Sanja Iveković, Fokus Grupa in collaboration with Gal Kirn, Rajkamal Kahlon, David Maljković, Bojan Stojčić
Ana Dević and Ana Kovačić
Gallery Nova, Teslina 7, Zagreb
wednesday, 26/04/2023, 7 pm
thursday, 27/04/2023, 7 pm
Meanderings – a series of public talks about the flow of contemporary art through city spaces
participants: Marija Kamber, David Lušičić, Kata Mijatović, Vesna Vuković
moderation: Bojan Krištofić
Tue – Fri: 12h–20h
With the exhibition/discursive Nova 2.0 program, WHW is marking the 20th anniversary of their program direction of Zagreb’s Nova Gallery. Along with Meanderings, a series of public talks about independent spaces and initiatives moderated by Bojan Krištofić, the program also includes two exhibitions: Viva La Transicion! and What art can do? Nothing, something, everything. These two interrelated chapters are part of the exhibition which, through its selection of artists and socially relevant topics, positions itself to the Gallery’s key past programs and, in relation to the recent preoccupations of the program, to the issues of artistic ecologies and education.
The exhibition Viva La Transicion! features works by Sanja Iveković, Fokus grupa, Rajkamal Kahlon, David Maljković and Bojan Stojčić. Named after Stojčić’s eponymous work, the exhibition considers the erosion of social values as a direct consequence of the economic and political transition. Starting from the local context, the exhibition focuses on the issue of individual and collective identities which are considered from the perspective of loss. This refers to the disappearance and reduction of common resources, the availability of public space, deindustrialization, devaluation of labour and reproductive rights and social values based on solidarity.
The majority of the works in this exhibition deals with the post-Yugoslav context, in which the economic and ideological transition was marked by war in the 1990s. From that perspective, the very process of economic transition, which is often presented as the triumph of capital, is denounced as an intrinsically violent historical process. Therefore, this exhibition necessarily touches upon the problem of historical revisionism typical not only of the post-Yugoslav, but the broader post-communist context. A series of works by Sanja Iveković, such as Lost & Found (2003-2004) and Nada Dimić File (2000-), deal with the side-effects of transition and its impact on the social and urban context. Her work PONOS (PRIDE), shown at the Nova Gallery, is a replica of the neon sign of the former Ponos textile store in Zagreb, which has since been replaced by the international brand Terranova.
Previously exhibited at WHW’s exhibition Repetition: Pride and Prejudice in the Nova Gallery in 2004, PRIDE is part of the artist’s project Second Hand Utopia Shop which reflects on the process of privatization and globalization of socialist-period companies and stores. Their names, which at the time signified the social values – PONOS (PRIDE), NAPREDAK (PROGRESS), SOLIDARNOST (SOLIDARITY), SLOBODA (FREEDOM), BRATSTVO (FRATERNITY), ZNANJE (KNOWLEDGE) – are replaced by multinational companies such as TERRANOVA, BENETTON, GAS, CORE, etc. Through a series of slides taken in Zagreb that document the “before and after” situations, Iveković tackles the flipside of the issues related to the economic and political transition, such as deindustrialization, erosion of labour and labour rights, which can be applied to other post-socialist countries as well.
David Maljković‘s video These Days (2005) is one of the first works produced by the WHW curatorial collective for the purposes of the eponymous exhibition in 2006 which featured Maljković and Yael Bartana. Filmed at the former Italian pavilion at the Zagreb Fair, one of the symbols of the economic development of Yugoslavia and of the Non-Aligned Movement, These Days in a playful but also poignant way portrays a generation of then young people – artists, architects and cultural workers – tired of waiting endlessly for a better future. At the moment of filming (2005), this waiting was represented by the prospective accession of Croatia to the EU. The protagonists were filmed in motionless cars, their faces tired and listless from waiting, and their dialogues were based on fragments from the English learning book Easy English. The feelings of being stuck, of fake enthusiasm and lack of optimism, of being in a slump – are a commentary on the future that never arrived. With its atmosphere of hopelessness, These Days resonates with the present moment.
