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Collective Work – Đuro Seder’s response to Gorgona group’s homework assignment

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Date: 1963

Participants: Đuro Seder, Gorgona group

Organized by: Radoslav Putar and Gorgona group

Location: Zagreb

From 1961–63, members of the Gorgona group (comprising artists, architects, and critics) collectively organized and self-funded a series of exhibitions in the “Šira Salon,”[1] a frame shop in Zagreb that Gorgona occasionally rented for its exhibitions. Gorgona’s activities could be seen as a precedent for numerous self-organized artistic exhibitions and spaces that would become a significant marker of the Zagreb art scene of the 1970s.

In place of an exhibition, however, this chronology presents a material trace of another, less visible aspect of Gorgona’s work: activities such as meetings, discussions, collective walks into nature, the exchange and circulation of letters, quotes, thoughts, surveys or assignments among group members. Documentation of these activities were only presented to the public in 1977, when the first exhibition of Gorgona group was organized at the Zagreb Gallery of Contemporary Art, curated by Nena Dimitrijević. Until then, their visibility remained limited to the small circle within and around the group itself, but since its presentation, Gorgona has been seen as a precursor to the New Artistic Practice even if the new generation of artists was able to identify this “point of origin only retroactively.”
In 1963, Radoslav Putar gave all group members a homework assignment – an example of their customary appropriation of bureaucratic and authoritative discourse — demanding that they answer the question as to whether it was possible to produce a “collective work.” Most responses posited collective work as a utopian, or simply an impossible project, unfit for realization. Ivan Kožarić, for example, proposed to make collectively, plaster casts of the inside of of the heads of all Gorgona members. Đuro Seder’s response distinguished between the “critical-rational” and the “Gorgonian” approach to the idea of collective work. In both cases, collective work was a desired ideal, a way to overcome narrow individualist interests and concerns. However, whereas the “critical-rational” approach exhibited a level of certainty in the successful achievement of this ideal, the “Gorgonian approach” highlighted its ultimate impossibility. In each of the four scenarios outlined by Seder, the attempt to create and exhibit a Gorgonian collective work fails as it transforms from idea/desire to materialization/representation. This failure is in all cases bound with the constraints of the exhibition space and its management—here epitomized by “Šira,” the owner of the frame shop. Seder’s four imaginary, failed exhibition scenarios construe the exhibition itself as the epitome of the paradoxes inherent in the (re)presentation of art: the exhibition at the same time communicates and undermines the art’s utopian potential.

The “Collective Work” homework exercise is presented here as an artifact housing questions that continued to haunt and preoccupy artist groups during the 1960s and 1970s: the dialectics between individualism and collectivism, self-organization and institutionalization, visibility and opacity, professionalization and amateurism, state support and autonomy.

DocumentĐuro Seder: The Collective Work (1963)

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


[1] Officially named after its owner, but it became Studio G when Gorgona made exhibitions there.


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“I do not wish to show…” (1971); “The fact that someone was given an opportunity…” (1973); “Retrospective” (1981) exhibitions by Goran Trbuljak

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Dates: 1971/1973/1981

Participant: Goran Trbuljak (1948)

Location: Galerija SC (Student Center Gallery), Zagreb / Galerija suvremene umjetnosti (Gallery of Contemporary Art), Zagreb / Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

In the early 1970s, Goran Trbuljak made the first in a series of exhibitions in gallery spaces showing nothing but the poster that advertised the exhibition. The poster typically included a photograph, the place and date of exhibition, and the title written in the form of an artistic statement. The first exhibition shown in 1971 at the Student Center Gallery presented a poster with Trbuljak’s photographic self-portrait and the statement: “I do not wish to show anything new or original.” In this first major public presentation of his work, Trbuljak articulated his position as that of an artist refusing to be an artist in the conventional sense and rejecting participation in the tried-out formulas of novelty and originality that condition success in the art world. At the same time, he showed how difficult it was to extricate oneself from the existing system: precisely by declaring not to wish to show anything new or original, he managed to introduce something that was both new and original. The novel and original form of a poster-exhibition functioned by way of appropriating the tools by which art events get promoted and incorporating them into the artwork. The poster and the exhibition thus became conflated and reduced to the same PR function: that of communicating the condensed statement of the artist’s project.

This process of deconstructing the logic of authorship, promotion, and success governing the art world, was continued in his second solo presentation in Zagreb in 1973, this time at the Gallery of Contemporary Art (today the Museum of Contemporary Art), the most prominent contemporary art venue in the city. Here, the exhibition consisted of a poster with the photographic image of the gallery’s building and the statement: “The fact that someone was given an opportunity to make an exhibition is more important that what will actually be shown there.” What was implicit in his previous work (i.e., the fact that the announcement was equal or even more important than the exhibition), is here made explicit by a statement that foregrounds institutional granting of “opportunities” as the primary condition of art production. In 1981, at the Belgrade Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Trbuljak presented his “Retrospective”—a poster merging two previous statements with a new one: “With this exhibition I maintain continuity in my work.” Again Trbuljak at the same time deconstructed and perpetuated one of the postulates of achieving success: continuity, i.e. the creating and maintaining of an idiosyncratic artistic style.

What makes these works by Trbuljak so relevant for the history of exhibitions is precisely that they were not conceived as individual works to be presented at exhibitions, they were conceived precisely as exhibitions, or as he himself described them in 1981 as “works-exhibitions.”[1] Thus, his artistic practice was based on the appropriation, translation and deconstruction of the institutional and curatorial discourses and methods, but without eliding the issue of his own position and complicity as an artist in the existing art world.

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


[1] Goran Petercol, “Interview with Goran Trbuljak,” Studentski list, January 23, 1981, 15.


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At the moment – first international exhibition of conceptual art in Yugoslavia

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Date:  April 23, 1971, 5–8 pm

Participants: Giovanni Anselmo, Robert Barry, Stanley Brouwn, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Jan Dibbets, Braco Dimitrijević, ER Group, Barry Flanagan, Douglas Huebler, Alain Kirill, Jannis Kounellis, John Latham, Group Kod, Sol LeWitt, OHO Group, Goran Trbuljak, Lawrence Weiner, Ian Wilson.

Organized by: Braco Dimitrijević (1948) and Nena Dimitrijević

Location: “Haustor”—entrance hallway of the residential building , Frankopanska Street 2A, Zagreb

In 1970, Braco Dimitrijević and Goran Trbuljak began organizing exhibitions at the “haustor,” the doorway entrance of a tenants’ building on Frankopanska Street 2A in the center of Zagreb. Five exhibitions were held there, four of which involved individual projects by Dimitrijević and Trbuljak. In April 1971, Braco and Nena Dimitrijević organized a three-hour-long group exhibition titled At the Moment the first international exhibition of conceptual art to take place in Yugoslavia, which included the participation of some of the best known figures of conceptual art. The exhibition was the result of Braco and Nena’s travels across Europe where they became acquainted with the burgeoning new art scene. The process of organization involved sending letters of invitation to the participants. Whatever was mailed back to the organizers by those who had responded to the invitation was then exhibited. The flyer/poster for the exhibition contained the organizers’ letter and a list of all individuals and groups who were invited. The fact that the exhibition was organized independent of any institutional ties and that it took place at such an informal space was interpreted by some critics—most notably Ješa Denegri—to embody the subversive noncommercial and anti-institutional character of conceptual art itself. The exhibition was documented by the photographs of Enes Midžić, a fifteen-minute, 16 mm film by Vladimir Petek, and an 8 mm film by Mladen Stilinović. Although it lasted for only three hours, it was widely advertised and well attended. It was later restaged at the Student Cultural Center in Belgrade under the name In Another Moment.

DocumentExcerpts on the making of “Haustor” and the “At the Moment” exhibition from a text by Nena Dimitrijević (1978)

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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The City as a Site of Plastic Happening – The Proposal Section of the 6th Zagreb Salon

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Date: May, 1971

Organized by: 6th Zagreb Salon

Concept by: Željka Čorak

Participants: Boris Bućan, Braco Dimitrijević, Jagoda Kaloper, Ivan Kožarić, Boris Ljubičić, Nada Orel, Goran Trbuljak, Marija Ujević, et al.

The beginning of the 1970s in Zagreb saw a number of curated projects that commissioned new artistic productions to be realized in public space. At the time, texts written by art critics expressed strong enthusiasm and belief that such artistic practices were able to “democratize” art and reshape the social environment, by developing communication between the urban space and its inhabitants.

