artists & participants
To provide a synthetic and comprehensive historical overview of the developments in art in Slovenia over the last three decades, the Museum of Modern Art conceived a series of three exhibitions. The first in the series, entitled To the Edge and Onwards, and staged in the spring of 2003, covered the period between 1975 and 1985, from the beginning of new abstract art in the 1970s, the New Image and multimedia art of the alternative scene, to the clearly defined individual positions of the mid-1980s. The second show in the series, bearing the title Art in Expanded Spaces, continues the presentation of the traditions of 'individual mythologies' and 'autopoetics' from the 1980s and the 1990s, underscoring as the main characteristics of the period, the central role of abstraction and the deconstructivist trends in painting, the phenomenon of 'new Slovene sculpture', the activities of the NSK collective and the V.S.S.D. group, installations, site-specific projects, actions, parallel institutions and the use of new media technologies in art. In addition to the field of art, the exhibition also covers a selection of works from the fields of photography, architecture, design, film, theater and dance, which make up the broader context of the visual culture of the period. All of these areas have slightly different lines of development that nonetheless intertwine as they share formal and problem contexts.
'I believe we were very fortunate here, particularly in Yugoslavia. I claim that most intellectuals I know in Slovenia, or even artists, if asked 'What is paradise?' would answer '85 to 95'. It was a curious moment in time: the communists were losing their grip, while the new powers had not yet arrived. And the communists – who knew they were losing power – were terribly afraid; so they supported virtually everyone without exception. I mean, there were some quite tragicomic scenes that took place', says Slavoj ÎiÏek, referring primarily to the so-called 'alternative culture scene', which in a way relied on the very regime it undermined. Not surprisingly, the formerly subversive approach in the critique of power structures, institutions and ideological effects was abandoned in the late 1980s. Subculture movements began to disintegrate and the collective impulse became a conglomerate of individual positions and personal creative paths. In this, the development of the alternative scene came to resemble the development in institutional art in which the idea of strong individual personalities and rounded off, more or less closed artistic worlds, had become established by the middle of the 1980s.
Deconstruction of modernism The second half of the 1980s saw a rethinking of modernism that remained, although sometimes not overtly, very much present in artistic production. Many works from the 1980s, particularly in painting, allow a double reading, where intertwining abstract features on a material support reveal figurative optical visions. The transformation of an abstract painting into a multi-layered field of several meanings in which the basic demands of modernism were still taken into consideration first occurred in the works of Tugo ·u‰nik and Emerik Bernard, while Sergej Kapus and Bojan Gorenec focused, both practically and theoretically, on the question of what constitutes the field of painting and the relation of the viewer to the painting.
Various creative concepts and strategies deriving from a renewed interest in abstraction, minimalism and geometric art, and the idea of the new Art Informel have in common the issues of decentralization, de-localization and the diffusion of the traditional subject, the reciprocality between the work and the viewer, and the gaze and its object. Zmago Lenardiã and Tadej Pogaãar combined references to an Art-Informel, material painting with deliberately systematic construction, with cuts and heterogeneous elements, thus deconstructing, each in his own way, the defining limits of a painting, its unity and autonomy. They treated the found objects they integrated into their paintings as fragments of meanings and references. Du‰an Kirbi‰, Petra Varl, Zora Stanãiã, Marko Jak‰e, Aleksij Kobal, Mojca Oblak, Silvester Plotajs – Sicoe, Marko Tu‰ek and others, each in his or her way, expanded the painting into social, historical and media spaces, incorporating new elements and transforming painting into an object directly related to a particular place and its context. Two basic trends are distinguishable here: the transition of painting to space installations and multimedia entities, and the transformation of the field of painting itself, which now allowed various (anti)illusionist strategies. In the context of new interpretations of painting, which could be described as “postmedia” interpretations, the work of JoÏe Slak – ?oka and Îivko Maru‰iã, who had introduced a different approach in painting earlier, became interesting, as did the work of Bogoslav Kala‰, which remains one of the most radical answers to the question of the possibilities of painting in Slovenia to this day.
