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Nena DIMITRIJEVIĆ on the making of “Haustor” and the “At the Moment” exhibition (1978)

At the moment, 1971 – first international exhibition of conceptual art in Yugoslavia

[On initiating “Haustor” as an independent exhibition space]

The actions in streets or in open spaces were only one of the possibilities of work. However, the need was soon felt for a more static form of presentation of non-processual works and the group [Braco Dimitrijević and Goran Trbuljak while they were collaborating under the “The Group Pensioner Tihomir Simčić” project] started to look for an exhibition space where they could show their works as they were produced, without having to rely on the fixed dates of a gallery’s annual programme and without anybody’s interference. These conditions were met by any space in a busy street that could be used occasionally free of charge. They found a doorway hall at 2a, Frankopanska Street in Zagreb. The tenants of the house kindly agreed to let the two students use the doorway hall as an exhibition space. The artists were motivated by two reasons in wanting to show their works in the street or doorway hall: firstly, they wanted to democratize art by leaving the circle of specialized, socially and educationally defined gallery spectators and secondly, they were trying to emancipate themselves from the gallery system in order to be able to show their works without depending on the annual programme and exhibition policies of galleries. By the same token, an exhibition in a doorway hall and action in an actual life environment demanded some of the enthusiasm and total involvement, similar to those children experience when they have shows for their friends form the neighbourhood.

The organization of the exhibition included a number of preparations, such as cleaning the doorway hall, talking to surprised passers-by, bringing and installing the lighting in the flat on the ground floor. In exhibitions which lasted several days the exhibits had to be dismounted every evening and stored away in the caretaker’s flat. The exhibitions were announced in mimeographed leaflets and were usually well attended. The group consisted of Trbuljak, Dimitrijević, the photographer Nada Orel and myself. The spectators at the shows were on the one hand the most progressive and best informed experts in visual arts, i.e. critics, custodians and artists associated with the Gallery of Contemporary Art and the Students’ Centre Gallery, and on the other, people who had nothing to do with artistic circles, passers-by who were attracted by the crowd in the doorway hall and therefore came to see the show. The spectators in the doorway hall differed from the visitors of the established art institutions in town by the absence of cultural and art snobs and of the more conservative art professionals.


[On the making of “At the moment” exhibition]

At that time Dimitrijević and Trbuljak were alone in Zagreb in their artistic conceptions. Not being acquainted with similar art trends in the world and not sharing the aesthetic principles of the group with which they occasionally appeared in public, they did not know that they belonged to a broader international movement which began to affirm itself in European and American art centres at that time. Articles in art periodicals on the phenomena of Conceptual Art and arte povera appeared rarely and sporadically until 1970. The trip to several European towns that Braco Dimitrijević and I undertook in November 1970 was therefore our first direct meeting with the practitioners of the new conceptual trends. We met a number of artists (Buren, Brouwn, Burgin, Anselmo, Dibbets, Flanagan, Weiner, Merz, Wilson) and established contact with several galleries which played a pioneering role in promoting various manifestations of post-Object Art: the Studio Sperone in Turin, Yvonne Lambert in Paris, the Art and Project in Amsterdam, the Lisson Gallery, Nigel Greenwoon and Situation in London, Konrad Fischer in Dusseldorf. One of the ideological premises of the new avant-garde in the first stage was the need to democratize art, which manifested itself implicitly — by introducing a number of reproductive media into the domain of artistic media (photography, print, video, film) — and explicitly — in the statements and publications on the defetishization of the art object. Thanks to the reproductive nature of the new art in which the unique artifact — the original, is substituted by a number of reproduced specimens, we had the idea to organize in Zagreb the first international exhibition of Conceptual Art in this country. Since no transport or insurance costs were involved (the works were sent by post or were obtained locally), we could do it on our own, without institutional help. The exhibition was held in the doorway hall of 2a, Frankopanska Street, and though it lasted for only three hours (from 5 to 8 pm, on April 23, 1971) it was extremely well attended. It was announced and recorded in the daily press, on the radio and in art periodicals. Two films made — an 8 mm one by M. Stilinović and a 16 mm one by Vladimir Petek. Several months later the exhibition, with some additions, was transferred to the Students’ Cultural Centre Gallery in Belgrade where it ran under the title “In Another Moment” and where a catalogue was printed.


Source: Nena Baljković (Dimitrijević): “Braco Dimitrijević, Goran Trbuljak,” in The New Art Practice in Yugoslavia, exhibition catalogue, ed. M. Susovski, Gallery of Contemporary Art Zagreb, 1978. [Excerpts]

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