Rajkamal Kahlon‘s Dear Yugoslavia, I regret to inform you… (2018) consists of drawings from 2018 originally exhibited at the SENSE Transitional Justice Centre in Pula which documents the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague. The exhibition was held as part of the 2nd Biennial of Industrial Art in Labin curated by the WHW collective. Rajkamal Kahlon intervened in the original illustrations of the artist Vladimir Kirin (1894–1963) printed in a series of publications Of the People’s Costumes of Yugoslavia from 1960, depicting Yugoslav ethnic groups dressed in folk costumes. Referring to ethnic conflicts and the war on the territory of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, Kahlon deconstructs romanticized depictions of the people and ethnicity of Yugoslavia using objects and symbols representing crimes and violence committed during the war in Yugoslavia. Rajkamal Kahlon intervened in the original illustrations by Vladimir Kirin (1894–1963) printed in a series of publications Folk Costumes of Yugoslavia (1960) which depict the Yugoslav ethnic groups and their folk costumes. Referring to ethnic conflicts and the war on the territory of Yugoslavia during the 1990s, Kahlon deconstructs romanticized depictions of the people and ethnicity of Yugoslavia using objects and symbols representing crimes and violence committed during the war in Yugoslavia. Scenes of mass graves, anatomical drawings, military uniforms and depictions of weapons are incorporated into the original compositions. Kahlon combines different painting styles and techniques as well as anthropological and wartime iconographic motifs in an attempt to produce unexpected meanings and new ways of processing traumatic social and political histories. (For more info about this project, see here) This work was recently included in the artist’s big solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien, whose program directors are WHW members Ivet Ćurlin, Nataša Ilić and Sabina Sabolović.
Hope Hotel Phantom (2023) is a video installation by Bojan Stojčić, one of the participants the fourth edition of WHW Akademija. Filmed in the U.S. for the duration of WHW Akademija, Hope Hotel Phantom problematizes the Dayton Peace Agreement reached at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, in 1995, which put an end to war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dayton Agreement simultaneously trapped the country in an immutable quasi-democratic state in which its citizens are recognized exclusively through three different ethnic categories, and turned everyone else into “others” – citizens without the right of political participation or recognition. At the beginning of July 2022, 27 years after that event, Bojan Stojčić booked a room at the Hope Hotel, where the negotiators of the Dayton Agreement had also stayed. Sleeping, walking, eating in the same rooms and hallways as the people who shaped the future of his country, the artist documents the echoes of this historic event – “a dream that turned into a nightmare.”
The Map of Revisionist Monuments is a research project by researcher and philosopher Gal Kirn and Fokus Grupa that maps revisionist monuments throughout Europe. Launched in response to the public call to erect a memorial to the victims of totalitarianism in Brussels that equated communism and fascism in the “centre of Europe”, this project is a process of collecting and mapping data on revisionist monuments whose number is growing. The project is appellate in character and aimed at building a community of progressive researchers, activists and artists gathered with the aim of collectively upgrading this mapping and formulating a critique of historical revisionism. The authors contacted many individuals, organizations and institutions from different European countries in order to build a repository of case studies that classifies the revisionist strategies used in these monuments. A selection monuments that have been mapped so far is classified as “an open rehabilitation of fascism and collaborationism.” The map was originally produced for the exhibition Neighbours at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and also shown in 2019 at the 54th Zagreb Salon. At that time, Focus Grupa exhibited the work Invisible Matter, over which they placed The Map of Revisionist Monuments in reaction to HLDU’s revisionist call to erect a memorial to the victims of the Second World War.
Defining transition not as progress, but primarily as regression, in his book Zones of Transition (2012) philosopher Boris Buden compares the processes of transition to Andrei Tarkovsky‘s famous film Stalker. Buden defines transition as the experience of being in a zone that “does not acquire its true meaning through a euphoric entry into the zone, but only through a sobering return from it”, posing the question what we have learned from this experience.
The second chapter of the exhibition, entitled What art can do? Nothing, something, everything, seeks to answer this question from the perspective of engaged collective and individual artistic practices in which educational, activist and collaborative models of work intertwine, creating communities and examining alternatives to the status quo.
The exhibition opens on 20 June 2023 and features works by Chto Delat, Gülsün Karamustafa, Sanja Iveković, Božena Končić Badurina, Dan Perjovschi and WHW Akademija: participants, curators, coordinators of WHW Akademija program and guests of Gallery Nova.
The exhibitions and talks are part of the Nova 2.0 program, which is taking place as part of Kultura Nova’s Support for Organizational and Artistic Memory, and the Nova Gallery’s discursive program The History of Art and Society: The Spaces of Self-Organization. The videos by Bojan Stojčić and Chto delat are part of WHW’s program Artistic Ecologies, Strategies of Resistance and Degrowth.
The program is supported by:
Office for Culture, International Relations, and Civil Society of the City of Zagreb
Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC)
Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia
Kultura Nova Foundation