Rebellion

Rebellion, the Secret society dinner and the Theories of others

On June 28th 1948, Communist Party Inform biro of the Soviet Union adopts the Resolution of conditions in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Josip Broz Tito, the president of Socialist Yugoslavia, responds to Staljin with the historical rapture (raskid) published in the weekly magazine Borba. After that dramatically break up with so called eastern block, there was profiling of the state socialism to the autonomic socialism taking place in Yugoslavia, as well as the creation of the platform for the establishing the movement of Non-aligned Countries. In parallel with those processes, after the brief socrealistic period, the culture and the art are trying to get closer to the western model under other formative act. Ideological frame remained the same from within, because in that form it applied to all the society. Within the Art’s Academy, Faculty of Philosophy, Visual Artists’ Society and all similar organizations, there were party cells at work, or Basic organizations of communist union – as they called themselves. Since the time the painter Edo Murtić visited America and the time of the first abstract paintings’ cycle in Yugoslavia, the avant-garde moves are slowly inaugurating themselves as the state art. To the ideological leading head, they represented the crucial evidence of Tito’s and Yugoslav third way between east and west. The fact is that the crucial figures of socialist Yugoslavia contemporary art did come from the families of Red bourgeoisie. Considering that, all the experiments of early works by Marina Abramović, Braco Dimitrijević, Mladen Stilinović and Group Six, were part of approved elitist cultural milieu. In the period of breakup of Yugoslavia, forming the independent Croatian state, during the time of Croatian war for independence and immediately afterwards, in one part of political and cultural peak an idea of anachronistic model of national culture arose, strongly formed by catholic spirit. The ideal and ideological basis for such model was medieval myth of the curse of Croatian King Zvonimir. The legend says that by receiving the Pope’s request, king Zvonimir invited Croatian dukes and knights to the first Crusade. They refused and killed the king in the church which takes place in the village Kosovo near Knin. In the moment of his death, the king laid a curse on Croatians. Because they refused the loyalty to Pope, they will lose their state and they will not have it for thousand years. The fact is that the Vatican state was among the first who acknowledged the newborn Republic of Croatia. But, it is also a fact that Croatia has signed very strict contracts with Vatican. The damage of those contracts was that the level of secularity of the society which was reached in libearal socialistic eighties was completely destroyed. In 1993, Religious class was introduced in elementary schools as elective subject, but that subject was scheduled exclusively in the same time table as the other subjects, so the pupils are forced to take it. Children who chose Ethics or some other Religious class as alternative, are often being isolated, and are forced to sign the catholic Religious class under the pressure of the environment. Also, the fact is that because of the Religious class, the class of Visual, Music and Technical culture has been reduced to one per week. In the light of all that, Religious class is in every way the same as one of Marxism from the socialist period. This model has already created generations of conservative, semi-educated and semi-fascist individuals which allegedly represent the dam of corporative consumerist society. In the Mass psychology of fascism, Wilhelm Reich says: „The difference between sexual and religious feeling is that the religious does not allow the knowing of sexuality of arrousment and that excitement falls out even in so called religious ecstasy“. Due to that kind of religion, we are witnesses of series of extraordinary examples of inquisition practices towards art worthy, as described in the manual Malleus maleficarum. The sculpture Tree by the sculptor Ratko Petrić, which was placed on the square in the city of Velika Gorica, was pulled out of the pedestal in 1993, dragged through the city with the tractor and then cut in half. Since the sculpture presented the tree in stylization, it has been cut in the way the wood for fuel is being cut. Those who performed the act made a record of all that with the video camera, and they were given order to do so by the priest at the holy mass, with the explanation that the tree has six branches, which is the number of Satan. The hated Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia consisted of six republics, so there were two devil signs in the number of branches. The priest’s wish was to meltdown the sculpture and make the church bell of it. Shortly after these events took place, Ratko Petrić sued the priest. The artist died last year, the suit was never solved, nobody from the clergy made an official apology to him nor he received any recompense. The other interesting example happened three years ago. One of the Herzegovinian Franciscans