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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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Presence – performance by Ewa Partum

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Date: 17 November–17 December 1972

Participant and organizer: Ewa Partum

Location: Address Gallery, Łódź

Partum was one of not many women artists in the era of the People’s Republic of Poland interested in the critique of art institutions. The issue manifested itself emphatically in the context of the figure of the artist and of space in 1972, when, at Address Gallery run by her since 1971,[1] she showed Polish (Krzysztof Wodiczko, Zbigniew Warpechowski) and international Conceptual art (for example, Endre Tot, mostly in mail-art forms).

In the performance Presence, as the gallery was open only during the artist’s presence, Partum identified the object of art with its subject. The piece can be viewed as a woman artist’s response to the notions of space and the institution, as a proposal to perceive space through the aspect of the body’s materiality—one of the main elements of the subjective construction. In terms of Conceptual art, Partum’s strategy can be described as breaking with the institution as that which sanctions the object of art, and breaking with the object of art itself as an artwork.


[1] The gallery was functioning till 1977 first located in the Club of Creative Unions based at ZPAP [Association of Polish Artists and Designers], then since March 1973, in the artist’s apartment. In 1971 Partum published a leaflet gallery manifesto that was republished in 1972 in Robotnik Sztuki [Art Worker], an art magazine published by EL Gallery in Elbląg.


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The Dialogue – street action for film by Anna Kutera

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Date: 1973

Participant: Anna Kutera

Location: Wrocław

In wintertime the artist engages passersby and provokes very simple interactions with them in busy but not significant places in of Wrocław. The six-minute black-and-white 16 mm silent movie documenting this action is divided into five parts and every one of them is marked by a caption with a slogan describing the artist’s actions. The first étude, “Good morning!,” shows simple welcome signs. The second one, “Presentation,” introduces the viewer to longer conversations (that are not heard) between the artist and the chance acquaintances. We can assume, according to one of the captions, that the artist accosts them, saying, “My name is Anna Kutera. Here is my photo. I am a student of the Fine Arts Academy and just right now I am shooting a movie about how I am introducing myself to you.” After that she hands her portrait photo to everyone. Some of them laugh or smile, some have further questions, but all the interactions are absolutely friendly. Other études are entitled “What time is it?” and “Where is Anna Kutera’s street?” The latter one, the funniest, shows a group of passersby trying to help. The last episode is the most tautological one: it refers mostly to the medium itself. It is entitled “Goodbye!” and we see the artist herself in the similar frame as that of the photo. She smiles, laughs, saying something to the person behind the camera while saying goodbye by a gesture of nodding the head. After cutting, which gives the impression of some rehearsal, we see her now serious, just nodding and turning her back to the camera.

Through the simplest gestures and the category of a chance encounter, the artist asks here about the role of the artist in society and puts the accents not on the art piece itself, but rather on social interactions. Kutera was a member of the Polish group of Contextual artists who participated in the exhibition “Contextual Art” in 1976 in Lund with Jan Świdziński. She also represented the Polish Contextual movement in Toronto at the Center of Experimental Art and Communication, during the meeting and discussion with Joseph Kosuth in 1976.


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“Strike” by La Galerie des Locataires

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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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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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MAJ 75 — F

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Date: 1981

Concept: Vlasta Delimar

Participants: Breda Beban, Rada Čupić, Vlasta Delimar, Sanja Iveković, Jasna Jurum, Vesna Miksić, Vesna Pokas, Bogdanka Poznanović, Duba Sambolec, Edita Schubert, Branka Stanković, Iris Vučemilović

Location: Maj 75 — F (samizdat)

Maj 75 was a self-published magazine initiated in 1978 by a group of Zagreb-based artists— the Group of Six Artists, or “the group of friends,” as they refer to themselves in the introductory pages of the magazine.1 In connection to their self-organized “exhibition-actions,” the publication was conceived as a “magazine-catalogue,” another hyphenated neologism with which they attempted to overcome conventional and institutionalized ways of presenting art. Comprised solely of pages presenting artworks, the magazine can be viewed as an alternative exhibition space, enabling the artists to communicate their work to the public without the mediation and the sanctioning authority of art institutions and curators. Between 1978 and 1984, seventeen issues were published (marked by letters of the alphabet instead of numbers), with an additional one produced in 1990, and commemoratively called Ex-Maj.

The F issue, published in 1981, was conceived by artist Vlasta Delimar as a presentation of female artists who were active within the Yugoslav “new art practice” scene. The introductory page stated that very few female artists had been featured in Maj 75, which was the main motivation for dedicating a special issue to them. The magazine was produced in the home-run print studio of Delimar and her then partner and Group of Six member, Željko Jerman, with whom she worked on technical execution of each issue. By proposing and realizing her concept for the special issue on women artists, including herself, Delimar brought forward her own creative, and no longer just technical, “behind the scenes” contribution to the magazine, together with enhancing the visibility of the work of other Yugoslav women artists.2

From the 1950s to mid-1970s, the Yugoslav art scene was dominated by male artists and male artist groups; prominent women artists, such as Sanja Iveković or Marina Abramović were the exception. By the end of the 1970s, the situation started to change and more women artists were becoming active art-scene protagonists, especially with the “return of painting” in the early 1980s. The F issue of Maj 75 is a small testament to this change, even if not all of its contributors have continued to pursue their artistic careers, and today’s audiences would be unfamiliar with some of the artists’ names. A number of the Maj 75 contributions included in the issue were explicit gender-conscious interventions that responded to the history of art as a male-dominated narrative.

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


1 The group included Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, and Fedor Vučemilović. The name of the magazine Maj 75 (May 75) referred to the date when the group came together to start its collaborative work.

2 Vlasta Delimar is not credited for the concept of this issue of the magazine. However, the assumption that the issue was her idea based on the motivations stated above was confirmed in an e-mail to the author (July 14, 2014), and also in the catalogue titled Vlasta Delimar: To sam ja / This Is I, which accompanied her solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb in 2014, and was edited by Martina Munivrana.

 


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Only a Broom – performance by Maria Pinińska-Bereś

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Date: December 1984

Participant: Maria Pinińska-Bereś

Organizer: Labirynt Gallery

Location: Labirynt Gallery, Lublin

The performance took place during the exhibition “Intellectual Tendency in Polish Art after the Second World War” and it was one of Pinińska’s first gallery appearances after the martial law was lifted in Poland, during which she refused for political reasons to participate in any art shows organized by official institutions. The first time in her artistic career dressed only in black, without any of the pink attributes so characteristic of her art, she entered the gallery space and, in the midst of the crowd, started to sweep the floor with a broom with a long handle—that was also a flag mast with the little grey linen flag at its end. As the broom cleaned the space under the feet of the audience, the flag made the air above everyone’s heads vibrate. After a long while, when the action was over, the artist hung the broom on the wall, making the inscription on the flag fully visible (“Only a Broom”) and left the gallery. Using the popular feminist-art motif of bustling around, and the figure of a witch, in an ironic and characteristic way, Pinińska-Bereś made a comment on the political situation in the Polish art world of those times and in a symbolic way removed a spell that hung over art practice and the art space—she was a supporter of the thesis of the supremacy of the aesthetic over the political in art.


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