic medium, on the basis of which we become acquainted with the social mentality, moral habitus, and cultural physiognomy of a particular time or setting, they are quite rare in the period after World War II. In the late 1960s and especially in the 1970s, photography became a field of knowledge, experience, and memory, whereby the visual aspect based on the question “how” was no longer the focus. This “extended” significance of photography was a result of ethical decisions and the need to introduce a new language. In the local context, it is as though we were bypassed by the themes that elsewhere were being used to question the con-


struction of social identities, the criticalassociative assembly of images and text. It will therefore be difficult to place Croatian women photographers in the context of the critical discourses about photography and representation that were being held in other parts of the world during this period. Nevertheless, a certain number of experiments and concepts indicate the importance and variety of the relationships that female artists establish with social reality, in which they are active and to which they make frequent reference.

3. Lidija Laforest, Untitled, photo-graphic, luminogram, early 1960s, courtesy of the family


Sandra Križić Roban / Not only on Women’s Day: Women in Croatian photography after the 1950s

1. Ervin Dubrović, “Amateur Photography in Rijeka 1890–1940”, Photography in Croatia (Zagreb: MUO, 1994), p. 263 Although we do not have strong evidence for it, we could relate her interests to the travelling exhibition Film und Foto organized by the Deutscher Werkbund, which was held in Zagreb in 1930. Among the show’s many exhibits, visitors saw photograms by Man Ray. 2. In this paper, I am only dealing with the Croatian part of it. 3. In the 1990s, this situation changed with the establishment of an MA programme in photography at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb, but for earlier generations this improvement had come too late. 4. Ana Lendvaj, “Ženska fotorevolucija” (The female photo-revolution), Večernji list, 17 February 2002, pp. 26–27. 5. Words of Danijela Lušin, photography professor at ŠPU, in Branka Hlevnjak, Fotografkinje: Prilozi povijesti hrvatske fotografije 1870–2000 (Women photographers: Contributions to the history of photography in Croatia 1870–2000) (Zagreb: DPUH, 2005), p. 34. 6. Galerija umjetničke fotografije (GUF). 7. I am referring to the Luminogram created in 1953, after Mladen Grčević listened to the first Zagreb post-war performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. 8. Hlevnjak, p. 36. 9. Mogućnosti 72, exhibition of contemporary photography in Croatia, held at the Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb.

4. Lidija Laforest, Untitled (Optical Research), mixed media, 1960s, courtesy of the family



Marika KuĹşmicz / From Forgotten Heritage to Unwritten Stories

Marika Kuźmicz / From Forgotten Heritage to Unwritten Stories

The concept for Forgotten Heritage: European Avant-garde Art Online and realization of this international project resulted from several years of activity by the Arton Foundation, which I founded in 2010, and establishment of the foundation was in turn tied to a two-year study I had completed on conceptual photography in Poland. On the basis of that study I prepared a large group exhibition.1 After it opened, I wanted to focus on my doctorate, and I didn’t consider launching my own organization. It turned out otherwise, as the study revealed a dire need for elaboration of many archival resources. At the beginning of my research I planned the work differently, hoping for fruitful research in state institutions, but the result was primarily a search through private archives, as access to the works of interest to me in museums was limited. Thus, in moving from studio to studio, drawing on the works, catalogues and other sources I found there, I tried to reconstruct a map of the Polish avant-garde of the 1960s and 1970s. Often I was struck by how many artists who played a key role at that time in the artistic community were not to be found in contemporary institutional canons, and on top of that, their works were practically inaccessible. This was the most important reflection I took away from the process of working


on the exhibition. Substantively it seemed unconnected to the exhibition, but in essence it said much about the state of research on Polish art of the second half of the twentieth century: the picture of it was fragmentary, and the neglect in this area was glaring. This situation began to change to some degree with the studies published at that time, such as Conceptualism in the Polish People’s Republic by Luiza Nader2 and Polish Art of the 1970s by Łukasz Ronduda,3 but in reality these publications did not increase access to the substantial resources of art stored by the artists in their homes and studios. A simple and seemingly obvious idea for overcoming this situation was the methodical archiving and digitalization of the materials I had the opportunity to examine during my research. The foundation I head was established with this aim, and the first repository was created, containing resources of art from the 1970s, which was subsequently expanded. Every year from three to five resources could be digitalized and archived, depending on the size of the given archive. The digital database launched in 2014 was functional and easy to use, but it had a fundamental drawback typical for most databases of this type: while offering access to a work, it did not offer users information about the context in which the work was

created, the relations between the creator of the work and other artists and the relevant community. Then the idea arose to create a repository that would also provide access to such information. As a foundation, we also established cooperation with other institutions from the broader region, including Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and other countries. This cooperation generated reflections on the similar situation of artists working during a certain period, particularly in media like film, photography and video. In general, the situation was that the oeuvre of many of them remained unexamined and inaccessible, or at best functioned locally, without a broader context. Thus, with the institutions that subsequently became par-tners for the Forgotten Heritage project, we decided to create a common database containing scans and reproductions of works, and information about the artists, and into which the relevant data could be entered

which would generate a picture of the specific artistic circles at the given time, the relations and connections between the artists (fig. 2–3). The result of this work, lasting over two years, was the creation of the database, scanning and making available several thousand works and documents online, without the need for users to log in or pay any fees. Along the way, our inquiry and research revealed the next field of art from the 1960s and 1970s requiring elaboration, namely the archives of female artists. (fig. 1) In Poland, other countries of the region, and Europe as a whole, women artists had contributed greatly to shaping various trends in contemporary art and specific media, but their accomplishments had been drastically marginalized, or one could say subjected to double or multiple exclusion: due to their functioning behind the Iron Curtain, the social context, and on the basis of sex.

1. Database Forgotten Heritage


Marika Kuźmicz / From Forgotten Heritage to Unwritten Stories

It remains an open question whether the results of this marginalization can be reversed. To grasp what we are losing by not fighting for rewriting female artists into the narrative they disappeared from, I will briefly discuss three examples of Polish women artists and their specific projects which had never before been elaborated, and none of whom had undergone any deeper examination, and finally, what it is that specially ties them together. The works of Barbara Kozłowska (1940– 2008) and Jolanta Marcolla (born 1950) have already found their place in the Forgotten Heritage database. However, the works of the third artist I will discuss here, Jadwiga Singer (1952–2012), have not yet been made available. The materials involving Singer which I found in the last six months of implementation of the project require careful elaboration and the commitment of more time. Nonetheless, it was the fate of Singer’s oeuvre and her biography that inspired me to consider applying for another grant in the Creative Europe programme, as they offer a particu-larly drastic example of researchers’ neglect of artistic attainments. Nonetheless, I would like to begin with Barbara Kozłowska. She was a graduate of the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts, and earlier, around the mid-1960s, she began to seek new artistic solutions, departing from traditional media, becoming one of the founders of the progressive Wrocław artistic circle. In the mid-1950s Wrocław became a dynamic avant-garde scene. Several factors contributed to this situation. After the Second World War the city had the status


of part of the “Recovered Territories”, as the former German regions ceded in western Poland were dubbed by the communist authorities. Wrocław became a playing ground for the authorities, who often took decisions offering interesting incentives for the artistic community. It was here, during the period of the “October Thaw” of 1956, on the wave of spontaneously formed student communities, and student theatres along with them, that one of Poland’s most important precursor circles of performance art developed. Zbigniew Makarewicz, the future husband of Barbara Kozłowska, was a spectator and later also a participant in these events. The two artists met at the academy and became partners personally, and also artistically in the second half of the 1960s. Together (and also with the involvement of Ernest Niemczyk, Wiesław Rembieliński and Ryszard Zamorski), they executed Ciągłe spadanie (Constant falling), an action between environment art and performance art held at the Museum of Architecture in between scheduled exhibitions. The artists arranged an empty space, building ephemeral structures there out of “found objects” – packaging from used film canisters (fig. 2) – which became the background for effects of light (colourful changing light throughout the space), sound and motion. Every day visitors encountered different arrangements of motion made by a dancer/actor performing in their midst in a black body stocking. Every day, over several weeks, Ciągłe spadanie attracted numerous viewers, but the artists’ work was dismantled under mysterious circumstances

in early March 1968. At that time student protests were underway which were brutally suppressed by the militia and the Security Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Under these circumstances, it is more than likely that the Security Service was also behind the removal of the entire exhibition. Makarewicz recalled that when he showed up at the museum one day to prepare for the evening performance, he found an empty space. All the elements of the installation had disappeared and none of the staff could explain to him what had happened. All that is left from Ciągłe spadanie is a few photographs documenting the artists’ actions. This was one of the early artistic events falling within the area of performance art in Poland, whose history remained unelaborated until 2017. Consequently, this event had no broader repercussions, was not

2. Barbara Kozłowska, Zbigniew Makarewicz, Ernest Niemczyk, Wiesław Rembieliński, Ryszard Zamorski, Constant falling, 1968, Wrocław, courtesy of Zbigniew Makarewicz

placed in a broader context, and was forgotten. Meanwhile, Kozłowska developed her own individual performative actions, particularly in her work Linia (Line), which was executed at various places and times. Linia was created from 1967, from the time of a journey by Kozłowska and Makarewicz to Lake Baikal. After that Kozłowska proposed successive stagings of the performance, the quintessence of which was her very presence, revealed within a system of journeys which the artist actually made or planned to make, as well as the utopian concept of demarcating a line running around the earth along which the artist designated points which she could later visit. She appeared (to the extent possible under the modest financial capabilities and travel restrictions in force during the era of the Iron Curtain) on various beaches around the world, where she would build cones of sand (herself, but usually with the help of people she met there), which would then be coloured in the Newtonian spectrum using powdered paints. The first manifestation of Linia was held on Lake Baikal, and subsequent manifestations in Łazy (on Poland’s Baltic coast, during the Osieki plein-air), on Malta, in Edinburgh and in California. Kozłowska continued creating art ove the following decades, also becoming involved in animating the Wrocław artistic scene. In 1972 she launched the Babel Gallery, which she opened in her own studio as an entirely independent site for creative activity and exchange of views. She was also a co-organizer of the Wrocław 70 Symposium, playing an important role in bringing


Marika Kuźmicz / From Forgotten Heritage to Unwritten Stories

together avant-garde circles in the context of this event. Why Kozłowska practically did not figure at all in the map of Polish performance art, despite her early and original works, remains an open question, but it was certainly relevant that the documentation of her projects was not the subject of interest of Polish museum institutions. Her work has sometimes been touched on in group studies, but there is still no monograph on her work, a lack that should be made up as quickly as possible. It is feasible because the artist’s complete archive, stored by Zbigniew Makarewicz, still exists. Kozłowska’s life and work don’t need to be reconstructed, only written up. Another artist who co-created the next decade of the Wrocław avant-garde is Jolanta Marcolla, who enrolled at the same institution as Barbara Kozłowska, the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts, in 1970, planning to become a painter, but she quickly abandoned that medium. As she explained, “I explored the arcana of the painter’s craft, studio drawing, the rules for composition and selection of colours, and it slowly dawned on me that I was stuck in a closed, petrified world of values – standing before the easel with brush in hand, one could only copy others’ accomplishments and draw on others’ experiences.” Marcolla took up photography and film, and was also interested in television, and following from that, video, which was practically inaccessible at that time. In the Studio of Visual Actions and Structures at the academy, led by Prof. Leszek Kaćma, Marcolla wrote her thesis, entitled “Study


of the Activity of the Visual Structure of Television Content for the Purposes of Advertising and Propaganda.”4 The text was based on earlier internships by the artist in a television studio, which introduced her to the rules for organization of work on television and the general methods for TV production. She took a critical view of the existing situation in television. A result of Marcolla’s cogitations was four video projects created at the TVP Łódź studio in 1975: Dimension 1, 2, 3 and 4. The films ran from five to fifteen minutes, but unfortunately we know them today only from photographic documentation. Invited to participate in the Fourth International Open Encounter on Video at Centro de Arte y Comunicación in Buenos Aires, the artist sent her only copy of the tape, and it was never returned to her. What remains is a set of photographs that are not just of documentary value, showing more than the work alone: they are among the few records, if not the only one, of the activity of a woman artist with a video camera in Poland in the 1970s (fig. 3). Apart from film and video work, until 1981 Marcolla was also the author of hundreds of photographic works, which remained within the analytical conceptual convention but also featured personal experiences with feminist content. She was the cofounder, with Zdzisław Sosnowski, of the avant-garde artistic group called the Gallery of Current Art (Galeria Sztuki Aktualnej). She took part in many important exhibitions in the 1970s, as well as festivals and symposia. She sent her works abroad via mail-art,

3. Jolanta Marcolla at TV Studio, making of Dimensions 1-4, 1975, courtesy of Jolanta Marcolla


Marika Kuźmicz / From Forgotten Heritage to Unwritten Stories

receiving invitations to participate in international artistic events. Did this protect her against oblivion? No. In the early 1980s Marcolla devoted herself to work as an illustrator at one of Poland’s larger publishers, and from that time she practically ceased to function within the awareness of researchers. It is only recent years that have brought reflection on her work as one of the precursors of video art in Poland and Central & Eastern Europe. This occurred despite a large, splendidly preserved archive, which, again, was not of interest to museums. Only in 2018 was a decision reached to purchase one of her works for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. I elaborated her archive as part of the operations of the Arton Foundation, and a large selection of her works is found in the Forgotten Heritage database. A monograph of the artist’s work remains to be done. The last example I will discuss here, but certainly not the last example of a marginalized and forgotten Polish woman artist, is a particularly drastic example: the story of Jadwiga Singer. Singer studied at the Katowice Academy of Fine Arts. In her second year there, together with colleagues from her year, Grzegorz Zgraja, Jacek Singer (her husband) and Marek Kołaczkowski, she founded the group called the Laboratory of Presentation Technologies (Laboratorium Technik Prezentacyjnych – LTP). The young artists also wanted to work in new media, but lacking the technical capabilities to use, for example, video cameras, they contacted the Silesian University of Technology, where


a studio had been established with professional equipment, including video cameras with two-inch tape. The unit was designed to modernize the teaching methods at the polytechnic, but in practice it did not fulfil its mission, as the students and lecturers made little use of its equipment. But for the members of LTP, the discovery of this studio and its resources opened up huge possibilities, and it is there that the first video works by LTP were created. Jadwiga Singer was the main theoretician of the group, author of catalogue texts, and creator of 16 mm films, photographic works, and performances. Characterising the field of interests of the LTP, Jadwiga Singer wrote: “The perennial human need to leave traces of their activity, the signs of their existence, is a stimulator of broadly understood transmission. The diversity and the broad spreading of the means of mass visual transmission in the recent decades of our century – these are the factors that have significantly influenced the extraordinary broadening of the iconosphere. All artistic disciplines currently borrow from that iconosphere, and thus research conducted in the fields of particular domains of artistic practice is becoming more or less the same. As a result, also graphic art, treated as one of the forms of visual transmission, shares many common features with painting, literature, photography, printing, film, television, video, science and technology. These means of formulating artistic statements become united particularly in the field of art, in which we encounter the use of graphic art, film, tape

recorders and other means of conveying information in order to investigate the nature of these means or the essence of art itself. We made observations concerning the mutual influences within different means of visual transmission (both in the sphere of aesthetics and reflection on the language of statements) during the work in the field of graphic art and they compelled us to take an interest in photography, film and video, which we treat not as a source of inspiration in graphic work, but as manners, autonomous and equal to graphic art, of formulating statements, which offer the possibility to pursue equally effective investigations into the problems that we want to share with the viewer.”5 After martial law, when the LTP group ceased to function, Singer withdrew from active artistic life, and over time fell into complicated health, financial and personal problems. She died in obscurity in 2012. Her only work circulating in the art world of the 1970s was the film Koniec koniec (End end), which sparked my quest for Singer’s archive (fig. 4).

4. Jadwiga Singer, The End The End, 1978, 16 mm

When I tried to learn more about her, I heard only that before her death the artist has fallen ill and probably threw out all her things. After a few years I practically gave up, and in 2017 I wrote off Singer’s archive as a lost resource in the article “Highly Limited Access: Women and Early Video Art in Poland”. But a few months before closing the Forgotten Heritage project I received word from the family of the artist’s husband, Jacek Singer, that the archive had been saved and was located in Zabrze It turned out that although the artist had fallen ill and no longer showed her works, she continued to create works and to maintain and secure her archive. It comprises over ten thousand negatives, many 16 mm tapes, and dozens of VCR and VHS cassettes. Given the volume of material, we were not in a position to include the resource in the database during that phase of the project. But along with the inquiry into Singer’s archive, I realized what I mentioned at the start of this essay: that female artists were and are at the greatest risk of marginalization. In Central & Eastern Europe, the second wave of feminism passed practically unnoticed, snatching away from women artists important tools of resistance against exclusion from the field of art, which is why there are more examples of the “disappearance” of female artists. The names of Kozłowska, Marcolla and Singer mentioned here hardly close out the list. Another great absence is Liliana Lewicka (1932–1979). In the early 1960s she carried out her radical street actions, and she was the creator of one of the most original


works at the First Symposium of Artists and Scholars in Puławy in 1966, but her date of birth and death do not appear in any study of the art of that era, not to mention any other biographical details. Zbigniew Makarewicz helped me determine them, but her legacy, if not lost, is still waiting to be found. There are more examples, but there are few avant-garde female artists like Ewa Partum, Natalia LL or Teresa Murak whose work became recognizable thanks to their great effort and strong personalities. This is why I would like to dedicate the next phase of our project, which I hope we will launch in the autumn of 2019, to women artists.

1. Konceptualizm. Medium fotograficzne (Conceptualism: A photographic medium), Museum of the City of Łódź, 8–30 September 2010. 2. Luiza Nader, Konceptualizm w PRL (Conceptualism in the Polish People’s Republic) (Warsaw: University of Warsaw Press, 2009). 3. Łukasz Ronduda, Sztuka polska lat 70. Awangarda (Polish art of the 1970s: Avant-garde) (Warsaw: Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, 2009). 4. Jolanta Marcolla, “Badanie aktywności struktury wizualnej przekazu telewizyjnego dla potrzeb reklamy i propagandy”), 1975 (master’s thesis under the direction of Leszek Kaćma, Department of Visual Knowledge, Studio of Visual Actions and Structures, Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts, manuscript from Marcolla’s personal archive). 5. Jadwiga Singer, ‘Przekaz – sztuka – grafika – KONSTRUKCJA OTWARTA’, in 7. Biennale Grafiki w Krakowie (Cracow, 1978).


Leonida KovaÄ? / Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Transmission, Transformation, and So Forth

Leonida Kovač / Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Transmission, Transformation, and So Forth

Summary: This paper is concerned with works of Edita Schubert (1947–2001), one of the most important Croatian neo-avant-garde artists. Although not recognizable at a formal level, in her conceptual works produced during the 1970s as well as in the later intermedial works, the heritage of Renaissance painting was continually present. Schubert, who was trained as a painter and, paradoxically, remained a painter despite her decisive rejection of “brushwork on canvas”, as in her specific analytic way she continually exposed exactly the trajectories and transformations of certain issues articulated in the works of the old masters. Moving through a variety of media, ranging from painting, photography and photocopies of photography, performance, and sculptural installations executed from the materials taken from nature, to her last work made as an internet project, she exposed the very concept of art as an “analytical proposition”. Key words: Experimental conditions, intermediality, reproducibility, time The procedure of revisiting heritage can be perceived as a fundamental issue in the heterogeneous body of work produced by one of the most important Croatian neo-avant-garde artists, Edita Schubert, dur-


ing her three decades of artistic practice. She was born in 1947 and died at age fiftyfour in 2001. She graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1971. The main characteristic of her work was ceaseless experimentation, which manifested itself in invention of new artistic technologies and imperative transgression of the rules of any given media – although she was and remained a painter, for, in her own words “painting is not brush and canvas”. This raises the question, “What is painting?” Bearing in mind Joseph Kosuth’s statement in his 1969 manifesto “Art After Philosophy”, “Works of art are analytical propositions”, I argue that Edita Schubert’s works have to be regarded as analytical propositions, or more precisely the history of Western European art set in experimental conditions. During a performance in the main street of Dubrovnik in 1981 she arrived carrying a sack made of fabric used for painters’ canvas. It contained props for performance that she called torches. The torches were made of branches from which the bark was peeled off and which were coated with a thin layer of bitumen, ending with the application of fabric immersed in wax that was bound to the stick with leather strips. In her early paintings, which art critics viewed as photo-realism, she never used

a projected photographic image, although a certain mode of photographic framing is evident in them. She was rather making portraits of objects in specific relation to their background. Summer Frock, the first independent painting she made when she graduated from the academy, articulates the topics that will remain the fundamental object of her interest throughout the thirty years of her artistic career, that is, the relation between human and non-human which manifests itself in the interplay of the figure and its background, and moreover the dynamic of absence and presence of the body that points to consideration of time as a basic medium. In the Croatian historiography of contemporary art, Schubert is highly appreciated for the series of painterly installations she made in the mid-1980s in the technique of acrylic on natron paper. These works were categorized as “neo-geo”, although their referential field is far from that of the American neo-geometric conceptualism that appeared as a critique of the mechanization and commercialism of the modern world. The geometrical patterns that spread across Schubert’s pictorial fields originate from stylization of the human figure and face. Right after earning her diploma at the Academy of Fine Arts, Schubert took employment as a draughtswoman at the Institute of Anatomy at the Faculty of Medicine in Zagreb. During her lifetime, Croatian art critics never found any point of connection between her employment and her art. Rather, she was perceived as a kind of dual person: on one hand a great contemporary artist, on the

other someone who used her artistic skills to earn a salary at a job that had nothing to do with art. But closer examination of her works shows that those two seemingly disparate activities were nothing but two sides of the same coin. In the video interview I conducted with her in the last year of her life, she told me that her art always had characteristics of dissection. In 1977 and 1978 she made a series of perforated canvases. It is significant that she specified the date of execution of the work in the function of its title. That indicates that she understood her deed as a performance. Canvas was first stretched on a blind frame, then she precisely cut the grounded canvas, a blue monochrome, with a surgical scalpel, and then turned the triangular cut-outs joined with the whole of the canvas at the base round onto the face of the painting and fixed it to that face with a sticking plaster. It must be mentioned that a surgical scalpel and sticking plaster were objects present at her workplace. Was she thereby showing the reverse face of the image? Of the living body that exists behind the image? At the same time she made the photographic Self-Portrait behind Perforated Canvas (fig. 1). Instead of painting her own likeness on canvas, in a performance for still camera the artist acts behind a perforated canvas. The self-portrait consists of sixteen frames, and in the centre of each one is a triangular tear. In the first frame the hand cutting the triangle can be seen, then an opening, then one and three fingers poking through the opening, then the triangular cut-out bei folded and plastered back.


Leonida Kovač / Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Transmission, Transformation, and So Forth

1. Edita Schubert, Self-Portrait Behind Perforated Canvass, 1977 (detail)


Then a nose appears through the hole, then one open eye of the artist, then one closed eye, and after that behind the canvas a photograph of the towers of Tuscania can be seen. In the frames that follow, through the same slit the artist’s closed mouth is seen, then come her clenched teeth, her tongue sticking out, her mouth puckered for a kiss, an ear pushed through the triangular hole, a lock of hair, and then the same hole plugged with cotton wool. Self-Portrait behind Perforated Canvas shows all the senses that exist beyond the painting. I was more than surprised during the aforementioned video interview when Schubert took a book on Renaissance art and showed me her favourite painting. It was Giorgione’s La Tempesta. She said she adored it because it is mysterious and completely incoherent. Looking back, her own oeuvre consisting of different phases in which she was basically practising examination of the very meaning of the notion of intermediality also looks incoherent. But only at first glance. It is obvious that throughout her life she was in very dissimilar modes exploring the idea of landscape. In hindsight, it can be noticed that her art analyzed, or more precisely dissected, all themes and motifs existing in Giorgione’s painting. For example, in Self-Portrait behind Perforated Canvas there is her gaze addressing the beholder much as the gaze of the female figure from Giorgione’s painting did almost 500 years ago. Furthermore, through the triangular cut-out of the cavas a photographic image of the Italian city Tuscania becomes

visible, showing rectangular towers reminiscent of those in the background of La Tempesta. The same motif will appear in her 1991 pictures in which she lined a painterly canvas with a photocopy of a photograph of rectangular towers in the Italian city Viterbo. Those towers will also appear within one of the levitating circles in her last installation, Horizon. In the late 1970s, at the same time she was performing dissection of the painterly canvas, Schubert made a series of sculptural installations in which she used branches of trees she cut in the forest. When I asked her how she hit on that idea she answered that “at that time art was completely desiccated in concept” and she felt the need “to start creating from decaying material, against all that had withered and died.” But what was that decaying material? The vegetation represented in Giorgione’s picture, considered the first landscape in European early modern-age painting, or the human being capable of perceiving time only through his own mortality? In 1977 she made a work entitled Herbarium (fig. 2). This is a series of eighteen drawings done with twigs, pencil and sticking plaster on paper with tactile properties indicating its origin from some once-living being, a fragment of which adheres to it. Herbarium shows very clearly the deliberate act of substituting a plant for an artificial or technological stylus, as well as the identity of material and referent of the image which metonymically signifies the concept of life. Herbarium articulates the question of the materiality of the medium, for in these


Leonida Kovač / Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Transmission, Transformation, and So Forth

drawings the twig exists at one and the same time as medium, material, object of representation, represented motif, and referent. In the video interview shot in 2000 in her studio at the Institute of Anatomy, I asked her

2. Edita Schubert, Herbarium, 1977 (detail)

3. Edita Schubert, 100 Roses, 1977


about the reasons she stuck on the twigs in Herbarium with sticking-plaster. She said that plaster had some other meaning, and affected nature violently, and she was interested in just this combination of violence and nature. The same year, Schubert made 100 Roses (fig. 3). She made two circles with a diameter of 70 cm out of the bent and interwoven stems of climbing roses. One is filled with the red petals of a hundred roses, the other with little leaves torn from their stems. Red and green are complementary colours, and modern painting makes use of their dynamic properties. But for me this literally territorializing work recalls the artistic fascination with Giorgione and his Tempest, not only because the painting represents the nature that Schubert here literally exhibits as art material that at the same time becomes the medium, but because of another work of the Renaissance master whose genome I can see in her geometrical abstractions, actually, in her cathedrals. In 1505 Giorgione painted in tempera on panel a scene of the sacra conversazione for the altar of the cathedral in Castelfranco. The painting shows the Virgin on a very uncommon geometrical, marble throne the base of which is placed on a structure like a sarcophagus. In the depiction of the Virgin, Giorgione committed an iconographical transgression, seen in the inversion of the colour of the clothing prescribed by the canon, which at a semiotic level signifies an inversion of the meaning of earthly and celestial. The cloak is red and not blue, and the dress is not red but dark green, like the leaves of the rose

(another attribute of the Christian Madonna), which Edita Schubert, centuries later, was to use in her performative territorial drawing. The base of the throne of Giorgione’s Madonna is covered with a double carpet. The lower one has woven, geometrical, vertical red, green and yellow stripes, and the upper one is decorated with a plant motif, which descends to the sarcophagus on which the throne stands. The nameless cathedrals (fig. 4) of Edita Schubert stretch along the walls of the exhibition space, from top to bottom, like opaque curtains ordering what lies in their background to remain mysteries. In their almost ornamental and ultimately symmetrical structure I can recognize a metamorphic trace of the structure of Giorgione’s painting. Considering the reflections of Renaissance painting in the cryptographic texture of Schubert’s works, what seems particularly significant to me is a 1977 work entitled Nürnberg, in which the concept of an object is set up as the basic referent. A box is indubitably an object. But what is inside the box, in its “emptiness”, is clearly not an objectthing, but rather an object of interest: the genesis of the image. The work takes the shape of a series of black boxes, specially made by hand according to original nineteenth-century canteens for silver cutlery. Three boxes from the series are in existence, numbered 1, 3 and 4. In the upper right corner of the outside of the lid of each of them the word Nürnberg is written, the number of the box, and the artist’s monogram, ES, enclosed in a circle. The interior of each of the boxes is meticulously lined with pasted

white paper on which, like a pattern of wallpaper, a motif multiplied by a photocopier is repeated, functioning as a signifier of the artist Albrecht Dürer. The inner sides of box no. 1 contain a photograph of Dürer’s house in Nuremberg, multiplied by photocopying, under which the artist has typed the words: “The last known photograph of Dürer’s house”. The work is signed under the photocopy of the photographic image of the house, in the bottom right corner on the inner side of the lid. In marker pen she has written “From a journey, 1977”, and then impressed her own stamp, the monogram ES enclosed in a circle. Box no. 4, according to the same principle, contains a reproduced page from Dürer’s theoretical work Vier Bücher von Menschlicher Proportion published in 1528, showing studies of the proportions of six male faces, and the text of the artist’s explanation printed in black letter. The interior of box no. 3 is lined on the same principle with “wallpaper” made by photocopying a photograph of Dürer’s special pen for line drawing in Indian ink. Under the painting she has typed the words: “Dürer’s Reissfeder”. At the same time as the production of the Nürnberg series, or From a Journey, in which Dürer’s Reissfeder became a metonym, Schubert shows her own, essentially different “Reissfeder”, a twig of a tree sharpened with a penknife, pasted with sticking plaster onto handmade paper in the corner of which is an old-fashioned plant monogram ES in a watermark. For there to be no mistake, on one of the sheets of the Herbarium, Schubert put a sharpened twig in a vertical


Leonida Kovač / Heritage, Legacy, Tradition, Transmission, Transformation, and So Forth

position and underneath it in soft pencil produced a little scrawl the shape of which recalls an inkwell. Clearly in this work Schubert was experimenting with the principle that Walter Benjamin called “technical reproducibility”, endorsing the proposition that with the invention of a reproducible medium, photography, artwork too, with it, became a reproduction meant for futher reproduction. However, in her work Schubert raises the issue of the actual meaning of the term “reproduction”. Avoiding exhibiting a photograph of the object, indeed, persistently exhibiting a photocopy of a photograph, she called into question that “particular link between the photograph and reality”, and accordingly the aestheticization implied by modalities of the appearance of an image on photographic paper. It seems that she was preoccu-pied less by the “loss of the aura of the original” and more by the extension of this, shall we say, “aura” – or, more precisely, the issue of the invisible origin of images, with an image being less of a retinal phenomenon than a mental conception. And so she set up a relationship between the discourse of the art of her own time and the discourse of what are called the old masters, which the historical avant-gardes, the art of high Modernism, and the neo-avant-gardes of the second half of the twentieth century radically broke off from. On paper at least.