In the late 1980s and the 1990s, the group Ve‰ slikar svoj dolg (Painter Do You Know Thy Dues) played a crucial and very specific role, in particular with their “spatial paintings”. These were spectacular, overfull installations in space in which the artists emphasized the similarity between their processes and natural phenomena such as stalactites in karstic caves, clouds, smoke or flames; the spectacular multimedia visual overabundance enabled anamorphous mirroring between individual elements in the works.
In sculpture, aspirations towards a revaluation and redefinition of sculpture were very important, while in the case of the young generation of sculptors, the radicalization of the processes of opening up the modernist field actually only masked their aspirations to its final elimination. Because of the fundamentality of modernist postulates, and their dominance in Slovene sculpture, this could of course be only done from within. The new generation of sculptors drew attention to themselves with an exhibition at the Equrna gallery in 1989: JoÏe Bar‰i, Mirko Bratu‰a, Roman Mak‰e, Marjetica Potrã and Du‰an Zidar presented their works together with their professor from the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts, Lujo Vodopivec. By reverting to the tradition of modernist sculpture, Lujo Vodopivec in particular, and also Du‰a Sambolec and MatjaÏ Poãivav‰ek, prepared the ground for the development of formal possibilities, and for reflection on the problems in sculpture, thus enabling its redefinition. Though the designation “new Slovene sculpture” was not applied to a clearly defined group, the works of the young sculptors made up a particular field demarcated by shared crucial issues, sources and references. The new sculpture was often not just about forming a self-sufficient object, but primarily about relations established between sculpture, its environment and the viewer; this was what gave so much importance to the issue of time and perception in the works of these artists. The most explicit position was that of Marjetica Potrã: for her, sculpture was always experienced as fragmentary and at the same time temporal, corresponding to the viewers’ fragmentary and temporal experiencing of themselves and their bodies.
New territories, new media At first glance it might seem as if artists dealt mostly with problems proper to art, and the social crisis and the momentous events of the early 1990s, above all Slovenia’s declaration of independence and the war that followed, did not really reflect in artistic production. Nonetheless, art was not apolitical, in particular not the multimedia activities of Marko Kovaãiã and the Neue Slowenische Kunst collective of artists. NSK was a paradigmatic artistic phenomenon of the 1980s whose activities were retro-avant-garde artistic interpretations of the deconstruction of the former Yugoslav state, the cold war, the strategies of political power and its appropriation of art and culture, and other issues. Parallel to the declaration of independence of Slovenia in the early 1990s, NSK formed its own NSK State in Time. It was an artistic state structure that reiterated and materialized its lack of real territory and nation on various locations with its own passports, embassies, consulates, postage stamps and other constitutive elements integrated into the production of the groups that constituted the NSK movement throughout the 1990s. The appropriation of symbols of state authority, together with temporary occupation of territories, represents an ambivalent concept that is affirmative and rebellious at the same time: with its sensitive and fragile existence, the NSK state called for a critical revaluation of the logic behind the existence and functioning of other state structures.