The City as a Site of Plastic Happening, conceived by art historian Željka Čorak, was the first invitation for artists to use the city as material for their art. The event was the first iteration of Proposal, the newly established section of the Zagreb Salon, whose very title pointed to the primacy of idea over realization: artists were commissioned to submit proposals, only some of which could be realized. Seventeen authors/groups submitted twenty-four proposals, which were all exhibited at the Student Center Gallery. [1] The idea of a socially-engaged art that uses the city and the public space as a site of confrontation with the audience itself constituted a radical proposal—a desired ideal of social and aesthetic transformation. Some of the works that became widely known were first produced for this event, such as the Grounded Sun by Ivan Kožarić, a large abstract golden sphere placed on one of the neighboring squares in the city. The work’s elusive, abstract shape and its bold placement in one of the busiest areas in the city spurred controversy and even incited aggressive reactions. Another provocative work was Braco Dimitrijević’s series of large-scale photo-portraits of “casual passers-by,” which hung at the representative site of the city’s main square facade. Monumental portraits of anonymous citizens mimicked similar representations of political leaders and occupied the square on which official political gatherings were held.

Taking place three years after the neo-leftist 1968 student revolts in Yugoslavia and immediately after the nationalist Croatian Spring revolts in 1971, Proposal marks the era when the urban space was developing into a site of articulation and visualization of political and aesthetic contestation. By the end of the 1970s when the New Art Practice was already being historicized[2], many of the critics initially enthusiastic about art’s interaction with the urban space now expressed disillusionment, identifying the failure of art in public space to truly succeed in its effort to reach the people. They also noted the indifference of the public and the failure of social institutions to take advantage of the artists’ “offer” to act in the name of the public good.
Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


[2] Through exhibition projects such as New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1968-1978, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (1978), Innovations in Croatian Art of the Seventies, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (1982), New Art in Serbia 1970-1980. Individuals, groups, phenomena, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade (1983).


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Drangularijum – Ready-Made Exhibition or Peoples’ Curio Cabinet

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Date: June 22–30, 1971

Participants: Marina Abramović, Josif Alebić, Bojan Bem, Radomir Damjanović Damnjan, Bora Iljovski, Stevan Knežević, Stojan Kovačević-Grande, Slobodan Milivojević-Era, Milija Nešić, Dušan Otašević, Neša Paripović, Zoran Popović, Radomir Reljić, Halil Tikveša, Raša Todosijević, Gergelj Urkom

Art critics and curators (authors of catalogue texts): Bojana Pejić, Biljana Tomić, Ješa Denegri

Catalogue design: Raša Todosijević

Editor of Visual Arts Program of SKC: Dunja Blažević

Location: Student Cultural Center (SKC) gallery, Belgrade

Drangularijum (meaning the collection of small and curious things, Trinketarium, drangulija = a trinket) was one of the constitutive exhibitions from the early history of the Student Cultural Center (SKC) gallery in Belgrade that determined the future work and orientation of the space. The exhibition was significant in terms of its break from the dominant exhibition practice in local art institutions, which normally followed the modernist canon of the great-artist-and-his-work and celebrated the work of art “made by artists’ hand.” Instead, Drangularijum offered a “ready-made exhibition,” a display of already existing objects that were in a different sense—intimate, conceptual, or humorous—linked to the context of artistic life. The artists were invited to exhibit “things” that were dear to them. This idea was the collective conceptual proposition developed during the sessions of the gallery’s Redakcija (redaction, or the editorial board of the gallery). Answering the call to artists to “contribute anything that represented themselves and their own creativity or work,” quite a diverse selection of objects were brought into the gallery and made into an exhibition.

The collective and experimental character of the project makes it difficult to clearly locate the identity and authorship of an exhibition curator, in the contemporary sense of the term. According to some, the idea came from Raša Todosijević; according to others, Zoran Popović was unofficially the central proponent of the project. Curators and art critics Jerko Denegri, Bojana Pejić, and Biljana Tomić wrote in the accompanying catalogue, explaining the exhibition concept—so it can be said that they articulated how to read the show, while Dunja Blažević operated as the editor of the gallery program, having a crucial influence to the general tendencies of the gallery.

Drangularijum fostered a research-based and experimental exhibition practice in the newly opened space for young cultural practitioners. Pejić wrote in the exhibition catalogue: “The conception of Drangularijum is not new. Similar exhibitions do happen in the world, and there are now some individual attempts here as well. Drangularijum does not want to be new and original. It is just the first seriously organized presentation of this kind in our city. […] It should have happened much earlier if we haven’t been under the pressure of financing all the time. […] Drangularijum is a challenge. It is an attempt to introduce uneasiness or provocation in the static atmosphere of Belgrade gallery life. […] Drangularijum does not want to show anything beautiful, characteristic or likeable. Drangularijum does not cuddle your gaze or warm your heart.”1

The exhibition exposed the new character of artist: not the artist as creator, but as the personality behind the work (with no desire to fetishize personality, artistic life, or life itself). Drangulija (a small and curious thing) was the mediator of this new approach. Denegri wrote: “Instead of emphasizing the privileged position of artistic work with the help of the artificially built scale of aesthetic values, what happens nowadays is direct manifestation of artistic motivation from occasional transient and intense moments of human behavior. […] These tendencies lead towards the proximity, almost to equalization of artistic and life content—the art will survive only if it manages to conquest the maximum of reality, which is still outside of art. […] The artists who accepted participation in this exhibition have accepted at the same time the challenge of checking and investigating their own professional and social status.” 


1 All quotations in this section are from the accompanying exhibition catalogue to Drangularijum.


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At Another Moment – The First International exhibition of Conceptual Art in SKC – Belgrade

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Dates: September 15–20; September 22–27; September 29–October 3, 1971

Participants: Giovanni Anselmo, Robert Barry, Stanley Brouwn, Daniel Buren, Victor Burgin, Jan Dibbets, Braco Dimitrijević, ER Group, Barry Flanagan, Douglas Huebler, Alain Kirili, Jannis Kounellis, John Latham, KOD Group, Sol LeWitt, OHO Group, Goran Trbuljak, Lawrence Weiner, Ian Wilson.

Curators: Nena Dimitrijević and Braco Dimitrijević

Location: Student Cultural Center (SKC) gallery, Belgrade

The exhibition At Another Moment was conceptualized as curatorial translation of the temporary exhibition At the Moment, organized in the entrance of an apartment house in Frankopanska 2A, Zagreb, into a more “permanent” exhibition, taking place within the (alternative) institutional space of the Student Cultural Center (SKC) in Belgrade. Ivana Bago describes the background of original exhibition in Zagreb as “the result of Braco and Nena’s travels across Europe where they became acquainted with the burgeoning new art scene. The process of organization involved sending letters of invitation to the participants. Whatever was mailed back to the organizers by those who had responded to the invitation was then exhibited. […] The exhibition included the participation of some of the best known figures of Conceptual art.”1

Nena Dimitrijević also reflects on the process of production of the original exhibition in her introductory text for the catalogue, published by the SKC gallery in conjunction with At Another Moment. She emphasizes the process of communication and the exchange of ideas as the main substance of the exhibition project that results in “public moment”—three hours of presentation/display in the contingently selected entrance hall of a residential house. Dimitrijević comments on the exhibition context and choice of space where the artworks were shown: “To exhibit in a noninstitutional space, almost in the street, fundamentally follows the idea of this avant-garde creation and results from the consequently conveyed thesis of the democratization of art, since, apart from the permanent gallery public, it gives the opportunity to a casual passer-by and man for whom exhibition visiting isn’t programmed in his free time, to see the show. The hall-gate of Frankopanska 2a was chosen at random and it can just as well be suddenly abandoned and the whole happening can be transferred to another place. If one insists on a location, then it becomes an institution like any other gallery with a fixed programme, (catering for) its reputation and permanent public. It wasn’t our intention. The point is that out of an almost street space, we wanted to make a center of interest and information—but not to establish it.”2

In Dimitrijević’s statement there is an attempt to avoid the classical functionalist position of the curator whose performance exhausts itself in the well-ordered and polite display of artworks in a “neutral” exhibition space. She abandons the “firm exhibition structure” to underline the temporality and “ephemerality” of ideas, friendship, and information circulating within the art world. Dimitrijević’s curatorial performance translates the new paradigm of Conceptual art into “conceptual exhibition practice.” In this process of translation, the curators change the name of the exhibition from At the Moment to At Another Moment—both titles can be understood as manifestations of the curatorial desire to create an exhibition structure that “captures the contemporary moment.” Dimitrijević comments on the new contextual conditions in the exhibition catalogue: “If the show At the moment by its organizational conception was the negation of the gallery […] at first glance it could seem that At Another Moment held under traditional gallery patronage means the denial of all previous theses. […] However, in this order of strictly determined organizational procedures there is an aberration which, by its apparent groundlessness and absurdity, provokes restlessness and uncertainty that normally follows every disturbance of a previously set order. This illogicality appears within the structure called the holding of an exhibition, a structure of which one of the main dispositions is either a longer or a shorter lasting period but always complete and continuous.”3

The curator introduces an absurd conceptual proposition in the exhibition process that plays the role of a “noise” as that which distorts the normality of the curatorial and exhibition functionalism, and is characteristic of museum and gallery spaces. Nena Dimitrijević reflects on this in her curatorial statement for the exhibition in SKC: “The show At Another Moment will last 3 times 5 whole days with intervals of one day in between. During these intervals the exhibition will be rearranged; this inapprehensible and apparently absurd proceeding, without justification within the organizational difficulties, but too regularly repeated to be accidental, is not motivated by efforts of more effective setting up and neither has its origin in the altered aesthetical motives of the ‘arranger’; each arrangement is given to another member of the technical staff of the gallery […] so that the categories of ‘taste,’ ‘professionalism,’ ‘knowledge of the works and their authors’ which are of main importance in the arrangements of most exhibitions lose all its priority in this particular case. […] A visitor is induced to find his own explanation of this organizational aberrance [sic]. In terms of art which moves creative action from the personality of artist to a receiver is adequate to transfer of the role of an arranger of the exhibition from the theoretician of art to any other person whose active participation is not limited to accomplishment of the exhibited works, but in creation of the show as a whole.”4

At Another Moment was important for (self-)educational processes within SKC that was based on the international exchange of experimental ideas and practices. It also had a certain formative value for the process of instituting New Art in the local context because it gathered some of the most important artists from the West, guaranteeing the relevance of that practice within the local institutional and professional environment. The exhibition is documented by representative catalogue designed by Nenad Čonkić and Braco Dimitrijević.


