Art for Collective Use: Monument, Performance, Ritual, Body

Seminar: October 2015–January 2016

Together with the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana we cordially invite you to attend a series of public lectures that are part of the Art for Collective Use Seminar. This year Seminar is being organized under the title Monument, Performance, Ritual, Body.

The seminar treats two distinctive art phenomena in Yugoslavia and its successor states: performance art and memorial monuments associated with World War II. Our discussion deals with the entire period from the end of the 19th century to the present, focusing on the 1960s and 1970s, when both practices were at their high point.

The seminar’s primary subject comprises the monumental memorial works dedicated to events from World War II. These monuments can take very different forms and resist any uniform definition. The most ambitious memorializing projects may incorporate numerous structures of varying purposes, including cultural and regional centres (e.g. the Memorial Centre in Kolašin or the Monument at Petrova Gora) or make sweeping changes to the landscape (e.g. the well-marked and well-ordered system of paths for strolling and recreation that constitute the Path of Remembrance and Comradeship in Ljubljana). Today especially, it seems, we are fascinated by monumental objects of extraordinary dimensions that tend toward very purified forms or abstraction and that are situated in remote nature (e.g. the monuments in Tjentište and on Mrakovica Peak on Mt. Kozara). The tradition of building such monuments is very much alive even today, only the ideological principles behind their creation are different (e.g. the Memorial Park in Teharje and the not-yet-completed Monument to the Victims of All Wars in Ljubljana).

Another very impressive chapter of Yugoslav art can be seen in the former country’s diverse performance-art practices. Yugoslav performance artists (such as Marina Abramović, the OHO group, Sanja Iveković, and others) were well informed and very well connected internationally; important foreign representatives of this art form (such as Gina Pane, Ana Mendieta, Joseph Beuys, and Walter De Maria) also came to Yugoslavia on visits or for art events. While it is extremely difficult to find a common denominator in Yugoslav performance art, it eventually acquired the general label of an explicitly political art. In relation to our topic, two points seem interesting: first, a number of key performance artists came from the families of prominent state officials or personages in post-war Yugoslavia, and, second, this fact is explicitly underscored in their biographies.

The juxtaposition of monumental memorial projects and performance art may seem unusual – at first glance they have nothing in common. The differences in their media, their intentions, and their audiences are all too apparent. But analysis also reveals a number of convergences and similarities: both practices were at their height at practically the same time; both contain strong aspects of ritual and very actively include the body; both forms possess a great ability to stir intense emotions and establish identity; and both reach for extremes in ways that are entirely calculated and deliberate.

After the collapse of Yugoslavia, the World War II monuments often became targets of verbal and physical attacks, but in recent years a more positive fascination with these works has been persistently on the rise. Maybe, for many, the fascination comes from the monuments’ extraordinary appearance, which at times works in connection with a Romantic delight in socialist ruins. Some, however, are puzzled by how it was possible to establish modernist principles on such a mass scale and achieve such remarkable results specifically in the practice of public monumental memorials, which was generally not inclined toward the broad use of consistently implemented modernist methods – and this in a time and place that today is often labelled totalitarian. Given that the commissioners of such works were as much “responsible” for them as the artists were, the question is: why did they act as they did?

Beti Žerovc
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SCHEDULE (lectures will be held in English)

SONJA LEBOŠ: Bogdan Bogdanović – Architecture as Applied Anthropology
Monday, 5 October 2015, at 6 pm, Faculty of Arts (room 343), Ljubljana
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Video recording

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HEIKE KARGE

Stony Memory – Petrified Memory? World War II Memory and Monuments in Yugoslavia

Monday, 9 November 2015, at 12 pm, Faculty of Arts
Video recording

Monuments’ Biographies – The Case of Jasenovac
Monday, 9 November 2015, at 6 pm, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM), Ljubljana
Video recording

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SANJA HORVATINČIĆ

Genealogy of Form. Typology of the Monuments to People's Liberation Struggle, Revolution and the Labour Movement in Croatia

Tuesday, 10 November 2015, at 1 pm, Faculty of Arts
Video recording

The Meaning and Possibility of a Monument. The Artistic Production and Critical Reception of Monuments in Socialist Yugoslavia
Wednesday, 11 November 2015, at 6 pm, +MSUM
Video recording

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BOJANA PEJIĆ
The Making of the Communist Body: Politics of Representation and Spatialization of Power in the SFR Yugoslavia (1945-1991)

Lecture 1: Body at Work

Monday, 16 November 2015, at 1 pm, Faculty of Arts
Video recording

Lecture 2: The Production of the Unknown Heroine
Tuesday, 17 November 2015, at 6 pm, +MSUM
Video recording

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MECHTILD WIDRICH

Lecture 1: Delegated Performance, Delegated Architecture
Monday, 11 January 2016, at 1 pm, Faculty of Arts
Video recording

Conversation between Beti Žerovc and Mechtild Widrich on the Performative Monuments book
Tuesday, 12 January 2016, at 1 pm, Faculty of Arts
Video recording

Lecture 2: Performative Monuments
Tuesday, 12 January 2016, at 6 pm, +MSUM
Video recording

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ART FOR COLLECTIVE USE SEMINAR

This multiyear seminar focuses on art that is created for communal use, acceptance, experience, or rituals and that is usually displayed in the public space. Such work is often marked by a specific “collective authorship”, as not only the artist, but also the ones who commissioned or initiated the work play a significant role in its creation; they may be the politicians or citizens who erect a memorial or symbolically important building, or the curator who prepares an exhibition based on their own concept. Such artwork must, as a rule, encompass and promote the interests of the various people involved in its making, which means that it often originates through a complex and at times quite painful process. Its creation/existence can be a source of long-term contention for the community in which it is located and can have a profound effect on questions of personal or communal identity; its unveiling or destruction can be an event laden with important symbolism. Such artwork can also play an active role in the life practice of a community (sometimes for centuries); it may be included in the community’s everyday life or holidays, in the development of the collective memory or the collective forgetting, and in debates about values, about what is right and what is wrong.

In the seminar we deal mainly with Slovenian secular art from the period of the national reading rooms (čitalnice) to the present. We try to determine when, where, how and why such forms of visual address occurred: Who are the groups or individuals who encourage and commission such artworks and whom are they addressing through these works? What kind of visual art is created in such circumstances and what messages does it convey? How does it enter into various life practices? Do the reception and function of such artworks remain constant over time or do they change? We closely examine the effects of such works and whether they are in fact able to fulfil the demands of their initiators and creators.

Seminar topics:
2014–15: architecture and the exhibiting of contemporary art (Andrea Baotić, Jasna Galjer)
2015–16: memorial monuments associated with World War II and performance art
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Organized by: Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory; Department of Art History, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana; Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova
Supported by: ERSTE Foundation

Jasenovac, photo: Damil Kalogjera