In the early 1990s, the lines along which the two most influential spheres in Slovene art would develop were already visible: artistic research on new media technologies and related questions of the body on the one hand, and the issues of sites, territories, the physical, mental and institutional spaces, on the other. Following the era of mass video production, which had been a constitutive part of the alternative scene, a new generation emerged, a generation that saw video technology primarily as an integral segment of art practice, while technological experimentation and susceptibility to, and active involvement with, social issues became part of the institutional artistic context and the broader social space, rather than the underground. Thus Borghesia staged their multimedia performances at the main national institution for performing arts Cankarjev dom, and the national television network acted as producer to Marina GrÏiniç and Aina ·mid’s videos. The new media artists were united by their awareness of the variety of artistic media and the pertinent discourses, and their personal experiences with the theater, music and video. Marko Ko‰nik realized with the Egon March Institute a number of interdisciplinary shows, performances and installations, and Marko Peljhan staged at the Museum of Modern Art in 1992 three Egorhythms, rhythm and scene structures that were the material for his final production of the Project Atol, the first project by which he began to transfer his activities from the theater to the expanded sphere of contemporary art. At the beginning of the 1990s, the aesthetics and technology of video art became an academic subject at the Academy of Fine Arts, and among professor Sreão Dragan’s most outstanding students there were Nata‰a Prosenc and Damijan Kracina. The idea of individual authorship and improvements in technology as well as easier availability of video technology, enabled video to develop into physical installations in space, ranging from video sculptures to installations and environments. On the other hand, there were a number of artists who began to deal with social territories, not necessarily physical ones, bringing to the fore the non-material aspects that regulated them. Thus Marko Kovaãiã developed his multimedia work into a museum discourse about the civilization of plastoses, and Alenka Pirman set up a museum of the subculture of skateboarding. The artist who dealt with the concept of the museum most consistently was Tadej Pogaãar: in 1990 he founded his own Muzej sodobne umetnosti (Museum of Contemporary Art), which was later renamed the P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Museum of Contemporary Art. Another parallel artistic institution that deserves mentioning is Milena Kosec’s Scarecrow State; like the work of Marija Mojca Pungerãar, Vuk åosiç and Matej AndraÏ Vogrinãiã, it was an example of art in the urban space, for which the Urbanaria project, which began in 1994, organized by the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, provided a vital context and support.
The above-mentioned new strategies and practices in artistic production and theory finally abandoned such declarative modernist values as expressiveness, lyricism and sublimity. Instead, artists stressed their connection to Slovene avant-garde art, whose tradition they revived and revaluated in their works, bringing it from the margins to the very core of the national artistic tradition.
In the period in question, no particular trend or prevalent style can be discerned in Slovene photography. The only common denominator seems to be the heterogeneity of individual approaches, and photographers can be roughly divided into two groups: those starting from an analogy with recognizable situations, and those who primarily rely on their personal obsessions.
Most of them had formed their creative credos before 1985. Zmago Jeraj, Milan Pajk, BoÏidar Dolenc and Jane ·travs, who had since their earliest beginnings consciously opted for other than traditional subjects, ventured into new subject fields in the 1985–1995 decade. Pajk and ·travs became involved in fashion photography, the former adopting a very analytical and minimalist approach, and the latter that of sumptuous images whose aesthetics was based on the contrast between the sophisticated elegance of the models and the crudeness of their surroundings. ·travs also introduced the idea of fashion photography documenting performances.
Jeraj found the subject matter for his Carnival Masks series during Mardi Gras festivities, seeking above all moments that reveal contradictions between the momentary interest or posture of a masked person and the expression painted on the mask. Stojan Kerbler’s works are based on clear analogies with recognizable situations from everyday life and festive occasions in a rural environment. His people of the Haloze district are typically portrayed en face, which is due more to his dialogic relation with them than to any reference to particular figures from the history of photography. Tone Stojko found his subjects in the current events of the late 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s; he was one of the few to recognize in the sociopolitical atmosphere of the time history in the making, and his photographs have now become part of our collective memory of the so-called Slovene spring.
Bojan Radoviã, BoÏidar Dolenc and Herman Pivk each developed a very specific artistic idiom. With subtle records of intimate spaces Radoviã created some form of a personal photographic diary. Dolenc either composed images from pairs of photographs, playing with various associations evoked by each pair, or sought constellations in urban environments that highlighted the irony, contradictoriness or provocativeness of random situations and often contained political allusions. Pivk is set apart by a certain poetic quality; he is an artist who underscores the mental rather than the visual components of photographs, resorting to various mise-en-scenes and manipulations of human bodies, or interventions to original photographs, in order to transfer the personal existential experience into the image which no longer bears any resemblance to real world phenomena.
