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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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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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Performances at unofficial avant-garde music festivals in Riga

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Date : April 1976–October 1977

Location: Latvian Art Academy hall and the student club of the Polytechnic Institute in Anglican Church, in Riga

Participants and organizers: Alexei Lubimov, et. al.

The first significant experience of contemporary music for musically conservative Riga was the concert series “Twentieth-Century Music” by Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov during the 1975/76 season. Although the series was banned, architecture student Hardijs Lediņš and violinist Boriss Avramecs encouraged Lubimov to play his intended program at an unofficial festival. Its culmination was a concert at the Art Academy, where Riga and Moscow musicians performed works by Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, and others. There were also performance elements presented by the musicians and selected audience members, as well as a happening after the second part of the concert with spontaneous improvisations, provocative acts, and absurdity. “It was fun but it ended in scandal, because it broke all the rules and notions about high-minded art,” recalled Avramecs[1].

The festival also took place the following year, officially sanctioned as “The Days of Music” dedicated to music by contemporary Soviet composers and the sixtieth anniversary of the Great October Revolution. But hidden under the acceptable name were works by avant-garde Soviet composers, including Vladimir Martinov’s Easter Cantata, which was not part of the approved program. Deemed to be “religious propaganda,” this work served to justify the state’s repression of the musicians and organizers and a complete ban on playing similar music, either officially or unofficially.


[1] An interview with B. Avramecs in May, 2011.


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We Buy and Sell Souls – art action by Komar & Melamid and the Nest Group

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Date: 19 May 1979

Participants: Vitaly Komar (b. 1943), Alexander Melamid (b. 1945) in New York; The Nest Group – Mikhail Roshal (1956-2007), Victor Skersis (b. 1956), and Gennady Donskoi (b. 1956)

Locations: The action took place simultaneously in the studio of Mikhail Odnoralov on Dmitrievskogo Street, Moscow and at the Ronald Feldman Gallery, New York.

The event was initiated by Komar and Melamid, the founders of Sots Art in the early 1970s and teachers of a number younger Moscow Conceptualists, including members of the Nest, who emigrated from the Soviet Union to New York in 1977. One of the newly emigrated artists’ first projects was to establish a company that would buy and sell human souls. They launched an advertising campaign which included posters and print ads. They also took out an advertisement on the Times Square video display, sponsored by the Public Art Fund of New York. Komar & Melamid, Inc. purchased several hundred American souls, including that of American Pop artist Andy Warhol (1928–1987), who donated his soul for free. An advertisement in the New York Times announced “the first auction of un-official American art in the Soviet Union simultaneously in New York and Moscow on Saturday, May 19, 1979, 12:00 p.m. New York Time.” A heated auction took place in Mikhail Odnoralov’s apartment, where the soul of American collector of nonconformist Soviet art Norton T. Dodge (1927–2011) drew particularly heated bids; Warhol’s soul sold for thirty rubles. The customers who attended included the poet Genrikh Sapgir (1928–1999), art historian and collector Tatiana Kolodzei (b. 1947), and Anatoly Lepin (b. 1944). Artists who attended included Alena Kirtsova (b. 1954), Vadim Zakharov (b. 1959), and Yuri Albert (b. 1959).


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New Art = New Tradition: The exhibition Against Art by Goran Djordjević

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Date: 29 January – 5 February, 1980

Participant: Goran Đorđević and the most famous artists and artworks presented within Short History of Art

Location: SKC, Belgrade

Exhibition Against Art is organized in Student Cultural Centre in 1980, a year after Goran Djordjević’s call for The International Strike of Artists “against art system’s unbroken repression of the artists and the alienation from the results of their work”, in which he suggested the radical halting of art production on an international level. The exhibition Against Art was opened with the following statement:

A work of art expresses, among other things, certain attitude towards art. The works showed at this exhibition are not works of art. They are only attitudes towards art. More precisely, they are attitudes against art. I think it’s high time to tear the powdered mask of freedom and humanism of art and reveal its proper face – the face of faithful and humble servant.