1 See: Ivana Bago’s entry on the exhibition At the Moment.

2 Nena Dimitrijević’s text the catalogue.

3 ibid

4 ibid


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The three exhibitions – Simultaneity of promotion and historization of New Art Practices (From Alternative Spaces to the Museum and Back)

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The Examples of Conceptual art in Yugoslavia

Dates: March 3–22, 1971

Curated by: Biljana Tomić and Ješa Denegri

Participants: OHO Group (Marko Pogačnik, David Nez, Milenko Matanović, Andraž Šalamun), Ljubljana; KOD Group (Mirko Radojčić, Slobodan Tišma, Miroslav Mandić, Slavko Bogdanović, Peđa Vranešević), Novi Sad; E Group (Ana Raković, Čedomir Drča, Vladimir Kopicl, Miša Živanović), Novi Sad; Dragan Srečo, Ljubljana; Braco Dimitrijević, Zagreb; Goran Trbuljak, Zagreb.

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

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Young Artists and Young Critics 71

Date: 1972

Curated by: Jadranka Vinterhalter, Nikola Vizner, Slavko Timotijević, and Jasna Tijardović

Participants: Slobodan Milivojević-Era, Zoran Popović, Raša Todosijević, Gergelj Urkom, Miroslav Antić, Radovan Hiršl, Vladimir Jovanović, Boško Milenković, Branimir Mijušković, Marina Abramović, Neša Paripović, and Group E from Novi Sad, Group Bosh+Bosh from Subotica, and group A3 from Belgrade

Films by: Zoran Popović, Slobodan Milivojević, and Slavko Matković

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

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Documents on Post-Object Phenomena in Yugoslav Art 19681973

Dates: June–July 1973

Curated by: Ješa Denegri and Biljana Tomić

Participants: OHO Group (Marko Pogačnik, David Nez, Milenko Matanović, Andraž Šalamun, Tomaž Šalamun, Nuša and Srečo Dragan), KOD Group (Mirko Radojčić, Slobodan Tišma, Miroslav Mandić, Slavko Bogdanović, Peđa Vranešević), Novi Sad; E Group (Peđa Vranešević, Vladimir Kopicl, Mirko Radojičić), Miroslav Šutelj, Ljerka Šibenik, Mladen Galić, Ante Kuduz, Josip Stošić, Boris Bućan, Dalibor Martinis, Sanja Iveković, Braco Dimitrijević, Jagoda Kaloper, Gorki Žuvela, Goran Trbuljak, Bosh+Bosh Group (Slavko Matković, Balint Szombathy, Laszlo Kerekes, Laszlo Szalma), Slobodan Milivojević-Era, Zoran Popović, Raša Todosijević, Gergelj Urkom, Marina Abramović, Radomir Damjanović Damnjan, A3 Group.

Location: Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

 

The exhibitions The Examples of Conceptual Art in Yugoslavia, Young Artists and Young Critics 71, and Documents on Post-Object Phenomena in Yugoslav Art 19681973 took place between 1971 and 1973 in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, the most prestigious state institution of art. The three exhibitions can be seen as as a way of both promoting and systematizing (historicizing) the work of individual artists and artist groups operating in the context of Student Cultural Center (SKC) in Belgrade, or in other alternative youth centers in former Yugoslavia. In addition, these exhibitions displayed the interconnections, interdependence, and mutual dialogues happening between the official and alternative art scenes in former Yugoslav space, proving that alternative art was not being developed in isolation from the “general public” as a kind of dissident activity, but was precisely part of the same “public sphere,” as the critical, shifting voice of younger generations of artists.1 In that sense, this chapter of the selected exhibition chronology could also fall under the title From Alternative Spaces to the Museum and Back.

The first exhibition, The Examples of Conceptual art in Yugoslavia, took place in the Salon (gallery) of the Museum of Contemporary Art from March 3–22, 1971, and was curated by Biljana Tomić and Ješa Denegri. Conceptualized as an overview of the early examples of New Art Practices in the former Yugoslavia, the exhibition introduced Conceptual art to Belgrade cultural institutions for the first time. Precisely from this reason the exhibition was mainly structured around the issues of promotion, education, and information. It can be observed that the presentation of the Conceptual art scene in the Museum of Contemporary Art preceded three experimental exhibitions in SKC, which happened in the summer and autumn of the same year (Drangularijum, At Another Moment, and Objects and Projects). However, the SKC projects were always developed through the exchange within the editorial board of the gallery,2 which included the participation of Denegri and Tomić, among other artists and critics. Aside from her later SKC activities, Tomić was one of the most active exhibition makers and freelance curators who collaborated with the Tribune of Youth in Novi Sad and the Atelier 212 – BITEF program in Belgrade. Both institutions were promoting ideas of New Art and theory, including experimental film and performative practices.

Denegri, who was at the time working as young curator in the Museum of Contemporary Art was also involved in the independent exhibition practice as one of the main critics following the development of the scene of New Art in Yugoslav cultural space. In his catalogue text entitled “For the Possibility of One New Artistic Communication,” Denegri, in his particular art-historical manner, opens out the referential field for a better understanding of Conceptual art. He finds these references in the artistic tendencies of the historical avant-gardes of 1920s and ’30s (more specifically in Malevich’s abstraction, and in the nonaesthetic operations by Man Ray, Picabia, and Duchamp). The next historical moment overlaps with the experiments with immaterial in the radical modernist art practices of the 1950s and early ’60s (i.e., the work of Yves Klein and Piero Manzoni), which Denegri links with the contemporary theory on the dematerialization of art practice by Lucy R. Lippard. Finally, according to Denegri, the primary structures by Donald Judd and the theory of anti-form by Robert Morris were the last historical stages preceding the Conceptual art, bringing us back to the beginning of his text that opens with the quote from Sol LeWitt’s famous essay, “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.

Tomić writes the curatorial statement comprising three conceptual arguments that comment on the processes through which ideas transform themselves into distributional forms (communication) and, consequently, into value (symbolic and financial capital):

idea = work of art = communication / idea = art = value / idea = utopia = reality

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The second exhibition witnessing on simultaneity of promotion and historization of the New Art Practices opened in February 1972 under the descriptive title Young Artists and Young Critics 71. As part of the regular program, annual presentations of new artworks by the latest generation of artists were organized at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Artists were usually selected by members of the museum’s curatorial council.3 This exhibition, however, was not curated by museum council members, but by four young critics broadly associated with SKC: Jadranka Vinterhalter, Nikola Vizner, Slavko Timotijević, and Jasna Tijardović. They selected eleven artists and artist groups, mostly strong proponents of New Art.

The then director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Miodrag B. Protić (himself a painter of geometrical abstraction), stated in the official introduction to the show’s accompanying catalogue: “We consider that bringing together young critics and young artists and facilitating their mutual collaboration fits the main intentions of the Museum: to truly discover new impulses within the youngest generation of artists and critics and enable the articulation of contemporary moment in its full force. […] This novum is not visible merely in the artworks, but also in the texts of the exhibition curators. And since this connection existing between the artistic piece and the intellectual comment by the critic of the same generation can be nothing else but fruitful collaboration, Museum considers the facilitation and support of these links as its responsibility and its obligation.”4

In contrast to the previous exhibition, curated by Denegri and Tomić as a self-initiated, authorial project, the exhibition Young Artists and Young Critics 71 was part of an official museum program. Compared to The Examples of Conceptual Art, the second exhibition was more heterogeneous and less “strict” in terms of the discourse of Conceptual art proper. It presented a variety of work by young artists of the time, and included installations, performances, experimental films, text-based works, conceptual materials, minimal and hyperrealist painting. Despite transgressing the “purity” of New Art in the exhibition plan, the curators emphasized some of the important changes in the language and the art form in the catalogue texts, in a similar educative manner as Denegri and Tomić had done for The Examples of Conceptual art.