What is unusual about architecture in Slovenia between 1985 and 1995 from the present-day point of view is the profusion of high-quality theoretical writings on architecture in various media (books, workshops, exhibitions, seminars) and the modest number of quality examples of built architecture. 1987 saw the publication of the book From Architecture, which represents a turning point in Slovene architectural theory and unites the thinking of two authors on two topics: Questions on the Art of Construction by Ale‰ Vodopivec and Typology of Urban Residential Architecture and Its Codependence on the Morphology of Urban Space by Janez KoÏelj. The other outstanding authors in the field of the theory of architecture were: architect Janko Zlodre (Oikos and the Other: on Loos and Wittgenstein), art historian and sociologist Braco Rotar (Draftsmen vs Scholars: Ideologies in Urban Planning and Architecture) and urban sociologist Pavle Gantar (Urbanism, Social Conflicts, Planning).
Another characteristic of the period is the intensity of connections with the rest of the world, primarily through exhibitions and yearly seminars in Piran. In 1986 Boris Podrecca staged at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris, together with colleagues, a very important exhibition of the architect JoÏe Pleãnik, which later traveled to New York and Ljubljana. DESSA (the Association of Free-lance Architects) continuously staged exhibitions of Slovene and foreign architects in the only Slovene architectural gallery. It also organized a number of exhibitions that presented Slovene architectural production of that time abroad. The Piran Days of Architecture international seminar regularly enabled the exchange of ideas on an international basis and contacts with all the current happenings in architecture.
This was also a decade in which Slovene architecture lost, for the most part, its connection with the consistently specific Slovene modernist tradition. The examples of built architecture selected for the exhibition represent the small segment of high-quality built architecture.
The period between 1985 and 1995 was a time of politics, change, searching for new values in society, and consequently, in design. To recreate the zeitgeist, the exhibition presents the dais from the 12th Congress of the Union of the Socialist Youth of Slovenia, which was organized in Kr‰ko in 1986. The corporate image of the political event was the work of the designer Miljenko Licul and the architect Dragana Midiç; it reflected the spirit of the conference motto “Unity in Difference” and comprised conference logo, interior design of the conference hall and furniture. In order to catch the essence of that time, there is included also a selection of posters reflecting the search for identity of the then new Slovenian state, which was emerging as war raged on through some of the other republics of former Yugoslavia. The political posters are evidence of the wealth of new ideas, and the efforts of the new political parties in defining their differences; in some cases, they demonstrate the remnants of youthful rebellion. The posters for the Novi rock concerts, on the one hand, testify to the still revolutionary subcultures, and on the other, to the general saturation with political issues. This is also the defining difference with regard to the 1975–85 decade, when the main changes in mentality derived from rock, punk and hardcore movements, and infiltrated all areas of creativity in society and culture.
The 1985 to 1995 period brought approximately forty Slovene feature-length films. This was a time when in Slovenia we finally saw the last of films dealing with the National Liberation Struggle, which had continued to be topical, albeit in mellower versions, for over forty years after its end. Now the way was finally opened to postwar conflicts, the subject of reconciliation between former collaborators and partisans was broached, and, after Slovenia’s declaration of independence, also the picture of unjust executions in the early years of the revolution was made public. Five years before we got our own state and five years afterwards we were motivated by people from the margins: social outcasts, the homeless, Gypsies, fanatics, gamblers, criminals, juvenile delinquents and blockheads. They made for dynamic stories and replaced the radical conflicts (luckily) absent from our history.
The current image of performing arts as an interaction and transition between various media, which now seems quite self-evident, formed in Slovenia only in the period between 1985 and 1995, and evoked an extremely dynamic and intense response in cultural and political life. In comparison with the American experience, this occurred with a 15-year delay and was determined by the specific characteristics of art and culture in late socialism and postsocialism. Slovene contemporary theater and performing arts, which experienced a real boom in this decade and were direct heirs to the so-called American avant-garde 'theater of images', resulted from a series of crises of the traditional dramatic theater in the second half of the 20th century that followed Artaud’s radical critique of the logocentric tradition of theater and representation. The 1980s and 1990s were thus marked also in Slovenia by the deconstruction of the dramatic theater, which replaced the textual (verbal) with the visual and spatial forms and already entered the domain of 'postdramatic theater'.
