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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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HAPPSOC I. – sociological happening

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Date: 2–8 May 1965

Participants and organizers: Stano Filko (b. 1937), Alex Mlynárčik (b. 1934)

Location: Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The legendary “HAPPSOC I.” Was a pivotal work by Stano Filko and Alex Mlynárčik that took the form of an invitation card. Those invited were asked to participate by turning the city of Bratislava into a work of art for seven days between May 2–8, 1965. This is the time where two important national holidays are celebrated: Labour Day and Liberation Day. The invitation for “HAPPSOC I. “ contained a list of all things found in the city (including their statistical number) that were to be used to produce the artwork. The list included the total number of: women, men, dogs, houses, balconies, agricultural estates, plant buildings, flats, water supply in flats, water supply out of flats, kitchen ranges electric, kitchen ranges gas, washing mashines, refrigerators, Bratislava as a whole city, a castle, Danube in Bratislava, street lamps, TV aerials, cemeteries, tulips, theaters (including amateur theaters), cinemas, chimneys, trams, motorcars, inns, trolleys, buses, typewriting machines, broadcasting sets, shops, libraries, hospitals, etc.

In collaboration with Zita Kostrová, Filko and Mlynárčik wrote a manifesto to accompany the happening titled “What does HAPPSOC mean? Theory of anonymity that in twelve points defines their intentions.


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Gatherings in Ilya Kabakov’s Studio

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Dates: 1967–1987

Organized by: Ilya Kabakov (b. 1933)

Location: Attic studio, 6/1 Sretensky Boulevard, Moscow

Soon after Ilya Kabakov built his sixth-floor attic studio on Sretensky Boulevard and until his emigration in 1987, the space became a meeting place for Moscow’s unofficial artists, particularly for those who would eventually be associated with Moscow Conceptualism. Artists, poets, philosophers, critics, gathered there to discuss new work or for festive occasions.[1] Starting in the mid-1970s, Kabakov began to “perform” a series of conceptual albums. He used his training as a book illustrator to create metaphysical or conceptual narratives on sheets of gray or white paper. The readings would consist of Kabakov slowly turning the pages and reading the texts of these albums before a seated audience for periods that could last hours. In a short text from the time, entitled “…the point is in the turning of the pages,” Kabakov attempts to describe the sense of pure time that occurs in these durational performances, a concern that is echoed in the work of other Moscow Conceptualists such as the poet Lev Rubinstein with his index card poems, or the Collective Actions group with their actions for Trips Out of the City.

See also Matthew Jesse Jackson, The Experimental Group: Ilya Kabakov, Moscow Conceptualism, Soviet Avant-Gardes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).

[1] Many members of Moscow’s artistic underground who gathered at the studio included: Yuri Kuper (b. 1940), Erik Bulatov (b. 1933), Eduard Steinberg (1937–2012), Vladimir Yankilevsky (b. 1938), Oleg Vasiliev (1931–2013), Viktor Pivovarov (b. 1937), Pavel Pepperstein (b. 1966), Andrei Monastyrski (b. 1949), Dmitri Prigov (1940–2007), Boris Groys (b. 1947), Joseph Backstein (b. 1945), Ivan Chuikov (b. 1935), Vladimir Sorokin (b. 1955), Lev Rubinstein (b. 1947), Vsevolod Nekrasov (1934-2009), Nikita Alekseev (b. 1953), Elena Elagina (b. 1949), George Kiesewalter (b. 1955), Igor Makarevich (b. 1943), Nikolai Panitkov (b. 1952), Sergei Romashko (b. 1952), Sabine Hänsgen (b. 1955), Viktoria Mochalova, Irina Nakhova (b. 1955), and others

 

Documents:

Ilya Kabakov – “…the point is in the turning of the pages” – artist’s text (1970s)

Ilya Kabakov – excerpt 60-e – 70-e… Zapiski o neofitsial’noi zhizni v Moskve [1960s-1970s… Notes on unofficial life in Moscow – memoirs (1982)


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Self-financed exhibition by György Jovánovics and István Nádler

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Date: 15 March 1970

Participants: György Jovánovics (1939),  István Nádler (1938)

Opening action with János Frank (1925 – 2004)

Location: Adolf Fényes Hall, Budapest

The Adolf Fényes Hall was a gallery offered for the presentation of tendencies that were not supported but tolerated by the official cultural politics. In addition to István Nádler’s geometric paintings György Jovánovics exhibited a huge plaster sculpture, whose shape was repeating to the ground plan of the gallery. The exhibition was opened by a fictive radio program that – after the most important international news of the day reported on the exhibition itself . After the exhibition, Jovánovics transported the work to Miklós Erdély’s garden, where the sculpture became the setting for a number of spontaneous events, some of which were documented in photographs. Later Jovánovics called this work, more precisely the opening “the best work of my life” in a lecture reconstructing the event held in Artpool Art Research Center. In the 1980s it also inspired János Sugár (1958) to make an exhibition and shoot a film in the same location.

