Ivana Bago

Deposition by Josip Vaništa

Keywords: conceptual art outdoor event painting site-specificity

During the 1960s, Josip Vaništa created a series of paintings in which a thick, horizontal, monochrome line was set against a monochrome background. The paintings were part of his experiments towards formal and narrative reduction, which characterized his individual work, as well as the work of the Zagreb-based Gorgona group (1959-66) of which he was a founding member. [1. The group members were painters Marijan Jevšovar, Julije Knifer, Đuro Seder, Josip Vaništa, sculptor Ivan Kožarić, art historians Dimitrije Bašićević Mangelos, Matko Meštrović, Radoslav Putar, and architect Miljenko Horvat.] Twenty-two years after the group’s regular activities ended, joined by two other Gorgona members, Vaništa performed Deposition, an action in which his 1968 painting, Black Line on Silver Background, was left in the snowy forest landscape near Zagreb. Performed during the era of the “return of painting” in the 1980s, Vaništa’s action seemed to rather return painting to its end. In fact, by staging a crossing between the black line horizontally cutting through the glimmering, silver background of the canvas, and the upright, elongated bodies of the black tree trunks interrupting the white, glimmering purity of the snow, Deposition was a pronouncement of a whole series of deaths. The death, not merely of art, but consequently also that of nature, or rather, the vanishing of the line that had served to separate, and thus keep them alive. Another cross was planted by the 1968-1986 inversion, marking the birth and the death of Vaništa’s painting, and commemorating the very death of time, or a special kind of time, which, in the 1960s, was still able to dream about its artistic and political future, while in 1980s it was merely able to acknowledge its futile deposits. The 1980s were the time when Vaništa marked the death of Gorgona, through his Postgorgona samizdats, nostalgic documents of the history and myth of the group and a forever lost spiritual community. [2. See Branka Stipančić, Vrijeme Gorgone i Postgorgone / The Time of Gorgona and Postgorgona (Zagreb: Kratis, 2007).] Deposition was, above all, a peculiar kind of exhibition of all these deaths, meticulously arranging its ghosts as the objects to be displayed for a yet unknown audience of the snowy forest. It is this act of exhibiting which nonetheless keeps a certain anticipatory time alive, and with it, the persistence of the Gorgonic engineering of the impossible, like in Đuro Seder’s “Collective work” exhibition scenarios, with which this chronology began.

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