during the mass in monastery in Dubrava, referred to Marko Pogačnik’s installation which is placed in different parts of Zagreb, as „one form of black magic“. Marko Pogačnik was member of OHO, one of the most influential art groups in Yugoslavia. The work he made in Zagreb was based on the method of healing the earth, litopuncture, and it consisted of raw megalithic rocks ordered in a way of tumuli from Palaeolithic. After the order given at the service, the City Government of Zagreb simply transported Pogačnik’s work from the meadow in front of the Museum of contemporary art, an tried to remove the installation on the lake Jarun with the explanation of tidying the coast. Because of this case, Slovenian artist wrote harsh protest letter to Croatia. The generator of this kind of act are surely the nineties, when the project of national art was trying to be realized. It was kind of art which, of course, expresses itself through the figurative poetics. Since throughout the history the sculpture as a medium was always connected to the ideology, it was no wander it became one of the basis of new Croatian national art. So, it happened that the medieval burg Medvedgrad on the hill Sljeme above Zagreb was ruined by devastation and concrete annex in 1993. Without any public competition, the monumental and oversized monument by Kuzma Kovačić called the Altar of the homeland, rose right next to the burg. As the crème of national kitsch, the monument contains the relics, pleters and glass which symbolize the tears of Croatian man. For years, such monuments to kings and other idealized heroes of Croatian past were rising one after the other. In collective memory, all that must have been the substitute for the period of national romanticism which the other nations lived at the end of 19th century. Sad examples are present even today. Two years ago, on the resting platform Krka of the Zagreb-Split highway, Kruno Bošnjak’s sculpture Gospa od puta (Our lady of the way) appeared. The sculpture presents the lady in the fashion of framed colour lithographs from the early movies of Pedro Almodovar. To make the thing even worse, the signposts on the state highway which remind of that sculpture are similar to those which point the cities under UNESCO protection as Trogir or Dubrovnik. All this seems like the outline for portrait in connection to what is happening in Skoplje, the capital of Republic of Macedonia. The modernistic nucleus by Japanese author Kenzo Tange is being deformed with buildings which represent the mix between neo colonial architecture, recyclized Albert Speer and Robert Mugabe’s holiday mansion. On the squares in front of the buildings the sculptures of allegedly great Macedonians are being placed, from Alexander the Great on, no matter the mentioned one is surely not of Slavic blood. The result of all these processes is that the new independent scene was created within the states of former Yugoslavia. It was realizing its performance through NGO, urban cultural movements and the platform of civil society. In doing so, it created dogmatic division in retrograde and modern, progressive and regressive. At the beginning of its act, that very scene nearly anathemized painting, sculpting or any so called traditional art medium as something long time dead. That very scene, although it refers to itself as independent, is completely dependent on budget money of state and city authorities, and the model it functions on is equal to official culture. The scene actress are organized in tribal interest fashion, they do not accept any different way of thinking, and they worry only about their personal careers and the production of cases which are cost-effective for dragging out the money from the local and international funds. Good example of such a paradigm is Subversive film festival, whose regular guest is a philosopher Slavoj Žižek. The festival is abundantly financed by corrupted City Government of Zagreb, which is lead by the city major Milan Bandić, right-wing and clerical. In the election campaign of 2010 he was photographed holding gigantic baroque crucifix in his hands, in the style of Spanish conquistadors, but also with Tomislav Merčep, the person who is being charged with war crimes. In such way there were two dogmas being opposed int he countries of ex-Yugoslavia, the one speaking of national and the one speaking of international. After some time, these two dogmas gained political marks of left and right, clerical and atheistic, moral and perverse, as needed. In financial sense, the market sponsor of both of them, to paraphrase Negri, was the periphery of Imperia. The only difference was whether it is about economic, religious or Bank Corporation in national or foreign possession. There are three more interesting examples in the understanding of complex situation in western Balkan. In May 2009, a thematic party took place in Gallery Bačva of Croatian Association of Artists. The gallery was rented by a private firm which held the thematic evening with elements of Egyptian, new age and so called esoteric aesthetics. Being the president of Association and acquaintance of director of the firm, I was invited to the party together with my