Against Art is one of first conceptual exhibitions (or artistic statement in the form of exhibition) in former Yugoslavia. It is composed as the collection of peculiar artifacts:

1. The painting Harbingers of Apocalypse (the first painting by artist Goran Djordjević from 1969, that one he was ashamed of for a long time);

2. Series of Preparatory Drawings for the Harbingers of Apocalypse (what is significant is that these are made 10 years after the painting itself);

3. Series of Marginal Drawings (scribbles over mathematical formulas that Djordjević wrote on his Technical Science Studies in Belgrade 1970s);

4. The Short History of Art – series of copies of famous art historical moments (pencil on paper), from cave paintings to Joseph Beuys performances;

5. Minimalist sculptural object with the kitsch reproduction on its back titled The Self-Portrait With The Model.

Exhibition Against Art can be interpreted as the project of liquidation of the last remnants of “transcendental” (imaginary and physical) experience of art, including the leftovers of representation, style, individuality, craft, even of the fetish of idea characteristic for the production of value in art itself. Reasons for this liquidation are many, and can be found in historical, institutional, artistic and personal domains of life and work. The exhibition is performed according to the philosophical strategy of “immanent critique” – as an analysis of cultural forms, which locates and presents contradictions in the rules and systems necessary to the production of those forms. Contrasted with “transcendental” observations of art (and including the recent Conceptual Art production among this “classical” forms of art), the exhibition plays with critical contextualization of both: of Art as the object of its investigation, and of the ideological basis of that object presented in the historical perspective.

Exhibition Against Art is also the first project of Djordjević’s “radical copyism”, based on idea that copy can become more significant that the original, since it contains all of the visual information as presented in the original, but also points to the story to which the original belongs and through which it was being made.

Exhibition Against Art have been reprised in the Gallery of Student Cultural Centre – Belgrade in 2011 as part of the retrospective exhibition “Against art – Goran Djordjevic: Copies 1979–1985” curated by Branislav Dimitrijević, Dejan Sretenović and Jelena Vesić, and produced by Museum of Contemporary Art – Belgrade.


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U.F.O. Gallery – Ganek Gallery

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Date: 1980–83

Participants and organizers: Július Koller (b. 1939), Igor Gazdík (b. 1943), Peter Meluzin, Pavol Breier (b. 1953), Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), Rudolf Sikora (b. 1946), Dezider Tóth (b. 1947), Juraj Meliš (b. 1942)

Location: In the residential apartments of Július Koller, Milan Adamčiak, and Igor Gazdík, Bratislava-Dúbravka, Czechoslovakia

The fictional gallery project U.F.O. Gallery—Gallery Ganek was initiated by Július Koller in 1971. It functioned as a visual and physical symbol of the connection between the Earth and the cosmos, and acted as medium to communicate with unknown civilizations. The gallery’s high location at Malý Ganek—an almost three-hundred-meter mountain peak with a  northwest wall that attracted climbers—symbolized the encounter between the earthly and the cosmic. Participants collectively drafted the statute for the project and discussed potential exhibitions. In 1980, Koller declared Gallery Ganek to be part of Universal-Cultural Futurological Operation (U.F.O.). An organizational and advisory committee came into being on September 18, 1981, and on March 24, 1982, the commission approved the program and statutory principles. Subsequently a text was produced—the constitution for the gallery which was named ”U.F.O. Gallery—Ganek Gallery, High Tatras (U.F.O.G.),” and signed by Koller, Igor Gazdík (commissioner), and commission members Milan Adamčiak, Pavol Breier, Peter Meluzin, and Rudolf Sikora. In the introduction of the U.F.O. Gallery statute, exhibition activities in the physical Ganek Gallery were ruled out; rather, it was a symbolic location used to communicate a variety of alternative forms of expressions (i.e., images, concepts, signals, etc.) with unknown civilizations on Earth and with the universe beyond. The rules of the gallery statute have a discursive quality. It was based on the assumption that the statute of a socialist institution reflects what the institution is about.


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