single channel HD video, 6 min 43 sec, 16:9, stereo,
production still: Matevž Paternoster

Abstract Socialism

Which role is taken by the artistic practice when the utopia appears to us like something that mainly belongs to the past?

May the bonds that nowadays are tangling the artistic practice up with the collective memory only be understood from the scope of the nostalgia?

Or, instead, is precisely in relation to the exchanges which are taking place between art practices and historiography that a new disruptive potential grows?

And which is the performance that museums are expected to play, at a moment in which the historiography rejects the canon and, rather, turns towards a critical review of the cultural policies and the mediation with which some time ago the modern and presumably advanced art was promoted?


The case history of the countries that were part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia brings new light on the questions above: on one hand, it provides us a singular landmark of socialism, since 1948 non aligned with the Soviets, appearing then Yugoslavia as a possible “third way” between the capitalism and communism. It was in this context that an important effort took place in order to promote the modern art and a genuine review of the artistic avant-garde. This anomaly was possible thanks to a certain range of museums initiative and the public cultural policies, which held this legacy as a possibility for the popular education and the social progress.

On the other hand, since the 1970s the Yugoslav context has provided several generations of artists, cultural producers and activists, who, especially from the turn of the century, have called into question the socialist regime as much as the modern art. Anyhow, this interrogation has gone in hand with a revisionist impulse, because of, in the socialism and in the modern art a utopian principle has never stopped of being admitted. At the same time this historical layer seems to appear as a chance to face the amnesia where the current neoliberal cultural policies and museums seems to lead on.


Video program:
Wednesday 4 may public presentation

Jasmina Cibic. 

The Pavillion, 2015. These are the national pavilion of the Kingdome of Yugoslavia at the Barcelona EXPO by the Serbian architect Dragiša Brašovan and the house for Josephine Baker by Adolf Loos, which remained unrealized. Both architectures were imagined within a time when finding a new visual expression for the future was central to the European political debate. The two buildings reflect their identical skin, a striking façade of horizontal black and white stripes.  Apart from their aesthetic regime they also share their function of the displacement of desire: they were both to present specific objects of geopolitical exotic to the pleasure of the spectator. They both served as seminal myth making devices whose purpose was that of affirming the otherness of the objects and artifacts whose display they were housing on the inside; simultaneously making sure the desire for them was prolonged and unrealised. In the case of the Yugoslav Pavilion these were the emblems representing a nation state at a world exposition and in case of the Josephine Baker house – an exotic female body.

Spielraum: Tear Down and Rebuild, 2015. Jasmina Cibic’s work explores histories of ideological formations, which she addresses with site and context specific installations, performance and film. Palace of the Federation in Belgrade. The building, completed in 1961 in order to host the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement, was conceived as a part of the urban plan for New Belgrade and represented the physical embodiment of new ideas in post 2WW Yugoslavia. The film’s dialogue is composed from quotes drawn from various political speeches, debates and proclamations on iconoclasm of architecture, art and monuments; the language that endorsed demolition and redesign, which was to aid the creation of new displays for ensuing nation-states or ideological positions throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The sources for the script include amongst others: Regan’s speech on the Berlin Wall, Prince Charles’s 1984 address at RIBA and Isis bloggers’ proclamation on the demolishment of temples.

Søren Thilo Funder, Nicholas Brady (Target Audience), 2015. This film is based on Pafama, 1922, by Josep Seissel, the first Croatian avant-garde painting. In Nicholas Brady (Target Audience) the abstract painting becomes an animated motif which is transformed into a satellite in the space that sends signals to the museum visitors and allows fantastic hallucinations. his satellite is a clear reference to Valis, the satellite that appears in the Philip K. Dick novel’s  Radio Free Albemuth. In this book the writer magnifies the role of abstract art during the Cold War and poses as a kind of transmitter that the Soviet side would be used to transmit telepathic messages.

The Soren Thilo work’s update this same message. While the satellite works, there is a off voice reading excerpts from the novel by Philip K. Dick. The satellite in the film, is an instrument to alienate and paralyse the teenagers inside the MSU Museum, presumably the audience profile more complicated to attract for institutions today.

2015, Video. In the 1960’s, Europe was faced with a new type of migration – the temporary economic migration. The protagonists of this process were designated as immigrants, émigrés, foreign workers, economic migrants, gastarbeiters, workers “temporarily employed” abroad. Western European countries required labour force on account of the conditions for economic development, emphasising the temporary character of the settling down of foreign workers. From the very beginning of the process, foreign workers were accepted as a labour force for hire that would be engaged according to a country’s need, and when their services were no longer required – they would be fired.

The liberalisation of the Yugoslav economic system and its approach to market economy created a surplus of labour force. Through the economic reform of 1965, Yugoslav state organs liberalised the migration policy and maximised workers’ going abroad, concluding the Agreement on Employing Yugoslav Labour Force with Austria, France and Sweden, and then also with FR Germany in 1968. More than one-sixth of the country’s labour force lived and worked outside Yugoslavia. In the early 1970’s, under the conditions created by the oil crisis and changes in the global economic relations, there appeared new models of labour force migration.From the moment of signing the above international agreements, Yugoslav television recorded the processes of temporary economic migration.