Documents:

Tape script of the opening action (1970)

Invitation leaflet for György Jovánovics’s public lecture at Artpool P60, “The Best Work of My Life” (1999)

János Sugár on Adolf Fényes Hall, his film Persian Walk, and his exhibition “Exhibition Scenery” (1999)

Video of György Jovánovics’ lecture at Artpool (1999)


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PSEUDO – exhibition by Gyula Pauer

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Date: 3 October 1970

Participant: Gyula Pauer (1941)

Location: József Attila Culture House, Budapest

Gyula Pauer’s two day exhibition could be realized in an off-site culture house as scenery for János Gulyás’s graduation film at the Hungarian Academy of Theatre and Film. The reporter, Géza Perneczky, art historian and artist, interviewed the audience, critics and the artist at the opening.

The room’s walls, ceiling and floor was covered with plastic foil that was spray-painted in a folded state. Gyula Pauer’s First Pseudo Manifesto was distributed as a flyer during the opening.

Documents:

Visitors interviewed during the opening of the exhibition “Pseudo” (1970)

Gyula Pauer: The First PSEUDO Manifesto (1970)

János Gulyás: Pseudo (1970)


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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 Legality of Space – plein air installation by Ewa Partum

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Date: 21–23 April 1971

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizers: Ewa Partum and BWA Gallery, Łódź[1]

Location: Freedom Square (plac Wolności), Łódź

The installation appeared in an open space between two houses near Freedom Square in the center of Łódź. Ewa Partum exhibited numerous boards with prohibitions: actual traffic signs and others, created by the artist, bare absurd messages—for example, “Prohibiting prohibited” or “Permitting prohibited.” For the opening, invitations were sent out. Since the road-signs had been borrowed officially from the Transportation Department of the city, they were guarded by the police, and some of the passersby took it as an exhibition of traffic signs. During the opening, Partum drove around the square and from the car with a megaphone shouted the captions placed on the tables. The artist published a catalog of the performence in 150 copies. Her installation was not granted any attention from the official Polish art world. The local media reacted with curiosity and compared Partum to Dalí, the Spanish Surrealist, because her work was equally “crazy.”


[1] Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych [Office of Art Exhibitions] was the name of the city galleries in Poland in the ’80s.


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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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Direct Week

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Date: 6-9 July 1972

Organisers: Gyula Pauer (1941), Tamás Szentjóby (1944)

Participants: László Beke, Miklós Erdély, Gyula Gulyás, Miklós Haraszti, László Haris, Ágnes Háy, Tamás Hencze, Péter Lajtai, Péter Legéndy, József Molnár V., Gyula Pauer, Margit Rajczi, Tamás Szentjóby, Endre Tót

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

Direct Week was an exhibition and event series that incorporated works and actions replying to Pauer’s and Szentjóby’s call, as well as lectures and screenings that were originally in the program of the “Avantgarde Festival” planned in April in a Budapest Club, but banned shortly before its scheduled date.

Documents:

Gyula Pauer, Tamás Szentjóby: Call for “Direct Week” (1972)

Gyula Pauer: II. Pseudo Manifesto (Advertisement) (1972)

Tamás Szentjóby:  Exclusion exercise – Punishement-Preventive Autotheraphy (1969-72)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003):  126-135.

On the website of Artpool Art Research Center


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Today You Open the Exhibition – responsibility-taking action

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Date: 28 July 1972

Participants: György Galántai (1941), István Haraszty (1934)

Location: Chapel Studio of György Galántai, Balatonboglár

The action took place during the exhibition of the Pécs Workshop (Ferenc Ficzek, Károly Halász, Károly Kismányoki, Ferenc Lantos, Sándor Pinczehelyi, Kálmán Szíjártó, Katalin Nádor) and István Haraszty’s kinetic sculptures.

Documents:

István Harasztÿ – interview (1998)

György Galántai – manuscript (1998)

Source: Törvénytelen avantgárd. Galántai György balatonboglári kápolnaműterme 1970–1973 [Illegal Avant-garde, the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio of György Galántai 1970–1973], eds. Júlia Klaniczay and Edit Sasvári  (Artpool–Balassi, Budapest, 2003): 138.


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