4. Edita Schubert, Untitled (Chatedral), 1987, Installation view



Elnara Taidre / Discovering a Total Work of Art in the Home (and) Archive of TĂľnis Vint

Elnara Taidre / Discovering a Total Work of Art in the Home (and) Archive of Tõnis Vint

My paper is an attempt of reflection upon a research for an exhibition Tõnis Vint and His Aesthetic Universe (2012) at the Kumu Art Museum, the branch of the Art Museum of Estonia, and also for the book accompanying the show. This project was dedicated to a legendary figure in Estonian art of the second half of the 20th century – the artist and artistic thinker Tõnis Vint (born 1942). As a result, a very multifaceted nature of Vint’s art practices was revealed, suggesting an idea of a total work of art as a conceptual framework. Although Tõnis Vint is known primarily as a graphic artist and designer, his universalism and aspiration to a harmonious environment found materialisations that surpassed the two-dimensional nature of graphic arts. Starting at the 1960s, Vint has been developing his own conception of the visual arts. He believed in a possibility of a universal aesthetico-symbolic system, which would serve as a basis for interpretation and synthesis of new visual and spatial structures. The artist was convinced that those structures, in turn, would have a positive impact both on an individual and processes in society in a whole. As a practical implementation of his ideas, Vint has carried out interior design of his two home flats and one peculiar stage design; moreover, he has


suggested utopian redesign projects for the urban space of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Thus, a conceptual anchor for the project became the hypothesis that it is possible to discuss Tõnis Vint’s oeuvre in relation to the Wagnerian idea of a total work of art and avant-garde projects of the beginning of the 20th century, which aspired to transform the society through new aesthetical environment. The purpose of the exhibition was to show that the artist, so far represented in the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia mostly with prints and drawings, is also an innovative graphic and interior designer, a visionary and theoretician. For this purpose, a close study was made of Tõnis Vint’s works in the collections of Estonian museums and art institutions, but, most importantly, of the artist’s home archive. Returning to Tõnis Vint’s starting position in the art scene of Soviet Estonia, it should be mentioned that in the beginning of the 1960s he became a leader of the new artist generation. As a purpose young Vint proposed creation of an individual artistic language and accumulation of wide knowledge of the old and new art, as well as of contemporary culture and science. His ideal was synthesis of different art traditions and the newest developments. For the latter, somewhat

surprisingly, Vint found the resources in Pop art. At the end of the 1960s and during the 1970s, he introduced Pop art in articles and aspired to create on its basis an artistic language relevant for both graphic art and graphic design. Vint’s idea of synthesis was not limited by style: in his works, he combined Pop art with Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Oriental aesthetics or minimalist Modernist forms. “Pop Jugendstil”, uniting attractiveness of Pop art and synthesis of Art Nouveau, manifested in Tõnis Vint’s colouring book Into the Year 2000 (1972), which he had referred to as his visual manifesto. The artist used the children’s book as a cover for introducing the ideas of contemporary aesthetics that united the old and the new. For example, in the illustrations of future interiors, he combined the new Japanese-influenced design and elements from earlier styles of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, likewise influenced by Japanese traditional interiors. Vint’s conception of spatial synthesis took actual shape in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the total interior design of his home flat, which was based on the ideal of Japanese living space and intended to function as an integrated organism. According to Vint’s ideas, the minimalist interior allowed every new detail to influence its character, encoding the potential of a dynamic environment. The artist’s home was in sharp contrast to the environment of Mustamäe – district of panel apartment dwellings in Tallinn, erected mostly in 1960–1970s. Vint used to live in an environment created with the help of his aesthetic system and deal with problems that

transcend history and reality. Thereby he was developing a hermetic and all-encompassing theory, which only he could totally comprehend and manage. Therefore, in the beginning of the research Tõnis Vint’s work also appeared rather hermetic. At the time in the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia dominated his graphic compositions, figurative or abstract. In addition, there were some posters by Vint, made in a style resembling his figurative graphic works. For the publications the artist used to retouch all the reproductions, making them look very graphical and aesthetically unified, but imposing on the viewer a kind of a flat black-and-white filter. Vint’s theoretical publications provided good context for understanding his oeuvre, yet it was unclear how to open the potential of his two-dimensional works in the three-dimensional environment of the exhibition. However, the works of Tõnis Vint themselves suggested a clue to the solution. His stage designs for Rabindranath Tagore’s play

1. Exhibition Tõnis Vint and His Aesthetic Universe (Kumu Art Museum, 2012, designer Raul Kalvo). Design in 3D model


Elnara Taidre / Discovering a Total Work of Art in the Home (and) Archive of Tõnis Vint

The Post Office (1983, The Tallinn State Drama Theatre) from the collection of the Estonian Music and Theatre Museum, as well as the photo documentations found in the archives of the artist, demonstrated that there is much more spatial and colour potential to look for. Actually, the warm colours of the lattice-like stage construction were supposed to “feed” positive energy to the audience, functioning as a mandala. A similar case was the two phantasy architecture designs from the collection of the Museum of Estonian Architecture, especially Mandala House (1975), where meditation on an image was growing into a spatial experience. Stage and architecture designs were examples of works by Tõnis Vint belonging not the Art Museum of Estonia, but to the other museums: acknowledged, analysed and exhibited in their context, but not that much compared to the other works of Tõnis Vint or placed in more general art context. Bringing in again the topic of colour, a great find for the research were Tõnis Vint’s pop-like graphic designs of the end of the 1960s and 1970s, the best collection of which belonged at the time to the author himself. For him, Pop art had a meaning that differed totally from its Western origins, in which it served the criticism of consumer society. Under Soviet conditions, where a consumer society was basically non-existent, and its mediocre objects were made attractive only by the deficits, Pop aesthetics provided a constructive resource for making the environment more pleasant, humane, and integrated. Serialised and widely circulated graphic designs gave the opportunity for


the aestheticisation of the everyday environment through its individual objects, which found larger audience than works of art at exhibitions. Another important research phase was examination of the photographs of the total interiors of Tõnis Vint flats and comparing them with the graphic works of the author. Vint’s elegant and highly elaborated graphic works are characterised, on the one hand, by a medium-specificity and autonomy. On the other hand, these are models for something larger, which extends to the real environment. Vint compositions depict objects, familiar from his home, but also offer more general structures for the ordering of space – like geometrically-shaped shelves. Even Vint’s abstract compositions recall sometimes the interior of his home. Here we can see an aspiration to create universal structures which function both inside and outside the pictorial space, as a principle of formal and symbolic balance. Vint’s goal was to totally change everyday reality by creating a personal context. This is demonstrated by Vint’s second flat, which received a total design in the early 1980s, this time with an emphasis on Chinese aesthetics. Black geometric furniture was often comprised of standardised Soviet furniture elements that had undergone an unrecognisable metamorphosis. Despite the image of Vint as a sort of a hermit in a white tower, he was eager to share his knowledge, which reveals a sense of mission, an endeavour to reform reality by propagating his aesthetic principles to be adopted by a wider circle.

2. Exhibition Tõnis Vint and His Aesthetic Universe. View of the display with Tõnis Vint’s pop-like poster designs from the 1960–1970-s. Photo: Stanislav Stepashko 3. Exhibition Tõnis Vint and His Aesthetic Universe. View of the display with Tõnis Vint’s phantasy architecture and poster designs from the 1970s. Photo: Stanislav Stepashko


Elnara Taidre / Discovering a Total Work of Art in the Home (and) Archive of Tõnis Vint

4. Book Tõnis Vint and His Aesthetic Universe (Tallinn: Art Museum of Estonia, 2012, graphic designer Tuuli Aule). Layout with Tõnis Vint’s graphic work Japanese Room. Things (1975) and interior view of his flat in the 1970s

His home was a platform for the unofficial art life, providing a venue for meetings of the local intelligentsia and hosting foreign visitors for discussions and information exchange. From the 1960s and till now Vint holds open lectures, which became a source of alternative knowledge for the representatives of several generations. Vint shared his ideas also in other ways. The graphic design and publication practices did not merely provide sublimation, but rather an opportunity to participate actively in the creation of reality through the construction of different kind of aesthetic


models. From 1971 to 1977, Vint designed the Kunst art magazine, where he published a series of meaningful articles on his views of art and art history, starting with an overview of Aubrey Beardsley and PreRaphaelite art, and ending with the analysis of Hyperrealism – texts on not officially favoured art phenomena or aesthetic ideas. In 1980, together with Latvian director Ansis Epners, Vint made a film Lielvārde Belt that focused on the parallels between the folk ornaments of the Baltic countries and the traditional sign systems of other cultures in the world, stressing the

conceptual ability of ornament to express universal concepts, ideas and processes. Using cinematic language for juxtaposing images, film allows different visual signs to “grow” one into another, recalling the ideas of Warburgian atlas and its montage techniques. All the variety mentioned above had to be shown at the exhibition. In order to make the diverse materials work in one space, exhibition designer Raul Kalvo suggested a labyrinth-like environment which, looking from above, reminded works of Vint himself and helped to structure his different series and artistic media. Most of the works were displayed vertically, and there was only one horizontal structure – a light table for the display of Vint’s theory of sign systems. Although we considered an idea of a total installation with the Vint-like interior in the beginning, we ended up with artworks placed in frames, sometimes really big ones – showcases already. For this reason, a bit regrettably, photos of interior and stage designs on the display remained quite small. On the other hand, this provided a certain balance between all the exhibits. With the book, which had to be the first Vint’s monograph, we had more freedom of juxtaposing works in different media. Minimalist and delicate graphic design by Tuuli Aule helped to outline their unity in a variety. An important informational layer was comprised of photographs – so one could see how the interiors of Vint’s flats, his lectures, and his exhibitions looked like. Personally, I still feel sorry we were able to include only one architectural vision of Vint, as he

was still too sensitive about the fact that none of his utopian urban scenarios for Tallinn, suggested in the period that followed regaining the independence by Estonia in 1991, was accepted. At the same time, we were able to include in the book Vint’s draft designs for his compositions that truly reveal the laboratory of the artist. We were hoping that Vint would donate them to the collection of the Art Museum of Estonia, as he did with all the posters and other graphic design items displayed on the exhibition. But instead, about a year ago, he suggested another donation – drafts for the magazine cover designs and a set of the modular elements he used in his compositions: materials we were not aware before, while working on the exhibition and book project. So, the work with the archive of Tõnis Vint continues and there might be more new discoveries.


Jelena Paťić / The Transformative Potential of Gorgonian Photography: The Case of Miljenko Horvat

Jelena Pašić / The Transformative Potential of Gorgonian Photography: The Case of Miljenko Horvat

The study of architecture proved fateful for the artistic work of Miljenko Horvat, not only because architecture remained his professional orientation for the rest of his life, but also because as a student at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb in the mid-1950s, Horvat came into contact with painter Josip Vaništa, one of the most prominent artists in post-war Yugoslavia. Vaništa taught Horvat to draw, but this duo, driven by a spiritual/ artistic kinship, remained close for many years after. At Vaništa’s initiative, at the end of the 1950s, an informal group of artists and art critics called Gorgona was established, with Vaništa remaining its key driving agent in the next few years of the group’s activities (or, to put it in the spirit of the Gorgona group, its “existence”, as Vaništa himself said).1 At the core of Gorgona’s activities stand ideas on the rejection of the work of art as a material artefact, as well as critical questioning of the established aesthetic principles and institutional framework of art, while members of Gorgona most often used methods “beyond the category of visual art and … inaugurate[d] new ways and means of artistic communication.” However, as this paper will try to demonstrate, it was exactly the “Gorgonian” ideas that deeply shaped Horvat’s approach to the photographic medium, as well as his reflections on the categories of space and time.


Although during the 1960s Horvat was already living in Paris, and later in Canada, his communication with Vaništa remained agile, and was carried out mainly through a number of letters, which was entirely in the spirit of the Gorgonian system of activities, along the lines of “spontaneous intellectual games”:2 letters, texts, the exchange of notes in the form of “thoughts for the month”,3 were among the fundamental materializations of Gorgona’s activities, as Horvat would later point out that Gorgona was primarily “a way of living, communicating with each other”.4 The links with the philosophical foundations of Gorgona, embedded between institutional critique with results leading towards the dematerialization of artwork and scepticism towards the possibility of a full restoration of the human spirit after the still-recent war disasters, can be found in the historical avant-garde, especially Surrealism and Dadaism, with their lively traditions manifesting in local art history, as well as in certain contemporary artistic poetics that laid the foundations of conceptual art. Writing about Neo-Dada in music, theatre, poetry and art, Fluxus artist George Maciunas summed up the idea of Anti-art in the following statement: “If one could experience the world, a concrete world around him (from mathematical ideas to physical matter) in the same way that art is experienced, there would be

no need for art, artists and similar ‘non-productive elements’.”5 This largely coincides, for example, with the concept behind the “Noart” of Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos, one of the members of Gorgona. The group published its own eponymous anti-magazine, one of the clearest affirmations of its artistic activity and the essence of the Gorgonian philosophy, and Vaništa published two photographs by Horvat in the seventh issue of the magazine. The consistent presence of unusual motifs, often complemented with a veil of the mystical and surreal, is manifest in most of Horvat’s photographs, revealing an interest in “phenomena that had something strange and unknown”.6 A mystical episode, imbued with a gentle touch of the characteristic Gorgonian sense for the absurd, followed the creation of the photographs published in Gorgona: at one of the members’ meetings, Vaništa retold a short episode from Embahade by Miloš Crnjanski, in which Crnjanski recalled his own trip to the Danish city of Skagen in 1923, where on the beach he had taken a photograph of a dead seagull’s wing. When he returned from the trip and developed the photograph, he noticed that he had accidentally recorded his own shadow. That summer, intrigued by Vaništa’s story, Horvat included Skagen as one of his destinations on a trip to Scandinavia. While there, he took pictures of a dead seagull on the beach. Horvat’s photographs thus establish their own metaphysical mythology for the “Gorgonian spirit”, by no means inferior to the aesthetic and content quality of the photography itself.

Namely, time-related multidimensionality is involved in these works. Horvat’s reference to Miloš Crnjanski’s story, which he had previously heard from Vaništa, infuses these photographs with time, layered creations invoking within the same space – on the shore of a Danish town – a metaphysical multiplication of time: the present time or the moment of photographing the scene is interwoven with the time of Crnjanski’s story, resulting in an effect that makes it almost impossible to infer whether it is a photograph of an encountered scene, a documentation of the site as seen (and described four decades before) by “someone else”, or rather an accidetal staging or recreation of Vaništa’s narrative. Such temporal stratification of photography is truly revealed as one of the constituent characteristics of the medium itself; photography produces “a new space-time category”.7 Namely, the juxtaposing of two temporal dimensions – the one in which the

1. Seventh issue of the Gorgona magazine (1965) with Horvat’s photographs of a dead seagull. Photo by Boris Cvjetanović. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat.


Jelena Pašić / The Transformative Potential of Gorgonian Photography: The Case of Miljenko Horvat

2. Miljenko Horvat, Untitled (Skagen), 1963. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat


photograph is created and the one in which it is observed – indicates the “illogical conjunction between the here-now and the there-then” within the medium itself, which Horvat further potentiates by introduction of the third temporal layer, the one belonging to Crnjanski’s story. Bearing in mind the potential of the photographic medium for fiddling with and distorting seemingly solid, stable categories such as time and space, it is not so surprising that members of Gorgona embraced photography as one of the most appropriate media. “Photography is one of the ways they transgressed from the rational into the absurd”,8 and while distancing themselves from the limitations of a mere documentary recording, the Gorgona members used it as a tool to create a completely new dimension of “reality”, instead of its mimetic representation. The meaning of a photographed scene is often not in the scene itself, but in what lies beyond it – in an estrangement effect that, in a somewhat mystical atmosphere, in what is only hinted at, as well as in a (symbolic) void that, far from some “hollow”, unfillable vacuum, has a transformative potential that, freed from constraints of previous conventions, now becomes a fertile ground for exploration of new possibilities of representation and creation of meaning. Although the insistence on the dematerialization of the artistic artefact, as well as insistence on apparent passivity, absurdity and the irrational, can be interpreted in the light of nihilistic dissatisfaction with post-war everday life,“Gorgona was not about abandoning art or about its abolition; it was not an assault on art,

but a quest for it, its becoming. Whereas nihilism abolishes the very sense of the quest, for Gorgona it was the only thing that made sense at all.”9 An interest in space is immanent in Horvat’s photography. Between 1962 and 1966 Horvat lived and worked in Paris, and in the photographs recorded in France during that period we find nothing of typical urban landscapes. On the contrary, the content of these photographs is limited to scenes of crumbling façades, closed courtyards, parked cars, some architectural details, and similar seemingly unsightly motifs, deprived of their descriptiveness, which would make Vaništa proclaim Horvat “an anonymous seeker of beauty in unattractive places”.10 The deviation from the conventional understanding of the photographic medium is reflected in Horvat’s use of photography as a kind of imaginational trigger to create a symbolic content intended to demonstrate that perception of reality is indeed a plural construct. He pointed out himself that he was interested in photography “that does not try to manipulate reality, but aims, rather, to record it in all its changing facets. For, when it is at its best, non-manipulated photography possesses the elements of what I call ‘mysterious reality’: the visible proof of the capture of that strange moment that could never be fixed in memory by the eye alone, without the aid of the camera.”11 To Horvat, the city serves as an example of the source of such “mystical reality” that is su ject to the camera lens, a place of “cracks”, not only literal but also symbolic ones: a place of ephemeral


Jelena Pašić / The Transformative Potential of Gorgonian Photography: The Case of Miljenko Horvat

phenomena of urban everyday life and marginal scenes. Horvat’s interest was directed towards what lay beyond the limits of the “literal” recording of the city’s everyday life and its mere mimetic representation. Numerous city scenes he pesistently recorded reveal an understanding of the city as a testing ground for inventive research, not only into the spatial and the aesthetic but also the psychological. It is easy to imagine that these photographs by Horvat were created by the author’s “conscious” stroll around the city, and that these scenes were imbued with Horvat’s own evocative impressions, notdissimilar to the technique of dérive, one of the key theoretical terms of his contemporary Guy Debord, who described it as “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences, … playful-constructive behaviour and awareness of psycho-geographical effects.”12 By deviating from the usual conventions of perception, representation, interpretation and production of meaning within the

photographic medium, Horvat paved the way for the interpretation of the medium as a tool that does not record reality unilaterally, by means of the “monotype” technique, but marks a certain “level of reality”13 in which subjective and objective, imaginary and real, merge together. In a note from 1984 he wrote: “The mystery of photography lies also in the fact that the reality it shows us is not an objective one: what we perceive through an image is a reality that has been shifted and altered: in relation to our normal field of vision, to our awareness of the passage of time and to our ignorance or even prejudices.”14 In this complex interrelationship between reality and its representation, in which neither time nor place is a stable entity, Horvat found the opportunity to outline the indications of a completely new relationship towards the “wonders of ‘visuality’”,15 where the medium of photography is given the power to show not what was previously visible, but what will only become so.

1. The members of the Gorgona group were painters Marijan Jevšovar, Julije Knifer, Đuro Seder and Josip Vaništa, sculptor Ivan Kožarić, architect Miljenko Horvat, and art historians Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos, Matko Meštrović and Radoslav Putar. 2. Nena Dimitrijević, ‘Umjetnost kao način postojanja’ (Art as a way of existence), in Marija Gattin (ed.), Gorgona (Zagreb: Muzej s uvremene umjetnosti [Museum of Contemporary Art], 2002), p. 64. 3. “Thoughts for the month” were a regular form of communication between the members of the group. Each month, one of the members prepared a record of quotations from theoretical literature or philosophy, which would then serve as a stimulus for reflection, and mailed it to the other members. 4. Horvat’s words are quoted from an unpublished transcript of an interview conducted on the occasion of the exhibition Noir sur blanc (Black on white) at the Musée d’art contemporain in Montréal in 1980. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat. 5. George Maciunas, “Neo Dada in Music, Theater, Poetry, Art”, in Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (eds.), Art in Theory 1900–2000 (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2003), p. 729. 6. Traganja (Explorations) (Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti [Museum of Contemporary Art], 2012), p. 20. 7. Roland Barthes, “Rhetoric of the Image”, Image-Music-Text (London: Fontana Press, 1977), p. 44. 8. Sandra Križić Roban, Na drugi pogled (At second glance) (Zagreb: Institut za povijest umjetnosti [Institute for Art History], UPI-2M, 2010), p. 27. 9. Ivana Bago and Antonia Majača, “Spit in the Eye of Truth (Then Quickly Close Your Eyes Before It)”, Život umjetnosti no. 83 (2008), p. 119. 10. Josip Vaništa, “Zapisi o Miljenku Horvatu” (Notes on Miljenko Horvat), in Radmila Iva Janković (ed.), Traganja (Explorations) (Zagreb: Muzej suvremene umjetnosti [Museum of Contemporary Art], 2012), p. 18. 11. Quoted from Horvat’s unpublished text, written in November 1984. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat. 12. Guy Debord, “Theory of the Dérive”, in Ken Knabb (ed.), Situationist International Anthology (Berkeley: Bureau of Public Secrets, 2006), p. 50. 13. Henri Lefebvre, Critique of Everyday Life (London: Verso, 2014), p. 730. 14. Quoted from Horvat’s unpublished text, written in November 1984. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat. 15. W.J.T. Mitchell, “Showing Seeing: A Critique of Visual Culture”, in Nicholas Mirzoeff (ed.), The Visual Culture Reader (London, New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 86.

3. Miljenko Horvat, Untitled (Paris), 1964. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat 4. Miljenko Horvat, Untitled (Paris), 1964. Courtesy of Lucija Horvat



Lana Lovrenčić / The Petar Dabac Archive

Lana Lovrenčić / The Petar Dabac Archive

How many ways can a private archive shed light on the period when it was created? How insightful can it be? And what to do with the one archive left to present an epoch with materials, evidence of (in)formal artistic connections, notions that have long been forgotten, and documents that testify to the material conditions of artistic production? The private archive of Petar Dabac, unique in Croatia, is significant for several reasons. This is the archive of an artist who has been active for over half a century, an archive of a cultural worker who has actively participated in and produced cultural events for over thirty years, and an archive of a collector who, to this day, tirelessly expands his collection of artworks. Growing up surrounded by art, especially photography, Dabac structured his archive in a clear and

1. Petar Dabac in Arhive TD Gallery photo Tone Stojko, 1982


well-thought-out manner, consisting of numerous artworks, photographic gear, books, magazines, catalogues and invitations, and also private and official correspondence, notebooks and datebooks, bills and court documents. This paper presents an overview of the work conducted with Dabac’s archive and an overview of plans for future research. The Polish practice of custodianship over private artist archives presents itself as a very important model to follow. Petar Dabac Petar Dabac, born in 1942, began his career as a photographer during the 1960s. He gained his formal education at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, University of Zagreb. While studying, in 1960 he became the assistant and associate of his uncle Tošo Dabac (1907–1970), one of the most notable photographers of his generation.1 It was there that Petar Dabac acquired the knowledge of classic photography as well as cataloguing and handling positives and negatives in a photographic archive. In 1966, he gained the status of a freelance artist. The period between 1969 and 1970 can be considered a turning point in Petar’s artistic expression, when he diverged from Tošo’s style. Two significant events occurred

at that time: he had an exhibition at Gallery SC with photographer Marija Braut,2 where he hung the photographs so that they were freely arranged within the gallery space; the second event was his participation in the artist residency programme Internationalen Malerwochen in der Steiermark of the Neue Galerie from Graz, during which he created his acclaimed artwork Kocka (Cube). (Fig. 2) 1970 would also prove to be one of the most significant life turning points for Petar Dabac, as Tošo Dabac died in May that year. This drastically changed Petar Dabac’s work and existential circumstances. He decided to devote himself to photography professionally and to preserve the rich legacy of Tošo Dabac. As the business set up by Tošo that sustained the studio suddenly subsided, Petar Dabac, together with Enes Midžić,3 started doing freelance jobs for cultural institutions to ensure their subsistence and the studio’s upkeep. During those years Dabac became a permanent associate of the Gallery of Contemporary Art and Gallery SC, two significant institutions that directly influenced the development and promotion of innovative art practices in Zagreb. He thus simultaneously participated in and documented the main artistic events of that time, photographing for commissions or for himself numerous exhibitions, performances, gatherings and excursions, all the while creating and exhibiting his own artwork. In those years he experimented with the characteristics of the medium, questioning the photographic image, deconstructing and reconstructing its surface, experimented with

a Xerox machine, creating photographs without a camera (photograms). He followed the latest achievements in the development of the medium and the international photography scene through subscriptions to professional and art magazines. He actively contributed to the development and popularization of conceptual, documentary and neo-avant-garde photography in the country,4 and started establishing contacts and networks with local and foreign photographers and cultural institutions (among which his long-standing friendship and cooperation with Manfred Willmann and Christine Frisinghelli stand out). The activities he took part in are notably documented in calendar books, while his experiments are recorded in notebooks and notepads. By the end of the 1970s, his continued examination of photography had resulted in the creation of an exceptional series of photographs showing accidental slices of the world, which Annie Le Brun called The Feeling of Nature at the Close of the Twentieth Century.5 He revived the social life in the studio and continued to host regular gatherings of artists, art historians and critics. In 1978, the art historian and artist Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos approached him with the idea of holding his first exhibition in his studio. This turned out to be an incentive for Dabac to create the Archive TD Gallery in the hallway of the studio, in which he would hold almost fifty photography exhibitions over the next twenty years.6 Foreign and domestic authors were equally represented,


Lana Lovrenčić / The Petar Dabac Archive

and the exhibitions, each accompanied by a poster and leaflets with a short text about the event, were well documented. Many of the photographers who exhibited at the Archive TD Gallery would leave one or more of their works as gifts for Dabac, while works were also exchanged between Dabac and the hosted artists. The end of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s were again a turning point. War broke out and the former country dissolved, which, in turn, altered the socio-political system and severed cultural and artistic ties. The dynamic gallery programme of Archive TD subsided.7 During those years, Dabac’s use of a point-and-shoot camera increased as a kind of reaction to the societal collapse, the horrors of war, and changes in both private and professional domains. He created numerous series of photographs covering a whole range of sub-

2. The Cube (one possible position), photo: Petar Dabac, 1970s


jects: friends, passersby, bars, food, travel, love…. The photo diary Lieber Pero was created at that time. (Fig. 3) This cycle, which escapes the canons of chronology and association, as the author put it, represents a lyrical record of a time of external and internal ruptures. From the mid-1990s, Dabac started to focus increasingly on sensitizing the public towards a proper evaluation of Tošo’s oeuvre and legacy. This campaign would yield results with the inclusion of Tošo’s archive in the Croatian register of cultural heritage in 2002 and, in 2006, with the city of Zagreb buying and becoming the new owner of the preserved archive in its original space. Thus, after forty-six years, Petar Dabac left the studio in Ilica and moved his archive into his private space. Two years later he stopped teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, where he had been a lecturer in photography since 1991. A large retrospective exhibition called Not guilty, which featured over 300 of his artworks, was held in Zagreb in 2011, accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue.8 However, his artistic oeuvre still has to be scientifically researched, evaluated and contextualized. His role as a culture worker and educator is mentioned only as a biographic side note, while his contribution to the development of the international and regional connections between arists and culture workers which he actively participated in, and the collection of photographs and other artworks in his possession, are not mentioned at all.