girlfriend. At about 11pm, Mihovil Pavlović, museum technician employed in the Association, entered the gallery uninvited. Also, he is an ex Croatian soldier, with posttraumatic disorder diagnosed, affirmed nationalist and a homophobe. He quietly took photographs of the party and its participants. In the autumn of the same year, the group of artists who were members of the Association but obviously unsatisfied with the conditions within, organized a petition for the withdrawal of the Governing council, which was signed by 70 members. One of the motifs for their petition, along with the phone bills and official travels, was alledged Mason wedding which was held in the gallery Bačva, as the already mentioned party was recognized and named. The group of members wrote articles and distributed photographs, acting publicly on the verge between religious fanatism, guru following and new age prophets. Due to those reasons, surpassing assembly of those same artists was held in the club of Association, and the photographs of the Mason wedding were projected. They were not of good quality but they were showing alleged crucial evidences, candles in the shape of the triangle and persons wearing medallion necklaces. After that a Regular assembly of Association was held, where all their accusations were dismissed, and the Governing council with me as the president was re-elected with vast majority of votes. The most absurd thing was that the whole operation was lead by Initiative council whose one of the members, Damir Sokić, is the artist that publically proclaims himself through his texts, actions and offsets as the person of liberal and left-handed beliefs. In the closest group of organization of the petition was also Igor Grubić, the author who became popular with the video East side story, which speaks about violence over the participants of Belgrade’s and Zagreb’s Gay pride into he first decade of this century. No matter of his emphasised sensibility in promoting of the human rights, he was the one who, as the proper follower of the cult Theory of Conspiracy, held speeches to the other artists about the evil that masons did during the history. From French revolution till today. Mason wedding gained extremely bad publicity within conservative catholic Croatian society. The great majority of cultural public and ordinary people began to observe me as the member of Sion priorate or some even more powerful and secretive society that wants to enslave Croatian art and submit it to its demonic interests. In Belgrade’s gallery Kontekst, custodians Vida Knežević and Ivana Marjanović were preparing the exhibition Retreat (Odstupanje), by young Albanian artists. The exhibition was first presented in the Museum of modern art of Vojvdina in Novi Sad. The intent of Retreat was to, together with planned panel discussions, publication and presentation of young Albanian artists from Kosovo, critically reflects the present moment as well as relations between Serbs and Albanians from Kosovo in the latest history. The exhibition should have also spoke about secret agenda of the apartheid over the Albanian population of Kosovo which was undertaken by official Belgrade. That kind of politics treated Albanians as a foreign body since the beginning of the twentieth century. It all came as a result of a mass „differentiation“ and excluding the Albanians from the political life of Kosovo since 1989. On the opening day of the exhibition in Belgrade, cleric fascistic organization Otačestveni pokret Obraz and other who think alikes (Ravnogorski pokret, Naši, Dveri srpske, Nomokanon…) have, under the support of the police, destroyed the art work Face to face by Dren Maljići and succeeded to enable the opening and the exhibition in whole. During biennale Spa Port in Banja Luka, there has been a round table on the space of former concentracion camp Omarska, and the working group Four faces of Omarska has been formed. The work group used different forms of mutual work – reading groups, workshops, public readings, discussions and meetings. With its long-term research, the group pointed out four historical periods of Omarska – the mine near Prijedor, which has become a death camp in the war time and today – as if nothing had happened – returned being mine again, in the possession of one of the richest multinational firms, and also a location for shooting the movie Sveti Georgije ubija aždahu (St George killing a dragon). The idea of the work group was not to act merely as an isolated group of the individuals, cocooned in the theoretical and intellectual outsmarting, but to establish real relations with the individuals whose lives have been brought close to death in the camp Omarska, and also to those that have to face the difficulty of existence in today Omarska and Prijedor region. Within the part of the public of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the holding of this table and establishing group created controversial opinions, especially since the selectors of the biennale Spa Port were the theoreticians from Zagreb Antonija Majača and Ivana Bago. Their engagement has under the large number of artists passed as unfair towards the victims of the camp, because the