Jadranka Vinterhalter stated that contemporary art stepped outside of the colored surface of painting and expanded into space and time, which requests from the observer not only a visual perception of the art piece but also a mental perception and engagement of the thought. Nikola Vizner emphasized that one of the main characteristics of the exhibition resided in the use of ephemeral materials, which meant that the upkeep of the artworks as “objects” existed only for the duration of the exhibition process—the majority of the work was dismantled (dematerialized) together with the exhibition. He also underlined four main characteristics of the exhibited artworks: “a) The artworks do not have a value per se, the value is created in the process of realization b) The ephemerality stresses the significance and value of the moment, of the present tense c) Reproductivity becomes the goal of the artwork d) The artwork does not request the physical presence of the author.”

In her catalogue text, Jasna Tijardović interpreted the exhibited artworks and revealed her views on contemporary exhibition practice. She wrote: “The exhibition should not serve as a confirmation of existing values, but should hint at the new ways of artistic behavior. It should be an experiment. […] The goal of exhibition is not in presentation of particular development or in sharing a certain style-characteristics of individuals or groups, but in becoming an expression of the present moment situated between the art and life.” Slavko Timotijević focused on the change in the position of the artist at that time, quoting the member of the KOD Group Peđa Vranešević, who claimed there was a shift in focus from the primacy of the artwork itself to the primacy of the person behind the work. Timotijević concluded that “the artist ceased to be just the ‘Hand of God’—the one who invokes and reinvigorates the memories—becoming instead, through the power to execute out of ideas, the very God itself.” All the remarks, as to be expected, overlap with the radical change in production of art in which conceptual proposition by an artist often resembles God’s creatio ex nihilo (“creation out of nothing”).

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Finally, the third exhibition, was curated by Denegri and Tomić and presented in the Museum of Contemporary Art between June and July 1973 under the title Documents On Post-Object Phenomena in Yugoslav Art 19681973. It was actually the first elaborate art-historical summary of New Art in a Yugoslav context, which preceded the two similarly comprehensive surveys of art of the 1960s and ’70s: the famous exhibition New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 19661878, curated by Marijan Susovski in the Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb in 1978;5 and the equally significant and much referenced 1983 exhibition New Art in Serbia 19701980, curated by Denegri and presented in three institutions, the Museum of Contemporary Art – Belgrade, Gallery of Contemporary Art – Zagreb, and Art Gallery – Prishtine.

Document: The summary of Denegri’s curatorial text, written for the catalogue of the exhibition Documents On Post-Object Phenomena in Yugoslav Art 19681973


1 More detailed comments on the complex relations of “the alternative” and “the official” sphere in the socialist Yugoslavia of 1960s and 1970s, especially in relation to the exhibition politics of Student Cultural Center (SKC) can be found in my introduction text to the exhibition chronology, “The Student Cultural Centre (SKC) as the Art Scene.”

2 The board of SKC was not an official body, but a spontaneous one. It included artistic community gathered around the gallery—artists, critics, and curators—who influenced the program by making suggestions and through discussion. They called themselves Redakcija (“redaction”). In contrast to other galleries and museums, in Yugoslavia and also abroad, where the program is planned well in advance, SKC had flexible programing. Although the programs were planned ahead, it was also possible to realize an idea for an exhibition or a discussion within the couple of days, instead of waiting for another year. The gallery, therefore, maintained certain responsiveness toward the flux of ideas and the actuality of social and artistic events.

3 Stated by Kustosko veće Muzeja savremene umetnosti – Beograd (Curatorial Council of Museum of Contemporary Art) in the press release for the exhibition (my translation).

4 All of the following quotations in this section are taken from the accompanying exhibition catalogue to Young Artists and Critics 71, published by the Museum of Contemporary Art in February 1972.

5 The introduction to the exhibition catalogue of New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 19661878 can be read here.


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Objects and Projects – Exhibition of the ‘Belgrade Six’ (Collective Practice and Individual Authorships)

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Date: October 9, 1971 (exhibition opening)

Participants: Marina Abramović, Slobodan Milivojević – Era, Neša Paripović, Zoran Popović, Raša Todosijević, Gergelj Urkom and Evgenija Demnijevska

Location: Student Cultural Center (SKC) gallery, Belgrade

The exhibition Objects and Projects by its very title demonstrates the shift from object-based art to project-based art, characteristic of the new paradigm of contemporary art. Together with Drangularijum and At Another Moment, it represents one of the first exhibitions of New Art realized within the SKC gallery space. Held in 1971, it was also the first exhibition to present the work of the so-called Belgrade Six artists1—Marina Abramović, Slobodan Milivojević-Era, Neša Paripović, Zoran Popović, Raša Todosijević, and Gergelj Urkom. They participated in the SKC collective and communitarian life embodied in the work of the gallery’s editorial board (Redakcija, or redaction), but they also pursued individual artistic carriers. This tendency was supported by the same generation of critics and art historians who profiled the work of Belgrade Six artists within the classical discourse on “grand authors,” this time the representatives of New Art Practices.2

Programmatically and ideologically, the Objects and Projects differs from the rather horizontal and participatory form of “playful collective practice” manifested by the exhibition Drangularijum, presented just a few months before. It makes the shift from an inclusive model of experimental exhibitions by young artists gathered around SKC gallery toward a more professional, individualistic, and conceptually articulated form of New Art. This shift mirrored the attitudes and ambivalences inscribed into the “experimental institutionalism” of SKC since the very beginning. In my introductory text to this exhibition chronology I examine this specific modus operandi where simultaneity of horizontal and vertical forms of organization blur the possibility for more experimental exhibitions to be clearly situated on either side of the binary opposition between institutional versus self-organized. This ambivalent situation is also captured in the documentary photographic material of the SKC artistic community (analyzed in the introductory text), which is simbolically, in terms of cultural representation, connected to two different modes of presentation of art and institutional practice exemplified by Drangularijum and Objects and Projects. The collectivity of te SKC artistic community is represented in Milan Jožić’s famous photo of people “who used to be there” (in SKC), “who used to be that institution” (the photo is reproduced in the introduction text). The second photo by Jožić, made during the same session, represented the six most distinguished artists in the eye of art critics and curators of the time—the photo of the Belgrade Six (the photo can be found among the images accompanying this article).

A larger selection of photographs from the opening and closing of the exhibition Objects and Projects can be found in the archive of SKC here.


1 The name “Belgrade Six” is the mirror-term of the name of the group of Six Artists – Zagreb, which is established little before and named as the group of Six Artists by artists themselves. The term “Belgrade Six” is coined by the critics who probably aimed at connecting alternative art scene of Belgrade and Zagreb and establishing visible parallels in contemporary art developments in the two biggest centers of culture in Yugoslavia of the time. The term “Belgrade Six” operated among the local critics and art historians both colloquially and formally. As difference from Zagreb’s group of Six Artists the term Belgrade Six is used without the prerogative of the “group,” rather, it signified “the generation of individual artists.”

2 Starting the first historicization of the New Art Practice in Yugoslavia, the Belgrade Six Artists appear as the main protagonists of the SKC art scene in both critical writing and historical exhibition records. We can trace this history from the Documents on Post-Object Phenomena in Yugoslav Art 19681973, curated by Ješa Denegri in the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1973 (its summary can be read here), to more elaborate exhibitions such as: New Art Practice in Yugoslavia 1966-1878, curated by Marijan Susovski in the Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, 1978 (the introduction can be read here), or New Art in Serbia 19701980, curated by Ješa Denegri and presented in 1983 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Gallery of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, and Art Gallery, Prishtina.


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Postal Packages by Želimir Koščević

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Date: 1972

Place: Student Center Gallery, Zagreb

Curator: Želimir Koščević

Participants: undisclosed mail art works by international artists

The exhibition “Postal Packages” (1972) was a culmination of curatorial experiments that Želimir Koščević, the director of the Student Center Gallery in Zagreb, realized in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 1 In collaboration with the 1971 Paris Biennial, which was dedicated for the first time to Conceptual art, the exhibition presented the biennial’s “mail art” section to Yugoslav audiences in Belgrade and Zagreb.2 However, after taking the exhibition from Belgrade, where it was held in January 1972, to Zagreb, Koščević decided to exhibit nothing but the unopened package in which the works arrived. This disobedient gesture indicated that the role and responsibility of the curator was not merely to choose and exhibit, but also to choose to refuse to exhibit. The exhibition was accompanied with a statement in which Koščević rejected the commodification and institutionalization of Conceptual art. The fact that Conceptual art had become so innocuous to be included in a biennial, as the most conventional exhibition form, meant for Koščević the beginning of its demise:

“Unconventional, brave and provocative, conceptual art has witnessed its own history by the establishment of a special section at the Paris Biennial. There were also earlier attempts, as some museums and corporations have tried to systematize artistic concepts and reduce them to the level of catalogued data. Many artists accepted this game. The positive valorization of the Paris Biennial officially marked the end of the life of this idea which, at its core, is not foreign or unacceptable to us.”3

Instead of offering the (local, peripheral) audience insight into the latest international trends, Koščević intervened with a sharp critique of the ways in which the radical ideas of Conceptual art have been undermined by their conforming to the conventional rules of art’s institutionalization:

“Instead of participating in the further deterioration of conceptual art, instead of supporting its demise under the gallery and museum lights, we have exhibited the content of this exhibition in its genuine state. We have exhibited—we believe —the sublimate of conceptual art—the postal package as postal package. […] Art is not to be found under a glass, under a glass bell, art is facing us.”4

In the Student Center Gallery’s newspaper, documenting the exhibition, this text by Koščević was juxtaposed to an excerpt from the original statement by one of the curators of the Paris Biennial. Stressing the primacy of the idea over matter in Conceptual art, the curatorial statement presented the Envoi (“postal packages”) section of the Biennial as a prime example of the radically new, dematerialized understanding of the art object, in which the “transmitting of information has become more important than transporting goods.”.5 Koščević’s intervention—the exhibiting of “the postal package as postal package”—appropriates the original title of the biennial section and puts into question the validity of the claims made by the biennial organizers, of the primacy of information (idea) over matter. The cumbersome, unopened package placed in the center of the gallery space epitomized the true state of affairs behind the claims of the art’s dematerialization, revealing that the “transport of goods” was still the undisturbed kernel of the art system.

