The project Building a Long Passageway presents a unique paraphrase of the historical framework of Ljubljana’s Biennial of Graphic Arts, which is put under scrutiny by both the artist and the curator. The repute of the Biennial that started in 1955 and its status, were utterly significant for the international image of socialist Yugoslavia, which wanted to show its specific socio-political organisation based on mechanisms of soft power. From a state, where the exchange between culture and business was guaranteed, the country later moved to a system in which many social bonds were broken, including those that provided the broadest contact between society and art. Cibic thus intervenes in the elite venue of the modernist masterpiece that houses the cultural institution Cankarjev dom, where the jubilee exhibition marking the 25th edition of the Biennial is presented. She cuts up the gallery space and erects a long hallway construction, which is formally reminiscent of the corridors of office spaces and conceptually offers physical and mental access to the exhibition and its reading. The exhibition therefore reaches beyond its institutional frame, since its original social context is re-evoked. The white walls of the corridor installation are covered with design patterns featuring company logos of Slovene firms and factories that used to purchase the exhibited art works and thus represented a positive economic foundation of the (inter)national art scene. Many of these companies have already been swallowed up by history, while some have re-branded their image. The installation that includes a performance of a new generation of Slovene artists who have lost their place as a category in the economic equation, invites the spectator to explore the system in which culture held its own particular place within the constellation of social values.
Jasmina Cibic, an artist who consistently reflects on ideological interpellation, dissection of institutional frameworks and disclosure of historicizing mechanisms, makes a step into the context of an exhibition that presents the historical overview of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts with the construction of a long corridor. From her earliest projects, Jasmina Cibic has been “tackling” precisely the decisive part that architecture has to play as an ideologically conditioned determinant of our visible world, with the mechanisms of directing the gaze and the institutions that disperse the chosen symbolic sets and dictate their assent. The “entrance” into the space occurs in the project, Building a Long Passageway, as a sort of unique paraphrase of the exhibition and its archival foundation, as well as its historical framework, which is put under scrutiny by both the artist and the curator. The repute of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts and its stature were the construction blocks in the manufacture of the international image of the then socialist Yugoslavia, which liked to “show off” the specifics of its socio-political organization through the so-called mechanisms of soft power.
From a state, where the exchange between culture and business was guaranteed, the country moved to a system in which many social bonds were broken, including those that provided the broadest contact between society and art. With the project Building a Long Passageway, Jasmina Cibic enters into the elite spaces of the exhibition venue at Cankarjev dom, and with her intervention taking them back to the times when the events and contents of the gallery were not so far removed from “the people”. She cuts up the gallery’s set-up space by erecting a long hallway, which is reminiscent of the corridors of office spaces, and which opens on both sides, offering access to the exhibition and its new reading. The “study” exhibition therefore goes beyond its “institutional” frame, since its original social context is re‐evoked: the “office” corridor opens into spaces that could be administrative offices or manufacture plants, spaces that used to offer their users daily contact with artistic production of their times. The archival work of “blowing away the dust of oblivion” happens through a double game between the curator and the artist, who in their interaction emphatically revalue the “outlined” experiences of the works and the space.
Cibic constructs the exhibition with her characteristic gesture of dissection, which she emphasizes with a performative intervention into the installation. The white walls of the corridor slowly disappear in the intervention, saturated with the visual load of stamps. Their design is a pattern of the logos of Slovene firms that used to purchase the exhibited artworks and thus represented a positive economic foundation of the local art scene. Many of these companies have already been swallowed up by history, while some have changed their (external?) image through rebranding. And yet, what is left of the system in which culture held its own particular place within the constellation of social values? This is precisely what Jasmina Cibic questions with the performance in which a new generation of Slovene artists have volunteered to create an art event, since they, along with their field of activity, have lost their place as a category in the economic equation. What remains, of the social responsibility that the state companies felt by virtue of their integration into the wider social context, is merely a decorative pattern. Something which is used today as a kitsch blunder when we (un)successfully appeal for funds from some mythical European fund. The precarity of the (cultural) worker has thus been given its conclusion in a typically local version: the mere fact that the scope of your work is culture, is sufficient a reward. Who was it that said that work sets one free …?