project was taking place in the capital of Serbian Republic, Banja Luka. These three examples speak about relations between culture and ideology in western Balkan. The process of building the secularism, civil society and open culture is doomed to small utopian groups that work out of the borders of the state structures and other structures of power. In my artistic and educational work, I tended to act in such a direction. Since 2008 I teach in University of Zadar. Because of integrity of the University, my lectures are attended by a big number of students from different departments-History of arts, Cultural anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Literature, Language and Teachers’ education. Through my lectures, I deal with techniques and media of visual arts but also with the very phenomenology of contemporary art. I draw special attention to developing of tolerance, respect towards other cultures and ways of thinking. Due to conservatism of younger generation raised from the ninetees on, I come upon absurd situations in my pedagogical work. Once, during the lecture about animated film, I showed Satimania by Zdenko Gašparević, one of the classics of Zagreb’s animation school. The comment of most of the students, even those who study History of arts, was that the author is obsessed with sex and that everything is over eroticized. To make the thing more absurd, the film is on the verge of puritan aesthetics and the most erotic in it are the naked female breasts and a man’s fantasy of soft lesbian scene where two beautiful women are on the bed. Since I tend to senzibilize students to contemporary art and the context in which it is appearing, I often show them the examples of latest production, as well as the works which have in various ways shocked the public. After that the students are writing an essay on their impressions of the art works. Among the works I showed them at the beginning of the winter semester of 2010, there was also a sculpture by Maurizio Catelano La nona ora, which shows Pope John Paul II stroked down by a meteorite. The most students were completely shocked and wrote in their essays that they could not believe how somebody makes jokes about Pope John Paul when he is now already blessed and he is surely to be beatified. After that I began explaining slowly that we live in Europe. It is a place where, besides Catholics, also Protestants, Orthodox, Muslims, Jews, Atheists and Agnostics exist. This kind of behaviour of my students is a typical example of erasing the basics of secularism in certain society. Through their education, Religious class and mass media these young people were systematically being convinced that Catholicism is the only true religion that is equal to the state and the people, and that without it there is nor survival nor future. My goal is to, at least in one segment, break their dogmatisms’ through my lectures and workshops. In trying to do so, for them I have organized a lecture by a Greek artist Dionisis Kavallieratos, who works in Berlin. After putting out two drawings in one Athens’s gallery, one showing Jesus Christ on a spit and the other showing him in a company of a dragon that performs a felatio, a monk Ivan from the monastery on Mount Athos in Greece, made a written anathema onto him. It was four calligraphy pages, in which the monk tells him that he will get a plague, become infertile and his soul will burn in hell till the end of time. Together with custodian Bojana Vukojević, I have organized an exhibition of his drawings in the church of ex Dominican monastery, in appropriate inquisition place. Being a president of Croatian Association of Artists, the oldest such organization in Balkan, established in 1868, I am trying to lead the Association in a way that it really functions without the influence of custodians, gallerists and art dealers. Besides the local sources, we are more and more trying to finance the Association through projects, competitions, workshops and courses. We are trying to collaborate with similar Associations in Europe and the world by means of exchange and contracts. In such way, we are trying to ensure free flow of artistic ideas. We are aware that the privileges in culture are inheritance from socialist times but we are also aware that in the small environments, culture presents one of rare specialities and qualities, as long as the form of identification of group of people under name working class or nation exists per se. We believe that such model could be useful even in so called European level. It is there where the culture functions as the elitism or amusement. Visual artist in such a world means having one of three options. In the first one you are an international star, gallerists and private collection are buying your works. Due to full schedule, you do not even make them anymore nor you are interested in them. The army of assistants is making your works while you make ideas. You make goods as any other, and the only thing you measure your success by, is amount of money. On cover pages all over the world the bold numbers of your most expensive installation will appear. Because of all that, it is the successful brand management that