Artistic intervention:
Wednesday 4 – Sunday 22 May

Fokus Grupa (Iva Kovac and Elvis Krstulovic): Stories About Frames is a specific intervention created by Focus Grupa to be performed into the contemporary art exhibitions. The collective creates an alternative system of labels to adhere to the exposure device. They pay attention to the year in which the exhibited work has been done in order to link this work with other artistic creations and events. In this way, acting from the micro level of the art work, the new label describes the material reality of the contemporary art world and system, instead of describing the technical materiality of the work as the labels use to do. In this way, the labels take us beyond the borders of the museum. The project creates a parallel history of modern and contemporary art, which looks at the art institution rather than the artwork. Stories About Frames research is expected to culminate in the creation of a database of the institutions of modern and contemporary art.

We would like to invite Fokus Grupa at the Fundació in order to revisit the collection of the Institution using this kind of labels, that allows us to speak not only by the Tàpies work but also of its context. In this sense, it is a good opportunity to consider the current exhibition of the collection dedicated dedicated to one decade of the Antoni Tàpies work (1955-1965).

During this same period,  the Tito’s Regime carried out the major initiative related to the promotion of the modern art, founding the most important museum of the former Yugoslavia like the MSU and the KGLU (partners of Performing the Museum Project) as well as the development of the Didactical Exhibition in 1957. The idea is to invite Fokus Grupa to focusses in all those events in order to show the relations between the two contexts.


Seminar Program

Friday 13 and Saturday 14 May

Barbara Steiner. Dr Barbara Steiner is an art historian who works as a freelance curator, writer and publisher. She studied art history at the University of Vienna and wrote her doctoral thesis on the Ideology of the White Cube. Regarding Performing the Museum project, Barbara Steiner has carried out a review of the historical exhibition Peace, Humanity and Friendship Among Nations, promoted by the Koroska Gallery likovnih umenosti (KGLU) and by the support of UNESCO, between 1966 and 1985. The exhibitions were done by international open calls (participated by artists from around the world) and taking as starting point the humanist and idealist UNESCO mottos as universal peace, solidarity among peoples. Barbara Steiner analyses this exhibitions under a political perspective, her relate  highlights the tension between the utopian potential of the art and its corresponding process of institutionalization and political manipulation.

What, How & for Whom/WHW. WHW is a curatorial collective formed in 1999 and based in Zagreb, Croatia. Its members are Ivet Ćurlin, Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, and Sabina Sabolović, and designer and publicist Dejan Kršić. WHW organizes a range of production, exhibition, and publishing projects and since 2003 has been directing city-owned Gallery Nova in Zagreb. “What?,” “How?,” and “For whom?”,  these questions formed the title of WHW’s first project, in 2000 in Zagreb, dedicated to the 152nd anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, and became the motto of WHW’s work and the name of their collective. Besides being today a collective reference in the international landscape in the promotion of art in the countries of former Yugoslavia, WHW bases also its practice in historical research. In this sense, they have work on the historical exhibition  Contemporary Art 1. Didactic Exhibition on Abstract Art, l’any 1957, a study case and reference of the Performing the Museum Project.

Aleksandra Sekulić. Aleksandra Sekulić,  is PHD candidate in Theory of Art and Media in the University of Arts, Belgrade. Master in Cultural Management and Cultural Policy in the Balkans, UNESCO Chair, University of Arts, Belgrade and L’Université Lumière Lyon 2. Her master thesis is related with archives culture, and its entitled  “Archiving as a Cultural Form: Creating Video Archives and Databases”. She has been a member of the cooperative movement Low-Fi Video (1997-2003), the group Kosmoplovci and Media Archaeology Project. Actually she is part of the team of CZKD, an independent open forum for cultural production and its interrelation with social problems, based in Belgrade. The CZKD is also carrying out an initiative related to the collective memory, such is carrying out an initiative. Sekulic is also the editor of Performing the Museum reader.

Andreja Hribernik. Andreja Hribernik is art historian and curator. Currently, she is the director of the Koroška galerija likovnih umetnosti (KGLU), where she is developing a museum project based on the review of the utopian art collection that the Gallery has inherited from the editions of the  Peace, Humanity and Friendship Among Nations exhibition program, done in the Museum during the socialist era. She is preparing her Doctoral Thesis on the relationship between contemporary art and past utopias.

Dalibor Martinis. Dalibor Martinis is a croatian conceptual artist. He was part of a generation of artist active in  Zagreb in the 1970s that came to be known as part of the “New Art Practice”. His early works put under question the notion of credibility thats affects modern and abstract art, as well as the museum structures that sustain this kind of art. This becomes especially clear with the performance Art Guard (1976). Since the beginning of the XXI century his work has a revisionist approach to the socialist history like in the Data Recovery actions.

Ljiljana Kolešnik. Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Art History in Zagreb, founder and Head of Regional Center for Art, Culture and New Media. Her background is in art history, comparative literature and information science. Main fields of interest: post-war modern and visual culture, cultural translation in visual arts, artists migrations, historiography and methodology of art history; she is lecturer at graduate and postgraduate studies, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Split and member of Europeana Artists Networks Research Focus Group.