3. Lieber Pero, exhibition segment, Gradska Gallery Zagreb, photo Pero Dabac, 1998

The Petar Dabac Archive The growth and formation of Petar Dabac as a photographer and a collector within the studio and the photographic archive of Tošo Dabac, his self-awareness, analytical approach and attention to detail, were probably the key elements in creation of his archive. From 1967 to this day, he has collected a wide range of items, which can be divided into several interconnected but clearly delineated ensembles. For instance, documents such as catalogues, newspaper articles, written correspondence and the like, which trace his artistic path, contemporary art production in Yugoslavia and abroad, documentation regarding the activities of the Archive TD Gallery, legal and financial

documents and so on, can be distinguished. Preserved photographic material (positives, diapositives, negatives, test footage and digital photography) correspond to these documentation ensembles: Petar Dabac’s artwork (experiments, author’s blow-ups, objects and items, negatives), private photographs, commissioned documentary photography, and semi-documentary photography created under informal conditions. Also, Dabac’s library, a large number of paintings, graphics, posters and sculptures, should be added to this corpus. A significant part of the archive is a large photography collection consisting of old photographs (from the late nineteenth century onward) and photographs from Dabac’s contemporaries.


Lana Lovrenčić / The Petar Dabac Archive

The study of the archive, which started in December 2017 as a continuation of the collaboration on the Forgotten Heritage project9 and was followed by regular conversations with Petar Dabac, very quickly showed that the archive is priceless. The range and diversity of the collected materials, alongside its volume, certainly makes it the most important collection of this type in Croatia, and one without which it would be impossible to reconstruct not only Dabac’s artistic trajectory, but also his cultural surroundings. The connections and interconnections between the segments of the archive weave a compelling story with intertwined actors. The private correspondence, birthday invitations and greeting cards reveal private relationships and connections on the Yugoslav art scene. Especially interesting are the business/private relationships and communication channels established between artists and galleries on both national (Belgrade, Ljubljana and Zagreb) and international levels (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy etc), particularly as the relationships and networks between artists and institutions, and especially the international context, have remained poorly researched and almost unknown. The situation with photography is even worse as it is generally poorly researched. Thus Dabac’s archive provides opportunities for researching the context, especially because the material is not grouped by authors, but rather chronologically. The current work is focused on finishing the mapping of the segments of the


archive and on the study of Archive TD. Aside from making a list of exhibitions, work is being done to connect the actors and reconstruct the exhibition displays. This will be presen-ted to the public in the form of an exhibition and book planned for 2020. It is clear from everything stated that it is invaluable to preserve Petar Dabac’s archive as an integrated whole, that is, not to fragment it into individual units or merge it with some other, existing archive. Unfortunately, the future of this archive is uncertain at this moment. In Croatia, with few exceptions such as the Tošo Dabac Archive, which is situated in the original space, private archives stored in public institutions meet different fates, relying more on the spatial capacities and human resources, policies and priorities of the institutions, as well as the enthusiasm of curators and archivists in charge, than on funding. The same circumstances determine their accessibility to outside researchers and public visibility. On the other hand, when managed by private initiatives or civil societies, there is no guarantee of adequate or even regular funding from the state. In the case of private collections there is always the question of accessibility to the public. It is precisely for this reason that projects such as Forgotten Heritage may give birth to a model which would allow the civil sector in Croatia to develop a sustainable practice of archival processing and protection of private archives in cooperation with state institutions, and, in turn, to take charge in the care of valuable cultural heritage such as this. Examining the Polish

model, which presents itself as an excellent example of preservation and promotion and provides tools for the digitization of heritage which might not have been recognized yet or adequately valued by institutions, is undoubtedly pertinent also to this Croatian case.

4. Petar Dabac Archive (segment), photo: Lana Lovrenčić, 2018

1. Tošo Dabac created one of the largest preserved photographic archives in Croatia, made up of about 150,000 works of art (photographic gear, positives, negatives, books, catalogues, documents, etc) 2. Croatian photographer, 1929–2015. She started her career in the second half of the 1960s, working in the studio of Tošo Dabac alongside Petar and cinematographer Enes Midžić (b. 1947) 3. For the next four years he and Enes Midžić worked together in the Ilica studio. 4. He was one of the founders of SPOT magazine for photography, the only magazine specializing in photography in the second half of the twentieth century in Croatia, published from 1972 to 1978. 5. Annie Le Brun, “Das Naturempfinden am Ende des 20. Jahrhunderts zu den Arbeiten von Petar Dabac”, Camera Austria, Zeitschrift für Fotografie, vol. 14 (1984). This series of photographs was taken with Tošo’s Rolleiflex camera in a medium 6x6 format. 6. An informal council of the gallery, made up of Dabac’s friends and colleagues who regularly frequented the studio, devised the exhibition programme. The exhibitions were launched in cooperation with domestic and foreign photographers and galleries (in Belgrade, Graz, Ljubljana, and elsewhere). As a non-profit private gallery, Dabac and his associates contributed their work on a voluntary basis, without any production funds. Out of forty-seven photographic exhibitions held, nineteen presented contemporary domestic artists (eleven of whom were active outside Zagreb) and seventeen presented contemporary foreign artists, including Max Aufscher, Chris Bell, Donald Lokuta, Georges Vercheval and Manfred Willmann, to name a few. 7. Between 1992 and 1998, only four exhibitions were realized. 8. Marina Viculin (ed.), Petar Dabac Nisam kriv / Not guilty (Zagreb: Galerija Klovićevi dvori, 2011). 9. Forgotten Heritage: European Avant-Garde Art Online (2016–2018) is an international research-based project that takes an innovative approach to the processing, presentation and availability of works of conceptual art created in the second half of the twentieth century. The project is led by the Arton Foundation from Warsaw. More about the project at


Radosław Maciej Przedpełski / Elements of Think Crazy Topology. Encountering Neo-Avant-Garde Practices of Marek Konieczny through Ludwiński and Deleuze

Radosław Maciej Przedpełski / Elements of Think Crazy Topology. Encountering Neo-Avant-Garde Practices of Marek Konieczny through Ludwiński and Deleuze Introduction | Marek Konieczny: Neo-avant-garde as a series of intermedial encounters?

employing photographic flash or provoking random situations in a collectivity (c. 1969–

Konieczny is an artist chiefly associated with the Polish neo-avant-garde of the 1970s.1 The artist started off as a Warsaw-based engineer working with major Polish architects such as Jerzy Sołtan and Oskar Hansen. Through an architectural practice informed by his philosophy of “open form”, Hansen sought a humanized version of architectural modernism which would open up its repressive fossilized forms to reality. Konieczny graduated from the Gliwice Institute of Technology in 1961 with a degree in civil and industrial engineering, specializing in building materials and technologies of prefabrication, with a concurrent interest in topology and curved tensile surfaces. Following his studies in interior design at Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts (1961–1966), in the mid-1960s Konieczny embarked on an ongoing artistic practice. Over the years, the artist passed through a series of metamorphoses. Konieczny’s journey included geometric abstraction (c. 1963–1968), conceptual art manifestos resonating with Sol LeWitt’s 1967 formula “the idea becomes a machine that makes art”2 (1969–1971), and Fluxus actions (1968–1970). Konieczny also took up aleatory-stochastic art, frequently

1971), as well as related explorations of nonconscious processes through randomly etched foil sheets (1972–1973), randomly stamped postcards (1973), and purely mental signals (1971–1973). He also embraced performance art (1971–), mail art (1972–), body art (1974–), installations (1974) and video art (1975). Since 1976, Konieczny has worked with metal reliefs and textured paintings that initially resonate with a kind of inorganic, or supra-organic, inhuman “Abstract Mannerism”3, which Peter Hutchinson identified in 1966 as an aspect of American minimalism: distinguished by acid colour, diagonals, hysteria, and a topological play of contorted polygonal surfaces. In Konieczny, this Abstract Mannerism dynamically coexists with, and over time becomes partially submerged by, various expressionisms and mannerisms. In turn, since 1981 Konieczny has been interested in woodwork and furniture design. Around 1974, Konieczny formulated “Think Crazy”, a singular intermedial strategy that gave consistency to all the above disparate experimentations. Think Crazy launched an affirmation of change that traverses and brings together heterogeneous dimensions.4 Think Crazy affirms a radical future of nonhuman materials and unforeseen metamorphoses


of the human and at once an anomalous involution entailing untimely resonance with the seventeenth-century Polish hybrid Orientalized art and culture of the gentry – the so-called “Sarmatism”, which I call “SarmatoBaroque”. I deploy my concept of the Sarmato-Baroque in contradistinction to the art historian Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, who treats Sarmatism as a purely cultural phenomenon that did not yield its own proper artistic style.5 The Sarmato-Baroque formation conjoined a fabulation of the nomadic steppe lineage with a composition of Turkic, vernacular and Western elements (Gothic, Mannerist, Baroque). I see Konieczny’s Sarmato-Baroque in a wider perspective of the Huttonian inhuman, geological “deep time”. Konieczny’s Sarmato-Baroque belongs to a timeless line of technological variation that links it to Early Iron Age steppe art. My research into Konieczny has encountered many problems, testifying to the catalytic potential of Think Crazy as a differentiator – a generator of productive complexities. Let me discuss some of the ensuing problems under the rubrics below. Problem 1 | Epistemic/institutional marginalization and the question of fabulation Konieczny has been marginalized in Polish mainstream art history and art institutions. There are only a handful of mentions existing. These include single articles by Jerzy Ekwiński and Stefan Morawski in the 1970s, and by Alicja Kępińska and Monika Szwajewska in the 1980s.6 It was only Łukasz

Ronduda’s article,7 originally published in 2007 in Piktogram magazine and reprinted in a lavishly illustrated 2009 coffee-table album on the Polish neo-avant-garde of the 1970s,8 that promised to reverse this trend and not so much reclaim, but also amplify and transform Konieczny’s art. The 2009 publication was in itself the result of a creative collaboration by Ronduda, who provided its textual layer, and the artist Piotr Uklański, who was responsible for the visual design. This experiment in the interstice between art praxis and art theory symptomatically features a still from Konieczny’s 1975 short film Santa Conversatione on the cover, displaying a pair of naked breasts coated in gold leaf. The cover suggests that Konieczny has emerged from obscurity, becoming a shorthand for the allure of the whole Polish neo-avant-garde. But Ronduda’s article offers only a cursory look at Konieczny’s work, largely based on the 1986 exhibition catalogue Elements of Think Crazy Topology featuring a chronological overview of Konieczny’s artistic activity written by his ongoing creative collaborator, art historian Monika Szwajewska. A reason behind the enduring marginalization of Konieczny was the deprecatory designation of the artist as one among many others belonging to the “pseudo-avantgarde”. This derogative term was coined in 1975 by the art critic Wiesław Borowski in an article that launched an essentialist critique of a wide array of diverse neoavant-garde practices deemed not properly avant-gardist and hence, on a more general note, of more cultural than artistic


Radosław Maciej Przedpełski / Elements of Think Crazy Topology. Encountering Neo-Avant-Garde Practices of Marek Konieczny through Ludwiński and Deleuze

import.9 But there was something interesting in Borowski’s diagnosis: mounting for some time since the early 1970s, there had been a minor avant-garde occupying an uncertain place between the historical avant-garde and modernism, or between “Pragmatism” and Conceptualism, to use Ronduda’s designation.10 The narrative of the discursive (and) institutional exclusion of the neo-avant-garde gets complicated in the case of Konieczny. What is at stake here is not the deplorable straightforward exclusion of Konieczny. Certainly he was not excluded in the same way many female artists were. Following Think Crazy and its play of chance, the artist kept his distance, selectively attaching himself to diverse art events and projects, embarking on productive fabulations, zigzagging across art history with the help of Monika Szwajewska. Furthermore, Konieczny enjoyed the ongoing support of alternative art institutions such as Lublin’s Galeria Labirynt, which hosted many of his exhibitions over the years.11 Problem 2 | Ontological conundrums: What, or how, is the neo-avant-garde? According to the aesthetician Stefan Morawski, “Diverse, sheer extra-artistic matter becomes the substance of the creative endeavours and achievements of the neoavant-garde. … Choices are now made beyond art, and this is something which some researchers convincingly designate as the end of the sensu stricto avant-garde.”12 Morawski hints at the ontogenetic, in the sense of


generation or individuation of being, transformation that the neo-avant-garde passage to “extra-artistic matter” entails. Here the distinction between abstract form and passive matter no longer holds because the artistic message operates as a fused “content-form” corresponding to a new semiotics that abolishes Peircean iconicity in favour of inchoate indexical and diagrammatic relations.13 This qualitative, ontogenetic change does not extend, however, to the relation between the past and the future. Here Morawski conceptualizes neoavant-garde’s future orientation and its entanglement in the present in opposition to tradition, hence to the past. The past is encapsulated in traditional art and needs to be negated, undermined and nullified. This idea of opening art to reality was subsequently taken up by Ronduda in his proposed new cartography of the neo-avantgarde. It informs his novel concepts of “Existential Conceptualism” and “Pragmatism”. Ronduda follows in the footsteps of Morawski, leaving what he sees as “traditional art”14 out of the equation. The Morawski/Ronduda line of interpretation does little to account for Konieczny’s Sarmato-Baroque operations, especially since what is at stake in Think Crazy is neither the presentist, pragmatic and activist use of the past or its anachronistic, nostalgic and reactionary reactivation or preservation. In turn, the art historian and critic Jerzy Ludwiński offers a different account of the neo-avant-garde. The breakthrough year of 1970 that marked the threshold of intensity of Polish conceptualism

at the same time functioned as a caesura announcing the end of history as we know it and launching the ahistorical “implosive art”.15 The caesura explodes the unitary notion of avant-garde that had come to be conceptualized as a stage in a linear art evolution made up of mutually exclusive, separate and sharply delineated stages.16 The stages can be diagrammed as progressive accumulation of layers, whereby the newest layer is outmost and epidermal, akin to the rings of a tree.17 What is at stake here is a more fundamental dismantling of the avant-garde as predicated upon the unitary model of art as the a priori anchor against which – and in the name of which – the conquest of non-artistic artistic reality dialectically opposed to it could be made. Such analytical avant-garde is always ahead of art, on the outside border of art, facing and pulverizing the non-artistic. This progressive expansion of the field of art is motivated by a desire to seize new territories.18 In turn, implosive art19 possesses an intrinsic ethical and ecological dimension because it does not conquer the world as its transcendent operator. Rather, it functions as an involution, an inward-oriented accretion or an internal genesis that immanently and non-violently affirms and “protects” the world in a piecemeal manner. This ethical vision of art aims to “preserve [and] protect” the world, in contradistinction to the historical avant-garde which “seek[s] to transform the world and improve the human as operating within it.”20 Elsewhere, Ludwiński argues that this new art, also called sztuka

trzecia (“the third art”), “wishes to keep the world the way it is, but at the same time coevolve with it.”21 Ludwiński understands “the world” in an expanded, non-Anthropocentric environmental sense. While the implosive/ underground/third art is defensive, diffuse, decelerated and inward-looking from the point of view of the world, the explosive/ (historical) avant-garde is offensive; concentrated, linear and teleological; quick-paced, and outward-directed. Implosive art can be diagrammed as a mountain that “accretes into its depth and towards its middle”.22 Implosive art is not one but unfurls into a mesh of mobile nuclei.23 It does not seek to annex the world but instead extends a porous surface whose imploding, energetic perforations mark an array of disparate heterogeneous dimensions in the real. While implosive art can only be sensed and is akin to imperceptible seismic murmurs24 or invisible changes,25 it nonetheless disrupts or blurs the fixed order of time and space by introducing a series of syntheses effectuating transversal transhistorical connections across time and space. One might say that what is remote in metric space and linear time becomes a single folded topological space.26 However, there is no communication between two distant, incommensurate levels without undergoing qualitative change. Ludwiński devised a series of conceptual avatars – a lens, glue, telepathy, telekinesis, both cosmic and X-ray radiation, diffused luminous light – to approach this untimely, transversal and transhistorical event, what he saw as moments of creative rupture, a paradoxical revolution


Radosław Maciej Przedpełski / Elements of Think Crazy Topology. Encountering Neo-Avant-Garde Practices of Marek Konieczny through Ludwiński and Deleuze

without revolution, a breakthrough without a breakthrough, a cut that connects.27 For Ludwiński, this new postartistic epoch28 launches “THE ETERNITY OF ART” that is at the same time one with “the eternity of the world”.29 Ludwiński’s vision resonates with Deleuzoguattarian philosophy. One might understand the transhistorical and transversal mode of operation of implosive art in Deleuzoguattarian terms as an encounter that amplifies and is flush with the ongoing becoming of the world. Art’s ontogenetic functioning becomes eternalized not as an eternal essence, but as a play of becoming in the Nietzschean eternal return.30 In 1981 Ludwiński observed that “the 1970s initiated a recuperation of tendencies that were not so long ago considered traditional”.31 He saw a marked resurgence of interest in pre-modern art in art publications and the paradoxical situation whereby “what garners the most interest is the kinds of art most removed in time and space, barely comprehensible to us.”32 Interestingly, Think Crazy is indissolubly tied to Konieczny’s encounter with Golden Age Dutch painting as well as his interest in seventeen-century old-Polish polygonal metallic coffin effigies and provincial, so-called “Sarmatian”, old-Polish portraits. The latter fuse the Netherlandish portrait art of the day with elements of Byzantine art and Oriental aniconic ornamentation.33 Implosive art has a pastfuture orientation that requires a new type of art analysis. Ludwiński proposes here what I call the “genetic method”. According to him,


“while previously the focus was placed on form, on the semblance of art, now one has to drill deep inside those artistic phenomena, reach to their very sources out of which they grew, to extract them as if with their roots, or better still, with the soil attached to them”.34 Ludwiński’s vision of art analysis resonates with the Deleuzian project of transcendental empiricism35 and as such can be reformulated in Deleuzian terms as a creative sensing of the virtual implicit conditions that have given rise to an actual, empirical, sensible artistic fact.36 Anticipating the contemporary LiDAR technology, Ludwiński visualizes such procedure as an X-ray scan or aerial archaeological survey of the mountain of art that reveals a mutual, transhistorical coexistence of its multiple layers – corresponding to different media, periods and vectors of metamorphosis – now stacked atop one another, as if relics of a compressed Maya city amid the Yucatán jungle.37 In his singular vision, Ludwiński understood art not as a discrete art object, but as an event. As I see it, such art functions as a “material-incorporeal”38 interface; it is not a question of representation but of forces that continue to traverse actual states of affairs. Ludwiński’s thinking resonates with Guattari’s understanding of ecology as at once an environmental, mental and social one. He emerges as a pioneer of environmental art criticism in Poland and a proponent of eco-aesthetics in art philosophy. Problem 3 | More ontological conundrums: the status of performance documentation

The ontological uncertainty that hovers over the neo-avant-garde also extends to performance documentation. Konieczny’s primary sources relating to his performance and body-art pieces have uncertain ontological status. Looking at photographs appearing among Konieczny’s source materials, we do not know what we are looking at. The photographs enter a zone of indiscernibility between a performance and its documentation.39 Indeed, frequently it is impossible to ascertain the genre, material, time and audiences of Konieczny’s performances. As a way of addressing these issues, I developed a speculative catalogue raisonné that draws attention to the problematic status of Konieczny’s materials. Konieczny himself perceives the process of documenting this material-incorporeal art through photographs and exhibition catalogues as an art practice. For Konieczny, art functions as “a technology” of “documentation of abstraction, of something that does not necessarily have to be a reality”.40 Such functioning is for the artist encapsulated in the art of the Dutch Golden Age and in particular a 1636 architectural painting by the Dutch artist Pieter Jansz. Saenredam.41 Echoing Deleuze and Guattari, we might say that art’s technical plane cannot be separated from the plane of aesthetic composition. What is at stake in art is its materials becoming expressive: materials encounter and pass into sensation, imbuing it with their singular, irreducible qualities.42 Closing Remarks | Marek Konieczny: Engineering forces. Art as a logic of encounter

Konieczny’s background as an architect has yielded a vision of the artistic image as an engineering and conversion of forces that makes no discrimination between what is designated as the proper, lofty and “original” art object and its derivative, subservient and parergonal documentation. Such an approach goes beyond an understanding of performance documentation as an index of a past originary event, on one hand, and as a phenomenon constructed by its relation to the beholder, on the other.43 Konieczny, uniquely attuned to Ludwiński’s visionary LiDAR aesthetics, launches a logic of encounter that conceives art as a nonrepresentational, informal functioning flush with the forces of the cosmos – as a pulsating, resonant potentiality. As the late Monika Szwajewska remarked, creatively responding to Think Crazy: “What is the new reality? Let me ask again. It is not a system, it is not images, it is not just raging texture either, it is not an adventure of the artist and the spectator. It is a chapel, but at the same time also the ultimate place in which the ceremony of worship should take place. What is it? A new idea which cannot yet be put into words, which is a still unknown, INEXPLICABLE WHOLE.”44 Paraphrasing the symposium brief, one might ask: what is Konieczny’s neoavant-garde artistic “forgotten heritage”? A non-chapel engineered as an interface that amplifies forces. Never ceasing to generate questions and provoke crazy thought, Konieczny’s problematic art singularly revitalizes our thinking about art philosophy, history and criticism.


Radosław Maciej Przedpełski / Elements of Think Crazy Topology. Encountering Neo-Avant-Garde Practices of Marek Konieczny through Ludwiński and Deleuze 1. An examination of Konieczny’s practices through the lens of Deleuze/Guattari and their philosophical interlocutors constituted the subject of my doctoral dissertation. Completed in 2016, the dissertation came as the conclusion of my six-year journey into Konieczny’s artistic world. 2. Sol LeWitt, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art”, Artforum 5, no. 10 (June 1967): 79–83. 3. Peter Hutchinson, “Mannerism in the Abstract”, in Gregory Battcock, ed., Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 187–194. 4. The goal of my dissertation was precisely to attend to qualitative change in Konieczny’s art as simultaneously a variation in expressive materials and an ethology of cultures, thus affirming art as, to quote Deleuzoguattarian scholar Anne Sauvagnargues, “a monument that is inseparable from the complex of forces into which it is taken”. See Anne Sauvagnargues, Deleuze and Art, trans. Samantha Bankston (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 187. 5. See Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, “Definition and Self-definition in Polish Culture and Art”, in Jan K. Ostrowski, ed., Land of the Winged Horsemen: Art in Poland 1572–1764, trans. Krystyna Malcharek (Alexandria, Va.: Art Services International, 1999), p. 18. 6. Andrzej Ekwiński, “Świadoma ingerencja w postępowanie” (Conscious intervention in behaviour), Argumenty no. 47 (1971): 8; Stefan Morawski, “Dwie wizyty u Marka Koniecznego” (Two visits with Marek Konieczny), Sztuka 1, no. 2 (1975): 34–35; Alicja Kępińska, Nowa sztuka. Sztuka polska w latach 1945-1978 (New art: Polish art in 1945–1978) (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe, 1981), pp. 220, 240–241, 243; Monika Szwajewska, “Think Crazy’, Odra no. 5 (1980): 109–110. 7. The text of the article was published in both English and Polish. See Łukasz Ronduda, “Think Crazy: The Artistic Strategies of Marek Konieczny” (pp. 26–37), and “Think Crazy. Strategie artystyczne Marka Koniecznego” (pp. 14–25), Piktogram no. 8 (Warsaw: Stowarzyszenie Piktogram, 2007). 8. Łukasz Ronduda, “Think Crazy. Strategie artystyczne Marka Koniecznego” (Think Crazy: The artistic strategies of Marek Konieczny), in Łukasz Ronduda, ed., Sztuka polska lat 70. Awangarda (Polish art of the 1970s: The avant-garde) (Jelenia Góra: Polski Western, 2009), pp. 18–28. 9. Wiesław Borowski, “Pseudoawangarda” (Pseudo-avant-garde), Kultura no. 12 (23 March 1975): 12. 10. Łukasz Ronduda, “Polska sztuka lat 70. Między postesencjalizmem a pragmatyzmem” (Polish art of the 1970s: Between post-essentialism and pragmatism), in Ronduda, ed., Sztuka polska, pp. 12–15. According to Ronduda, Polish Conceptualism, which he terms “Post-Essentialism”, was an inquiry into art’s ever-mutating transcendental essence (for a strand of artists he calls “Intra-Artistic Post-Essentialists”) and also at the same time an existential investigation of the essence of being (for “Existential Post-Essentialists”, which included Konieczny). In turn, “Pragmatism”, modelled on art critic Jan Świdziński’s 1976 manifesto “12 punktów sztuki kontekstualnej” (12 Points of Contextual Art) developed an activist engagement with “the extra-artistic reality”, seeking to open art to productive collaborations with science, politics, design, pop culture, photography and other disciplines and media. According to Ronduda, “Pragmatism” saw art as immanent to the socio-cultural sphere. 11. In 1976, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1986 and 2002. 12. Stefan Morawski, “Awangarda artystyczna (o dwu formacjach XX wieku)” (The artistic avant-garde (on two 20th-century formations)) [1985], in Stefan Morawski, Wybór pism estetycznych (Selected writings on aesthetics), ed. Piotr J. Przybysz and Anna Zeidler-Janiszewska (Kraków: Universitas, 2007), p. 213. My translation. 13. Morawski, “Awangarda”, p. 213. 14. Ronduda, “Polska sztuka”, p. 8. This can be seen in Ronduda’s classificatory table of the Polish art of the 1970s whose two rubrics pertaining to the neo-avant-garde (these encompass Conceptualism, which Ronduda terms “Post-Essentalism”, and “Pragmatism”) are contiguous to but do not interact with the third, “traditional art” rubric. 15. Jerzy Ludwiński, Grzegorz Dziamski and Jarosław Kozłowski, “Aspekty teraźniejszośći” (Aspects of the present), conversation transcript in Jerzy Ludwiński, Sztuka w epoce postartystycznej i inne teksty, (Art in the post-art epoch and other texts), ed. Jarosław Kozłowski (Poznań: Akademia Sztuk Pięknych; Wrocław: Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych, 2009), pp. 267–271. Ludwiński conceives the turn of the 1960s and the 1970s as an initial cosmic singularity hypothesized by physics as a threshold where an extreme contraction or compression of space-time is at the same time a bearer of infinite potential, stretched between zero and infinity. See Ludwiński, “Epoka”, pp. 141–142. 16. See the diagram series “Etapy Ewolucji Sztuki” (The stages of art’s evolution) [1972], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, pp. 95–96. 17. Ludwiński, “Sztuka PO” (AFTER Art) [1985], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, p. 173. 18. See Ludwiński, “Pałka Bretona i trzecia sztuka” (Breton’s Staff and the Third Art) [1993], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, p. 183; Ludwiński, “Epoka outsiderów” (The age of the outsiders) [1979], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, pp. 140–142. 19. Symptomatically, Ludwiński does not refer to implosive art as neo-avant-garde, but an “underground art”. See Ludwiński, “Góra” (The mountain) [1982], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, p. 158. 20. See Ludwiński, “Epoka”, p. 141. 21. See Ludwiński, “Pałka”, p. 185. 22. Ibid. All the translations of Ludwiński’s texts included in the article are mine. 23. Ludwiński, “Epoka”, p. 141; see also Ludwiński, “Estetyka kleju” (Glue aesthetics) [1978], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, pp. 133–137. 24. Ludwiński, “Pałka”, p. 185. 25. Ludwiński, “O eliminacjach i rewolucjach” (On eliminations and revolutions) [2000], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, p. 213. Ludwiński’s work conceptualizes a passage from the unitary, formal model of art to a series of transversal modulations, resonating with Gilbert Simondon’s modulative philosophy of physical, biological, psychic and collective individuation, as distinct from the “hylemorphic schema” whereby the active form is imposed abstractly on passive, homogenized matter. See Gilbert Simondon, L’individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (Paris: PUF, 1964). 26. Ludwiński expressly uses topological imagery in a text from 1979. See Ludwiński, “Epoka”, p. 142. 27. See Ludwiński, “Kręta ścieżka” (The winding path) [2001], in Ludwiński, Sztuka, pp. 161–167. Ludwiński conceptualises moments of radical change, both artistic and socio-cultural, as “cracks, something that happens in these gaps, rifts, holes.” See Ibid., p. 166. Interestingly, Ludwiński witnessed Konieczny’s 1983 Fresco performance in Lublin’s Galeria Labirynt, during which he repeatedly hit


