Report from the AICA Congress in Zagreb and Dubrovnik 30.9 – 9.10.2001
The Croatian art critics had invited to a congress with a theme that proved to be of more immediate interest after the 11th of September than they possibly could have imagined beforehand. That a few of the invited speakers didn’t show up can be explained by the problems and the insecurity that followed the terror attacks. The overall headline was ”Strategies of Power” with the daringly interwoven subheadings ”The Legacy of Modernism and the Imperative of Modernity”, ”Institutional Frameworks” and ”Sexuality and Power”. The modernist era was analysed from different points of view in lectures, the recently closed 20th century was being evaluated, with examples from different parts of the world, and at the same time today’s power relations as they have been formulated in the art and in the art world were uncovered and discussed. Leonida Kovac, responsible for the theme of the congress, Berislav Valusek, president of Croatian AICA and Jadranka Vinterhalter with co-workers formed an effective team, who made the congress in Zagreb and the post-congress tour to Dubrovnik work well, including visits to museums and galleries. The mail address to Croatian AICA is: firstname.lastname@example.org There were plenty of opportunities to see works by leading contemporary Croatian artists during our stay in Croatia. 93 art critics participated, including the ones from Croatia, from 36 countries, which is about a third of last year’s congress in the metropolis London. Myself and Bo Borg participated from Sweden.
Dag Solhjell from Norway skilfully took on the phenomenon Odd Nerdrum from a sociological perspective: ”Kitsch Between Cultural Order and Disorder, Odd Nerdrum – a Case Study in the Acquisition and Use of Symbolic Power”. In the line of interesting lectures I would like to mention, in order to point out the span of the congress, Antje von Graevenitz, Holland, ”The Subversion of the Subversion’s Subversion – Turns in Post-Modern Art”, Konstantin Akinsha, USA, ”Afterart”, Yacouba Konate, The Ivory Coast, ”The Institutional Frameworks of Visual Arts in Africa”, and Tina Gharavi, England, ”Veiled Societies/Hidden Sexualities: Investigating and Documenting Gender & Public Space in Teheran, Iran and Buffalo, NY”. I won’t go into detail describing the different lectures included in the theme of the congress, since they will be published in a special edition by the Croatian art magazine Zivot umjetnosti.
But I would still like to mention Bojana Pejic from Belgrade, now living in Berlin, who analysed Sanja Ivekovic’s (born 1949 in Zagreb) work in Luxembourg ”The Unmaking of the Unknown Heroine – Sanja Ivekovic: Lady Rosa of Luxembourg”. Female allegorical characters, sometimes with Nike’s features, have become popular again when many new national states have risen since the wall fell. Ivekovic’s sculpture for Luxembourg is a pregnant woman, something that has aroused a lively political debate. The artist participated in the congress and had simultaneously a solo exhibition, ”Works of Heart”, at the Racic gallery, where a photo from the massacre at the market in Sarajevo was juxtaposed to an advertisement where a heart shaped piece of jewellery at budget price is seen around a glamorous woman’s neck. The message is abundantly clear, more heart in the real world and less pseudo hearts in the commercial world, even though they sparkle. Both images are taken from the same page in The New York Times, the 6th of February 1994. The theme of the congress ”Strategies of Power” feels adequate in an area, former Yugoslavia, where we still haven’t seen any lasting peace encompassing the entire region.
”To Tell a Story”, it is not a coincidence that an exhibition on contemporary Croatian art is entitled just that. In much of East European visual arts there is, since the wall fell, an urge to tell a story, which was very apparent in the exhibition ”After the Wall” at Moderna museet in Stockholm two years ago, where Bojana Pejic was head curator. We went to the opening of the double exhibition ”To Tell a Story” with contemporary Croatian art, which opened both at the Gliptoteka HAZU and at the vital Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. Dalibor Martinis (born 1947 in Zagreb) participated with one of his most well-known works, the interactive ”Coma”, 1997, where the spectator can give the artist in the video something similar to an electric shock treatment, that makes him wake up from his dream-coma. This ambivalent work about power structures poses questions on who is guilty and who has the right to judge? At the same time Martinis opened his exhibition ”From the Binary Series” at Paromlin. It was rewarding to read Martinis’ and Ivekovic’s works as parallel to the theme of the congress ”Strategies of Power”. Both artists are pioneers in Croatia, when it comes to video art, not least through their mutual projects.