Document: Exhibition-statement by Želimir Koščević

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


 1 See Ivana Bago, “Dematerialization and Politicization of the Exhibition: Curation As Institutional Critique in Yugoslavia during the 1960s and 1970s,” in Museum and Curatorial Studies Review, vol. 2, no. 1: 7—37; [link].

2 The biennial consisted of several thematic sections, tracing the variety and novelty of artistic approaches and media, emerging with conceptual art. The section Envoi (Postal Packages), focused on postal communication as a new artistic medium, as well as a way of creating social and aesthetic networks, traversing the borders. See Jean-Marc Poinsot’s “La communication à distance et l’objet esthétique,” accessible on: http://www.archives.biennaledeparis.org/fr/1971/tex/poinsot.htm. The exhibition “Postal Packages” was first presented at the Belgrade Student Cultural Center in January 1972, after which it was supposed to open in Zagreb. See Ješa Denegri, “Sekcija «poštanskih pošiljki» sa VII Bijenala mladih u Parizu,” [The “postal packages” section from the 7th Youth Biennial in Paris], in Studentski kulturni centar kao umjetnička scena (Belgrade: Studentski kulturni centar, 2003), 2729.

3 The statement was published in the gallery’s newspaper Novine Galerije SC (Student Center gallery newspaper), (March 1972): 135. Translated from the Croatian by the author.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid. The text is in an excerpt from Jean-Marc Poinsot’s “La communication à distance et l’objet esthétique,” (See note 2).


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AUTOBUS – A3: Action and Anonymous Attraction (Street Happenings and Rock Culture)

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Date: 1972-1973

Participants and organizers: A3 – Risto Banić, Mladen Jevđović, Dobrivoje Petrović, Nenad Petrović, Jugoslav Vlahović and Slavko Timotijević

Location: Belgrade, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Skoplje

The actionist exhibition Autobus by A3, performed in the Belgrade city center in 1973, presents one of the early examples of performative street action within the New Artistic Practices, affiliated with Student Cultural Centre – Belgrade (SKC). The A3 – The Group for Action and Anonymous Attraction worked together between 1970 and 1974 and its members were Risto Banić, Mladen Jevđović, Dobrivoje Petrović, Nenad Petrović, Jugoslav Vlahović and Slavko Timotijević (who joined later in 1972, and, as the only art historian among the members of the group, became important for the articulation and positioning of A3 exhibition work).

The A3 group have been less interested in the context provided by the Gallery of SKC; the space of their operation were rather the streets and city public space, or, in their own words – “the life itself”. Timotijević wrote: “The goal of the group was to produce attraction by means of a sudden, unexpected action”. The group always insisted on their intentionally marginal positioning and ephemeral works and actions, signing up as alternative or amateur actors on the scene of New Art and considering their work as part of broadly understood “rock culture”. The latest conclusion may also stem from the fact that the two members of the group – Dobrivoje Petrović and Jugoslav Vlahović – participated in the controversially perceived installment of the musical Kosa (Hair), taking place in Atelier 212 in 1970 (in which some of the actors occurred naked on the stage for the first time in Belgrade’s theatre) and played in different music bands of the time.

The action Autobus assumed the construction of wooden scaled model of a bus (200x400x150cm), which was handheld from the inside and “driven” by the walk of its passengers, while rolling on small wheels on the front and back. The point was to produce a social event or attraction by engaging “casual passengers” in ludistic dialogue and estranged behavior. Some of the casual participants of the action commented on the bus as a “hippie vehicle”, mocking its DIY structure and the look of artists, while others ironically prized this “ecological ride” due to its natural ventilation (being without glass on windows), the possibility of stretching the legs on the way to work and for the absence of the gas pollution. Participants were exhibited to each other, their comments were immaterially exhibited “in the air” of the city.

Autobus is a skeleton of the off the wall idea, a nutshell within the social idiocy of perfect industrialism and technocratism. By material unfinishedness and ideatory perfection Autobus enables involvement of its participants in the realization of the idea […]This is anti-autobus of the Traffic Enterprise A3, a children’s toy, the dream of children’s megalomania and manifestation of the desire for air-conditioning of the people during the summertime. Autobus offers freedom, enables creation of various versions of the idea, depending on the level of participation. By avoiding the possibility of one definite classification, the way to realization of the project is secured by the Tolerance. AUTOBUS IS TOLERANCE. As difference from static interventions in the urban space Autobus realizes as estranged appearance, visual unexpectability in the spatial circulation.

(exhibition statement of the A3 group)

Slavko Timotijević connects the work of A3 – The Group for action and anonimous attraction with the various forms of rock music, alternative theatre, fluxus mass culture, happening and street action: “It is the fact that the members of A3 have always been well informed about rock music and had a lot of conversations on that matters – we did rely on the sensibility brought about by rock culture. We didn’t have to play music in order to be a rock band. We were the rock band by itself.”


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Natalia! – performance by Natalia LL

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Date: 1975

Participant: Natalia LL

Organizer: Fourth Meeting Festival Art in Belgrade

Location: Turkish Hall, Belgrade

Natalia LL emphasizes the conjunction and disjunction of the work of art’s experience by the viewer and the artist-as-producer. During the performance, an actress read out a text—a “libretto”[1]—which was then repeated by a chorus of university students. LL played the role of the conductor of a spectacle taking place in a room with excellent acoustics: “The impression was extraordinary, because the chanted words were for me a message of the forgotten language of some unknown civilization. The energy of the words blasted in the historic interior.”[2] The gesture was based on a purely intellectual procedure, focused on the analysis of a word—the artist’s name, one of the components of subjectivity: “Treating letters as individual elements, ‘bricks,’ which form words, and changing the order of letters, I used them for constructing new words. In this way the building NATALIA! originated as a result of the multiplication.”[3] What is also interesting here are the games played on the author’s figure in the text, where the subject manifests itself and deconstructs itself through the interventions on its name, and the subjective position taken by the artist on a variety of levels.


[1] Natalia LL, “PERMAFO — SUMA,” in Prace Natalii LL 1970–1973 (Galeria PERMAFO: Wrocław, 1973).

[2] Natalia LL, “Natalia! (1),” trans. K. Bartnik, in Natalia LL, Teksty (Bielska Gallery: Bielsko-Biała, 2004), 290.

[3] Ibid., 285.


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Exhibitions-Actions by the Group of Six Artists

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Date: 1975-1979

Place: City of Zagreb (various outdoor and indoor locations); Mošćenička Draga beach; City of Belgrade, SKC Gallery, Belgrade

Concept by: Group of Six Artists

Participants: Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović

In the period of 1975-1979 a group of artists and friends (later dubbed “Group of Six Artists”) — Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović  — organized a series of twenty-one “exhibition-actions.” With the exception of Demur, who graduated painting at the Zagreb Academy of Arts, the group members were not trained as visual artists, but rather approached the “new art practice” from other fields, such as poetry (Martek), photography (Sven Stilinović, Vučemilović), amateur photography (Jerman), amateur film (Mladen Stilinović). This determined their shared anti-aesthetic, anti-programmatic and anti-professional stance to art production, resulting in experiments with photography, poetry, text, concepts, ephemeral interventions and actions, as well as exhibition experiments. The initial distance from academic and art institutions led them to the concept of “exhibition-actions,” a series of self-organized public presentations of their work, initially taking place in the open, public spaces of the city and its surroundings: the streets and squares of the Zagreb city center, residential neighborhoods, the river banks, beaches, university hallways.