the gallery wall with a hammer, filling the resulting holes with golden tinfoil. For Ludwiński, the revolutionary change, diagrammed as a physical rupture or a flight through a hole, plays itself out at once on the aesthetic, expressive level – as an inchoate, impredictable thought flush the body of the earth (the titular “winding path”) – and on the social one. He argues for a parallelism between the radical ontogenetic functioning of art and epochal events, such the nomadic Mongol breach of the Great Wall or the scaling of the Gdańsk Shipyard fence in 1980 by Lech Wałęsa. Most importantly, Ludwiński’s philosophy of art escapes Ronduda’s dichotomy between a transcendental conceptualism focused on art, on one hand, and an immanent artistic pragmatism focused on reality, on the other. 28. One might call it the “Implosiocene”. 29. Ludwiński, “Kręta”, p. 167. See also Ludwiński, “Sztuka PO”, p. 177. 30. The mode of functioning of implosive art can be understood as repetition in the eternal return as formulated in Deleuze’s seminal Difference and Repetition because it forgoes subjectivity and objecthood and their attendant attributes of metric space and linear time in favour of the burst of a depersonalized series. This new a-human world operates as a Simondonian system of internal resonances between and across a series of heterogeneous dimensions. 31. Alicja Kępińska, Jerzy Ludwiński, Stefan Morawski and Jan Świdziński, “Czy mamy awangardę neo czy pseudo” (Do we have a neo or pseudo avant-garde?), ed. Wojciech Cesarski, Sztuka 8, no. 4 (1981) p. 3. 32. Ludwiński in Kępińska et al., ibid. p. 3. As Ludwiński points out, this renewed interest in traditional art also extends to prehistoric rock art and megalithic art. See Ludwiński, “Kręta”, p. 163. 33. See Tadeusz Chrzanowski, Wędrówki po sarmacji europejskiej. Eseje o sztuce i kulturze staropolskiej (Travels through European Sarmatia: Essays on Old Polish art and culture) (Kraków: Znak, 1986), pp. 181–182. 34. Ludwiński in Kępińska et al., “Czy mamy…”, p. 3. 35. See Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 56–57, 139–140. 36. In fact, Ludwiński offers a vision of art parallel to the project of transcendental empiricism when he asserts, “The main criterion for approaching art is an attempt to understand the creative process. The creative process has certain windows. These windows are works of art, but in between those windows/artworks there is something that we don’t see, something that is hidden from us, equally important as the works of art themselves. The works of art hide the creative process in a somewhat artificial manner; they are holes of sorts [in the creative process]. … Beyond what the artist shows there is something much more fundamental. … What is at stake here is an attempt to understand – even though understanding is impossible, an attempt to sense what lies outside of the work and gives me a shock.” Ludwiński et al., “Aspekty teraźniejszośći”, p. 271. 37. Ludwiński, “Góra”, p. 158. 38. This paradoxical notion comes from Michel Foucault, who remarked in 1970 that one needs a new philosophy of the event. According to Foucault, “an event is certainly not immaterial; it takes effect, becomes effect, always on the level of materiality; … the philosophy of event should advance in the direction, at first sight paradoxical, of an incorporeal materialism.” Foucault, “The Discourse on Language”, trans. A.M. Sheridan Smith, in The Archaeology of Knowledge (New York: Pantheon, 1972), p. 231. 39. It was the art historian David Crowley who drew attention to this problem during my viva voce examination at Trinity College Dublin on 10 March 2017. 40. Marek Konieczny, Monika Szwajewska and Radek Przedpełski, A conversation about Konieczny’s artistic strategies at the artist’s own apartment, Warsaw (11 June 2015). 41. Ibid. The painting Konieczny was fascinated with was Saenredam’s Interior of St Bavo’s Church in Haarlem (1636, seen from the south ambulatory through the choir and the north ambulatory with the large organ). 42. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What Is Philosophy?, trans. Graham Burchell and Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 166–167, 193–196. 43. Those two disjunctive interpretations of performance documentation were presented by the performance scholar Philip Auslander in “The Performativity of Performance Documentation”, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 28, no. 3 (2006): 10. Auslander points out that “our sense of the presence, power, and authenticity of these pieces derives not from treating the document as an indexical access point to a past event but from perceiving the document itself as a performance that directly reflects an artist’s aesthetic project or sensibility and for which we are the present audience.” 44. Marek Konieczny and Monika Szwajewska, Marek Konieczny. Think Crazy na Kaplicę Sykstyńską (Marek Konieczny: Think Crazy for the Sistine Chapel) (exh. cat.) (Lublin: BWA, 1983), unpaginated.


Peter Tuka / The Avant-Garde and Post-War Totalitarianism: JĂşlius Koller and Conceptual Art under Communism1

Peter Tuka / The Avant-Garde and Post-War Totalitarianism: Július Koller and Conceptual Art under Communism1

This paper will present the initial stages of my doctoral research into the personal archive and research notes of Slovakian neoavant-garde artist Július Koller (1939–2007). The research will fully commence in autumn 2018. Therefore, rather than presenting any particular outcomes, this paper will focus on the primary methodological motivations behind researching the private personal archive of an East-Central European neoavant-garde artist of the pre-1989 era. Part of the academic aims of my research will be to contribute to the current questioning of the interpretation and reinterpretation of dominant narratives concerning the theory of avant-gardes. In this paper, I would like to talk about my points of departure and some theories I have been thinking about in preparation for my research. As a case study, I will use Július Koller and his work within the context of post1968 Czechoslovakia. Reform attempts of the Prague Spring thwarted by the invasion of the Warsaw Pact made 1968 a threshold year, which marked the beginning of the so-called “Normalization” in Czechoslovakia – a period of severe and all-encompassing repressions that struck particularly the areas of culture and basic human rights. The threshold year 1968 can thus be read as the initiator of the collective trauma experienced by the Czechoslovak society. Václav Havel described


this aptly in his seminal essay “The Power of the Powerless”. In what he called the “post-totalitarian system”, he explained that individuals are reduced to little more than tiny cogs in an enormous mechanism and their significance is limited to their function in this mechanism. … [E]verything, in short, must be cosseted together as firmly as possible, predetermined, regulated and controlled. Every aberration from the prescribed course of life is treated as error, licence and anarchy: … [E]veryone, in all aspects of their life, is caught in this regulatory tangle of red tape, the inevitable product of the posttotalitarian system.2 In other words, the “Normalization” of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, as a form of totalitarian sovereignty, operated directly on people’s lives. The vast apparatus of regulations and complex system of surveillance and observation created an environment that suppressed individuality and the uniqueness of personality. In such a panopticized public sphere, where everyone is wary of everybody else’s presence and actions, individual identity suffers for the

good of collective identity. In short, people learn to present one identity in public and a different one in private. Such environment thus makes individuals prone to identity crisis and prevents the process of selfrealization, or in Jungian term “individuation”. In this regard Havel adds that “while life, in its essence, moves towards plurality, diversity, independent self-constitution and self-organization, in short, towards fulfilment of its own freedom, the post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline.”3 Koller himself highlighted the “problem of identity” in one of his works dated 1976 (fig. 1). This is a good example among a number of Koller’s works that lend themselves to the reading of the abovementioned trauma. For Koller, the “problem of identity” is caused by “conflicts in culture and society”, in particular “demagogy and contradictions of theory and practice, of form and content”. Koller announces here his determination to research this phenomenon further in order to make a “warning about pseudo-values and falsification of reality”. The contradictions of theory and practice, of form and content that Koller mentions are particularly important here, because, according to the Jungian analyst Ursula Wirtz, these are the defining traits of post-traumatic experience. In her book Trauma and Beyond: The Mystery of Transformation, Wirtz describes trauma as a “crisis of meaning”, explaining that “extreme trauma shatters our sense of identity and undermines any beliefs we may have about the meaning of our place in the cosmos”.4 Throughout the book Wirtz further explains that trauma

appears as a break or a radical rip between the self and reality, between body and soul, between form and content. In the context of the collective trauma of post 1968 Czechoslovakia, this can be understood as a rip between the public and private identity of an individual. This rip, due to the panopticization of the public sphere, prevents the integration of unconscious and conscious self - two poles which in the Jungian understanding of individuation are meant to form a functioning whole. Instead of such individuation, as Havel writes above the political environment “demands conformity, uniformity and discipline.”5 Wirtz looks at trauma from two sides. She explains that it “can be seen as a meaning disorder … but it can also be a potential catalyst for a new orientation in life.”6 In other words, the shattering of past orders opens a space for the re-establishment of new orders in the continuous cycle of dying and becoming. When one’s sense of meaning in life is lost as a result of traumatic experience, when he or she encounters a rip between self and reality, between body and soul, between form and content, then they may embark on a spiritual journey towards healing. This journey is in quest of finding new meaning, in quest of rebirth, in quest of bridging the rip between the body and soul, form and content, in quest of reconciliation with life. This is what Wirtz observes in her own practice when accompanying her patients on this journey – that “via negativa can be turned into via transformativa”.7 When talking about spiritual transformation, we find another peculiar link with


Peter Tuka / The Avant-Garde and Post-War Totalitarianism: Július Koller and Conceptual Art under Communism1

Koller. In preparation for his 2002 exhibition in Viennese Secession, he wrote a note on a piece of paper8 (fig. 2) in which he declared that “the essence of live and living art is not a variation of an object, but a mutation of human (transformation into UFOnaut)”. Koller successfully pioneered this idea him-self by transforming his own life, in 1970, into the life of “U.F.O.-naut”: every action he took from then on was an action of personal culture, of U.F.O.-naut, of a hero whose universal symbol is the question mark (fig. 3) and whose mission is to help others achieve this state of spiritual transformation. U.F.O.-naut is the direct personification of Koller’s vast artistic concept U.F.O., which he manifested in 1970 and which is a direct continuation of his previous concept Antihappening (1965). Both Antihappening and U.F.O., as manifested by Koller9 focus on the transformation of the lived environment through personal culture, which is achieved first and foremost through the transformation of the subject – through the transformation of man into “U.F.O.-naut.” Consequently, throughout Koller’s post1968 practice we can see the via negativa turning into via transformativa. In this period of socalled Normalization, within the conditions of severe oppression of basic human rights and of culture and the creative environment, Koller explores new ways of meaning for himself within the society, but also for art in people’s lives. U.F.O. can be understood as a complex system of personal mythology which Koller was working on for the rest of his life: a complex system of


spiritual guiding principles to mark U.F.O.naut’s journey or his mission in the society. Interestingly, one way Ursula Wirtz studies trauma and interprets the complex processes of the human psyche during the journey towards healing (via transformativa) is through mythology. She compares this journey towards healing of trauma – the journey in quest of finding new meaning – with a mythological hero journey. She finds parallels with a hero’s crossing of the threshold, with his descent into the underworld, into the abysses of the unknown in quest of reclaiming what has been lost and becoming whole again. She sees this mythological hero journey as a descent into the depths of the unconscious self in order to find a new connection with the conscious (lived) self, to bridge the rip between the self and reality, body and soul, form and content.10 The analogy she makes between mythology and human psyche is not coincidental. The hero journey appears in the mythologies of cultures all around the world, and Joseph Campbell famously theorized that this is because “all myths are the creative products of the human psyche … and … mythologies are creative manifestations of humankind’s universal need to explain psychological, social, cosmological, and spiritual realities.”11 He explains that when an individual’s connection with the society’s outer image shatters, he or she turns inward to seek out their own myth, their own mythological symbols within, which function as “vehicles for communication between our waking consciousness and our deepest spiritual life.”12 This is also what Havel posits when

1. Július Koller, Výskum rozporov v kultúre a spoločnosti… [Research of the conflicts in culture and society…], 1976, Slovak National Gallery IM 613

2. Július Koller, Archív JK / Secesia: oddelenie sa… [Archive JK / Secession: Detachment from…], 2002, Slovak National Gallery IM 385/A19/153



Research of the conflicts in culture and society (demagogy and contradictions of theory and practice, of form and content) PROBLEM OF IDENTITY – Warning about pseudo-values and falsification of reality

Secession: Detachment from the past, from art, from artificiality, unnaturality, inhumanity, from xxxxx

Július Koller 1976

Everyone is U.F.O.-naut, but not everyone realizes that he/she performs this function (mission) in the society: demarcation, definition of everyday life and its designation (cultural situation) The essence of live and living art is not a variation of an object, but a mutation of human (transformation into U.F.O.-naut) Social (cultural-political) diabolical triangle Ideology – Politics – Market consumes artist and art Past – Present – Future is also a diabolical triangle – trap for the free timelessness


Peter Tuka / The Avant-Garde and Post-War Totalitarianism: Július Koller and Conceptual Art under Communism1

3. Július Koller and Milan Sirkovský, U.F.O.-naut J.K. (U.F.O.), 1980, Slovak National Gallery UP-DK 2741


he talks in the context of post-1968 Czechoslovakia about life’s movement “towards fulfilment of its own freedom” which comes into conflict with the intentions of the political system which “demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline”.13 He talks about the individual’s break with the meanings superimposed on them by the society, his or her move towards self-constitution, towards becoming a unique human being and not just a “tiny cog in an enormous mechanism”.14 Cogs are not human beings with independent critical thinking. They are simply parts, and when they become old or faulty can be replaced ad infinitum. Moving away from becoming a cog is part of the process of individuation. It is the spiritual journey to re-discover the lost meaning, to re-connect with life, to bridge the abyss between reality and self, body and soul, form and content. Simply, to become a whole, unique and independent being. Campbell sees artists as “magical helpers” on this journey. He says they have the ability to evoke “symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.”15 It is my belief that this is what we can find behind Koller’s statement that “everyone is UFOnaut, but not everyone realizes that he/she performs this function (mission) in the society: demarcation, definition of everyday life and its designation (cultural situation). The essence of live and living art is not a variation of an object, but a mutation of human (transformation into U.F.O.-naut)” (fig. 2).

It is my aim over the following three years to research this phenomenon in more depth, particularly in connection to the post-1968 Czechoslovakia and Július Koller. I believe that studying Koller’s work and archive, especially his notes from the 1970s and 1980s commenting on societal, political, cultural but also private matters, will serve as a probe into the contemporary communist society, the living conditions of an individual, the situation of the local art world, and the working conditions of an artist. Subjected to interdisciplinary research, they will allow better perception of totalitarian reality, in which the political system operates directly on the everyday life of individual citizens, and where “private” becomes “political”. Consequently, I am interested in examining in what ways the information gathered can be put to use in the context of contemporary art theory and practice. It is my concern to investigate what insights can be gained from the study of Koller that may inform new models for comparative study of the avant-gardes in different geo-political regions, and to what extent these may inform a new modified theory of the post-war avant-garde as decentred and multilinear. Returning to the beginning of this paper, I stated that part of the academic aims of my research will be to contribute to the current questioning of the interpretation and reinterpretation of dominant narratives concerning the theory of avantgardes. The main problem we face today as art historians studying the East-Central or East European neo-avant-garde is to find


Peter Tuka / The Avant-Garde and Post-War Totalitarianism: Július Koller and Conceptual Art under Communism1

the most effective way around the centralized tendencies of established scholarship dealing with the theory of avant-gardes that follow from the traditions of Western Marxist and post-Marxist writing on art. This has developed over the course of the twentieth century mainly as a critical method to study the conventional modes of artistic production and consumption under capitalism. However, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the gradual rediscovery of avant-garde art under communism brought with it the question: what about art produced in an environment where socialism was not only powerful as the base for theoretical discourse, but its dominance was based on an actualized political reality that not only affected all public matters, but also had an immediate impact on everyday lives of individual citizens? This is the question we all ask, and we all try to find the most appropriate way to address this complex problem. This question has generated varying approaches, especially over the past decades. The easing of political tensions in Europe that began in the late 1980s brought an immediate international interest in art of communist countries. Post-war art of Eastern Europe was immediately recognized as something new and exotic in many respects. What was not immediately acknowledged, however, is that the art of this geo-political region also requires a new and different approach from the scholarly perspective. We have seen the East European neoavant-garde approached from the perspective of asking what the nonconformist artists achieved despite communism and


to what extent they were able to keep up with Western developments. However, more recently we have started to ask what art and artists achieved because of communism – what the unique environment of this political climate allowed them to do, rather than focusing on what kind of restrictions had to be overcome (via negativa turning into via transformativa). In this respect, I really enjoyed the book by Pavlína Morganová Czech Action Art,16 where she explains that it was exactly because of the repressive nature of communism (particularly in the context of the post-1968 era of Normalization in Czechoslovakia) and because of the panopticization of the society which created the identity crisis within individual citizens that Czech artists started to look for possibilities of transformation of life through art. I maintain that taking a psychological approach to the study of the neo-avant-garde – not only in the context of Július Koller and Czechoslovakia as demonstrated in this paper but of the Eastern Bloc as a whole – will shed more light on the complex problematic of what there was about communism that made this phenomenon of life’s transformation possible. Consequently, to what extent can we assume that art’s potential to achieve the spiritual transformation of life (its potential to turn via negativa into via transformativa, its potential to heal the collective trauma) can be made possible even now in the present world, in the lives of us art theoreticians, art makers and art consumers?

1. This is an abridged version of a paper presented at the “Revisiting Heritage” conference in Warsaw on 7–8 June 2018. Some of the overarching ideas about the East European neo-avant-garde and its relationship to Western art presented in the original paper have been narrowed here to fit the specific case study of Július Koller, in order to keep the argument neat and tight. It is my belief, however, that the methodological framework presented here will be applicable to the wider context of the Eastern or East-Central European neo-avant-garde. 2. Václav Havel, “The Power of The Powerless” in Václav Havel, The Power of The Powerless, Citizens against the state in centraleastern Europe, John Keane ed. (New York: M.E.Sharpe, Inc., 1985), p. 73, improved translation 3. Ibid., p. 29. 4. Ursula Wirtz, Trauma and Beyond: The Mystery of Transformation (New Orleans: Spring Journal Books, 2014), p. 57. 5. Havel, p. 29. 6. Wirtz, p. 17. 7. Ibid., p. 47. 8. I would like to thank Dr Petra Hanáková, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Slovak National Gallery, for clarifying the date and circumstances of this work’s creation 9. See manifestos transcribed in Aurel Hrabušický, “Uvedenie do Diela Júliusa Kollera, Šesťdesiate Roky” (Introduction to the work of Július Koller: The Sixties) in Petra Hanáková and Aurel Hrabušický, Július Koller Vedecko-Fantastická Retrospektíva (Július Koller, science-fiction retrospective), trans. by Jana Lazarová and Peter Lomnický (Bratislava: Slovenská Národná Galéria, 2010), pp. 154–157, 238–239. 10. Wirtz, pp. 117–133. 11. Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss, Mythology and Personal Transformation (Novato: New World Library, 2004), p. 187. 12. Ibid., p. 94. 13. Havel, p. 29. 14. Ibid., p. 73. 15. Campbell, p. 132. 16. Pavlína Morganová, Czech Action Art: Happenings, Actions, Events, Land Art, Body Art and Performance Art behind the Iron Curtain, trans. Daniel Morgan (Prague: Karolinum, 2014).


Wiktoria Szczupacka / Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s

Wiktoria Szczupacka / Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s

Pursuing archival queries concerning female conceptual artists of the 1970s in Poland, one could paraphrase Linda Nochlin’s question “Why have there been no great women artists?” There were Ewa Partum and Natalia LL, of course, but the more one tries to find other women in the history of neo-avant-garde, the more difficult is to find relevant historical sources. Here I propose a case study. We can change the perspective, and instead of big names of artists put the gallery in the centre, and then, using various other sources, not necessarily available in the institutional archive, track different groups of women who were related to the Foksal Gallery. I think this can provide a more nuanced picture, not concentrated on a few strong personalities, but rather on the mechanisms according to which the institution operated and influenced the presence or absence of women in the history of neo-avant-garde. The Foksal Gallery is perceived as one of the most important neo-avant-garde galleries of the 1960s and 1970s. Described as an author’s gallery, it operated in the state institutional structure of the Visual Arts Studios (PSP). Despite this connection, Foksal is described as one of the few pursuing its own artistic programme and also an influential source of many important manifestos


and concepts. The Foksal Gallery also played the role of an unnamed neo-avant-garde establishment. For example, in his text “Pseudoawangard”,1 Wiesław Borowski indicated who could be part of the avant-garde and who couldn’t. The gallery was established in 1966 and continues to operate to the present day. I will focus on the very beginning of the gallery’s history, from the time of its establishment in 1966 through the end of the 1970s. When discussing the timeframe I would like to stress the different character of the particular parts of the communist era in Poland. It was not a unified time. I would like to draw particular attention to the character of the 1970s in Poland, the Gierek era – the most Western – and consumption-oriented time during the communist period in Poland. It was easier to travel and even possible to buy luxury goods. A pro-consumption and pro-Western climate was also visible in the media coverage, like magazines, newspapers and radio.2 To grasp the relation between women and gallery in the communist and, shall we say, semi-consumption period of the end of the 1960s and the decade of the 1970s, I have chosen a methodology elaborated in the neoliberal context by Angela Dimitrakaki,3 an art historian dealing with materiality and work, but even more by her younger

colleague, art historian Macushla Robinson, who draws attention to women’s work especially in the art world. Robinson describes women working for galleries, artists and museums, and calls it a “labour of love”, one of many invisible and unpaid women’s labours (like care work for example).4 Referring to this methodology based on the contemporary and neo-liberal art world, my question would be, “Was this labour of love also possible in communist Poland and at a neo-avant-garde gallery?” How about the representation of women at the Foksal Gallery? I found the archive of this institution almost empty. At least empty for me looking for female artists. Only a few boxes contained documents connected to women. I needed to go beyond this wellestablished archive and look somewhere else for additional sources. Luckily, more and more archives are available online. Thanks to photographic archives I realized that there actually were women at the Foksal Gallery. Sometimes even quite a lot of them! I found them in the pictures documenting gallery events. So I decided to look closer at the archives of three (male) photographers: Piotr Barącz, Eustachy Kossakowski, and Tadeusz Rolke. They photographed different situations around the Foksal Gallery from the beginning of the institution to the late 1970s. Rolke and Kossakowski emigrated in 1970. After that time Barącz took over the role of the gallery’s photographer-friend. Piotr Barącz was connected with the theatre, often portraying cinema and theatre

stars. Both Kossakowski and Rolke worked for the state lifestyle and fashion magazines of that time, like Stolica, Polska and Ty i Ja. They were quite well-known as photo reporters and fashion photographers. Afterhours they participated in Foksal Gallery events, which they also often documented. Thank to them we realize that there actually were women at the gallery. Who were they? Using the “labour of love” concept I identified four groups of women who worked for the gallery, according to the emotional and official/unofficial relations they had with the institution. At the beginning, archives and photographs made this easy for me, but then the archival sources were lacking so I turned to secondary sources: non-fiction literature, autobiographical books, and interviews. 1. Women artists This group is easiest to grasp, as their names can be found in the gallery’s documents and in the timeline I got from the gallery. Let’s take a quick glance through the names: Maria Stangret-Kantor was the only one who was shown at the Foksal Gallery as an women-artist several times. She was one of the co-initiators of the gallery, connected to the group from the very beginning, but also the wife of a very important figure, the imperious artist Tadeusz Kantor. He had a hegemonic position at the gallery and often did what he wanted without consulting his colleagues. Her first presence at the gallery was in Summer Storage, initiated by Kantor. Elżbieta Cieślar exhibited geometric and light-based work together with her


Wiktoria Szczupacka / Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s

husband, Emil Cieślar. The couple worked together for a very long time. In this case it is hard to find any specificity in this work, either for Elżbieta or for Emil. Caroline Rose was a photographer documenting theatre, fashion and architecture. The exhibition of her photographs (depicting Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre plays) at the Foksal Gallery is further evidence of the Kantors’ position, in my opinion. The last female name on this short list is Annette Messager, and her joint exhibition with Christian Boltanski. Unfortunately, much of the documentation and correspondence from the Foksal Gallery archive is lost. This is also the case for letters concerning this exhibition. However, in an interview, Milada Ślizińska described the situation of inviting artists to be exhibited. Gallery employees would go through art magazines and pick what they liked. They found Boltanski very interesting, so the gallery contacted him and invited him to have an exhibition in Warsaw. Boltanski replied that he would agree under one condition: that his then-girlfriend Annette Messager would also have an exhibition there. From this quick review we can see that there was no exhibition of a woman artist without the help of a male, and a wellpositioned one at that. Most of the women were partners (partners of gallery initiators, like Stangret and Kantor, but also other male artists of interest to the gallery organizers, like Cieślar and Boltanski), but different relations were also possible, as with Kantor’s theatre in the photographic lens of Caroline Rose. 2. Gallery employees/curators This is the second important group and


must be opened by woman very important for the gallery. Anka Ptaszkowska was the female face of Foksal from the beginning, and truly, her face can be seen in almost all pictures documenting gallery events in the 1960s. In 1970 she emigrated. In the history of the gallery it is always mentioned that in the 1970s Andrzej Turowski joined the group. And he is visible during his gallery work in a few pictures. More or less at the same time another person who joined the gallery employees was Milada Ślizińska. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture of her working at the gallery. Ślizińska was a regular gallery employee, today we would call her a curator, but there were also other well-educated and devoted persons. When asked in an interview about women working at the gallery, Wiesław Borowski enumerated them (rather without last names): “There was Mewa…. At the beginning Anka was creating the gallery, Milada, for some time Basia Turowska was very much engaged, she curated the Bernar Venet exhibition and edited his catalogue.”5 n another passage he continues: “I didn’t avoid women; on the contrary, they played an important role in my life: Milada, Justyna Budzyk – a fantastic Romanist, she worked with me quite long – then Amanda, an Englishwoman who worked there as a volunteer for quite long.”6 3. Partners and supporters The next group is very much connected with the previous one: partners and supporters. This group is hard to define. In the interviews I carried out, I came across one such person, Krzysztof Wodiczko’s assistant

1. Foksal Gallery Archive, photo: Bartosz Górka, Warsaw, 2013


Wiktoria Szczupacka / Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s

Jagoda Przybylak. She recalls the times they worked together (conceptually and physically) on exhibitions at the Foksal Gallery. However, she is invisible in the gallery documentation. Another supporting person is Jolanta Spława-Neyman. Interestingly, Anka Praszkowska mentioned Spława-Neyman in her autobiographical book. I couldn’t reach her or find more information about her, but I would like to quote Praszkowska, because I find the description very much relevant in this context: Jola was wonderfully selfsufficient, and at the same time completely belonged to the Foksal Gallery, present in all situations, visible in all (historical) photographs – almost a symbol. Jola beautified and added lustre to the openings. She could perversely and gently break the hardest hearts. … Not a prom queen, but simply devoted. … It even happened that Jola forced herself – or to be honest she was forced a little bit – to abandon her natural status of a beautiful and luxurious woman. I remember her pale body in tomato sauce mixed up with beach sand in Barbujaż erotyczny (part of the panoramic Sea Happening of Tadeusz Kantor).7 4. Models/socialites About this last group there is no information in art history sources, although the Foksal Gallery is mentioned in books


about Warsaw’s 1970s fashion and lifestyle – which reveals the very important fact of the gallery’s social status. The role of socialite was played by women (like Jola Spława-Neyman), but also by men. Above I stressed the position of the photographers. Their girlfriends and models were also guests of the gallery. Another example: In the 1960s, Wiesław Borowski (co-founder and throughout an employee of the gallery) and Tadeusz Rolke (the photographer mentioned earlier) had a joint programme on Polish Radio entitled Podrywacze to my (We are the heartbreakers), in which they reportedly talked about real and imaginary amorous conquests in Warsaw. In the picture I use to illustrate the last group of people connected to the Foksal Gallery you can see the gallery’s photographer Eustachy Kossakowski on that luxurious object of desire and bait for women – a scooter – with a female model posing next to him. The picture was taken by Rolke. Now try to imagine being a woman artist at a gallery prowled by Warsaw heartbreakers. To summarize, I tried to show the Foksal Gallery, known as a place of intellectual debate and artistic experiments, from another socioeconomic perspective of the end of 1960s and the 1970s, when it was also a fashionable place for socializing. As I was looking for women in the history of the neo-avant-garde, I dealt with the Foksal Gallery as an institutional case study. Online archives of the photographers allowed me to look at the gallery from another perspective. They allowed me to grasp

women in the history of the institution. Thanks to the notion of “labour of love” I was able to trace different relations, not only to state that “there have been no great women artists” at the Foksal Gallery, but to see the relation between an art institution and women in different positions. They were employees/curators, partners/supporters and socialites. In the interview, Wiesław Borowski emphasized that the Foksal Gallery wouldn’t be itself, couldn’t exist even, without all the people creating it. An important group of creators, but almost invisible in the artistoriented archive, is women. Not artists, not necessarily employees, but “workers of love”.