Earlier in the 20th century contemporary dance in Slovenia developed on a par with the trends in Europe, but by the mid-1980s it had lost some of its sparkle and drive. Although the system of cultural politics remained quite rigid, later developments eventually led to the founding of the first Slovene professional contemporary dance group Plesni teater Ljubljana (the Ljubljana Dance Theater). In the 1990s, motion-related projects began to flourish again. New, multi-media connections between motion, theater, sport, music, video, etc. were set up, and contemporary dance choreographers and dancers, many of whom were trained at dance academies or had worked on dance projects abroad, began to work closely also with theater directors.
only in german
Art in Extended Spaces - Slovene Art 1985-1995
Kuratoren:Igor Zabel, Igor Spanjol
Team of experts: Lara Strumej, Tina Gregoric, Tadej Glazar, Vesna Terzan, Barbara Predan, Silvan Furlan, Majda Sirca, Tomaz Toporisic, Ursula Terzan
Artists: Joze Barsi, Mirsad Begic, Emerik Bernard, Janez Bernik, Bogdan Borcic, Borghesia, Mirko Bratusa, Jakov Brdar, Sandi Cervek, Vuk Cosic, Sreco Dragan, Drzavica Pticjestrasilna (Scarecrow State), Igor Fistric, Gustav Gnamuc, Bojan Gorenec, Marina Grcinic & Aina Smid, Marjan Gumilar, Alan Hranitelj, Zdenko Huzjan, Irwin , Marko Jakse, Bogoslav Kalas, Sergej Kapus, Bozidar Kemperle, Dusan Kirbis, Aleksij Kobal, Marko A. Kovacic, Damijan Kracina, Marko Kosnik, Kozmokineticno gledalisce Rdeci pilot (The Cosmokinetic Theater Red Pilot), Zmago Lenardic, Roman Makse, Îivko I. Marusic, Novi kolektivizem (New Collectivism), Mojca Oblak Crowther, Marko Peljhan, Alenka Pirman, Matjaz Pocivavsek, Silvester Plotajs, Tadej Pogacar & P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E., Marjetica Potrc, Natasa Prosenc, Marija Mojca Pungercar, Franc Purg, Rene Rusjan, Zora Stancic, Duba Sambolec, Brane Sever, Joze Slak – .oka, Nika Span, Tugo Susnik, Marko Tusek, Petra Varl, Miha Vipotnik, Lujo Vodopivec, Matej Andraz Vogrincic, V.S.S.D., Dusan Zidar
Designers: Jani Bavcer, Kostja Gatnik, Radovan Jenko, Zvone Kosovelj, Miljenko Licul, Matjaz Medja, Dragana Midic, Ranko Novak, Novi kolektivizem (New Collectivism), Zdravko Papic, Zdravko Papic & Robert Botteri, Simon Sernec, Janez Suhadolc and Evita Lukez, Matjaz Vipotnik
Photographers: Bozidar Dolenc, Zmago Jeraj, Stojan Kerbler, Milan Pajk, Herman Pivk, Bojan Radovic, Tone Stojko, Jane Stravs
Architects: Milos Bonca, Delovna skupnost samostojnih arhitektov DESSA (Association of Free-lance Architects), Miha Desman, Katarina Pirkmajer Desman, Milos Florijancic, Marjana Gaspari, Peter Gabrijelcic, Matjaz Garzarolli, Valentin Gorencic, Oton Jugovec, Andrej Kemr, Jurij Kobe, Vlasto Kopac, Janez Kozelj, Janez Kozelj & Ilka Cerpes, Vlado Krajcar, Darko Lecnik, Anton Lesnik, Mitja Omersa with colleagues, Peter Pahor, Petra Pa‰kulin, JoÏe Petrkoc, Bozo Podlogar, Boris Podrecca, Robert Potokar, Vojteh Ravnikar, Jurij Sadar, Savin Sever, Marija Staric, Polona Sustersic, Milena Todoriç, Arne Vehovar, Ales Vodopivec, Vesna Vozlic, Matej Vozlic, Marusa Zorec, Ira Zorko