Seminar Series: ART FOR COLLECTIVE USE: MONUMENT, PERFORMANCE, RITUAL, BODY

Seminar Series: ART FOR COLLECTIVE USE: 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.

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 eventsfrom 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

For the full program visit: http://www.igorzabel.org/en/event-detail/205_Art+for+Collective+Use+Monument%2C+Performance%2C+Ritual%2C+Body