2. Eustachy and Matylda, photo: Tadeusz Rolke, Warsaw, 1961

1. Wiesław Borowski, “Pseudoawangarda”, Kultura no. 12 (614), 1975, p. 12. 2. Radosław Domke, Przemiany społeczne w Polsce w latach 70. XX wieku (Zielona Góra: Uniwersytet Zielonogórski, 2016). 3. Angela Dimitrakaki, Gender, artWork and the global imperative (Manchester University Press 2016). 4. Macushla Robinson, “Labours of Love: Women’s Labour as the Culture Sector’s Invisible Dark Matter”, (accessed 20 February 2017). 5. Wiesław Borowski, Zakrywam to, co niewidoczne interviewed by Adam Mazur, Ewa Toniak (Warszawa: 40000 Malarzy, 2014) p. 371. 6. Borowski, p. 372. 7. Anka Ptaszkowska, Wierzę w wolność, ale nie nazywam się Beethoven, (Gdańsk: Słowo/obraz, terytoria, 2010), p. 138.


Petra Skarupsky / Official Exhibitions from Czechoslovakia in Poland as a Tool for Remapping the History of Art in Central Eastern Europe during the Cold War

Petra Skarupsky / Official Exhibitions from Czechoslovakia in Poland as a Tool for Remapping the History of Art in Central Eastern Europe during the Cold War In In the Shadow of Yalta Piotr Piotrowski mentioned that artists from Poland and Czechoslovakia came into contact during the Argumenty 62 exhibition at the Krzywe Koło Gallery in Warsaw.1 Piotrowski continued that Polish and Czechoslovak artists did not work in mutual isolation and noted that Argumenty was one of the first in a sequence of international independent artistic events of the neighbouring countries. Significantly, in the late 1950s, Czechoslovakia was the second most important country for the Polish People’s Republic in terms of cultural cooperation, just after the USSR, and in 1961 and 1962 it even reached the status of Poland’s most important partner.2 In this paper, I would like to demonstrate in what ways archival material concerning mostly official exhibitions can be used to remap the narrative about PolishCzechoslovak artistic contacts during the Cold War. Trying to confront the official statistics with Piotrowski’s argument, I have conducted research in several archives. I have found out that between 1945 and 1989 there were at least thirty-five exhibitions of art from Czechoslovakia staged at various cultural institutions in Warsaw alone.3 Yet many smaller displays, for example many shows staged at the Centre for Czechoslovak Culture, remain hidden in


the past due to the lack of archival material. The catalogue of the 1978 exhibition Poland– Czechoslovakia: Centuries of Neighbourhood and Friendship4 stated that between 1945 and 1975 there were 399 exhibitions from Czechoslovakia in the Polish People’s Republic.5 This statistic has to be taken with reserve, but it surely proves that art exhibitions played an important part in establishing and maintaining international contacts. The official exhibition system in the Polish People’s Republic was centralized. The Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions (Centralne Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych) in Warsaw oversaw local bureaus of artistic exhibitions existing in many cities in the country. For example, in 1967 the capital’s Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions hosted an exhibition titled Fighting Art: Exhibition on Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Treaty of Friendship and Mutual Help between Poland and Czechoslovakia, which at the time was praised by the press for bringing to Warsaw high-quality works by renowned Czech artists.6 The show featured artworks by Czech Cubists, Surrealists and members of the avant-garde Group 42. In 1973 the Warsaw audience saw Czech and Slovak Contemporary Graphic Art.7 In the exhibition catalogue for the show, artist Miloš Urbasek was presented as “the initiator of

Confrontations in the 1960s in Bratislava, which verified the possibilities of lyrical, structural and geometrical abstraction.”8 It is interesting that the renowned series of unofficial exhibitions Confrontations were brought up within the context of a catalogue for an official, institutional presentation.9 Other renowned artists featured in the show were Frantšek Bílek, Orest Dubay, Emil Filla, Ľudovit Fulla and František Hudeček. In 1981, the National Museum in Warsaw presented Czech Cubism.10 In Poland’s collective memory, 1981 is marked by the tragic introduction of martial law on 13 December. Presentation of Czech Cubism at that time, at the most prominent art institution in the capital, might not seem an obvious choice, but, as Czech media historian Tomáš Dvořák argues, “during the 1980s and 90s … Czech Cubism became one of the main ‘export items’ of the exhibition industry.”11 The other Polish cultural centre, Kraków, also hosted many presentations of Czech and Slovak art. In 1970, the Palace of Art presented Contemporary Czech Art, sent from the Art Gallery in Cheb.12 Cheb is a town in the Karlovy Vary region, in the western part of the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, which developed a cooperation programme with the National Museum in Kraków. Museum professionals from Kraków travelled to Cheb to exchange ideas and information with their Czech colleagues.13 The National Museum in Kraków was responsible for jointly preparing the exhibition Poland–Czechoslovakia: Centuries of Neighbourhood and Friendship, which took place in 1978,

travelling from Kraków to Warsaw, Bratislava and Prague.14 The show covered over a thousand years of contacts between Poland and Czechoslovakia and featured some one thousand objects.15 The third very dynamic centre for establishing artistic contacts with Czechoslovakia was the Museum of Art in Łódź. In 1969, the museum hosted an exhibition of Czech surrealist Jindřich Štyrský.16 In 1970, Czechoslovakia sent works of Czech sculptor Otto Gutfreund.17 The cooperation between the Museum of Art in Łódź and the National Gallery in Prague was based on an official agreement, in which both parties agreed on exchange of exhibitions, publications and employees.18 Janina Ojrzyńska was the recipient of one of the first scholarships. After that, Ojrzyńska travelled to Prague every year, establishing contacts and friendships with local artists.19 Over the years she managed to gather a collection of contemporary Czech art, which she later donated to the National Museum in Wrocław. Her collection was presented in Wrocław in autumn 1984. In the exhibition catalogue Ojrzyńska wrote: I owe the fortune of my first meeting with Czech artists in 1973, when I was in Prague on a scholarship from the National Gallery, to the Museum of Art in Łódź. This institution is well known to Czech artists because its director Ryszard Stanisławski introduced many works of outstanding Czech artists to the museum’s collections. This certainly helped me to break the ice. But the workshops of Prague’s artists constitute an exclusive world, often visited


Petra Skarupsky / Official Exhibitions from Czechoslovakia in Poland as a Tool for Remapping the History of Art in Central Eastern Europe during the Cold War

by directors of great museums of modern art, eminent international art critics and artists from many countries.20 It is worth mentioning that this note comes from the early 1970s, from the time of the so-called “normalization”, meaning the time of isolation and control after the suppression of the Prague Spring. The collection shown in Wrocław included works by renowned Czech artists such as Jiří Kolář, Stanislav Kolíbal, Radoslav Kratina, Karel Malich, Adriena Šimotová and Zdeněk Sýkora. Another important example, but of a slightly different nature, is the Biennial of Spatial Forms in Elbląg, born from the ideas of, among others, Marian Bogusz from the Krzywe Koło Gallery. The event was an inspiration for the Symposium of Spatial Forms in Ostrava, which started in 1967. The biennial was organized around the fact that Elbląg had an industrial plant called Zamech which produced mostly steam turbines. Ostrava, with its Vitkovice steelworks, had similar possibilities. In the first edition of Elbląg’s biennial in 1965, Czechoslovakia was represented by six artists: Jan Heydrich, Stanislav Makarov, Eduard Ovčaček, Miloš Urbásek, Jan Wagner and Josef Wagner.21 In an article from 2014, Ovčaček pointed out that after returning from Elbląg, the Czech artists were thinking about starting a similar event in Ostrava and tried to persuade the local government, politicians, and the directors of the steelworks.22 In 2011, Eduard Ovčaček gave an interview to Polish art critic Łukasz Białkowski in which the artist described why Czech and


Slovak artists were interested in Poland.23 Białkowski asked about the cooperation between Poles and Czechs during the communist regime. Ovčaček answered: In the totalitarian communist regime of course the free development of personalities was made difficult. However, in Poland the situation was a bit better than in Czechoslovakia. For this reason, the cooperation with the independent artistic milieu of Poland was very attractive for us. In Poland it was even possible to buy specialist art books. In Czechoslovakia it was impossible, because foreign books were not imported. It is true that we were only able to participate in the art opening at the Krzywe Koło Gallery by phone.24 This demonstrates an interest and a need for contact, but also highlights the difficulties the artists faced. At the same time, it should be interpreted not only as a sign of mutual isolation, but rather as a sign of functioning within a certain system of control. The artists were trying to create any independent space for themselves in the controlled environment, using tools that were available to them. In this sense, we could compare this mechanism to actions of museum professionals from the Museum of Art in Łódź, the National Museum in Kraków, the National Gallery in Prague, and the Art Gallery in Cheb. They were trying to get to

know each other, to plan exhibitions and visits to other institutions. Their ideas had to be approved by the Ministry of Culture to receive funding and be able to carry out the projects. Polish art historian Waldemar Baraniewski wrote about the history of the Biennial in Elbląg as a potential “starting point of redefining the geography of Polish art history, taking into consideration its local significance as well as political determinants of international cultural exchange in the era of the Polish People’s Republic.”25 At the end of his text, titled “Biennial: The Unwritten Story”, Baraniewski raises a question: “In what perspective should one put the Elbląg Biennial? How to redefine its provinciality? How to write it into the model of horizontal art history?”26 Horizontal art history brings us back to Piotr Piotrowski, who was mentioned in the beginning of this paper. Piotrowski focused on non-official events and contacts. The striving for independent, not state-controlled information and inspiration was the driving force for the artists in Czechoslovakia as well as other countries in the Eastern Bloc. At the same time the institutional artistic scene was also being used by artists and art professionals to establish international contacts and gain information about the art scene in other countries. Including those trajectories in the narrative helps achieve a broader perspective and escape a stereotypical, dualistic story that abandons the institutional heritage and only describes non-official events, often using artists’ personal stories.

Of course, the heritage I am bringing up here is problematic. The propaganda aspect, the ideology and politics must not be forgotten or erased from those events. When working with archival exhibition catalogues, opening speeches or press reviews, one needs to keep in mind that there might be many different non-artistic causes and triggers behind the exhibitions in question and that many choices were potentially not artistic choices at all. This aspect doesn’t need to be seen only as a flaw, but rather as a chance for mapping and remapping the contacts, tensions and difficulties that were shaping the post-war artistic life within the Eastern Bloc. ABSTRACT In In the Shadow of Yalta Piotr Piotrowski mentioned that artists from Poland and Czechoslovakia came into contact during the Argumenty 62 exhibition at the Krzywe Koło Gallery in Warsaw.27 Piotrowski continued that Polish and Czechoslovak artists did not work in mutual isolation and noted that Argumenty was one of the first in a sequence of international independent artistic events of the neighbouring countries. At the same time, in the late 1950s, in terms of cultural cooperation Czechoslovakia was the second most important country for Poland, just after the USSR, and in 1961 and 1962 it reached the status of Poland’s most important partner.28 Trying to confront these statistics with Piotrowski’s comment, I have conducted research in several archives. I have found out that between 1945 and 1989


Petra Skarupsky / Official Exhibitions from Czechoslovakia in Poland as a Tool for Remapping the History of Art in Central Eastern Europe during the Cold War

there were at least thirty-five exhibitions of art from Czechoslovakia staged at various cultural institutions in Warsaw. The significant number and varied content of those exhibitions adds another layer to the existing map of artistic contacts established between Poland and Czechoslovakia, and in a broader perspective, calls for a deeper investigation of the official contacts within the Eastern Bloc. Not only the Krzywe Koło Gallery, but also the Museum of Art in Łódź with its exhibition of work by Jindřich Štyrský (1969), the Zachęta Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions with shows like Fighting Art (1967), as well as the National Museum in Warsaw, which presented Czech Cubism in 1981, deserve scholarly attention. Adding the history of official exhibitions to the existing map proposed by Piotrowski enables presentation of a more complex and less dualistic view of the history of Central-Eastern European art, critical towards the “socialist” narrative but also towards the “dissident paradigm”.


1. P. Piotrowski, Awangarda w cieniu Jałty: Sztuka w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej w latach 1945–1989 (Poznań 2005), p. 89. 2. A. Szczepańska, Warszawa–Praga 1948–1968. Od nakazanej przyjaźni do kryzysu (Szczecin 2011), p. 451. 3. In Warsaw the main sources of archival material were the archive of the Zachęta National Gallery of Art and the archive of the National Museum in Warsaw. 4. Polska-Czechosłowacja: Wieki sąsiedztwa i przyjaźni, Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie, Kraków, December 1977 – January 1978; Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie, Warsaw, February–March 1978; Dom kultúry, Bratislava, April–May 1978; Výstavní dům U Hybernů, Prague, 14 June – 16 July 1978. 5. Polska-Czechosłowacja: Wieki sąsiedztwa i przyjaźni, exhibition cat., ed. Z. Gołubiew, K. Tucholska, trans. E. Orwińska, A Zaborowski, E. Zaitz (Kraków 1978), p. 220. 6. Ignacy Witz, “Sztuka walcząca i pokazy na Mazowieckiej”, Życie Warszawy, 22 March 1967, p. 5. See Petra Skarupsky, Sztuka walcząca. Wystawa z okazji 20. rocznicy Układu o Przyjaźni i Wzajemnej Pomocy między PRL i CSRS, March 1967, Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions, 7. Czeska i słowacka grafika współczesna ze zbiorów Galerii Narodowej w Pradze i Słowackiej Galerii Narodowej w Bratysławie, Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions, Warsaw, 1973. 8. Czeska i słowacka grafika współczesna ze zbiorów Galerii Narodowej w Pradze i Słowackiej Galerii Narodowej w Bratysławie, exhibition cat., eds. E. Šefčaková, J. Wittlichová (Warsaw: Central Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions, 1973), p. 128. 9. On Confrontations, see Piotr Piotrowski, Awangarda w cieniu Jałty: Sztuka w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej w latach 1945–1989 (2005), p. 89. 10. Czeski kubizm, exhibition cat., ed. P. Parandowski (National Museum in Warsaw, 1981). 11. Tomas Dvorak, “A Charming Impasse: Czech Cubist Architecture”, Art Margins Online, 11 November 2002 index.php/2-articles/314-a-charming-impasse-czech-cubist-architecture 12. Współczesna sztuka czeska, Pałac Sztuki TPSP, Kraków, 1970, Archive of the National Museum in Kraków (71/162). 13. Spotkanie z muzeologami czeskimi (Cheb) Starý Hrozňatov, kwiecień 1970, Archive of the National Museum in Kraków (F/138/70). 14. Polska-Czechosłowacja: Wieki sąsiedztwa i przyjaźni, Kraków, Warsaw, Bratislava, Prague 1978. 15. “Wystawa dziejów sąsiedztwa i przyjaźni”, Stolica 1978 no. 10 (5 March), p. 10. 16. Jindřich Štyrský, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, Łódź 1969. 17. Otto Gutfreund, Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi, Łódź 1971. 18. “Współpraca z zagranicą. Czechosłowacja. 1976-1993”, Archiwum Państwowe w Łodzi 377 (A/064/915/77). 19. Jacek Ojrzyński, “Czeskie pasje Janiny Ojrzyńskiej”, Muzealnictwo no. 52 (2013): 126. 20. Współczesna sztuka czeska. Kolekcja Janiny Ojrzyńskiej, exhibition cat., ed. J. Ojrzyńska (Wrocław: Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, 1984), p. 16. 21. Jarosław Denisiuk, “Galeria EL Within the Orbit of Krzywe Koło”, In the Face of the 50th Anniversary of the 1st Biennial of Spatial Forms in Elbląg (Elbląg: Centrum Sztuki Galeria EL, 2015), p. 108. 22. Eduard Ovčaček, “Polský Elbląg – inspirace pro ostravské prostorové formy”, Krasná Ostrava, no. 3 (2014): 24, 23. Interview with Eduard Ovčaček by Łukasz Białkowski (2011), 24. Ibid. 25. Waldemar Baraniewski, “Biennial: The Unwritten Story”, In the Face of the 50th Anniversary of the 1st Biennial of Spatial Forms in Elbląg (2015), p. 72. 26. Ibid., p. 76. 27. Piotr Piotrowski, Awangarda w cieniu Jałty: Sztuka w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej w latach 1945–1989 (Poznań 2005), p. 89. 28. Anna Szczepańska, Warszawa–Praga 1948–1968. Od nakazanej przyjaźni do kryzysu (Szczecin 2011), p. 451.


Ĺ ukasz Jastrubczak / Recollection of the Last Exhibition

Łukasz Jastrubczak / Recollection of the Last Exhibition

Didactics is generally considered a dirty word in the art shown by high-culture galleries. It is the primacy of formalism and the promotion of art for art’s sake as a symbol for individualistic freedom that led to a very simplistic definition of didactics and to its blacklisting. Luis Camnitzer, Conceptualism in Latin American Art Didactics of Liberation As an artist I have always admired the medium of exhibition. I could materialize my reflections upon reality with the use of minimal, sometimes ephemeral objects, installations, actions, gathered together at a specific time and place to create a visual and intellectual construction. All those art pieces are specific marks in my private history. Yet its full meaning is and was not present to the beholder. The multilayered structure of references hidden behind art pieces is a mystery. I always claimed that the placement of objects within the exhibition is a reason to start discussion, to give interviews, to explain in person the context of the piece itself, and therefore to draw a wider perspective for understanding. The objects of art I have created functioned


like evidence gathered by an investigator. In 2013 I became an instructor at the Academy of Art in Szczecin. I moved from Kraków, where I was part of the local art community, and went to a city that for Poles is situated somewhere there, out on the periphery. I moved to a city where there was no visible, strong art community, where there was no neo-avant-garde legacy.1 As an instructor I discovered that didactics, pedagogy, is a very important aspect in terms of my art practice. I also started to be more focused on introducing art practice in the local context, and on the other hand, as I am very interested in postcolonialism, I started to look for a wider context for locality. I became fascinated with Latin American countries, specifically Argentina and its very distinct urban grid structure. Through a very deep study of South America (specifically Argentina, Chile and Uruguay) I wanted to trace the neocolonial structures and the dependency on the United States. The influence of the US on our culture (e.g. through film productions) and the economy is a truism, but in Eastern European countries is still not faced by a wider part of society as a real problem. What is more, I got interested in a very specific approach to conceptualism in Latin American countries in the 1960s and 1970s, which was very much focused on how

information can be disseminated beyond official channels. As Luis Camnitzer claims in his book,2 conceptualism in Latin American countries was very much influenced by the idea of pedagogy, to educate the exploited social classes. In May 2018 I presented in Szczecin, in a local off space,3 an exhibition titled Recollection of the Last Exhibition, where I materialized objects that could be used as a starting point for my explanations, for my descriptions of the alternative models that are functioning (or were planned to be introduced but failed) in Latin America, in opposition to neo-colonial power. At the opening I didn’t appear as the artist/author of the exhibition, but as a curator and cofounder of Centrum Centrum,4 an institution I created with my partner Małgorzata Mazur in 2014. And as a curator I started to explain. Centrum Centrum is an institution, or rather an anti-institution, that imitates institutional activity. Its research and exhibition programme is focused on the relation between the peripheries and the centre, in the context of economic and cultural dependency. Centrum Centrum seeks threads from the past and tries to reconnect them with the present in a new context, for better understanding, to create a distinct arthistorical narration of the peripheral world. We create publications, we build the collection, we take care of the soil, plant vegetables and collect fruit. To reimburse the involvement of artists and theoreticians from various fields, we created the capital of Centrum Centrum. It consists of sixty-six gold bars made of cardboard, spray-painted gold.

To boost its value I used my symbolic capital as an artist. The exhibition at Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle5 in Berlin to which I was invited helped us to install gold bars for three months at two museums in Berlin, the Neues Museum and the Bode Museum.6 Now we can reimburse persons working for Centrum Centrum with an object that is either an artwork or a museum specimen. Exhibitions The first two gold bars were sent to Buenos Aires, to Roberto Jacoby and Eduardo Costa, who (along with Raúl Escari) made a happening there in 1966 that was later titled Happening for a Dead Boar. Probably it was the first art piece that existed and was materialized only as news reports. Jacoby, Costa and Escari, influenced by Oscar Masotta, prepared a textual and photographic description of a specific happening. Then they sent it to various magazines, and journalists wrote articles and spread information about this specific art event in which famous people took part. It never happened. The reconstruction we made at Centrum Centrum, the first exhibition at our institution, was divided into two phases. First I was interviewed on 9 June 2017 by a journalist from Radio Szczecin. I spoke about Centrum Centrum and its goals, and about the idea of the original Happening for a Dead Boar, how it refers to the problem of dissemination of news by media, censorship and distortion of information. Then I gave a report on the reconstruction that took place at Centrum Centrum,


Łukasz Jastrubczak / Recollection of the Last Exhibition

situated in allotment gardens in Szczecin. I said that a lot of people took part in the event, because they were interested in the title: boars are unwelcome in allotments because they destroy the plantings. People discussed the meaning of the original piece and were very interested in its socio-political aspect. One woman who visited Argentina in the 1960s to visit her sister told us interesting stories about those times. All of it, as reported on the local radio station, was fake, and didn’t ever happen. It was only a report on the perfect event, how we would like it to look. The second phase was a real event, a month later. We wanted to see how it would actually look. Only thirteen people took part. Two of them came from a different allotment, intrigued by a poster hung on the allotments’ notice board, and two other persons came from the city – we didn’t know them, they got interested in the event by an ad in a local culture event internet portal. The others were friends, students, people we knew. The reconstruction was presented to the audience in the form of a radio drama. First there was the interview from Radio Szczecin. Then an article from El Mundo magazine from 1966, translated into Polish, was read.7 Afterwards there were audio messages from Roberto Jacoby and Eduardo Costa. Eduardo for example said he was happy that the happening that didn’t happen in Argentina in 1966 would not happen again in Poland in 2017. The whole reconstruction is documented in the form of a booklet and cassette.


Collection The collection of Centrum Centrum can be situated in the institution or outside. It can be appropriated from other institutions even without their knowledge. One of the first acquisitions in Centrum Centrum’s collection was a stone collected from the land-art piece Spiral Jetty made by Robert Smithson in 1972. Two years later the stone was thrown into a meadow near the PolishBelarusian border, and is permanently situated there but still part of the collection.8 In 2014 we travelled across the US. Just before departing for the road trip we visited the Jewish Museum in New York, where there was an exhibition reconstructing the Primary Structures exhibition that took place at the same institution in 1966. The reconstructed exhibition involved a model of the building where the Jewish Museum is located, with models of the sculptures presented at Primary Structures in 1966. After arriving on the other side of the country, we met with a friend in San Francisco, Andy Vogt. He told us we should definitely go see the exhibition at the Jewish Museum when we got back to New York. We told him we had already seen it, and it was fantastic. It appeared that Andy was responsible for making all the models of the Minimalist sculptures. He gifted us a model of The Cryosphere that Robert Smithson made in 1966. It is now part of our collection.9 There are some items in the collection that don’t have any material substance – for example Accidental reconstruction of the happening Inversión de escena that the Chilean art group Colectivo Acciones de Arte (CADA)

1. Rock from Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson from the collection of CentrumCentrum


Łukasz Jastrubczak / Recollection of the Last Exhibition

made in 1979, which took place in front of the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts in Santiago. In the original action, eight milk trucks left the Soprole dairy to drive through the city of Santiago according to a previously planned route, which ended at the museum, where the trucks stood for hours forming a long line. The route symbolically connected the dairy, a milk-producing factory, with a conservative “art factory”, the museum. This connection was reinforced by closing the entrance to the museum by covering the façade with a large white cloth. On Google Street View we found a photograph by Ricardo Vasquez, who accidentally photographed a truck transporting gas, also in front of the same museum in Santiago. It is the same place where the milk trucks stood. Yet in the accidental reconstruction, the gas truck is duplicated by a Google algorithm and eventually we see four trucks in the photograph.10 The power of recycling In 2018 we established a collaboration with Munandi Art Studio in Ndeke, Zambia. We were fascinated by a project of theirs from 2015. They invited Zambian artists to discuss for two weeks the influence of Western contemporary art language, specifically Conceptualism, on the Zambian art scene, and created sculptures made out of recycled materials. We decided to establish a collaboration involving a group of Zambian artists and students and artists from Szczecin. It would take the form of a game. First the Zambian artists would send us a photo documenta-


tion of their installation which they prepared together, then the group gathered at Centrum Centrum would respond with an installation. And then the photo documentation would be sent to Munandi, and they would transform the previous installation/sculpture or create a new one. And so on. This ping-pong dialogue can last a month or a couple of years. In the first photo we received there was a giant metal structure (resembling an egg), partly covered with car tires. Kalinosi Mutale (the co-founder of Munandi Art Studio whom I contacted) explained that the construction had been built two years before, to be used for a Christmas tree at a shopping mall in Lusaka. Since then they had stored it on their property, and now they decided to use it in our collaborative “game”. We answered by raising a geodesic dome structure (also recycled from an art piece created by a student at the Academy of Art) 130 cm above the ground. Now we are waiting for their response. (In)difference In either avant-garde or neo-avantgarde movements, the tension between the individual and the social is very present. In different parts of the world in the 1960s artists and intellectuals had very different approaches towards individualism. In the US artists wanted to avoid institutional structures, which for them were corrupted with elitist formalism, and the art market, which treated the art object in a consumer manner. Their answer was to disseminate art objects in a horizontal, non-hierarchical

way. As a result, the artist would become more like a regular citizen, a member of the society who distributes ideas, than a chosen one who decorates the interiors of corporations with his/her unique paintings. In Argentina artists where deeply involved in politics. They practised art on the streets, or sought to distribute information via uncensored channels to as many people as possible. There also it was not so important to mark their own authorship. The South American neo-avant-garde was very much dispersed in society, in order to fight the neo-colonial capitalism imposed by the US. In Poland, Western modernism tempted intellectuals with its universalism, and a connection to Western universal language was a remedy for the Polish political situation filled with communist slogans. There fore individualism in neo-avant-garde practice of Eastern Bloc artists was rather desired than condemned Actually, in pointing out your own individual position, you could either stand against the system or propose an alternative, a difference. Jerzy Ludwiński wrote in the early 1970s that after the explosion of the borders of art, the search for new, unknown tendencies in art is no longer the goal, and the point is that each artist has his/her own tendency within him/ herself. In searching the past, seeking the future, getting to know distant cultures, an artist creates his/her very specific language, which is different from any other. And this makes the “string” attaching the artist with the audience much, much longer. The artists’ attitudes become the matter of art. What

2. 3. Power of Recycling documentation of workshops made together with Polish and Zambian artists


Łukasz Jastrubczak / Recollection of the Last Exhibition

is more, Ludwiński claimed later, in the 1980s and 1990s, that the most interesting artistic activities happen somewhere on the peripheries of the non-existent border of art and life. Yet it is even much more problematic for the society to understand the activity of the artist, and probably his/her attitude can only be transmitted with telepathy. I swing between being a curator who explains, an instructor who believes in didactics and exchange of information, experiences, attitudes, and last but not least an artist who tries to keep it all as much a mystery as possible. But is this because I believe that mystery is the beautiful?