The woman in the diving tower in Renata Poljak’s (born 1974 in Split) video ”Jump” from 2000, in the same exhibition, is walking about increasingly nervously, without being able to decide whether to jump or not. She has her free will but is at the same time plagued by obsession in this four minute video. The repetitive loop underlines the compulsion. The human being is no longer tied to a system, which existed not so long ago. But at the same time she has to decide for herself where she is going and about future achievements.
Ines Krasic’s (born 1969 in Mostar) ”e-male/ e-fe-male” at Miroslav Kraljevic’s Gallery in Zagreb is criticising the dominating patriarchal pattern of consumption in the new media landscape and could be seen as an ironic commentary to the theme ”Sexuality and Power”.
In Fort Revelin in Dubrovnik we saw ”Mediteranea No. 2: Art Between the Coasts” with artists from Italy, Croatia and Spain. The exhibition gave a dutiful impression and the art works had a hard time keeping up with the competition with the magnificent in- and outdoor architecture and the grand surrounding nature. Hopefully other countries around the Mediterranean Ocean can make something more inspiring next time.
During my free time I had a browse among the many museums of Zagreb; The Archaeological Museum, the Arts and Crafts Museum, and the Croatian Museum for Naive Art with its amazing collection of Ivan Generalic’s and other naive masters’ works. A visit to Ivan Mestrovic’s (1883-1962) studio was also a necessity. In the studio there is an interesting selection of the works of this all round sculptor. In his need for developing the great sculpture tradition he, as one of the last, is reminiscent of many of the great sculptors of his time, including the Swedish artist Carl Milles. But at the same time he is unique. Every commission, every figure gets its own specific shape, its own specific expression and its own complicated, often quite twisted movement pattern.
One evening we listened to the curator for next year’s Documenta in Kassel, Okwui Enwezor, who was talking suggestively about ”Museums/Exhibitions and the Cultural Logic of Globalisation” at the Goethe institute in Zagreb. Many of the questions were of course concerning the upcoming Documenta. Nada Beros, curator and critic in Zagreb, didn’t spare any efforts and succeeded in engaging the very busy Enwezor. The organisers surprised everyone by also engaging the former head of Documenta, Catherine David. She spoke about ”Presentation of the Project for the Museum of Modern Art, Dubrovnik”.
The lecture that was held at the Museum of Modern Art in Dubrovnik was followed by a conversation on ”AICA Strategies for 21st Century”. The starting point was, what is the situation for art criticism today? How can AICA’s structure change in order to better suit the situation today? Is it possible to create a less hierarchical, more dynamic form, that involves more of the about 4.000 members in about 70 countries? The necessity for AICA to become more visible in a changing world was discussed, for example the development of a debate activity in different parts of the world, involving artists, curators and critics from many countries, the profiling of AICA’s home page as well as the desirability of AICA creating a mailing list in order to make information reach the members and the art world more easily. There was a great interest to continue working with Art Planet; the initiative to the magazine comes from Swedish AICA.
One important point with AICA congresses are that they often take place in cities outside the centre of the art world, in countries that stressed out art critics otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention to. In that respect AICA helps creating a balance in the coverage from the art world. Next year’s AICA congress will take place in the Ivory Coast, Abidjan among other places, preliminarily the 28th of October to the 3rd of November. Suggested themes are ”Revolution in Art and Social Evolution”, ”Art, Disparity and Exclusion” and ”Art and Anthropophagy”. Arrangers of the congress the coming years will be South Caribbean, Taiwan, Russia and Italy in mentioned order. AICA will continue to broaden its network on different continents in ever more countries in the world.
It was a powerful experience of history, town architecture and nature to stroll on the winding, about two kilometre long city wall that surrounds the old Dubrovnik. I had a similar impression of intense presence of national conflicts close in time in contrast to a magnificent landscape, when I walked on the wall surrounding Derry in Northern Ireland a few years ago. I looked at the strangely homogeneous Dubrovnik in light limestone, which is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, which recovered well after all earthquakes and from the war. The car free streets, the old churches and the aged tiled roofs are mixed with new tomato coloured tiles that were added during the restoration works after the shell attacks 1991-1992. The contrast was enormous between the fairy tale city of Dubrovnik, old Ragusa, by the coast of Dalmatia with an astounding archipelago outside, with high summer warmth in the beginning of October, and the hectic inland metropolis Zagreb with its representative architecture and with its trams – reminding me of the cities of my childhood – that even at night time rushed clattering through the curves of the streets. I felt dizzy when I looked down at the breakers that with numbing force tore in at the steep cliffs. I looked up to the mountains and out at the turquoise Adriatic Sea.