In his chronology of the group’s activities, Darko Šimičić traces the group’s self-organized presentations to the action performed on the night of the 9th of October 1974, when three group members (Demur, Jerman, Martek) intervened on the advertising board under the railway bridge of Savska Street in Zagreb. In this action, Jerman presented his famous slogan “This Is Not My World,” written in hypo on photographic paper. According to Šimičić, “[t]his illegal exhibition in a public site was to become in somewhat modified form the prototype [of] the later group appearances.” 1 The first exhibition of the whole group took place on the 11th of May at the Sava River public bathing site: works were installed along the embankment, on sunbathing boards, and the grass. The term “exhibition-action” was first used to describe their second collaborative exhibition, which took place on the 29th of May, at the Zagreb neighborhood Sopot, part of the newly-urbanized zones of the “New Zagreb” built during the 1950s and 1960s. In their exhibition-actions, the artists exhibited paintings, photographs, installations, objects, as well as performed actions. For example, in the Sopot exhibition-action, Jerman showed two childhood photographs pasted on styrofoam boards: one in which he became member of the pioneer organization, and the other where he received his first Holy Communion. Mladen Stilinović showed paintings from the cycle Me, You, Mine, Yours, and performed an action of jumping up in order to appear higher than the skyscrapers in the background.

The group’s public presentations gained more visibility and attention with their October 1975 exhibition at the Republic Square, the central square in Zagreb. Jerman exhibited his “elementary photographs,” along with the slogan “Life, and not slogans”; Sven Stilinović showed a series of photos of a dead dog juxtaposed with photographs deemed to possess artistic beauty; Mladen Stilinović handed out photos of smiles to passers-by; Demur pasted the advertisement board with the poster on which only the word “Eto” [There you go] was written; Vučemilović asked the passer-by to take a photo of him. Judging from the reactions that the artists recorded and later published in one of the issues of their Maj 75 magazine, Zagreb citizens were not impressed, dubbing the exhibition “international idiocy” and seeing it as a symptom of disease, or simply students’ immaturity and idleness. Polemics in the newspapers ensued when a local art critic dismissed the artistic validity of the action. 2

An interesting twist to the form of exhibition-action was added with the May 1976 action City Walk, in which the artists walked through the streets of Zagreb, carrying their paintings, photographs and art objects. Demur carried a black painting with the text “I’m not crazy to paint bourgeois paintings” written in red. In June of the same year, they staged an exhibition-action on the beach of Moščenićka Draga. Jerman laid on photo-paper, leaving behind the imprint of his body; Martek performed an action of tearing banknotes: “In my opinion there is no greater contradiction than the contradiction between the sea as a reality and a the money as an abstraction.” 3 Sven Stilinović painted beach stones, while Vučemilović, who was not present, declared the movements of Jerman to be his own art (live sculptures). Several works testify to the centrality of the dematerialized idea of art for the group’s work: art — as well as collective and collaborative work — was conceived as a process, and a form of immediate sharing that cannot be reproduced or materialized. For example, Demur made a series of “mental works,” works that were not realized and that were forgotten: “I left my mental process of action in its original form without translating it into communication of any kind whatsoever.” 4 Similarly, Mladen Stilinović stated that part of the works conceived for the exhibition-action “was neither produced, noted down, now memorized. It was lived with friends.” 5

Starting from 1977, several exhibition-actions took place in gallery spaces. For the January 1978 exhibition at the Nova Gallery in Zagreb, the artists played with the idea of “oral tradition.” Keeping the tradition of their street presentations, the concept required a mandatory presence of the artists next to their work exhibited in the gallery, so that they could engage in conversations with the visitors and communicate their ideas about each particular work, as well as more general ideas on art. In June 1968, in the framework of the April Encounters festival in Belgrade, the group decided to organize a public working meeting at the SKC Gallery, making the very workings of the group and the plotting of their contributions to the festival transparent to the audience. This idea of openness, communication, and sharing was central to the group, and resonated with other artistic and curatorial practices that engaged in the conversations around the “democratization of the arts” that characterized the 1960s and 1970s. However, also crucial was the idea of self-organization and autonomy, and the freedom from institutional and ideological conditioning and censorship. Alongside the unique concept of “exhibitions-actions,” the group’s samizdat “catalogue-magazine” Maj 75, initiated in 1978, as well as their engagement in Podroom — the Working Community of Artists from 1978-1980, became additional platforms through which the group strove to achieve these aims.

DocumentComments of passers-by recorded during exhibition-actions at the Zagreb Republic Square (1975 and 1978)

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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Oktobar 75 – An Example of Counter-Exhibition (Statements on Artistic Autonomy, Self-management and Self-Critique)

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Date: October 1975

Participants: Dunja Blažević, Ješa Denegri, Goran Đorđević, Vladimir Gudac, Bojana Pejić, Zoran Popović, Jasna Tijardović, Slavko Timotijević, Raša Todosijević, Dragica Vukadinović

Location: Student Cultural Center (SKC) gallery, Belgrade

The Oktobar events at SKC1 presented vital moments of linguistic-political forming and development of New Art Practices2 in Belgrade during the first half of the 1970s. SKC gallery was regularly organizing alternative Oktobars” as a sort of oppositional, counter-cultural activity to the official art event called October Salon, which contained the conventional (bourgeois) prerogative of a salon, and was following l’art pour l’art (“art for art’s sake”) trends of late modernist aesteticism. At that time, October Salons were being held annually at the Modern Gallery located in a former garage on Masarykova Street, opposite to the SKC building and in a sense, SKC’s Oktobars literally operated as a sort of “door-to-door” counter-salon.

Oktobar 75 was (self-)organized as a participatory project in which the community of cultural workers—art critics, curators, and artists gathered around SKC gallery—decided to publish a series of individual critical statements on the concept of self-managing art. For the opening night, the gallery was left empty: the only “object” was small table, with a pile of stapled A4-size publications with the designed print Oktobar 75 on the front page (the print can be seen among the pictures accompanying this article). In other words, what makes this project a counter-exhibition is the very decision by SKC’s artistic community to not to show the artworks as objects of contemplation, but to use the gallery space to present their individual statements and texts that comprise the hectograph notebook, Oktobar 75.

The topic of art and self-management corresponded with the ideological program of Workers’ Self-Management that was part the official state politics of socialist Yugoslavia, initially developed by the prominent politician, economist, and intellectual Edvard Kardelj.3 However, counter to all possible “literal” translations from the sphere of politics to the sphere of art and vice versa, the issue of self-management art in the Oktobar 75 debate didn’t remain closed within the circle of ongoing discussions about workers self-management in state institutions and in the production sector, which were often occupied by bureaucratic questions. It is equally worth mentioning that the Oktobar 75 debate hasn’t been considered a straightforward, frontal critique of the state (cultural) apparatus on behalf of an alternative art practice. The issue of self-management actually evolved here into the larger debate on the politicization of cultural activity, and the experimental change of the language of art with the emergence of the new paradigms of Conceptual art and New Art Practice.

Many of the texts published in Oktobar 75 explored the relationships between the autonomy of art and artistic engagement in specific ideological and institutional constellations along the line of political division of the world into the socialist East and the capitalist West, and their dominant ideological worldviews about what art should be and what culture should represent. Taking into account the specificities of Yugoslav self-managed society, but also its shared viewpoints with sometimes Eastern, sometimes Western ideologies, the real cultural political target of Oktobar 75 became the bourgeois institution of art and its preservation within “the official” institutions of culture, mostly located centrally in Belgrade, as the capital of former Yugoslavia. Socialist self-management was applied rather generally and routinely in the actual practices of various artistic associations and public cultural institutions. The institutions at the time enjoyed the program of a “relative autonomy of culture” and the official state policy can be described in terms of a generalized modernist tendency that was often defined as socialist modernism in the field of visual art. The Oktobar 75 collection of statements showed how nominally progressive socialist modernist tendency advocated by the Yugoslav state in the very practice proved itself as the conservative one. Oktobar 75 directly criticized the aspect of art management that neutralizes the political through the use of abstraction and modernist abstract forms, enclosed into the traditional bourgeois structure of the “admiration of precious objects.” Let’s hear some voices of the original participants of the event.

 

Oktobar 75 (excerpts)

Art should be changed! As long as we leave art alone and keep on transferring works of art from studios to depots and basements by means of social regulations and mechanisms, storing them, like stillborn children, for the benefit of our cultural offspring, or while we keep on creating, through the private market, our own variant of the nouveau riche or Kleinbürger, art will remain a social appendage, something serving no useful purpose, but something it is not decent or cultured to be without.

THE SELF-MANAGING SYSTEM OF FREE EXCHANGE AND ASSOCIATION OF LABOUR THROUGH SELF-MANAGING COMMUNITIES OF INTEREST REPRESENTS A NEW NON-OWNERSHIP RELATIONSHIP that examines and revises the existing models of artistic work and behavior.

Dunja Blažević, curator of the SKC gallery

The ballast of the past is such that we, who have different social circumstances today, and therefore greater possibilities for ANOTHER ART, are incapable of understanding correctly society’s need for art. Even though we have perceived that the classical antagonism of class provenance concerning the division into two “types” of labour should be overcome, even though art has the status of an equal-footing phenomenon in society, that same art, endangered and confined for centuries, is showing its old class face again.