As the Crystallists group11 claim in their manifesto: The universe is at once finite and infinite; things have dual natures. When we say dual, we do not mean contradictory, for we go further and say that truth itself has a dual nature. When we refer to the duality of truth, we do not mean its multiplicity. This is not an issue that can be contained within a simple quantity; but perhaps it can be contained within a teleological quantity, namely, pleasure.

1. Compared to other Polish cities of its size, e.g. Lublin, a city with a population of 350,000 (Szczecin’s is 400,000). In Lublin in the 1950s and 1960s there was a strong community of neo-avant-garde theoreticians and artists. Jerzy Ludwiński, Anna Ptaszkowska and Wiesław Borowski studied at the Catholic University of Lublin. Grupa Zamek was a pioneer group of Informel. Włodzimierz Borowski was one of the main conceptualists. 2. Luis Camnitzer, Conceptualism in Latin American Art: Didactics of Liberation (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007). 3. Obrońców Stalingradu 17 art space run by artists and instructors from the Academy of Art in Szczecin. 4. 5. Common Affairs: Revisiting the VIEWS Award, Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin, 2016. 6. 7. This is probably the only Polish translation of this text. The text was written by a journalist from El Mundo magazine and describes the happening, which the author didn’t take part in but knew of only from the documentation sent to the magazine by the artists. 8. 9. 10. 11. The Crystallist group, founded in 1976 by Hassan Abdallah, Hashim Ibrahim, Kamala Ibrahim Ishaq, Muhammad Hamid Shaddad and Naiyla Al Tayib in Khartoum, Sudan, will be the protagonists in the next event at Centrum Centrum.


4. Happening for a Dead Bore documentation of event at CentrumCentrum – a reconstruction of Argentinian happening from 1966


Karol Radziszewski / Queer Archives Institute: Institution as an Art Practice

Karol Radziszewski / Queer Archives Institute: Institution as an Art Practice

Post-socialist states, where many historical threads have been ruptured or, indeed, never actually emerged, are witnessing attempts to construct national identities anew and develop new narratives. History, including art history, is largely (re)constructed and sometimes manipulated depending on the current political conditions. In my artistic practice, I take special interest in strategies that provide possibilities to actively respond to these processes. I am interested in reviewing history, rewriting it from my own perspective and complementing main narratives with neglected threads, with a particular focus on minority voices. My efforts towards queering and decolonizing history are founded on the archives that I acquire and study. I would like to present the long-term project Queer Archives Institute (QAI) as an example of my working methodology. I have already described in detail the origins and activities that directly preceded the foundation of Queer Archives Institute in my text In Search for Queer Ancestors (2016),1 and therefore this text is devoted rather to very activity of the QAI. The initiative has been conceived as a not-for-profit organization engaged in artistic activity, research, collecting, digitization, presentation, display, analysis and artistic interpretation of queer archives primarily from the countries


of the former Eastern Bloc. It is a long-term project open to international collaboration with artists, activists and academics. I established the QAI on November 15, 2015 by launching the project website.2 Far from randomly chosen, the date marked the thirtieth anniversary of “Operation Hyacinth”, initiated on November 15, 1985. It was a mass operation of the Polish communist police which consisted in gathering materials concerning Polish homosexuals and their circles. Numerous individuals were detained, both in their homes and workplaces, whose forced confessions were extracted and who were coerced to sign a pseudoidentitarian declaration of being a homosexual. Pursued until 1988, the operation embraced at least more than a dozen thousand people. “Operation Hyacinth” became a pivotal factor behind the formation of the archive of Ryszard Kisiel, which later came to form the root and the heart of the QAI. It was in direct response to that operation that Kisiel launched his activist-artistic activity, which brought the fruit of the first printed queer zin in Poland, titled Filo3 and a series of pioneering queer photo shoots organized with his friends.4 Comprising cycles of photographs, slides, negatives, brochures, writings, photo shoot props as well as artefacts created within my long-term project Kisieland,5 Kisiel’s archive represents

more than a thousand items in the QAI collection, many of which remain in the exhibition circulation. The exhibition that inaugurated the QAI activity was held in São Paulo, at the Videobrasil headquarters.6 It was a strategic decision that from the very beginning indicated a broader scope of interest than the hitherto researched region of Central and Eastern Europe and former Eastern Bloc states.7 The exhibition in São Paulo also determined from the very start the QAI’s characteristic working method – a largescale logo of the Institute appeared on the wall, while the exhibition design implied that a new institution had opened in its temporary seat, thus occupying/appropriating and, at the same time, queering an existing art institution, including its collection.8 The main element of the exhibition, large tables-vitrines featured materials both from Brazil and Central and Eastern Europe, organized them around such themes as “AIDS”, “pioneering queer publications”, “lesbians”, “nudist beaches”, “gender”, which were supposed to simulate the future possibilities of browsing digitized QAI resources with the use of keywords.9 The archival materials combined in this way were to generate new meanings, but also – and above all – manifest the supranational character of queer and escape nationalistic expectations according to which all kinds of heritage should be embedded in strictly national narratives. The search for common denominators between geographically remote regions seems to me a particularly important aspect of the QAI activity; it

opens up a broader perspective. What also matters is searching the archives for inspiration to self-organize in a DIY spirit and for effective strategies of resistance that could also come in handy in the modern-day context. The QAI model enacted in Brazil proved effective and inspirational to such an extent that one year later, upon the initiative of the artist Juan Betancurth, we initiated an artistic research project devoted to the queer history of another Latin American state: Colombia. The exhibition QAI/CO,10 held in December 2017 at the Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño in Bogota, comprised archival materials from Colombia, gathered by artists and activists throughout several months of research, which were combined with materials from Central and Eastern Europe from the QAI collection. A slightly different iteration came with the exhibition QAI/BY11 in Minsk, Belarus. Invited participants included modern-day Belarussian artists whose works, mostly created specifically for the show, were presented alongside a modest display of archival materials. Given powerful government repressions targeted against local historians and activists who wish to engage with queer themes, and the fact that until 1995 homosexuality was a criminal offence in Belarus, research activities and material traces in the archives are scarce. Drawing on authentic stories preserved in oral tradition, within the QAI activity I created the work Invisible (Belarusian Queer History).12 Analogue photographs, deliberately made with insufficient exposure, were pitch black


Karol Radziszewski / Queer Archives Institute: Institution as an Art Practice

1. Queer Archives Institute exhibition at Videobrasil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, 2016, photo: Everton Ballardin.

2. QAI/CEE exhibition, Centrala Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 2017.


and featured added comments that explained why an image failed and suggested what it was supposed to represent, e.g. “A photograph taken with insufficient exposure when a policeman was trying to record a painter having sex with another man on the square on the corner of Lenin Avenue and Lenin Street, Minsk, late 1970s”. The story is true, the painter is still alive and he was indeed incarcerated, but no policeman was trying to capture that moment in a photograph. Black images and small handwritten notes can be used by exhibition visitors to learn the erased/invisible history of the repressed minority. It is a specific example of how the archive is animated and the viewer’s imagination is activated by strictly artistic strategies that offer a kind of corporeality to the oral histories which I have been recording for years as the core part of my investigations. The results of research in Belarus were later presented in Kiev13 in the form of an installation, whereas one of the black photographs from the Invisible series was shown in several citylight displays. Thus, the QAI contributed to establishing new connections and building a new queer map of the region. A major goal of the project consists in activating and performing the gathered archives. Apart from artistic interventions, the QAI sometimes literally adopts a performative form, such as in the action QAI/ MSU, during which, wearing a drag, I interacted with visitors inside an appropriated fragment of the museum exhibition transformed into a QAI temporary office. The performance formed part of the project of

3. Severas Flores group performance at QAI/CO exhibition, Fundación Gilberto Alzate Avendaño, Bogota, Colombia, 2017, photo: Juan Betancurth

“queering” the Museum of Contemporary Art (MSU) in Zagreb,14 during which I stayed for a month in a museum building right beside the museum archive, while conducting somewhat of an artistic investigation by looking behind the scenes and revealing the strategies of collection building, creation and interpretation of specific works, and the personal influence of current and former museum employees on the program. The result was the tenth issue of my periodical publication DIK Fagazine,15 subtitled “Zagreb – Queering the Museum”. From that issue onwards, DIK Fagazine also became the official magazine of the Institute.16 A broad-reaching QAI project was last year’s exhibition Heritage, organized within the 7th edition of the Pomada festival.17 The show featured materials from the QAI collection, including items acquired specifically for that occasion, which lay the cornerstone for a new historical QAI department with a mission to look into the distant past. It also queered commonly available books as well as reproductions


Karol Radziszewski / Queer Archives Institute: Institution as an Art Practice

– more seldom originals – of works from, programmatically heteronormative, museum collections in Poland. The entire display was complemented with pieces by contemporary Polish artists. Queer Archives Institute is an artistic project so far run by one person. Yet, the initiative attempts to activate a new way of thinking about the potential form of an independent quasi-institution. As it develops a collection, such an entity does not automatically need to pursue a classic museum status, but rather seek to preserve its performative, critical, sometimes interventionist, character.

4. Karol Radziszewski, performance QAI/MSU, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia, 2016, photo: Bojan Mrđenović

1. K. Radziszewski, “In Search for Queer Ancestors”, L’Internationale, practices/55_in_search_for_queer_ancestors. 2. The activity of the QAI can be followed at: 3. Filo was published between 1986 and 1990 as an underground zin. It later transformed into a regular, officially distributed, magazine. 4. I discuss the topic in more detail in the text “Kisieland”, in Krzysztof Pijarski (ed.), The Archive as Project (Warszawa: Fundacja Archeologii Fotografii, 2011). 5. Ibid. 6. The exhibition was titled Queer Archives Institute and remained on display from April 2 to June 11, 2016. 7. As I was traveling to Brazil and attempting to explore the question of queer archives in that country, I came across many similarities with my previous research. The particularly topical theme of the “Global South” formed many intersections with the question of the “Global East”, thus developing a story about the “global province”, which seeks to discover its own language and create its own independent identities. 8. The exhibition featured my selection of video films from the Videobrasil collection which corresponded to the topic of the show. 9. Works on digitizing the collections and making them available are still underway. 10. I have adopted the principle according to which the titles of the QAI exhibitions are abbreviations in which the QAI name is followed by an abbreviation of the name of the country, region or institution addressed in a given show. Exceptions included the Warsaw exhibition Heritage, opened within the 7th Pomada festival (2017) and the inaugural exhibition in Brazil. 11. The exhibition was held at the Y Gallery between July 7 and August 2, 2016. 12. The work reinterpreted and queered the Invisible cycle, created by the Belarussian conceptual artist Igor Savchenko in the 1990s. 13. The installation in Kiev formed part of the group exhibition BlueBox at the IZOLYATSIA Gallery, held between November 5 and December 11, 2016. 14. Lasting the entire day, the performance was held on October 25, 2016 as part of the broader international project Performing the Museum. 15. The first issue of DIK Fagazine was published in March 2005. The magazine is the first and so far the only artistic periodical from Central and Eastern Europe devoted entirely to queer topics and themes. DIK combines archival research with contemporary artistic contributions. Details can be found in the text: K. Radziszewski, “In Search for Queer Ancestors”, L’Internationale, 16. The subsequent issues released by the QAI are no. 11 from 2017, concerning the entire Eastern Bloc, published in English and French on the occasion of the international conference Communist Homosexuality 1945–1989 in Paris, and the monographic issue 12 devoted to Belarus. 17. Co-curated by myself, Michał Grzegorzek and Wojciech Szymański, it was held between September 29 and October 1, 2017, at the Czesław Miłosz Hall on the 6th floor of the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.


5. DIK Fagazine No 11, 2017


PavlĂ­na MorganovĂĄ / Performance Art: Remembered, Photographed and Filmed, Exhibited, Sometimes Even Re-enacted

Pavlína Morganová / Performance Art: Remembered, Photographed and Filmed, Exhibited, Sometimes Even Re-enacted Writing about performance art in Central-Eastern Europe has a specific history. My paper is an attempt to remember, describe and interpret how this was done through research, interpretation and exhibiting. I happened to be part of this process when, in 1997, I wrote the first comprehensive history of Czech performance art as my thesis.1 This book was translated into English in 2015.2 I would like to talk briefly about the process which led to this and which, I believe, is an example of how the history of performance was conceived in Eastern and Central Europe. In the West, this mostly happened in the 1970s, when books by RoseLee Goldberg3 and Lucy Lippard,4 to name just a few, were published. In the 1990s in Central-Eastern Europe we were still waiting for such authors. Yet this doesn’t mean that the history of Performance Art wasn’t being written; the process started in the 1960s and continued in the 1970s as in the West. To make it more understandable I propose three different stages of this performance history writing. My examples will naturally be based mostly on Czech sources and my personal research experience, but I assume that with some exceptions it basically apply to a number of other countries of the former Eastern Bloc. The first phase I see as the “witness stage”. The history of performance art was written


then by a number of its participants, direct witnesses and often friends of performance artists. They were art historians, theoreticians, philosophers, members of progressive art scenes of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, in Prague, Bratislava, Wrocław, Budapest, Brno, Warsaw, Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana and many other cities. They were present at different venues and they referred on them in their writing. One example could be the Meeting of Czech Slovak and Hungarian Artists organized by László Beke in Balatongoglár in 1972.5 As we can see in the famous picture of handshakes, there were a number of artists present, as well as theoreticians, for example László Beke and Jiří Valoch, who were both leading theoreticians of performance art in their countries. The first phase of interpretation of performance was often narrowly focused on one personality or one series of performance. It was drowned from close nest, it was up-to-date, often very provocative compared to other art history contexts. Most of these texts were published in alternative media of the “unofficial” culture sphere.6 But the writing of these art historian “witnesses” is a very important source of the second phase. The second stage started in the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Writing of performance art history was part of the enormous effort to rewrite, to reconstruct,

the post-war art history of countries of the former Eastern Bloc. A consistent history of performance art didn’t exist in this territory; any scholar interested in the topic had to conduct extensive research, through existing articles and publications, often of a samizdat nature. It must be said that it was mostly done within the existing national borders. The territory was mostly closed to international scholars because of the language barrier. Due to the lack of printed documents and texts, with no institutional support and background, it was necessary to seek out the artists themselves, find the way to their private archives, listen to their stories. This was the “investigators” stage. The success of the research often depended on whether the artists kept meticulous documentation, even though nobody had been interested in their work sometimes for decades. It depended on the artists’ memory, on the willingness to share it, on their personal preferences. All problems of oral history were present. I was part of this exciting process, and it happened to me numerous times that artists refused to talk about the performances they did in the 1970s because it was over for them. We have to understand that most performance artists in the East created their works in isolation – not only in isolation from art in the West, but also from the public at large, as with rare exception, it was prohibited to freely present to the public. Performance art was for most of these artists a kind of hobby, usually done in their spare time, outside art institutions, at their own expense. Some of them had

amazing personal archives, but some of them had nothing (it was lost, taken by the police, destroyed…). It took time to write the histories of performance, and also another factor played a certain role. When my first book on Czech Action Art was published in 1999, Jiří Valoch wrote in the epilogue: “All permanent expositions of modern art in the Czech lands have one thing in common – they pretend that in the 1960s, 70s and 80s Czech art was represented by more or less adequate paintings, sculptures or drawings. … In this way they were able to give an impression to the ‘normal’ public that nothing else really existed, and some theoreticians – either from their convictions or from opportunism – would agree. … In the Czech lands, intermedia, beginning with visual and phonic poetry and ending with events, happenings and the performances that are logically linked to them, as well as actions in nature and dematerialized conceptual works, still appear only rarely in ‘established’ art museums, and preferably not at all.”7 The same applied to the acquisition of performance art documentation, which is rarely made by Czech galleries to this day. But a certain shift towards the end of the millennium in this second phase is evident. Important exhibitions like Out of Actions,8 Global Conceptualism,9 and Body and the East10 took place. If we compare a random selection of the publications before and after 2000, we can notice a radical increase in those written in or translated into English.11 The discussion around relationships between Western and


Pavlína Morganová / Performance Art: Remembered, Photographed and Filmed, Exhibited, Sometimes Even Re-enacted

Eastern art history was reshaped around the turn of the millennium. IRWIN published East Art Map in 2006, and Piotr Piotrowski’s important book In the Shadow of Yalta12 was translated into English in 2009, to name just two examples of this complex debate. Around 2000 we can also notice an institutional shift. In some permanent collections performance art appeared in the form of documentation, and the first studios focusing on conceptual art, including performance, were opened at progressive art academies in the former Eastern Bloc. This shift is apparent when we consider for example Jiří Kovanda’s work and his position on the international art scene. In the early 1990s, Kovanda was still almost exclusively viewed as a postmodern painter; he hardly ever spoke of his performances from the 1970s, as he felt nobody was interested in them.13 He became an assistant in the painting studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in the second half of the 1990s. Towards the end of the millennium, there was increased interest in his performances from the 1970s. In 2005 published a complete catalogue of his performance and installation pieces from 1976–2005, which included his new performances, which he started to create after 2000. The book was published in English in 2006.14 The turn of the millennium opened the third phase, and thanks to his performance art Kovanda became an international star. His case, I think, beautifully represents this period. It is connected to the so called


Documentary Turn. This broadly discussed change of the theoretical and methodological approach influenced the way we look at performance. Documentation, which during the first two phases was an important player, suddenly became a key issue. Scholars started to examine it vigorously, for the first time asking who the photographers were and how the final photos were chosen. Photography is often the only medium that is exhibited in connection with performance art and that works on the art market. Actually, very little film footage of performances exists in Czech action art and in the whole Eastern Bloc. Film and later video cameras were very complicated to get in socialist countries – they were scarce and expensive commodities. That is why photography is usually the only “proof” that the action took place. The myth of photographic documentation has sometimes even become more important than the original action in terms of filling a role within the art world’s modus operandi. It is worth asking if these sheets of paper can now be perceived as a substitute for the distinct artwork that was the original action. The art market certainly sees it that way, and, pressured by the market, the artists themselves have changed their perception of documentation. Photographs of performances essentially form our ideas about this kind of art. The chosen angle, timing and light work inherently create the tone of the performance for us today. Many of them take the form of petrified spectacles, perhaps of the performance’s least important moments. Plus there are problems

with missing documentation. What about the performances that we can “rediscover” only through oral or written history? Are they less valuable than the ones with perfect visual documentation? As Peggy Phelan said of the ontology of performance in her book Unmarked: “Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance.”15 I recently participated in two types of research which challenged documentation in a new way. Czech Performance Art: Film and Video, 1956–198916 represents an attempt at gathering together rare visual records of interventions, performances, pieces and happenings from the communist period. Unlike photography, the moving picture records not only what an action looks like visually but also how it plays out over its duration. Although such visual documentation is rare in the former Eastern Bloc, we can find different examples of films and videos. Because of its comprehensive nature, it is an important source of our understanding of Performance Art of the East today. The other research developed around the question of where the performances took place. In 2017 I published a book called A Walk through Action Prague in which I located all the known performances that took place in Prague from 1949 to 1989.17 This research was interesting mostly because I visited almost all the places of performances in Prague, often accompanied

by the artists themselves. The change of the socio-political-urbanistic situation made me understand better the nature of the original performances, and I learned a lot from this experience. While visiting the places with the artists, trying to identify the original spots, I realized how sometimes the original documentation is misleading. I realized how significant the space and the social and political situation are for the performance. This research enabled me to formulate new questions and definitely brought new answers. Despite the above-mentioned reservations about the role of documentation, the Documentary Turn opened new ways of interpretation. It also opened the field to a number of international scholars who were able to look at the published documentation and derive new interpretations based on it. It also became material and inspiration for other artists working with their own history and heritage of conceptualism. Artists like Barbora Klímová started to work with performance art documentation as with any other art material. Interesting examples of re-enactment appeared from the contemporary generation as another source of possible interpretation.18 One such instance is the remake of Kovanda’s 1977 Untitled action, when he spread his arms on Wenceslas Square in Prague. In 2006, Daniela Baráčková assumed the same position on Times Square in New York and captured her performance in a short video. We can see how the change of exterior and the different socio-political background highlights the context of the performance.


Pavlína Morganová / Performance Art: Remembered, Photographed and Filmed, Exhibited, Sometimes Even Re-enacted

In contrast to Kovanda, whose performance in socialist Czechoslovakia went unnoticed, Baráčková’s performance was interrupted by the New York police within minutes. These experiments could be placed in an international context. Marina Abramović performed her Seven Easy Pieces at the Guggenheim in 2005 and thus, along with other artists, opened the discussion on the essence of performance. Can it be perceived as a musical composition whose re-enactment in a new space and time with the participation of new performers and viewers gives it an unrepeatable intensity of experience without restricting it from being performed again? Or is only the first performance valid, so that each reinterpretation represents a new artwork? Or does it exist only in the present, as Peggy Phelan states, and become something different when it is documented or repeatedly represented? How do we retrospectively exhibit these works that are now an iconic part of post-war art history? In the Czech Republic performance art is exhibited the traditional way, as framed documentation, consisting of photos, texts, concepts etc., along with objects and films, if they exist. But we can also find attempts to do it differently. One of them was the first retrospective of Karel Miler, Petr Štembera and Jan Mlčoch at the Prague City Gallery in 1997.19 Their work was presented as a book for each of the authors. Each page was devoted to the documentation of one performance, in chronological order. The viewer was invited to “read” the history of performance art. Another interesting attempt was


the Vladimír Havlík retrospective at the Blansko City Gallery.20 The artist’s work was presented solely through large projections of his 8 mm films documenting individual performances; the projections covered the entire gallery. The last exhibition I would like to mention is the Vladimír Ambroz retrospective.21 Much of his performance documentation was developed for the first time for the exhibition, so there wasn’t the dilemma whether to use vintage prints or work with contemporary possibilities. Thanks to that, he created an impressive exhibition with a surprising visual effect. I think it is extremely difficult to solve these dilemmas and find clear answers to the questions raised above. But it is obvious that even though performance art resists traditional art-historical treatment because of its rejection of a final artefact and accentuation of ephemerality and intangibility, it is an integral and extremely important part of twentieth-century art. In the Central and Eastern Europe milieu it represents one of the most authentic positions of the unofficial scene of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. We are living through the end of the third stage. Remarkable research is being done from all different sides and in projects like Fluxus East,22 Antipolitics in Central European Art23 or The Green Bloc,24 to name just a few. The recent book by Amy Bryzgel Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 196025 is an attempt to do for the East what RoseLee Goldberg did for the West. This is all accompanied by a number of exhibitions trying to make this ephemeral phenomenon present again and accessible

to viewers. Like any other subject in global art history, Conceptual and Performance Art research has become a very specialized field, in which we can find many angles of investigation. The question remains what is coming next and what will be the next step.

1. Pavlína Morganová, Akční umění (Olomouc: Votobia, 1999), 2nd ed. (Prague: J. Vacl, 2010). 2. Pavlína Morganová, Czech Action Art: Happenings, Actions, Events, Land Art, Body Art and Performance Art behind the Iron Curtain (Prague: Karolinum Press, 2015). 3. RoseLee Goldberg, Performance: Live Art 1909 to the Present (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1979). 4. Lucy Lippard, Six Years: Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (New York: Praeger, 1973). 5. 6. See Pavlína Morganová, “Fluxus in the Czech Period Press”, in Petra Stegmann (ed.), Fluxus East. Fluxus Netzwerke in Mittelosteruropa (Berlin: Künterhaus Bethanien GmbH, 2000), pp. 177–196; also Pavlína Morganová, “České akční umění 60. let v dobovém tisku” (Czech Action Art of the 1960s in the Press), in Akce, slovo, pohyb, prostor / Experimenty v umění šedesátých let (Action, Word, Movement, Space: Experimantal Art of the Sixties), (Prague: Prague City Gallery, 1999), pp. 54–60. 7. Jiří Valoch, Epilogue to Akční umění (Action Art) by Pavlína Morganová (Olomouc: Votobia, 1999), p. 143. 8. Kristine Stiles et al., Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object 1949–1979 (London: Thames and Hudson, 1998). 9. Luis Camnitzer et al., Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s (New York: Queens Museum of Art, 1999). 10. Zdenka Badovinac (ed.), Body and the East (Ljubljana: Moderna galerija, 1998). 11. After 2000 there are published books: Zora Rusinova (ed.), Action Art 1965–1989 (Bratislava: SNG, 2001); Amy Bryzgel, Performing the East: Performance Art in Russia, Latvia and Poland since 1980 (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012); Andrea Bátorová, Aktionskunst in der Slowakei in den 1960er Jahren. Aktionen von Alex Mlynárčik (Berlin: Lit, 2009). 12. Piotr Piotrowski, In the Shadow of Yalta: Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945–1989 (London: Reaktion Books, 2009). 13. Pavlína Morganová, “Untitled”, in Jiří Kovanda: I Haven’t Been Here Yet (Wrocław: Museum of Contemporary Art, 2013), pp. 29–38. 14. Vít Havránek (ed.), Jiří Kovanda, 2005–1976: Actions and Installations (Zürich: tranzit & JRP Ringier, 2006). 15. Peggy Phelan, “The Ontology of Performance: Representation Without Reproduction”, in Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 1995), p. 146. 16. Pavlína Morganová, Terezie Nekvindová and Sláva Sobotovičová (eds.), Czech Performance Art: Film and Video, 1956-1989 (Prague: VVP AVU, 2015). 17. Pavlína Morganová, A Walk Through Prague: Actions, Performances, Happenings 1949–1989 (Prague: VVP AVU, 2017). 18. Epilogue to Pavlína Morganová, Czech Action Art: Happenings, Actions, Events, Land Art, Body Art and Performance Art behind the Iron Curtain (Prague: Karolinum Press, 2014), p. 233; Tomáš Pospiszyl, “A Replica Does Not Represent Merely a Copy But Part of a Dialogue”, in Barbora Klímová (ed.), Replaced (Brno 2006), p. 74. 19. Karel Miler, Petr Štembera, Jan Mlčoch 1970−1980 (Prague City Gallery, 1997−1998), curated by Karel Srp. 20. Vladimír Havlík / Multikino (Blansko City Gallery, 2017), curated by Jana Písaříková. 21. Vladimír Ambroz / Akce (Actions) (Prague City Gallery, 2018), curated by Tomáš Pospiszyl. 22. Petra Stegmann (ed.), Fluxus East: Fluxus Networks in Central Eastern Europe (Berlin: Künstlerhaus Bethanien GmbH, 2007). 23. Klara Kemp-Welch, Antipolitics in Central European Art: Reticence as Dissidence under Post-Totalitarian Rule 1956–1989 (London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 2014). 24. Maja Fowles, The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism (Budapest–New York: Central European University Press, 2015). 25. Amy Bryzgel, Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960 (Manchester University Press, 2017).