Translation: Ylva Hillström
President Swedish AICA
AICA 2001 CONGRESS – CROATIA
30 September – 4 October 2001
5-9 October – Post Congress tour
Theme: STRATEGIES OF POWER
From the 1960s onwards, the philosophy of art, or rather its critique, has – through deconstruction of the basic concepts on which the modernistic myth is based – been pointing to the existence of complex mechanisms and social technologies of production of meanings which can be ideologically mobilized with the aim of preserving the status quo to which art, just like all other areas of human activity, is not immune. It has become clear that what we call art is not only subject to the influences of ideology, but in fact functions as a constituent part of a specific ideology. The aim of the theme of this Congress is to determine possible extensions of the concept of art.
The theme Strategies of Power is divided into three sub-themes, each of which will be the subject of one-day discussions. Each of the invited key-note speakers will present one introductory lecture (of a one-hour duration), the lectures taking place in both in morning and afternoon sessions. The lectures will be followed presentation of papers (each lasting 15-20 minutes) and by a discussion involving the participants.
The sub-themes are as follows:
I. The Legacy of Modernism and the Imperative of Modernity In the final decades of the 20th century we have witnessed the collapse of modernistic aesthetics, i.e. of the modernistic paradigm adhered to within disciplines of history of art and art criticism, which are based on – among other things – the principle of self-sufficiency of aesthetic experience, which in turn resulted in perceiving art as an autonomous area immune to various social causalities. This theme is designed to encourage discussion on the adequacy of the existing theoretical apparatus in the process of reception of the phenomenon we perceive as our contemporary artistic practice, in other words, about the significance and function of art criticism today.
II. Institutional Frameworks The point of issue for discussion is the claim that art in itself is not able to be subject to definition, or to be more specific, that definition of art can be formulated only with reliance on the institutional frameworks. The theme further promotes discussion on what constitutes, and in what way, an institutional framework (museums, galleries, art-criticism, art-market, mass media, etc.) by way of which something acquires the legitimate status of art, and somebody the status of an artist.
III. Sexuality and Power In the sense of defining post-modernism as a crisis of cultural authority, particularly that cloaked by West European culture and its institutions, this theme is designed to inspire discussion on the influences imposed on post-modern thought, and production, by the feministic theory and feministic artistic practices, and the so- called queer theory. The theme considers the technologies deployed to construct social identities by means of specific representation regimes manifested in visual arts, in film and in the mass media, and which are based on the construction of sexual difference.
Sunday, 30 September -Zagreb Arrival of participants, accommodation and registration at the Mimara Museum, Trg F. Roosevelta 5, Zagreb
Monday, 1 October – Zagreb
Further registration of the participants
Mimara Museum, Zagreb
Sub-theme: Legacy of modernism and imperative of modernity
Tuesday, 2 October – Zagreb
Mimara Museum, Zagreb
Sub-theme: Institutional frameworks
Wednesday, 3 October – Zagreb
Mimara Museum, Zagreb
Sub-theme: Sexuality and power
Thursday, 4 October – Zagreb
Mimara Museum, Zagreb
Visits to different exhibitions, museums and galleries, artist’s studios as well as receptions and common dinners will be fixed in due time and detailed program will be distributed to all participants in advance.
POST CONGRESS TOUR
DUBROVNIK Friday, 5 October – Tuesday, 9 October, 2001
Friday, 5 October
Departure from Zagreb for Dubrovnik in the morning by airplane
Guided tour of the city
Evening – Reception offered by the Mayor of Dubrovnik
Saturday, 6 October
Art Gallery Dubrovnik – Round table discussion
Theme: AICA Strategies for the 21st century
Visit to Cavtat and Konavle
Sunday, 7 October
Excursion by boat to Korèula ( Southern Adriatic Island), Ston and Trsteno
Monday, 8 October
Excursion by boat to the Elafiti Islands
Evening – Farewell party at Lazareti, Dubrovnik
Tuesday, 9 October
Departure from Dubrovnik to Zagreb in the morning by airplane
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Organizing board of XXXV AICA Congress in Croatia invites members as well as non-members of AICA to submit the papers related to the Congress theme. The applicants are asked to send:
– name, address, phone and fax numbers, e-mail address
– an abstract of the paper (maximum length 500 words)
– short biography (maximum length 200 words)
Deadline for the submition is May 30, 2001
The selection of the papers will be made by the working group of the Congress.
Sending address and all additional information:
CROATIAN SECTION AICA
Katarinin trg 2
Tel. +385 1 4851808
Fax. +385 1 4851977
Contact persons: Ms. Leonida Kovaè, Mr. Berislav Valusek and Ms. Jadranka Vinterhalter