Branka Stipančić: Lines (1979)

Lines – exhibition curated by Branka Stipančić

Željko Jerman, Željko Kipke, Antun Maračić, Marijan Molnar, Goran Petercol, Darko Šimičić, Raša Todosijević

The exhibition comprises works that share a visually similar structure, as well as texts written by artists. We are dealing with works in which an artist draws one or more straight lines on a flat surface. The intention of such a choice, of the analysis and presentation of the works is the following:

1) Didactic—visual similarity or identity of the works is deliberately accentuated in order to focus on the reading of such works. This is to show the inadequacy of a reading based on form and to focus instead on more important consequences of the work: idea, motivation, the process of work constitution, its meaning, its function, i.e., the work as a specific system within the system of art and society. The aim is to transform the way in which works of art have thus far been communicated to the viewer, as well as interpreted. “The viewer is directly implicated in this process of analyzing and questioning the communication and to such extent that the work shifts her/his attention from a mere enjoyment in the effects of the work, to analyzing the individual stages of the working process,” the meaning of which is an ethical, not an aesthetic contribution. (Filiberto Menna, “Analytical Line of Modern Art,” 1975).

By selecting artworks that resemble one another, what is revealed is the absurdity to read the “new artistic practice” by means of the existing formal, aesthetic, value-based criteria of traditional art criticism and theory. If we proceeded by such method, we would find ten (and more, because these are merely examples) of the same visual contributions (i.e., a multitude of plagiarisms, pointing to a troubling tendency among young artists who would seen to have found their expression in drawing and exhibiting lines).

On the one hand, I chose works containing lines because I presupposed that a straightly drawn line will not lead to spiritual speculations, and will make the reflection on the work easier. On the other hand, both the line and the surface on which it is drawn are materially situated within visual art, thereby causing confusion for those who are not acquainted with the new art.

2) Using a single, delimited field (in this case the formal common denominator of the line) to point to disparate art problems, work processes, areas of engagement. This catalogue includes texts by artists, which reveal precisely how and why artists draw a line, and the meaning they give to it. This testifies as well to the character of the artists’ work beyond the single work presented here. For example, Jerman’s line, which is drawn by a photographic developer, is based on “elementary photography,” and has a direct relationship with the photographic material. Creating art for Jerman is primarily about the leaving of a trace, and it is this idea that he then transposes from photography to other media. Petercol works with materials, primary processes and interventions within the discipline of painting. The theme of Todosijević’s work is “the work in art as work in general in the context of specific social and cultural circumstances.” Many of his other artworks are located within the field of social analysis and critique. Molnar’s work is about the systematic analysis of the components of work in the moment of the artwork’s creation, which is to say that he works primarily on the level of structure (the plane of material preconditions of the work process, foundations, the relation between manual and mental control, the situated-ness of the working process, etc.).

As for the included texts, it should be pointed out that not all of them were written for this exhibition. The text by Raša Todosijević is an integral part, i.e. a complement to the drawn line/lines. However, the works by other artists are not ordinarily accompanied by texts; the text is not necessary because the title of the work usually points to the character of the work and to how it should be interpreted. These texts were mainly written in response to questions I posed to the artists, which are the following: the description of the work with the line (in order to see the process of the work); the reason for the line; the meaning of the work (it was important for me that the meaning be given by the artist himself); other works in which the line was used (in order to provide a context—in the case of some artists, whose work is directed at a detailed analysis of its constitutive elements, this was relevant, while in the case of others, it was not). The character of each work is determined also by the way of thinking about it, i.e., the questions I posed are not relevant for every artist, and they each adapted them to their way of thinking.

Notes: The exhibition is conceived with the intention to show a particular model of presentation with specific didactic goals. By means of the physical presence of the works, I wanted to show what those acquainted with the field of new art have known for a long time. So, although I am presenting this method here in the Podroom [i.e., where all are acquainted with the new art], a different space (e.g., the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences) would be significantly more adequate, because the didactic intention of the exhibition would thus have the potential to be realized.

Source: Branka Stipančić, Lines, exhibition catalogue, Podroom, 1979. Translated from the Croatian by Ivana Bago.