Daniel Muzyczuk / Is It Right to Perform an Installation? Between Reconstruction and Performance of a Score

Daniel Muzyczuk / Is It Right to Perform an Installation? Between Reconstruction and Performance of a Score

This essay is an attempt to reflect on the practice of the team at Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź in reconstructions of lost or unavailable key moments of modern art. The issue is vital for the institution for historical reasons and because due to past events some objects and documents of great importance have been lost. The act of reconstructing them, or to put it in other terms, restoring the past, becomes then the act of reconstituting the identity of the institution and the collection it holds. The foundation myth is based on a donation from a group of artists, including Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro, of a collection of works of avant-garde artists. The name given to this set when it was first exhibited in 1931 was decisive for the future of the institution: International Collection of Modern Art of the a.r. group (“a.r.” stands for Revolutionary Artists or Real Avant-Garde). For Strzemiński and Kobro the collection was intended to serve as a means for social emancipation. Locating it in Łódź, a modern industrial city largely built in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, had a social aim. From an article sometimes attributed to Strzemiński, we can reconstruct the sense of purpose of the collection itself and the museum: The difference between the museum and the exhibition is based


on eliminating the effect of chance as precisely as possible. The exhibition offers a description of a singular moment of artistic life. The museum presents the evolution and mutual dependence of individual movements. The exhibition offers a singular aesthetic impression. Museums’ primary aim is didactics – enabling the presentation of development trends of every period and ingredients forming true art worthy of its era. Thus the museum cannot accept an aesthetic sham erected to dazzle the viewer. Therefore, not only specific objects, but also their placement, should be regulated by a strictly considered outline.1 Even if not written by Strzemiński, the article outlines a way of understanding the exhibition as an embodiment of a process that the viewer should also follow – a process enforcing individual emancipation through gaining visual consciousness. The social level of this enterprise was also founded on the fact that both Strzemiński and Kobro came of age as artists in Soviet Russia. They both witnessed and worked with the network of the Museums

of Artistic Culture, a short-lived project whose aim was to create an infrastructure for institutionalization of the avant-garde.2 The enterprise was an outcome of the brief moment when the avant-garde was meant to be institutionalized in revolutionary Russia. When relocated to Poland in the early 1920s, Strzemiński and Kobro brought with them a similar idea. However, the failed alliance between socialism and the avantgarde disillusioned them about the possibility of implementing the same model. They needed to redesign it for a very different country and social system.

Before 1939 the institution never had the space to mount an exhibition fulfilling this task. After the Second World War, the museum got a new building: a former industrialist palace. Marian Minich, the director who took over again after the break, started reorganizing the museum and designing the display for the collection. The layout of the galleries was intended to illustrate the evolution of styles of modern art, starting with impressionism and ending with abstract art. The floor plan depicting the project can be compared to Alfred H. Barr, Jr.’s famous diagram used on the

1. Marian Minich, The floorplan of the exhibition of International Modern Art on show between 1948 and 1950, courtesy of the Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź


Daniel Muzyczuk / Is It Right to Perform an Installation? Between Reconstruction and Performance of a Score

dust-jacket of the catalogue of the Cubism and Abstract Art show at MoMA in New York from 1936. The narrative includes expressionism, symbolism, realism, impressionism, fauvism, etc. The floor plan also points to some of the artists whose works never were part of the collection. For example, room 28 exclusively presented Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. They were represented by facsimile reproductions that Minich started buying in the 1930s, which he included in the collection shows because of his pedagogical strategy. However, in an era when the notion of an original and its relation to mechanical reproduction was under constant investigation, Minich’s practice can be treated as more than simple pragmatism imposed by a lack of resources. In fact, in the 1950s Minich dreamed of a whole network of museums of reproductions, with the institution in Łódź as the original and source.3 Every city in Poland would have a sister institution of Muzeum Sztuki, with all of its holdings simply reproduced and exhibited. This narration formed by the art objects and reproductions culminated in the Neoplastic Room, designed by Władysław Strzemiński. This space for the presentation of abstract art referred to the Kabinett der Abstrakten which El Lissitzky created at the Landesmuseum in Hanover in 1929. The effect was described by Minich in an article from 1965: “The room itself, as well as all the exhibits presented inside, led to a specific geometrical organization of formal elements, described by various proportions and mutual conditions and moreover activated by colour.”4


Since neoplasticism was a largely extinct movement at the time of the creation of the room, this undertaking can be treated in two ways. On the one hand, it is an anachronistic assumption: in a war-ravaged Europe there is no room for a return to the avant-garde understood in pre-war terms. On the other hand, however, even if we consider this assumption as a work on the still-fresh corpse of abstract art, we can also see in this act a heroic moment of repetition of the founding gesture. In both cases, the Neoplastic Room is outside the present time. This is the Hegelian moment of abolishing art, to which all paths marked out in other rooms lead. It is a moment of fulfilment of the prophecies of the construction of a perfect world, stretched endlessly (the room was to be a permanent element of the collection exhibition project). It is also an application of the theory of spatial rhythms to a room outside of time. The knowledge of the further fate of the Neoplastic Room, which was repainted white two years after its completion, influences the heroism attributed to this founding moment. Since this is the final moment in the history of art and the development of modern art, modernity in the notion of Strzemiński and Minich is the moment of stopping history, which can be fully realized after the final conflict that was the Second World War. All later art is a continuation of the moment of closure in the quantitative sense. No qualitative transformation is possible anymore. Thus, Muzeum Sztuki is a space where the moment of foundation (the a.r. collection)

2. Kazimir Malevich, The Last Futurist Exhibition, 1985–2011, Courtesy of the Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, photo: P. Tomczyk 3. Teresa Kelm, Zygmunt Krauze, Henryk Morel, Spatial-Musical Composition, 1968, reconstruction 2013, courtesy of the Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, photo: P. Tomczyk


Daniel Muzyczuk / Is It Right to Perform an Installation? Between Reconstruction and Performance of a Score

and the moment of renewal (the Neoplastic Room) coexist with all other, necessarily less important, historical moments. The collection was developed in the shadow of the first two historical events, but with the passing of time, the fatalism which resulted from placing the Neoplastic Room at the end of history, in the final space on the horizontal projection of galleries filled with objects arranged in a chronologically built narrative, casts itself into an increasing shadow. If we used the term “progress” in relation to this story, its meaning would be particularly bitter and, in connection with the history of the Neoplastic Room and the biography of the main characters of this narrative, would indicate a truly modern weave of construction and destruction. However, the tension between the notion of originality and the complex story of the work is in sync with the theory that had recently been developed by Walter Benjamin in connection with, among others, the work of Kazimir Malevich from Belgrade that is on show at MS2 and is a copy of the works from the famous photograph of the 0,10 exhibition from 1915. Benjamin wrote: Art history is not a story about the past, but the way we remember it. It also gives us a direction for the future. What kind of story about the past we choose will determine what steps we will take; what the future will be. One of the terms used to mean these places is “memory”. It is an image (impression) of an event in our brain.


When an event has long passed, this impression, this memory, is the only thing we have. But it is not the same event; it is just an image, an emotion, a kind of image in our brain. What is actually the antithesis of the memorized event.5 The questions posed by the story of the Neoplastic Room as a destroyed yet restored work resonate strongly with problems that I faced during my collaboration with David Crowley on exhibitions that sought to reconstruct the histories of audiovisual experiments in the Eastern Bloc. In 2012, in Sounding the Body Electric, we wanted to speak about the history of the influence of new approaches of authorities towards experimental art and new technologies on the cooperation between visual artists and musicians. As a lot of the archive material we were examining was not originally intended to be works of art, we needed to develop our own methodology to decide what could enter the exhibition and become primarily visual objects. A large number of works were prepared by composers who from the late 1950s were developing new languages of graphic scores or found themselves doing films. These objects, these works, were not meant to be displayed in any art institution. This fact really illustrates the statement that the category of “archive” in the art context is growing to include various materials that served for preparation of works of art or materials documenting it or materials that are actively contextualizing. Objects from the archive can even appear in

the art institution alongside the art object, to offer decoding material for the work of art. We were dealing with pieces that were intermedia in nature, and this fact alone posed unique questions. The institutional frame is strong enough to turn a music score from an interesting object used to record and transmit music, and hence simply a musical medium, into an object of visual aesthetic contemplation. In a similar manner, the floor plan of an installation entitled Spatial Musical Composition in 1968 was created by Teresa Kelm (architect), Zygmunt Krauze (composer) and Henryk Morel (sculptor) at Galeria Współczesna in Warsaw. The work was a continuation of experiments initiated in 1966 by Morel and Krauze as part of a joint project with Cezary Szubartowski and Grzegorz Kowalski called 5x. Morel and Krauze also invited architect Teresa Kelm to work on the 1968 project. The sound installation was comprised of six booths equipped with a source of sound and light. Extended soundproof walls allowed soundtracks to mix in the separate spaces. Visitors were able to control the sounds reaching them and, by moving freely between the spaces, build their own version of the composition using the tools offered by the artists. The piece was intended as a means of challenging the traditionally passive activity of listening to music in the concert hall and, in this way, handing control of the audiosphere over to the listener. The piece was also inspired by the model of working with taped music, where sound can be organized in intersecting

layers. The title was clearly a reference to the way Katarzyna Kobro titled her sculpture pieces. Krauze was also fascinated by the unistic paintings of Władysław Strzemiński. This piece was a missing link in the reception of the avant-garde in the 1960s. The question posed by Spatial Musical Composition was also offered by Robert Ashley in his composition Yes, But Is It Edible? (1999). The performance instructions are simple: the lines should be uttered on one breath and then after each line there is a mark with a piano cluster of sound. Ashley argues that part of the revolution of graphic notation was that it also involved space: There was a lot of experimenting that ended about thirty years ago based on the “hypothesis” that “space” equalled “time” in musical notation. These were experiments, because in the traditional notation of Western music space had never been equated with time except in transcription. The experiments were designed to determine if musicians could learn to “read” space (on paper) as time.6 The line of thought Ashley voiced in his libretto opened the door to approaching the floor plan of the work by Kelm, Krauze and Morel as a mix between spatial arrangement and music notation instead of simply a work of architectural design. The description by Kelm and Krauze seems to point to this possibility: “Music and architecture thus form an integral whole here and can only exist


Daniel Muzyczuk / Is It Right to Perform an Installation? Between Reconstruction and Performance of a Score

in mutual connection. Architecture, like an instrument, is indispensable for the piece to be performed. The operation of the piece of music can be connected to that of the visual sequence.”7 The archival document reproduced in the leaflet of the original exhibition might be treated more as an instruction that can be repeated and begins to be achronological in the sense that it can be re-performed, reinterpreted, open for different forms of approaching it. This reasoning opened the way for Muzeum Sztuki to acquire the piece for the collection not as a physical object but rather as a set of instructions for realizing a musical piece. This piece in the collection has a transitory character. It is at most times available as archival material and can be performed in space for a special exhibition. So far the museum has performed it twice. But this strict methodology of performing a score as a spatial and visual practice can also have a looser form. I’m a member of the artists and curators group Grupa Budapeszt, together with Igor Krenz and Michał Libera. We are involved in unorthodox reinterpretations, restagings of different moments of the history of audiovisual art. We call it “analysis” because we perform research to find a methodology that comes from within the artwork in question itself, which in turn produces another reinterpretation. One of the pieces the group worked on for Galeria Studio in Warsaw was intended to be a remake of Michael Snow’s “Rameau’s Nephew” by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen (1971–1974). In fact it was a set


of songs based on different chapters of this monumental film derived from the methods Snow employed. It was performed by BNNT group, consisting of Konrad Smoleński, Daniel Szwed and Macio Moretti. They made it in a 2x2x2 m black cube within the gallery. The construction was soundproofed so that people could only hear the roaming while loudspeakers on the theatre stage in another, distant space played the transmitted hi-fi signal. The meditation on the philosophical consequences of synchronization of sight and sound by Snow was reread in an unorthodox way to reclaim the piece for a new historical moment. This procedure of saving something that needs re-viewing is similar to what the team of Kelm, Krauze and Morel did for Kobro and Strzemiński. Instead of a simple restoration, they performed works that reinterpreted the originals. They are memories and new objects at the same time. This way of looking at restaging is further enforced by the introduction of the relationship between the score and performance in musical notation, where the medium is only a container allowing the user to reconnect to the intentions and imagination of the originator.

4. GRUPA BUDAPESZT, Remake of Michael Snow’s film “Rameau’s Nephew” by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen” thanks to BNNTMMMK by Grupa Budapeszt, Galeria Studio,

1. “Muzeum”, in Władysław Strzemiński, Pisma, ed. Zofia Baranowicz (Wrocław, Warsaw, Kraków, Gdańsk: Wydawnictwo PAN, 1975), p. 274. 2. Andrzej Turowski, “Muzea Kultury Artystycznej”, Artium Questiones no. 2/1983: 2, 90–103. 3. See Marian Minich, “O nową organizację muzeów sztuki”, in Sztuka współczesna II, Studia i szkice, ed. Józef E. Dutkiewicz (Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1966). 4. Marian Minich, “Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi”, in Rocznik Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi 1930-1962 (Łódź: Wydawnictwo Łódzkie, 1965), p. 48. 5. “Walter Benjamin: Places of Re-remembering (with Milo Rau)”, in Walter Benjamin, Recent Writings (Vancouver–Los Angeles: New Documents, 2013), pp. 62–63. 6. Robert Ashley, “Yes, But Is It Edible?”, in Yes, But Is It Edible? The Music of Robert Ashley, for Two or More Voices, ed. Will Holder and Alex Waterman (Vancouver: New Documents, 2014), p. 131. 7. Teresa Kelm and Zygmunt Krauze, “Spatial-Musical Composition”, in Sounding the Body Electric, ed. David Crowley and Daniel Muzyczuk (Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki, 2012), p. 149.


Agnė Narušytė / The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography1

Agnė Narušytė / The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography1

The Lithuanian School of Photography became famous across the Soviet Union and known abroad in the 1960s and 1970s. The term was coined by Russian scholars who saw some common features in the works of Algimantas Kunčius, Vitas Luckus, Aleksandras Macijauskas, Romualdas Rakauskas, Antanas Sutkus, and others.2 Those were ethnographic content, the reportage method, psychological depth, work in series, and “metaphorical artistic form”.3 The photographers focused on rural traditions conserving the “spirit of Lithuania”, but they also captured the energy of modernization. Committed to dynamic expression, they printed images on largeformat sheets and favoured contrasts in order to convey a clear message, emphasized by a poetic title. Such Russian art historians wrote books using the Lithuanian School of Photography as a case study.4 The legend was spoiled by the new generation of photographers who debuted in the 1980s, called the “rebels of the school”.5 Vytautas Balčytis, Violeta Bubelytė, Alfonsas Budvytis, Alvydas Lukys, Remigijus Pačėsa, Algirdas Šeškus, Remigijus Treigys, Gintautas Trimakas and Gintaras Zinkevičius photographed bare walls and doorways, dull urban spaces and people waiting for something to happen, often captives in their situations. They did not observe the main requirement of Soviet ideology: to illustrate


and promote Soviet reality. The monotonous photographs suggested that they were openly antagonistic to the image of a progressive society marching towards the communist future. It was also obvious, however, that the undeclared purpose of the older generation to resist occupation by preserving national values did not interest these younger photographers either. They preferred to baffle audiences with photographs that seemed to lack meaning, expression and a sense of purpose. They blurred contrasts and replaced clarity with ambivalence; they also preferred small prints and sometimes tampered with quality by overdeveloping or deliberately damaging the negatives. The meaning of those actions eluded the grasp of the confused spectators schooled in traditional aesthetics. They only saw that the images were of poor quality and simply boring. Boredom as a state of mind and a premise for art This movement was conceptually linked to the tendency observed in late twentiethcentury art to indulge in boredom. The artists seemed to follow the imperative of John Cage: “The responsibility of the artist consists in perfecting his work so that it may become attractively disinteresting.”6 One of

the key figures in the art of the period, Andy Warhol, was obsessed with explorations of boredom and famously declared: “I like boring things.”7 In the Soviet Union alternative artists also began organizing empty actions and exposing the most trivial aspects of Soviet life through their deliberately boring works. However, visual boredom does not mean that this kind of art is plainly boring. In her study of this tendency in literature, Patricia Meyer Spacks pointed out that boredom is a “paradigm of the ordinary” which reveals a link between everyday life and the profound structures of culture and existence.8 Thus intentionally “boring” works may be intriguing and complex. So is boredom itself. Everyone is familiar with this state of mind. We experience it while waiting, while idle, when faced with repetition. If this were all there was to it, “situational” boredom would not be a problem. It could even be beneficial. Walter Benjamin once wrote: “If sleep is the apogee of physical relaxation, boredom is the apogee of mental relaxation. Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.”9 However, there is another kind of boredom associated with emptiness in life. It poisons us with a preconceived indifference to everything; no experience, feeling, or action has meaning in its presence. Even worse, as Arthur Schopenhauer noted, this existential boredom “is a positive proof that, in itself, existence has no value”.10 This is “permanent” boredom.11 Boredom, both situational and permanent, became a basis for a new aesthetics in late twentieth-century art tired of expres-

sionism. The prominent Lithuanian-French semiotician, Algirdas Julius Greimas, saw uneventful everydayness as a possibility to escape from the effects of dramatic events that tend to wear off. At the end of his book On Imperfection (De l’imperfection) he suggests looking for aesthetic experience in everyday perceptions.12 He refers to the Japanese garden where sand is raked every day afresh and stones are arranged always in a different order. Similarly, art could use the “impoverishment of life”: we have to do everything in small segments, “to learn to give value to ‘experienced’ details”, “from ‘almost nothing’ to create a hardly noticeable contingency” and “nurture the anticipation of contingency”.13 As if anticipating this programme and knowing very little about the tendencies in Western art, Lithuanian photographers pursued their own version of the aesthetics of boredom. A theme in Lithuanian photography The new generation of Lithuanian photographers saw absurd slogans, injustices,

1. Alfonsas Budvytis, Sadness: Mykolas, 1984, toned silver print, courtesy of Aldona Budvytienė


Agnė Narušytė / The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography1

shabbiness and destruction around them. While boredom in Western societies was related to the overload of information and relentless change,14 Soviet society of the Brezhnev era, known as Stagnation, simply lacked variety; it was uniform and nothing changed through the decades. In other words, it was literally boring. Even the official press admitted that monotony caused one of the greatest problems, heavy drinking: “Some people plead that such are the times; others drink to relieve the monotony of life, which turns a human being into some kind of a mechanism.”15 “Permanent boredom” was ingrained in the Soviet system as a collective experience of “anonymous time”, a term coined by the French philosopher Lucien Jerphagnon. When the environment is presented as if it were given a priori and the subject cannot change it, when everything seems to be pre-planned and can only be repeated, when subjective time has lost value, then everything seems to be banal and boredom becomes the dominant state of mind.16 The constant decline of economic and social conditions in the Soviet Union contradicted the optimistic claims about the future; time seemed to be frozen into an inalterable present where human life passed meaninglessly. Thus, a Soviet citizen could “justifiably” blame the society and the state for his or her boredom. One of the photographers, Alfonsas Budvytis (1949–2003), captured this mood in his photograph Sadness: Mykolas (1984) (fig. 1). It is part of his series from the psychoneurological hospital where people were


literally imprisoned for drinking or taking drugs. Budvytis was among its inmates. The photograph shows a man sitting by the window with an unchanging, boring view. The names of three cities carved on the wall – ТАШКЕНТ,17 WARSOW [sic], TAURAGĖ – additionally emphasize that the character is stuck here. Three different languages and locations in different countries chart the world beyond this photograph. Flash high lights the texture of the wall: its solid and cold “stoniness” and unevenly, carelessly coated paint – the permanence of imprisonment. But even freedom was experienced as imprisonment behind the Iron Curtain. In his photograph Vilnius (1986) (fig. 2), Vytautas Balčytis (b. 1955) captures the dismal building of the railway depot. Its broken windows make a mockery of a large banner displaying the word счастье (“happiness” in Russian), which dissolves against the rising (or setting) sun. The gloomy, inanimate reality contradicts the ideology claiming the opposite. And the sun is an ironic take on the promises of the communist future in this abandoned space where happiness exists only as an empty word. The banality of everything The aesthetics of boredom focus on banality: old, well-known truths or things whose familiarity blocks doubt.18 Banality is linked to the routine of daily life, which makes everything seem trite and selfunderstandable. In such a world nothing new happens any more, nothing surprises.

This, however, is the exact reason banality multiplies, and boredom grows with it. Thus, banality is both the reason and the outcome of boredom, the axis of the circle of mundane existence, which can only be escaped by doubting the banality itself. Somewhat paradoxically, this doubt may be nourished by portraying the most banal objects, which are both self-evident and lack meaning. They just exist, are obstinately present and therefore turn into mute symbols, which Jacques Rancière finds disturbing.19 When given prominence by photographers, banal things evoke the absurdity of Soviet existence. For example, an ordinary bus ticket enlarged by Gintaras Zinkevičius (b. 1963) becomes ominous: “Not only humour, but also quite cruel aggression radiates from the strongly enlarged trolleybus ticket: is our everyday life really so simple, something we don’t notice so often?”20 The banality suggests that the spectator should look beyond representation, and this effort unravels the familiarity, yet does not erase the mundane as the premise for wonder. Thus, instead of looking for exciting landscapes and details, the photographers focus on endlessly empty cityscapes, peripheral areas and transitional spaces. Unsightly objects – electricity poles and concrete blocks – are ubiquitous. The nondescript interiors of Soviet standardized apartment blocks become spaces of both permanent boredom and creativity in the system of total surveillance. Remigijus Pačėsa (1955–2015) always found an ironic and poetic touch in his

2. Vytautas Balčytis, Vilnius, 1986, toned silver print, courtesy of the photographer

closest environment. For example, Russian photography critics V.I. Mikhalkovich and V.T. Stigneev wrote that Pačėsa’s Rainy Evening (1980) (fig. 3) “directs the spectator’s mind to other, higher and more universal matters”. The “still unmarked” paper suggests one could draw a meaningful image, an interpretation of the photographed reality behind the window, which is “fragmentary, incomplete”. Thus, the paper appears “as an invitation, as a possibility to give a purpose to that scattered world by, for instance, using visual or written signs.”21 The window is also a reference to photography: the first photograph was a view


Agnė Narušytė / The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography1

through a window, taken with a camera obscura – a “dark room”. In this photograph, the “invitation to write” becomes an invitation to photograph. The unmarked paper represents a “possibility” but one already lost, because it is now illuminated. The most intimate environment becomes a tool for rethinking photography. The slowing of time and chance The most commonly perceived feature of boredom is the experience of slowed time. Yet the time of boredom is controversial: at the present moment, it feels slow enough to be intolerable, but in the scope of an entire “boring” life it zooms by unnoticed. As Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, those eternally bored are too late to understand that “they have lived throughout ad interim; they will be surprised to see that the very thing they allowed to slip by unappreciated and unenjoyed was just their life, precisely that in the expectation of which they lived.”22 When current slow-moving time becomes the accelerated time of a lifetime, the otherwise dull boredom acquires a tragic edge. Mainstream art rejects boring, eventless time. Alfred Hitchcock famously said: “Cinema is life, with the boring bits cut out.”23 The “boring bit” could be an entire life where nothing interesting goes on. Yet events only help people to forget permanent boredom, whereas if one has no activities to look forward to and reflects on time towards death, an escape from “tranquillized everydayness” becomes possible,


according to Martin Heidegger.24 This is why, perhaps, Andy Warhol filmed Sleep (1963), featuring nothing but a man sleeping for six hours. The Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov also embraces boredom. He suggests that an existence lacking events cannot be worn away, and the Soviet Union “functioned as an enormous refrigerator of Being.” Mikhailov also applies this idea to photography: “The more we can exclude sobytie (event) from representation, the closer we can approach the most important thing – being.”25 We find such excluded sobytie also in Lithuanian aesthetics of boredom, especially when a juxtaposition of different shots shows a change – and that nothing has really happened. All photographs are treated as “accidental moments”, thus contradicting the “decisive moment” pursued by humanist photographers as lacking bytie (being). The “accidental moment” also helps artists to undermine the causal links between events and represent the irrational – the meaningless. Moreover, a work of art based on chance testifies to the author’s indifference towards his or her work, as though bored with it. John Cage used this principle often. For example, when he created his 4’33’’ in 1952, he was “idle” as a composer, in that he recorded no sound, forcing the audience to listen to silence and accidental noises that emerged during the performance. Faced with chance, listeners are left without direction and need to find it for themselves. In photography such use of chance rejects the constructed meaning of the decisive moment.

3. Remigijus Pačėsa, Rainy Evening, 1980, silver print, courtesy of Mirga Pačėsienė


Agnė Narušytė / The Aesthetics of Boredom in Lithuanian Photography1

Algirdas Šeškus (b. 1945) was often blamed for amateurish “accidental” snapshotting and bad quality prints. But this was his strategy to escape the artificiality of humanist photography. Like his friend Mikhailov, Šeškus avoided the perfect shot – the intentional creation of art – in order to let art show through the fabric of reality “by accident”. The resulting images are often “badly” composed, dark and overdeveloped, which not only distances the captured action, but also creates an oppressive mood, for which he was blamed by critics.26 Indeed Šeškus’s photographs bring the existential emptiness of permanent boredom to mind, yet they also are a tender essay on time passing unnoticed (fig. 4). Conclusions: What is the aesthetics of boredom? To sum it up, the aesthetics of boredom forms a “rupture” in what is very close and very familiar. It raises doubt by constantly revealing a gap between what the signs of boredom apparently say and what they do not say, while on the other hand it introduces a trace of meaning into meaninglessness. Yet monotony should not disappear; the everyday “almost nothing” should remain as such; it should not become a significant “something”. This would be the main basic principle of the aesthetics of boredom: to enter an aesthetic experience through monotonous situations, without forgetting the very fact of wear, retaining it within consciousness and suspending meaning.