stands behind you, and it is making you just as it is making underwear, computer or a car. In the second level you could have so called middle career. You deal with one segment of contemporary art in a completely specialized way. And we all know that you are contemporary only if you are intermediately into themes such as feminism, queer, gender theories, emigration, human rights and cybernetics. You work with specific type of galleries and custodians. They present you on thematic exhibitions which are into similar areas. Being as such, you are part of the creative class that lives in creative cities and you represent a biopolitical power, as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt refers to it. In the third one you act within smaller associations, individually or with a group of artists. You do not exhibit in specialized exhibitions nor you work with famous theoreticians, but you have the freedom of creating your own work. You are sufficiently backed up in theory and nobody has to explain you what you do. You earn your living by doing different jobs, whether creative or not, or to use Marxist term – alienated. Being like that, you live the lives of others, those out of limes, out of the dome of ideal city. The notion of the others is not just a mere philosophical term, the same as postcolonial theory is not the indulgence of the ones who used Malthusian procedures to exploit societies, nations and countries organized according to different principles. Great historical divisions between those within and outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire, those behind the Iron Curtain or, the most recent, Kissinger’s division between terrorists and people, led the political systems of the advanced West to two different processes. In one process the state, as in the early Marxist phantasmagoria, truly dies and gives way to corporations and rebellious non-governmental organizations. In the other gender, tribal and religious principles of organization, through small utopian groups and communities, increasingly erode the fabric of what is called the West. The pyramidal governmental systems, through representative democracies, constitutional courts and secret police, fall apart when faced with chaotically organized insurgent networks. Chaos, as a condition, favours creativity as resistance to reality or, in an idealist language, escape to the dream world. Art has always been a journey to the utopian island, without beginning and without end. Utopia is possible as long as the number of those who live does not outrange the structure of state – imperia. Great Britain has always provided sanctuary to all utopists, and when their number would oversize, they would head for new Promised Land, no matter it was called New England or Philadelphia. On the festivals such as Big Green Gathering there are people with different utopic beliefs, from those who believe in stone circles to those who believe in Indian saunas and liberation through sweat lodge. There you can meet members of the famous Freeman Society, who see the beginning of the slavery in the very moment of registration after birth, and they blame foreign conquerors for that, from the invasion of Normans to Pope’s agents. The rest of the society may see excentricism or tribal groupings in all this, and partly they really are so, but the fact is that these kind of utopias are in every way more present in European countries through different kind of open organizational models, all the way from Cardiff to Berlin or from Sarajevo to Barcelona. All together, they make a different utopias and possible freedoms, both those of choice or striving. That is why we give the verse of fameous Serbian poet, Branko Radičević: „Hoće li sloboda umeti da peva kao što su sužnji pevali o njoj“ / „Will the freedom be able to sing like the slaves have sung about it.“ When such a virus spreads trough the world, it makes a new quality. The free choice gives us ability of escape, just like in Brecht’s story of political prisoner who, using pen, paint and engraving, wrote his beloved slogan about life of ideal society. The prison management was always destroying it using stronger medium, from erasing to repainting the wall. When the guards decided to ruin the slogan by carving, they made the prison cell wall thinner and weakened it. The convict pushed the wall with his hand, and made a hole through which he ran into freedom. It is upon us to see on which side of the wall the freedom is.

Reference:

  • Župan, Ivica, 2007: “Pragmatičari dogmati sanjari”, Merdijani, Samobor
  • Milovan Đilas,1990: “Nova klasa”, Narodna knjiga, Beograd
  • Reich,Wilhelm, 1999: “Masovna psihologija fašizma”, Naklada Jesenski i Turk, Hrvatsko sociološko društvo, Zagreb
  • Augustinus, Aurelius,1995: “O državi božjoj”, Kršćanska sadašnjost, Zagreb
  • Hardt, Michael Negri, Antonio,  2000: “Imperij”, Multimedijalni institut  Arkzin,  Zagreb
  • Šuvaković, Miško, 2005: “Pojmovnik suvremene umjetnosti”, Horetzky, Zagreb
  • Hakim Bey, 2003:”Privremene autonomne zone”, Naklada Jesenski i Turk, Zagreb
  • Open, 2009: “The Art Biennal as a Global Phenomenon Strategies in Neo-political Times”, Nai Publishers,
  • Rotterdam