Only when we really come to understand that art is a SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACT, the same as any other social act, shall we be able to say that art has finally been released from its decorative authority.

Bojana Pejić, associate curator of SKC

A continual wish for a total autonomy of art is nothing else but its effort to attain a self-conscious and efficient functioning within the framework of its own language.

It is only when functioning as a critique and self-analysis of its own language that art is capable of raising the issue of the analysis and critique of social practice and demanding its change.

Art that celebrates victory stops fighting.

Raša Todosijević, artist

Art must be negative, critical, both towards the external world and in relation to its own language, its own (artistic) practice. It is pointless and hypocritical to be engaged, to speak and act in the name of some humanity, of mankind, political and economic freedoms, and to remain passive on the other hand in relation to the system of “universal” artistic values, the system that is the basic prerequisite of the existence of artistic bureaucracy, and therefore of the outrageous robbery perpetrated by star artists.

Zoran Popović, artist

The alternative October events at SKC, as we may conclude from the reading of excerpts from the statements of the participants of Oktobar 75, have functioned not only as a response of one exhibition to another one (i.e. the larger October Salon exhibition), or as an act of confrontation between the “official” and “alternative” cultural spheres, but also as an effort at building a different perspective on art and artistic activity, which is based on the processes of democratization of the production and reception of art. Art critic and curator Jasna Tijardović, who advocated different informal and anti-disciplinary behavior in the gallery space,4 metaphorically named this new, democratic practice of art the utopia of hectographs,5 which for her became a brand mark of the art of SKC, and of many other critical approaches within Conceptual art. The utopia of hectographs would thereby encompass all of those artistic forms that emerged from the student protests and the corpus of “poor art,” which refused to be a social luxury or a precious object, striving instead to become a reflection of one’s (political) position or the attitude.

Oktobar 75—a declaratively critical counter-exhibition—can be seen as a window for looking at one of SKC’s many “characteristic faces” cohabiting its permeable institutional walls. It shows the “face” of the critique of the Yugoslav socialist state from the leftist, Marxist positions that emerged in the circles of the student protests of 1968 with the slogan (which is tautological at the first glance): fighting socialism with socialism. That characteristic face of criticism can be recognized in the institutional politics of SKC’s first director, Petar Ignjatović, and the artistic politics of Dunja Blažević, the first editor of the SKC gallery art program.

There are two explanations for the initiation of Oktobar 75. One is connected to a broader international climate of political art and the questioning of the legacy of late modernism. In this context I should mention the influence of the group Art & Language, who were in contact and collaboration with Zoran Popović and Jasna Tijardović, and who came to SKC in early October 1975 to organize a symposium on the political engagement of art. The seminar consequently led to the “localization” of the questions on art and politics and focusing to the practice of self-management within the community of artists, critics, and curators gathered around the SKC gallery. The second explanation is connected to Dunja Blažević’s personal and political inclinations toward rethinking the actual social transformations within Yugoslav society, and her interests and beliefs in the politics of socialist self-management. This explanation, of course, places Blažević in the position of curator of the event, with which she completes her five-year work as the head of the SKC gallery,6 after which the management of the visual arts program is delegated to the curator Biljana Tomić, who would choose a different cultural and political approach.7

According to the protagonists of the SKC scene, some of the artists and critics refused Blažević’s proposal for Oktobar 75 as “a form of collaboration with the regime in power” (since that was a time when the duty of citizens was to express their opinion about self-management as “the optimal social system” practiced in various types of institutions, from factories and schools to cultural institutions), but numerous actors of the SKC community accepted the challenge, using the theme as a starting point for exploring some fundamental issues related to the social role of art.

Oktobar 75 was documented in the form of a publicly distributed notebook—a hectographed reader with texts written by all participants on the project in the form of proclamations or statement-essays. Some of these texts were republished in the journal Književna reč, and provoked a public polemic in the official press. Moreover, some of the texts in Oktobar 75 were presented and performed (read) by their writers in the Vertovian documentary Cinema Notes by German director Lutz Becker. In the film, Becker portrays the artists, curators, and art critics as cultural workers by juxtaposing the performance of individual statements written for the reader of Oktobar 75 with other narratives or gestural expressions of various people involved in SKC, including some who had refused to participate in Oktobar 75. The film speaks of SKC as a production site, a gallery-as-a-factory that, instead of an idealistic picture of modernization and industrialization with its glorification of production and its ideology of hyper-productive work, enthusiastically produces the ideology of not-doing and not-working—the fetish of contemplation.

Documents:

The translated version of the script Oktobar 75 from the notebook in the exhibition SKC in ŠKUC: The Case of SKC in the 1970s by Prelom Kolektiv can be downloaded here: prelomkolektiv.org/pdf/catalogue.pdf.

My essay with the title “SKC as a Site of Performative (Self-)Production: October 75 – Institution, Self-Organization, First-Person Speech, Collectivization” closely examines the political intervention of the SKC in the institutional landscape and the art system of the time by using the counter-exhibition Oktobar 75 as the case study. The essay, available in both Croatian and English, was originally published in the Zagreb-based journal Život umjetnosti and can be downloaded here


1 Starting in 1972, Oktobar events took place annually over the month of October, and were diverse in format and content.

2 The term New Art Practices was introduced by art historian Ješa Denegri, who closely cooperated with the community gathered around SKC in Belgrade. For the further explanation of the term, see my introduction text into the exhibition chronology: The Student Cultural Centre (SKC) as the Art Scene (especially the footnote 3).

3 For better understanding of Kardelj’s position I’m quoting one of his famous statements: “As far as Yugoslavia is concerned, the choice is not between multiparty pluralism or a one-party system, but rather between self-management, i.e. the democratic system of pluralism of self-management interests, or the multiparty system which negates self-management. […] The pluralism of interests is incomparably closer to the individual and immeasurably more democratic than any form of political party pluralism which alienates society as a whole from the real man and citizen, even though it decides ostensibly on behalf of the citizen.” Edvard Kardelj, Self-Management and the Political System (Belgrade: Socialist Thought and Practice, 1981). A recent study on Yugoslav self-management available online: Gal Kirn, From the Primacy of Partisan Politics to the Post-Fordist Tendency in Yugoslav Self-Management Socialism, http://p-dpa.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Kirn-post_fordism_and_its-discontents.pdf.

4 For contextualisation of Tijardović’s position see my introduction text to the exhibition chronology: The Student Cultural Centre (SKC) as the Art Scene.

5 Jasna Tijardović, the conversation with the author conducted on the occasion of the research of Oktobar 75 in August 2012.

6 Dunja Blažević was the curator of the SKC gallery until the end of 1975. In 1976 she became director of SKC, but also participates in different ongoing programs (see the chronology on Comrade Woman conference as an examples).

7 The art and exhibition policy of Biljana Tomić can be traced in this archive through the projects of promotion of New Art Practice in the Tribune of Youth (Novi Sad), BITEF Festival (Belgrade), early exhibitions in Museum of Contemporary Art (with Ješa Denegri), participation in various SKC programs before she became the head of the SKC gallery in 1976 and later, through her exhibition projects and participation with Group 143.


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“Strike” by La Galerie des Locataires

Author:
Keywords: , , ,

Date: 1976

Concept by: Ida Biard & La Galerie des Locataires

Can an exhibition take the form of a postcard? For Ida Biard and La Galerie des Locataires (Tenants’ Gallery) postal communication was crucial for establishing networks among artists, critics and curators from Budapest to Canada. Founded in 1972 in the rented Paris apartment of the Zagreb art historian and critic Ida Biard, La Galerie des Locataires (Tenants’ Gallery) was a self-organized curatorial project dedicated to “communicating” the works of artists who, in line with the credo of the new, dematerialized art, privileged “ethics over aesthetics.”1 Artists from all over the world were invited to send their works by mail, to be exhibited in the window of Biard’s apartment, or realized, according to artists’ instructions, in public spaces of different cities, and in the framework of various exhibitions and projects.

La Galerie kept close ties with the Yugoslav art scene, especially through Biard’s collaboration with artist Goran Trbuljak on the French Window project, as well as different programs realized in collaboration with the Student Center galleries of Zagreb and Belgrade. At the same time, based in Paris, Biard collaborated with artists such as Daniel Buren, Annette Messager, Christian Boltanski, and Sarkis, who were to become among the most well-known protagonists of the international art scene.

