J. Cibic: Topical Devices (2017)

London based Slovenian artist Jasmina Cibic is one of the leading voices in contemporary art dealing with the relationship between art and architecture with ideologies and nationhood. Cibic’s projects depart from deep engagement with archives and historical traces, which the artist embeds in immersive film installations and performative works.

CC Tobačna 001 is delighted to present an exhibition of the artists’s seminal work Spielraum and its installation specifically developed for the gallery spaces curated by Alenka Gregorič. The exhibition will be accompanied by the launch of Cibic’s monograph Spielraum, published by Distanz and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead in conversation with Alessandro Vincentelli.

Spielraum is Jasmina Cibic’s three chapter exhibition and film project, which draws reference to the writing of one of Europe’s first political satirical writers: Karl Kraus. In his essay Spielraum(1912), Kraus fervently argues against the use of decoration in both language and architecture. Cibic reads Kraus in relation to the widespread phenomena of programmatic application of decoration across practically every (trans) national political structure within language and the built environment. By bringing together performance, sculpture, installation and film as chief protagonists, Cibic’s multifaceted approach continues her query into the potential of instrumentalisation of visual language, rhetoric and architecture in the construction of State as spectacle throughout recent history and investigates how art and architecture can serve as soft power strategies of every political order.

The exhibition at the CC Tobačna 001 in Ljubljana brings together some of Spielraum’s key elements and sets them up within an entirely new theatrical composition.The elements that make up this particular constellation and greet the spectator upon entering the gallery derive their sources from two historical structures. This first is a sculptural replica of the female nude, which was installed in front of the pavilion of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, built for the occasion of the 1929 Barcelona EXPO; the nude ‘Land of Plenty’ is here remodeled based on fragmentary and incomplete photographic documentation. It replaces the original whilst contradicting it, resurrecting this problematic emblem at the same time as overwriting it: the dubious tradition of the allegorical female, descendants of stately mother nations.

The second site of reference is the Former Palace of the Federation in Belgrade, from which a tapestry has been co-opted and ‘mass-produced’: here it is installed in form of an opulent velvet curtain that cuts through the exhibition space and serves simultaneously as a backdrop for the nude announcing the wealth of an extinct country. As the ‘Land of Plenty’, repurposed and recontextualized by Cibic and infused with the crypto-permanence embodied in its art-historical form, the repetitive facsimiles that background it fade as their historical potency depletes. Elsewhere in the exhibition space we see their fixity restored in the ironmongery sculpture which materializes the very words of political discussions accompanying the realization of the interior design of the Palace of the Federation; in form of a circular sculpture, looped and never resolving political statement sheds light onto what the purpose of political style: Draw back the curtain of the future.

Behind the curtain the third chapter of Cibic’s Spielraum film trilogy is installed: titled Tear Down and Rebuild and filmed within the opulent modernist salons of the Former Palace of the Federation, this film is composed of various quotes – belonging to political speeches that emphasize the iconoclasm of art and architecture – the film creates an original conversation between four characters. A Nation Builder, a Pragmatist, a Conservationist and an Artist/Architect become a reflection of ideological deliberation facing a practical scruple. Including words drawn from Regan’s speech on the Berlin Wall, Prince Charles’s 1984 address at RIBA and Isis bloggers’ proclamation on the demolishment of temples, Tear Down and Rebuild uses rhetoric that endorses demolition as a necessary process to aid the creation of new displays for ensuing nation-states or ideological positions.

Gathering together these symbols and iconographies, Cibic’s projects present a synthesis of gesture, stagecraft and re-enactment. Instantiated in films and installations, hers is also an ongoing performative practice, an ‘enacted’ exercise in the dissection of statecraft. Her multilayered approach draws together primary sources and falsified narratives. This willful overwriting creates shifting meanings and highlights historical uncertainties and untruths, especially in the gendering of the past. Cibic plays a double-game, at once decoding mechanisms of power whilst building her own exemplary allegorical structures.


Born in 1979 in Ljubljana, Jasmina Cibic represented Slovenia at the 55th Venice Biennial with her project For Our Economy and Culture. Her recent solo shows include DHC/Art Montreal, BALTIC Gateshead, Museum Haus Esters–Krefeld, Aarhus 2017, MSU Zagreb, MOCA Belgrade, MGLC Ljubljana, Ludwig Museum Budapest and Esker Foundation Calgary and group exhibitions at MOMA New York, Hessel Museum New York, City Gallery Wellington, MSUM Ljubljana, MNHA Luxembourg and Guangdong Museum of Art, China. She was the recipient of the MAC International Ulster Bank Prize and Best International Artist Charlottenborg Fonden Award.

Spielraum is a three-chapter exhibition and film co-produced by Waddington Studios London, Ludwig Museum Budapest, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Aksioma – Institute for Contemporary Art Ljubljana and MGLC Ljubljana. 

The works in the exhibition are co-produced by Northampton Contemporary, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade and Waddington Studios.

The publication Spielraum is co-published by DISTANZ Verlag and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead, in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade and Esker Foundation Calgary and is supported by Museum of Yugoslavia, Waddington Studios London and Collection Mihael Šutalo. This title includes commissioned curatorial texts by Anna Gritz, Rona Kopeczky, Una Popović, Dubravka Sekulić, Jelena Vesić, Alessandro Vincentelli, Giovanna Zapperi and WHW.