4. Algirdas Šeškus, Untitled, early 1980s, silver print, courtesy of the photographer

1. For a full discussion see Agnė Narušytė, The Aesthetics of Boredom: Lithuanian Photography 1980–1990 (Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010). 2. ‘Встреча с литовскими мастерами в Москве’, Советское фото, September 1969, p. 44. 3. Сергей Морозов, Творческая фотография (Moscow: Планета, 1985), pp. 289–290. 4. Лев Аннинский, Очерки о литовской фотографии (Vilnius: Society of Photographers of Lithuanian SSR, 1889); В.И. Михалкович и В.Т. Стигнеев, Поетика фотографии (Moscow: Искусство, 1990); Виктор Демин, Цветение земли. Книга о тринадцати литовских фотографах (Москва: «Искусство», 1987). 5. Лев Аннинский, ‘Бунт как подтверждение’, Валерий Стигнеев and Александр Липков (eds), Мир фотографии, (Москва: Планета, 1989), pp. 146–157. 6. John Cage, Silence (London: Marion Boyars, 2004), pp. 64, 88 (emphasis added). 7. Andy Warhol, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up, “Boredom”, Dictionary of Quotations, < quotefinder.php> [accessed 5 September 2007] (para. 6 of 10). 8. Patricia Meyer Spacks, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind (London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), p. 27. 9. Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller”, Hannah Arendt (ed.), Illuminations, Harry Zohn (trans.) (London: Fontana Press, 1973), p. 90. 10. Arthur Schopenhauer, “Additional Remarks on the Doctrine of the Vanity of Existence”, Parerga and Paralipomena, E.F.J. Payne (trans.), 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 287. 11. Sean Desmond Healy defines a third kind of boredom: “hyperboredom” is akin to depression when it is difficult to identify the cause of boredom because an individual who “has nothing to do” rejects any suggestions of activities. Sean Desmond Healy, Boredom, Self, and Culture (London: Associated University Press, 1984), p. 44. 12. Algirdas-Julien Greimas, De l’imperfection (Périgueux: Pierre Fanlac, 1987), pp. 97–98. 13. Greimas, pp. 97–98. 14. Orrin E. Klapp, Overload and Boredom: Essays on the Quality of Life in the Information Society (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986). 15. “Kalta monotonija”, Jaunimo gretos, December 1979, p. 24. 16. Lucien Jerphagnon, De la banalité: Essai sur l’ipséité et sa durée vécue: durée personnelle et co-durée (Paris: Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, 1965), p. 110. 17. Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, another Soviet republic. 18. Jerphagnon, pp. 94–96. 19. Jacques Rancière, The Future of the Image, Gregory Elliott (trans.) (London: Verso, 2009), p. 13–14. 20. Laima Skeivienė, “Gintaras Zinkevičius ir Alius Šiekštelė”, Nemunas, January 1987, p. 26. 21. Михалкович and Стигнеев, pp. 219–221. 22. Schopenhauer, pp. 285–286. 23. The quotation has been taken from Richard Maltby, Hollywood Cinema, 2nd ed. (London: Blackwell, 2003), p. 414. 24. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (trans.) (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967), pp. 296–299. 25. This is a play on words: sobytie means “event” in Russian, while bytie means “being”. Quoted in Boris Mikhailov, Alexis Schwarzenbach (ed.), Unfinished Dissertation, Marta Kuzma (trans.) (Berlin: Scalo, 1998), p. 56. 26. For example, Alvydas Vaitkevičius, “Fotografija: tradicijų pamatai ir oro pilys”, Kauno tiesa, 23 October 1983, p. 5.


Barbara Borčić / DIVA Station and Artists’ Archives

Barbara Borčić / DIVA Station and Artists’ Archives

In my contribution, I present the DIVA Station video/media art archive (SCCA-Ljubljana) and its context, structure and collaboration with artists. This brings us to the notion of “accessibility”, which has sparked passionate debates and a sort of “archive fever” about the preservation of media art in the last decade. Here I do not refer to copyright law, but the artist’s right to be acquainted with and to have influence on the context, interpretation and ways of presentation of their work. Therefore, the task of an archival institution is not only systematization of the documentation in databases, preservation of art works, and dissemination of knowledge. It also needs to establish effective communication channels between artists and other creators of audiovisual archives and audiences. Next, I will concentrate on (and screen) two seminal video works in the archive to confront the neo-avant-garde video/media practice by Miha Vipotnik from the 1970s with the retro-avant-garde video/media practice by the Laibach group in the 1980s. Besides being characterized by a strong performative function, they are both also very inform ative as far as the conditions of production are concerned. Their access to and usage of video equipment/technology was extremely different, juxtaposing an individual/experimental usage of national


television professional video technology in the 1970s on the one hand and the innovative/experimental usage of basic (low-fi VHS) technology in the 1980s, characteristic for the Ljubljana Alternative Scene, on the other. DIVA Station Video/Media Art Archive (SCCA-Ljubljana) DIVA Station has been developed by SCCA–Ljubljana Center for Contemporary Arts since 2005 to archive video works and promote an overall understanding of artistic oeuvres by organizing exhibitions and presentations worldwide, as well as discussions and workshops. It is a compendium of projects that seek to research, document and archive, as well as analyze, present and disseminate Slovenian video/new-media art. All the projects are accessible online and open for cooperation. DIVA Station is based on two previous SCCA projects: • Videodokument: Video Art in Slovenia 1969–1998, a comprehensive documentation and overview of video art in Slovenia that featured the first systematic study of video art in Slovenia and was important in framing the terminology and establishing the theoretical basis for further research • Videospotting, a series of curated

programmes of Slovene production and presentation worldwide in the form of exhibitions, screenings and lectures (until now). Besides these two projects, it encompasses a number of research and exhibition programmes (Video Turn, Between Video and Film) plus educational seminars (Archiving Practices).

Les Instants Video Numériques et Poétiques (Marseille), LI-MA–Former Montevideo/Time Based Arts (Amsterdam), C3 Center for Culture & Communication (Budapest), Filmform Foundation (Stockholm), and Ars electronica (Linz). It continued as a network and project team educating young professionals to work with video and preparing exhibitions,

The most advanced, accessible and popular is the online archive DIVA–Digital Video Archive of over 1,300 units, with a hypertextual database and search engine combined with open access to low-resolution artworks ( The archive is complemented by a rich Mediatheque maintaining a number of international video works and compilations by international research and archival organizations, e.g. ZKM’s 40 Years of Video Art in Germany, Medienwerkstatt’s Video Edition Austria, Lux’s Rewind + Play: An Anthology of Early British Video Art, and the community compilation Paper Tiger TV. It also holds a collection of books, catalogues and periodicals on contemporary video and new media art and theory (Library). All these materials represent an important reference point for users and additional incentive for our professional work and likewise offer a possibility for international exchange. DIVA Station is a partner in GAMA–Gateway to Archives of Media Art, developed as an international internet platform that connected similar European media art archives and enabled them to achieve better visibility and wider accessibility, e.g. Argos centre for art & media (Brussels), Heure Exquise! International centre for video arts (Lille),

seminars, workshops and public and internal consultations on the topic of research, documentation, archiving and distribution of AV content. The archive is based on collecting video works within a wider national context. Despite its inevitable incompleteness and the need for continuous upgrading and improvement of the archive, the procedures for treatment of the materials were clearly defined by a typology of terminology, which creates a cartography of conceptual frameworks within which a video artwork is discussed. This typology was defined in collaboration with the GAMA partners by harmonizing keywords and classifying vocabulary entries into three categories: artworks, events, and sources. In addition to detailed data on the artwork and the technical account, special attention is drawn to a short description of an art video on the DIVA internet interface, which forms an index of keywords, enabling a more precise search for artworks and connecting them according to content. DIVA primarily presents local video art production in order to provide representational and research materials for curators, artists, theorists, students, and the wider interested public. The colection and archive


Barbara Borčić / DIVA Station and Artists’ Archives

have been made through research and attentive observation of video production, followed by analysis and interpretation. It has been created with the help of numerous consultations and talks with artists, curators and other experts and international collaborators who are directly confronted with the issue of storing video art and establishing video archives. The possibilities for using the works are determined by agreement with individual artists. The process of documenting and archiving goes from collecting the material to the procedure of archiving. The video archive is based on facsimiles – precise copies of the highest possible quality of video works, which satisfy the need for an archive to be available to professionals and the wider public. However, the primary purpose of the archive seems to be the storage of artistic content as an important segment of tangible and intangible mobile cultural heritage and historic memory. The most complex presentation of DIVA Station – a model of a possible permanent installation of the archive – was a study exhibition entitled DIVA at Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana (2009), curated by Barbara Borčić ( It was envisioned in the form of a “live and open archive” offered to the public for free viewing. On the one hand, it displayed the historical context and the understanding and usage of AV technology as well as representative video works and curatorial selections. On the other hand, it was conceived as an educational platform with practical demonstrations, audiovisual


performances, workshops, and theoretical contributions. The exhibition Race with Time: Performance in a Rear-view Mirror, curated by Borčić at the National Theatre Museum/ Institute in Ljubljana (2014), featured the multilayered relationship between performance and video ( While the thematic exhibition Projected Visions: From Art in the Urban Context to Fiction and Dystopia, curated by Borčić and installed at Apollonia, échanges artistiques européens in Strasbourg (2018), was bound to the theme of urban and public space in their everyday dimension but also in their utopian and dystopic aspects (http://www.scca-ljubljana. si/en/e-city-ljubljana-projected-visions-2). In AV seminars (Archiving Practices), SCCA hosted panel discussions, presentations and screenings of international artists, critics and institutions/archives, e.g. NIMk – Montevideo (Amsterdam), Lux (London), Transitland (Sofia, Berlin), Transmediale (Berlin), ZKM (Karlsruhe), Ludwig Boltzmann Institute (Linz), imediathek (Bremen), AV-arkki (Helsinki), Argos (Brussels), Ursula Blickle Video Archiv (Vienna); lectures by S. Kovats, R. Pape, G. Wijers, M. Schieren, H. Helfert, A. Pezelj, D. Fritz and S. Kačunko; exhibitions and performances by D. Martinis and Dan Oki; and workshops by G. Couty, C. Vanderborght, N. Korda, D. Kracina and W. Seuskens. In this way, SCCA-Ljubljana tried to introduce and emphasize the meaning of AV archives and their accessibility and present the local circumstances, compare them to successful international practices, and establish long-term collaborations.

1. DIVA at Škuc Gallery, Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana, 2009 (photo: Dejan Habicht), exhibition view

2. DIVA at Škuc Gallery, Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana, 2009 (photo: Dejan Habicht), exhibition view


Barbara Borčić / DIVA Station and Artists’ Archives

We have to note that we have not yet come to an agreement with the state cultural policy, neither concerning a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of AV archives nor state support for this unstable media archiving. We are one of the vast majority of organizations worldwide dealing with AV archives of contemporary art facing a lack of support by national cultural authorities which could assure sustainable and professional work in this field. The archives are endangered not just because of the fragile and vulnerable material, subject to rapid chemical decay and technological obsolescence, but mostly due to a lack of recognition of their importance by the (national) authorities. Nevertheless, we are stubbornly certain of the positive and constructive outcome that the future will bring, including through exchange of experiences and collaboration. Miha Vipotnik, Videogram 4 (1976–79) Online DIVA: opt=work&id=217 From very early on (1975), Miha Vipotnik used video as his main medium of expression, either through a single-channel video or as a constitutive part of his multimedia and interdisciplinary projects and art installations. Moreover, he was co-director of the renowned international video biennial VIDEO CD in Ljubljana (1983–1997). Electronic media experimenting and the actual performative process are among the key features of his artistic practices, through which he explores the impact of such im-


age transformations within his narratives. His artistic language includes elements of performance with an emphasis on the significance of timing and the gradual unfolding of enigmatic personal stories into a palimpsest of images, inscriptions and speech. Vipotnik was also the first video artist who succeeded in transmitting professional video technology from institutional television into individual usage. Namely, although not openly presenting itself as a repressive ideological state apparatus, television in Yugoslavia in the 1970s remained totally uninterested in any kind of change and was therefore an institution beyond the artists’ reach. Thus it came as a great surprise when national TV Ljubljana broadcast Vipotnik’s artistic video entitled Videogram 4 during a late-night experimental programme in 1979, announcing it as “a very rare television event or even a new experience” and warning viewers that “any interference or unusual features in the image or tone are part of the programme, so do not try to adjust the image on your TV sets.” The electronic image was indeed incredibly stratified, even amazingly transformed and edited for that time (double exposure, solarization, recast, feedback, synthetic colour changes, and generating moving shapes), and the sound was syncopated, alternately soft and screeching. He described the process in this video project at the TV studios as follows: On the music score for synthesizer and script for their activities,

3. Miha Vipotnik: Videogram 4, 1976-79, still from video

the performers completely filled the twenty-eight-minute recording period with their movements, unarticulated expression, mimic and body speech in the electronically created field of the video screen. In two years, I repeated the shootings three times, each time using the materials from previous shootings. Under the influence of them, the performers reintegrated themselves into the events, changing their behaviour in each subsequent shooting, thus presenting a concept of social situations created by the TV information environment.

Laibach & Marijan Osole, Max: Morte ai sciavi (1983) Online DIVA: http:/ /index.php?opt=work&id=378 The Laibach Group are known particularly for their concert appearances and music recordings. Less is known about their visual production within the 1980s Ljubljana Alternative Scene, comprising also media performances and music video clips. Laibach incorporated appropriation and montage into their art practice, naming it Retro-Avant-Garde. They started to make moving images by exploiting the possibilities of photocopies, tape recorder and video devices. With their techniques of cutting up and re-editing found footage,


Barbara Borčić / DIVA Station and Artists’ Archives

and layering images with the chroma-key procedure, they enabled the use and collaging of readymade images, and a parallel embedding of different ideological and cultural codes, sources and iconographic motifs and symbols with complex referential backgrounds. In Laibach’s videos, the shots were appropriated from films and national television – recognizable political personalities, rituals and manifestations, edited through methods of fragmentation and serial repetitions, combined with sexual scenes from porn movies. An important element of these videos was the “live” appearances of the members themselves in concerts, with a stressed performative and Gesamtkunstwerk staging. Morte ai sciavi is a montage of Laibach’s early concerts in 1982 and 1983 combined with shots played on TV screens and scenes from their earlier video Documents of Oppression, and is characterized by a specific dark atmosphere. It employs all of the possibilities (VHS and partly U-matic) for image manipulation known at the time: multiple reshooting from tape or shooting from the screen, colouring, solarization, negative, camera travelling across screens, zoom, slow motion, cuttings, freeze-frame shots, counterpoint between the actors and the audience, and repetitive rhythmical editing.

4. Laibach & Marijan Osole – Max: Morte ai sciavi, 1983, still from video



Laura Leuzzi / The Fourth Encounter in Motovun (1976): A Platform for Experimentation for Early Video Art

Laura Leuzzi / The Fourth Encounter in Motovun (1976): A Platform for Experimentation for Early Video Art

In the summer of 1976 the fourth Susret u Motovunu (Encounter in Motovun, fig. 1) took place. As part of the festival, a video encounter dedicated to the theme of “Identity” (Identitet=identità) was held. It turned out to be a key event for experimentation in a medium that was still in an experimental phase and not widely available in many regions in Europe. In this chapter I will give an overview and contextualize the importance of the fruitful relationships between Italy and Yugoslavia in the field of video and analyze

1. IV Susret u Motovunu / IV Incontro a Motovun (Venice: Edizioni del Cavallino, 1977), Cover, courtesy of Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Istituto di Storia dell’Arte, Fondo Cardazzo.


the importance of these exchanges and the Motovun encounter in particular for the development of the medium in Europe.1 In the 1970s, international video festivals, exhibitions and meetings were key to experimentation in the medium and creation of a lively video community across Europe, allowing artists, curators and scholars to view works and access the equipment and network. Some of these events facilitated fertile contacts between Italian and Yugoslav video artists, producers and curators. We can arrange these events into two types: events held in Yugoslavia in collaboration with visiting Italian video centres (for example those at the Zagreb Contemporary Art Gallery (now the Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Belgrade Student Centre (SKC))2 and early exhibitions and events in Europe where artists came from both geographical areas. The latter included, for example, the Audiovisuelle Botschaften at Dreiländerbiennale Trigon 73 in Graz, Austria, where artists from the New Art Practice such as Sanja Iveković, Dalibor Martinis and Goran Trbuljak, Italy (with works by Vaccari, Baruchello and Colombo/Agnetti) and Austria were shown. Vera Horvat-Pintarić selected the Croatian participants, Martinis, Iveković, and Boris Bućan.3 In that context, Martinis remembers, he started to use video.4

The year before, in 1972, Horvat-Pintarić had contributed to the knowledge of Italian video art in Yugoslavia by guest-editing Television Today, an issue of Bit International dedicated to television which included seminal essays on video by Renato Barilli, Gillo Dorfles, and Colombo and Agnetti. The pioneering Impact Art: video art 74 at the Musée des arts décoratifs in Lausanne featured artists from Yugoslavia such as Iveković and Martinis, as well as the Italian centres art/tapes/22, Luciano Giaccari’s Studio 970/2, Luca Maria Patella and Franco Vaccari.5 Other key events included the first April artists’ encounter (4–11 April 1972) at the Belgrade Cultural Centre, with a video performance with the support of Giaccari,6 and the famous art/tapes/22 exhibition Americans in Florence – Europeans in Florence (Amerikanci u Firenci – Evropljani u Firenci) at the Belgrade Student Cultural Centre (Studentski kulturni centar),7 organized by Biliana Tomić, whom Bicocchi knew through Cardazzo.8 In spring 1976, curator Marijan Susovski organized the Video Susret at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Zagreb, which brought together Bicocchi (art/tapes/22), Lola Bonora (Ferrara’s Centro Videoarte) and Paolo Cardazzo (Galleria del Cavallino, Venice), who once again had facilitated contacts. Artists whose video artworks were screened in Zagreb included Alighiero Boetti, Giuseppe Chiari, Marina Abramović, Dalibor Martinis, Zoran Popović, Michele Sambin and Guido Sartorelli. Bicocchi recalls a prolific debate about video art developing with

artists Martinis and Brazo Dimitriević and other artists from the Zagreb Public TV Broadcast.9 On the event’s flyer, Susovsky explained poignantly that Yugoslav artists’ video, including video artworks and performance documentation, was only “sporadically” produced, during international events abroad. Only the Gallery of Contemporary Art had acquired video works by Yugoslav artists. During the event in Zagreb, Cavallino produced three videos with local artists. In the summer of 1976 this collab the Fourth Motovun encounter organized by the Ethnographic Museum of Istria in Pazin, the Contemporary Art Gallery in Zagreb, Likovna Gallery in Motovun, and Galleria del Cavallino. On that occasion, more than twenty video artworks by Italian and Yugoslav artists, including Iveković, Živa Kraus, Zdravko Milić, Martinis, Trbuljak, Michele Sambin, Luigi Viola and Claudio Ambrosini, were produced by Cavallino (fig. 2). Galleria del Cavallino, directed at the time by Paolo and Gabriella Cardazzo, had started co-organizing the Artists’ Encounters in Motovun in 1972 with Likovna Gallery in Motovun and the Ethnographic Museum of Istria in Pazin. It was the intention of the organizers that these encounters could act as a cultural catalyst contributing to local regeneration. As recalled by Sartorelli, this civic spirit informed the choice of the themes and was shared by the artists.10 Cavallino facilitated contacts and networking with international artists and curators, including Richard


Laura Leuzzi / The Fourth Encounter in Motovun (1976): A Platform for Experimentation for Early Video Art

Demarco, who visited Motovun in 1975 with the Edinburgh Arts programme.11 Although the early editions in 1972 and 1973 were dedicated exclusively to painting and sculpture, there are mentions in the archives suggesting that artists’ films were shown.12 In the 1974 Motovun encounter, titled Urban Interventions, photography and video were introduced: Cardazzo and Peggy Stuffi made the first Cavallino video artwork, Da zero a zero (From zero to zero) with the help of Guido Sartorelli.13 Stuffi walked along the city walls in front of a camera operated by Cardazzo and every sixty-four steps placed a card on the ground with a numeral from 0 to 9. The performance ended when she picked the first card. This spatial investigation of the city borders became an explora-tion of the place through time and memory, and of the possibility of videotape’s real-time recording and time loop. In 1976 video was incorporated in a more structured and complex way. A video Encounter was also organized, in a format that today we would call a residency, to produce some video artworks. The equipment was provided by Cardazzo, who produced, edited and mixed the videos with the technical support of Andrea Varisco. The video encounter was dedicated to the theme of identity, and the session commenced with a plenary meeting in which the artists introduced themselves and a tight schedule for the production was arranged.14


In the following days, the artists, supported by Cardazzo, videotaped some pieces, which were mostly – if necessary and possible – edited and finalized later in Venice. Some videos were shot in Venice, such as Open Reel and Video Immunity by Dalibor Martinis.15 In 1977 a catalogue was published documenting the event with texts by Cardazzo, Susovski and the artists, illustrated by stills from the videos. Susovski’s text is key to contextualizing and critically assessing the importance of these international collaborations for Yugoslav video art, of which he gives an overview, including some events mentioned above. Susovski points out that “in the past three years the number of artists who have worked with video (in Yugoslavia) has not been considerable”; as he suggests, it was a “secondary activity” depending on the availability of the video equipment. He also writes: “For artists’ video, video encounters like this in Motovun are still one of the rare occasions to be able to use the video apparatus and work in a group with other artists.”16 Croatian curator Branka Benčić has noted that “the Motovun meetings opened up new possibilities for collaboration and exchange of Italian and Yugoslav artists”, and from a political and social context this cooperation could be seen as a positive reflection of the Treaty of Osimo (November 1975). In that climate, the choice of the theme of identity was particularly relevant.17 When examining the videos, a key common feature is experimenting with the

technical and theoretical qualities and possibilities of the medium. The theme of identity was interpreted and explored with different perspectives and sensibilities: the identity of video with its function, form andstructure in a sort of meta/tautological ap-proach; self-portrait and self/representation; personal and collective memory and time; representation of women by media and culture (in particular Iveković and Ambrosini); what defines the concept of identity, of the self in relationship to the other; and the relationship between sound/

music/voice and identity (in particular Sambin and Ambrosini). As pointed out by Susovski, Iveković’s videos Make Up, Make Down and Instructions No. 1 (fig. 3) analyze and challenge how society and media have influenced the representation and perception of women, a topic that the artist had been developing through photography and performance.18 In both videos produced in Motovun (Make Up, Make Down was remade in colour in 1978), Iveković reflects on identity as stereotype and representation.

2. Italian artists who took part to the Motovun Video Encounter, 1976. From left on top: Andrea Varisco, Luigi Viola, Paolo Cardazzo. In the front row from left/In Claudio Ambrosini, Michele Sambin, Piccolo Sillani, Luciano Celli, Enzo Pitacco, courtesy of Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Istituto di Storia dell’Arte, Fondo Cardazzo.


Laura Leuzzi / The Fourth Encounter in Motovun (1976): A Platform for Experimentation for Early Video Art

In his Audioidentikit, Ambrosini questions issues of identity, appearance and representation, exploring where self/perception and self/representation meet/diverge and how mass media culture represents women. The piece was researched in Motovun and finally shot in Venice. In the streets of Motovun, Cardazzo, Varisco and Sambin collected audio interviews with local girls. Ambrosini selected one of the recordings and prepared clippings from women’s magazines purchased in Motovun, and when the camera started videotaping Ambrosini composed a collage/portrait stimulated by the recording. The very concept of identity, perceived by ourselves and by others, of the ephemerality of what identity is, and as a cultural and personal construction, is at the centre of another artwork produced in Motovun: Triptich by Martinis. In the video, the camera focuses on the artist’s face hidden by a cloth while three recordings describe the artist’s identity from the perspective of the other (Cardazzo, Iveković and Ambrosini). Kraus’s The Motovun Tape offers a selfportrait reduced to minimal terms: the artist’s hand on the walls of the city, charged with history, connects through collective and per-sonal memory Motovun and Venice (where the artist moved in the early 1970s). Besides participating as an artist, Kraus had a very active role in the Motovun Encounters, offering translation and support to the artists, and significantly contributed to the production management and planning of the work. Sambin also explored in some way


3. Sanja Iveković, Instructions No. 1, 1976, still form video. Production Galleria del Cavallino, Venice. Cardazzo Collection, Venice.

4. Luigi Viola, Who is Luigi Viola?, 1976, still from video, courtesy of the artist

a traditional genre, the group portrait, in his video A Sound Each. Instead of showing the group, Sambin attributes a distinctive tune to each character and moves the camera, playing the portrait as though it were a score, creating a melody. The result is a visual/sound collective portrait featuring some of the artists participating in Motovun, such as Iveković, Kraus, Martinis and curator Susovski.

In his Who Is Luigi Viola? (fig. 4), Viola investigates poetically the persistence of identity through time. Iveković, Martinis, Trbuliak and Viola perform in the video, fo-cusing on a specific activity – praying, shaving, playing ping-pong – while a sign reads “I am … same to myself in the series of time.” Other artists focused on the “identity” of video. For example, Trbuljak’s Untitled (Cut ) is a meta-reflection on this topic, on video’s ability to capture reality in real time. As pointed out by Susovski, since Trbuljak started to use video at Trigon 73, he became interested in analyzing video as a “medium of expression”. Untitled (Cut )

investigates the double quality of video, both ephemeral and material as a tape and video signal.19 It emerges from this brief excursus that video artworks produced in Motovun explored key theoretical and artistic issues around video art which were emerging in Europe at the time. The residency played remarkably as a forum for discussion, debate, production and experimentation, and stimulated collaboration, participation, cooperation, relationship and creativity. Further studies on the subject could uncover more about the event and contribute to the reassessment of the importance of the Motovun encounters to video art.

1. This is an initial study of the topic and is based on the AHRC-funded research projects REWINDItalia, EWVA European Women’s Video Art in the 70s and 80s and Richard Demarco: The Italian Connection (DJCAD, University of Dundee). The research team includes Prof. Elaine Shemilt, Prof. Stephen Partridge, Adam Lockhart, Prof. Sean Cubitt, Dr Cinzia Cremona and Deirdre MacKenna. I would like to thank Jon Blackwood, Angelica Cardazzo, Gabriella Cardazzo, Richard Demarco, Ziva Kraus, Sanja Iveković, Dalibor Martinis, Terry-Ann Newman, Michele Sambin, Goran Trbuljak, Branka Bencic, Luigi Viola, Janka Vukmir, and Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. 2. Miško Šuvaković and Dubravka Đurić (eds.), Impossible Histories: Historic Avant-Gardes, Neo-Avant-Gardes, and Post-Avant-Gardes in Yugoslavia, 1918–1991 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2003), pp. 494–495. 3. See Branka Benčić, “Trigon as Network”, KM Journal, 10 December 2017,; Armin Medosch, New Tendencies Art at the Threshold of the Information Revolution (1961–1978) (Cambridge, Mass., London: MIT Press, 2016), available at; “Televizjia Danas/Television Today: Television and Culture the language of Television experiments’, ed. Vera Horvat-Pintarić, Bit International, no. 8/9 (1972): 83–91, 209–219, 223–226. 4. Interview with Dalibor Martinis, 24 March 2017, via email, unpublished. 5. Impact art video art 74: 8 jours video au Musée des arts decoratifs (Lausanne: Groupe Impact, 1974). 6. Ješa Denegri, “Video Art in Yugoslavia 1969–1984”, RTV – teorija i praksa, No. 36, Belgrade, autumn 1984; reprinted in Videosfera, Mihailo Ristić, ed., SIC, Belgrade 1986, available in English at See also 7. See 8. Interview with Maria Gloria Bicocchi, via email, 24 March 2017, unpublished. 9. Ibid. 10. Interview to Guido Sartorelli, 13 September 2011, 11. Programme of the trip available at Richard Demarco Archive, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Archive, Edinburgh, GMA A37/2/105/2. 12. See Invite (May 1972) from Cavallino Gallery, transcribed in Giovanni Bianchi, “Paolo Cardazzo e gli incontri a Motovun (1972–1984)”, Ricerche di S/Confine, Dossier 2 (2013): 130 and 133. 13. Dino Marangon, I videotapes del Cavallino (Venice: Edizioni del Cavallino, 2004), p. 24. 14. Interview with Sambin, 28 February 2017, via Skype, unpublished. 15. Interview with Dalibor Martinis, 24 March 2017, via email, unpublished. 16. Marijan Susovski, “Video Meeting”, in IV susretu motovunu/IV incontro a Motovun. Identitet/Identità (Venice: Edizioni del Cavallino, 1977), unpaginated 17. Branka Benčić, “Cinemaniac 2015: Motovun Video Meeting 1976, the First Video Art Workshop in Croatia: A Contribution to the Research of Motovun Meetings and Media Art History”, Motovunski video susret 1976. Motovun video meeting 1976… (Vodnjan: Apoteka, 2015), p. 49. 18. See Sanja Iveković. Dvostruki Život: 1959–1975 (Zagreb: Galerija suvremene umjetnosti, 1976). 19. Marijan Susovski, “Video Meeting,” in IV susretu motovunu/IV incontro a Motovun. Identitet/Identità (Venice: Edizioni del Cavallino, 1977), unpaginated.


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