La Galerie held a strong anti-commercial and anti-establishment stance, and believed in the potential of conceptual art to overcome the material and ideological confines of traditional, bourgeois, object-based art. However, by the mid-1970s, it became clear that the old patterns were only being re-affirmed, with conceptual artists becoming part of the mainstream institutional and commercial art scene. In order to protest this development, Ida Biard sent a card to all the artists she had collaborated with, specifically those in France, declaring a strike and announcing that La Galerie des Locataires would no longer “communicate the so-called works of art” in order to express its  “disagreement with the conduct of artists/so-called dissenters and the avant-garde within the current system of the art market.” 2 Inverting the logic according to which artists are expected to rebel against the system, while curators and critics secure their positions within its hierarchies, here it is the curator/gallerist who protests against the behavior of artists being integrated into the commodity system and betraying the ‘essence’ of conceptual art and their own earlier practice. 3

This gesture of a curator’s strike, of a refusal to exhibit art if that implies perpetuating the status quo, was also an experiment with the form of curatorial communication — the exhibition. Strike could be interpreted as a mail-exhibition, a translation of artists’ usage of post and the emerging “genre” of mail art. Crucial for establishing and maintaining networks, postal communication here served to declare a dissolution of the network, as an expression of protest and, implicitly, a declaration of the failure of “dematerialized” art to radically transform the art system.

Guide for the chronology (Ivana Bago: Something to think about: values and valeurs of visibility in Zagreb from 1961 to 1986)


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The Week of Latin America: Murals by Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra) Brigades – ‘Non-Aligned’ Street Art

Author:
Keywords: , , ,

Date: November 1977

Location: Student Cultural Center, Belgrade

Curator: Milo Petrović – the editor of SKC Tribune program

Artists: Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra) Brigade

In the words of its editor Milo Petrović, the Tribune program in Belgrade’s Student Cultural Center (SKC), “between mid-1970s and mid-1980s offered a site of free-minded public speech, intellectual debate and social activism, aiming to engage with primarily students, but also with a wider, general public.”[1] Developed in line with other, more art-oriented programs, the Tribune took the task of providing the support for social-critical theory and political theory produced and observed by young intellectuals and political activists from Yugoslavia and abroad.

From the perspective of almost three decades later, Petrović elaborates: “We wanted to be in touch and to hear about the problems of the world, the problems of our times—to discuss the development in intellectual thought, in artistic practice and socially engaged work. We wanted to host programs and people who reflected our epoch, people who reflect important social events of our time no matter if they are somewhere in the world or if they stem from the local Yugoslav context, no matter if they are in the ‘heart of West’ or in the less developed ‘Third World,’ where, as we learned in those days, some important things were happening—and we thought that it is good to present all this to Belgrade, to student public, that it is good if we live in tune with our times.”[2]

Between mid-1970s and mid-80s, the Tribune program presented several conferences and events: the Week of Spain in 1976, coinciding with the end of Franco’s dictatorship; The Week of Latin America in 1977, dealing with the anti-colonial struggle of different militant guerrilla movements in various parts of Latin America; the first “women’s questions” have been opened in 1978 through the conference Comrade Women, after which followed the event dedicated to militant revolutionary Chilean cinema – The Second Week of Latin America at the beginning of 1980s. New movements in psychiatry (or more precisely the positions and attitudes of anti-psychiatry) were discussed in 1983, while events in 1984 were dedicated to the critique of the Yugoslav society at the time.

As one of the largest events of the Tribune program Petrović describes The Week of Latin America, held in November 1977, which was a dedicated program of conferences, exhibitions, movie screenings, and public discussions: “I should remind you that the 1970s in general were the times of the worst military dictatorships in almost all Latin American countries. This was the time of the fall of the first democratic president in Latin America—Salvador Allende, and the time when the generals of Argentina started with their mission of extermination of their political enemies by throwing them alive from the airplanes into the Atlantic Ocean. This was the time where there were a lot of political refugees in Europe, and I went to Paris. There I contacted this critical intelligentsia, intellectual opposition from Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Mexico and other places. […] So it was really important to bring this 20 or so people, some of whom claimed that this was the most important event of that year worldwide in regard to discussing the Latin American issues. I remember the opening of the Week of Latin America—more then 500 people were in the auditorium and when the singer and author Chango Cejes was about to start singing the song Hasta Siempre, he said that he would like to sing it without a microphone and invited Roberto—the brother of Che Guevara—and other participants and the audience to join. […] And I remember this excitement of people that was being felt in that moment throughout the hall of SKC.”[3]

This alternative program of the SKC Tribune was partly in line with the official state politics of Non-Alignment Movement at the time, although organized independently and separately from state protocols and diplomatic normatives. The case of The Week of Latin America is interesting precisely because of this overlap with the issues and the interests of the state, but being organized in different, semiofficial manner and formally not aiming at any of the pragmatic goals set by governments of nonaligned countries. However, the very language of the internal institutional report uses the vocabulary of the state party bureaucracy in the similar way that, for example, the reports on contemporary projects funded by the EU today use the language of EU political bureaucracy.[4] Part of the official archived report states:

“We all found especially interesting the discussion about problems and perspectives of the politics of Non-Alignment in Latin America. Some participants expressed critical objections on Non-Alignment from the standpoint of the demands of revolutionary movements in struggle. The discussion was able, especially thanks to the contribution of the comrade Mates, to point to the proper place and role of the Non-Alignment politics in the process of positive transformation of international relations, and to the objective connectedness of such politics with the struggle of revolutionary movements on their respective national levels.” [5]

The artistic program of The Week of Latin America comprised a music section, film section, and a visual-arts section. According to the program organizers and SKC editors of the time, the program was framed under the notion of engaged art practice with a “tight connection between artistic and revolutionary act.” The music program featured the guitar player Chango Cejes from Argentina, the band Carcasu from Chile, and Julia Alfonso from Mexico. The film program put into the focus documentary and revolutionary propaganda films from Cuba, Chile, Germany, Mexico, and France, to deal with the various struggles in Latin American countries.[6] The visual art program included the participation of the artistic (muralist) brigade called Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra), who worked on the streets of Belgrade over the two weeks in collaboration with the students of Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts. They painted three large-scale murals: one was made on the wall of SKC building (overlooking the inner courtyard that was at the time understood as the place for informal gatherings and as meeting point of young people visiting SKC programs); another was painted on the plaster tiles placed in the interior of SKC; and the third was produced on the wall of the cafeteria in the Faculty of Political Sciences, Belgrade.

The programmatic concept of the murals and the artistic-political position of the members of the Salvador Allende (Ramona Parra) brigades are described in the TV reportage, broadcasted on the occasion of the week of Latin America.

Documentary video, part of the On Solidarity project by Darinka Pop-Mitic (2005 – ongoing)

As often is the case with street art projects, their existence is temporary and connected to the particular moment and actual situation. None of the murals were preserved—they grew pale and vanished over time, following the fading of the official ideology of socialism, Non-Alignment, and revolutionary struggle and its replacement by the currently prevailing combination of neoliberal economy and right-of-center ideology. The story of the Salvador Allende Brigade in Belgrade was revisited in the 2005 project On Solidarity, initiated by the artist Darinka Pop-Mitić. For the project she refreshed the colors on the remnants of the mural on the wall of SKC, expressing by this act a certain “solidarity in time” with this particular historical-political moment of people’s struggle for decolonization and liberation. Pop-Mitić states:

“The inside of this institution, the SKC, is a conceptual art scene, while its outside is a ‘third-world’ mural made in collaboration of an artistic brigade and the students of the FLU (Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade)—obvious propaganda art. The framework, the ‘frame,’ of the entire conceptual art scene in the SKC is in a way exactly this mural, but on the other hand it is exactly this mural that was both badly documented and left at the mercy of the ravages of time, which fragmented it until the only thing left were the giant heads that frightened me when I passed by the SKC building when I was a child. Chesterton has a following aphorism: ‘Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.’ The mural Solidarity is the ‘frame’ for our conceptual scene.”[7]

The project on Latin America and the works of the Salvador Allende Brigade are also interesting in this analysis of the exhibition history of SKC as examples of certain politics of art that were framed in a quite of a different manner in comparison to what was happening in the gallery program of SKC, which at the time assumed a variety of artistic and political positions but mainly dismissed such “explicit political activism” and “traditional pictorial expression.” This again points to the hybridity of SKC and the lamination of different positions of critical art and intellectual communities that coexisted in the same space.[8]


[1] Milo Petrović, quoted in the television program Trezor on RTS, April 10, 2007. The topic of the show was Alternativni univerzitet – istorija SKCa (Alternative university: The history of SKC).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] As I commented on in the introduction text to this chronology, the SKC was funded partly by the state and partly through proactive fundraising. Since it supported numerous international programs and insisted on international collaborations in contrast to the majority of bigger state institutions that presented local art and sometimes diplomatic, state-exchange exhibitions and programs that already had financial support, SKC editors often fundraised at the international embassies, cultural centers, or institutes whose funds were opened toward such initiatives. However, majority of the institutional reports catalogued in the SKC archive describe the Yugoslav state as the “main sponsor,” although the addressee is not mentioned directly, and all the reports are written in the fashion of a “summary” or notes from the event.

[5]             Note on translation: this report sources foreign names phonetically in Serbo-Croatian.

[6]             The exact names of the authors are absent in the reports on the Week of Latin America and difficult to find in the SKC archive, which is not yet systematized.

[7]             Quoted from Darinka Pop-Mitić’s artist statement.

[8]    See the introduction to this exhibition chronology, The Student Cultural Center (SKC) as the Art Scene.


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