DISTRUST THE STORYTELLER #1
Artists: Doplgenger (Isidora Ilić, Boško Prostran), Marko Tadić, Ivan Ramljak, Tilmann Meyer-Faje, Vlado Danailov/Mila Dimitrovska
Gallery VN, Zagreb, Ilica 163A, December 22 – January 19, 2021
“You should be as distrustful of images as you are of words”
When describing the turning point in his film experience as a viewer, film director Michael Haneke pointed to the simple gesture of the main film character in the middle of a movie chase suddenly turning to face the camera, i.e. the viewers, and addressing a few offhand remarks to them. That moment, claims Haneke, marked for him “the loss of cinematic innocence that would indelibly mark every film he went on to direct“. From then on, he began to distrust the storytellers who claimed to be serving up real life.
Another filmmaker, Harun Farocki, both in his work and in his theoretical reflections, strives to analyse the ways moving images and cameras imbricate with our everyday lives. His works tend to denaturalise moving images. His films always engage his own powers of critical analysis and elicit his viewer to do the same.
Re-examining the politics of media images that had been instrumental in developing the historical narratives in the region of former Yugoslavia between 1980 and 2000, the period marked by a sequence of changes in social relations, an economic and political crisis and the events that contributed to the breakup of Yugoslavia, informs the art practice of the Belgrade-based duo Doplgenger. According to them, those constructed media images, as an important ideological state apparatus, served as a base for constructing personal and then collective memory. The question they ask themselves as a (post-) Yugoslav generation is: how did we and how do we still react to variously opposing “montages of memories” to which we were and still are exposed?
Somewhere in between those reference points lies the idea for the exhibition transposed in a concrete physical space and concrete historical/political context in which images and stories take part in actual knowledge production, on the field of the current battle for the interpretation of the socialist Yugoslav heritage. We are increasingly aware of theprocesseswhich Florian Beiber calls “methodological nationalism”and whichconcern the “construction of reality” by reading history backwards. This approach, characterized by the act of re-interpreting recent historical events from the perspective of newly established nation-states, contains a certain degree of manipulation of past events in order to establish so-called “national histories”.
In this context, we want to look at another relationship, that between mid-20thcentury architecture, i.e. the built environment from the period of socialist Yugoslavia,and the media (film, video) image as one of the channels of their current representation and (re) interpretation. The exhibition presents several works created in the artistic residence of the Motel Trogir project or in dialogue with it. Since the modernist architecture of the mentioned period is material evidence, a witness to a political economy with different foundations and aspirations than today, such an environment is largely inadmissible in the current logic of space production. Despite the occasional fascination with forms, it is perceived more as an abnormal error in the urban imagination of new administrators, developers and entrepreneurs. This is one of the reasons why instances of it are increasingly being removed or left to decay, as economically unjustified and “unsustainable”. Somehow in parallel with activist initiatives to try to preserve and revalue it, modern architecture from the socialist period is increasingly becoming the subject of interest of contemporary artistic practices, especially in the media of photography, video and film. Although the topic is present and has previously crucially marked the developmentof individual, internationally recognized artists from this area, their recent proliferation opens up a number of new questions. How is the image of architecture and environments that belong to a different social and spatial paradigm currently being created on film? What are the modalities of their (media) interpretation? What is the politics of these images and what role do they play in the current representation, historicization and (re) interpretation of Yugoslav socialist past? This exhibition is just an exercise in ‘engaged (film) watching’.
ABOUT THE ART WORKS & AUTHORS
Doplgenger: A RECORD OF LANDSCAPE WITHOUT PREHISTORY
Video│HD Video (16:9) │ 14’ 22″ │ color │ stereo │ 2020
The starting point for the video is a circular building of the former Children’s Maritime Health Resort, one of the dilapidated architectural masterpieces built in the 1960s, designed by architect Rikard Marasović. The building is situated in Krvavica, a small, picturesque village three kilometres west of Makarska. Built in times when Croatia was part of the socialist Yugoslavia, it was part of the military infrastructure, but its main purpose was the treatment and recovery of children suffering from respiratory diseases. According to researchers, for some time, it was somehow ‘hidden’ or at least out of the focus of architectural interest. During the war in Yugoslavia, the building was used for sheltering refugees from war-stricken areas. In the second half of the 1990s, it was “demilitarized”, but had a similar destiny like numerous other former military facilities; it was left to the local communities, privatization funds and public institutions, which led to its gradual devastation. All this needs to be observed in the light of the so-called “transition“ and rejection of the heritage of Yugoslav socialism.
Building a narrative in an epistolary form, uttered in a female voice, the Doplgenger film opens up a fragment from the life of a woman who spends time at the sea. Through an intimate letter from a vacation, the story unfolds in an indefinite time frame. Autumn days on the beach are intertwined with ominousness and a hidden tension. Time breaks down as the story unfolds, its determinants change with the instability of the words which describe it. The film dissolves the (linearity of) time, but also of meaning, destroying the structure of spoken language, as well as the very materiality of the film.
Doplgenger is an artist duo from Belgrade, comprising Isidora Ilić and Boško Prostran. Doplgenger engages as a film/video artist, researcher, writer, and curator. The work of Doplgenger deals with the relation between art and politics by exploring the regimes of moving images and the modes of their reception.
Marko Tadić: EVENTS MEANT TO BE FORGOTTEN
Film│stop motion, color , 6’│2020
Filmed on 16mm film, this visual expression is rooted in its archival materials and backed up by the poem by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. It speaks of the forgotten people, their lives and their deeds. These two Archives have been found on the flea market in Zagreb. One is of a famous architect and the other one is of a famous composer. This film ponders on this occurrence, on the vanishing of and forgetfulness of humans.
Marko Tadić studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence. His artistic practice is in drawing, installation and animation. Winner of numerous art prizes, his works have been exhibited on many solo and group exhibitions around the world. In 2017 along with Tina Gverović he was representing Croatia at the 57th Venice Biennale.
Ivan Ramljak: HOME OF THE RESISTANCE
The home of the resistance of the national liberation war and the youth of Yugoslavia was built in 1974 in Kumrovec according to the project of architects Berislav Šerbetić and Ivan Filipčić. In the early 1990s, the Home was closed and to this day no new purpose has been found. With a static camera, the director analyzes the empty spaces of the Home, which is today without functions, but still maintained.
Ivan Ramljak is a film editor, critic and independent curator. In 2018, he finished a master’s degree in documentary film directing at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb.
Tilmann Meyer- Faje: DECAY OF THE FUTURE
Video documentation, Timelapse│ 2020
In his work Tilmann Meyer- Faje focuses on the failure of the industrial processes. With his ceramic artworks he replicates contemporary constructions from our highly developed civilization and anticipates their decay. He focuses on the failure of utopian urban dreams. In addition to his interventions in Dutch cities, he also dealt with the urbanization of the Soviet Union, and this is his first work related to the modernist heritage of Yugoslavia. The model of the architect Ivan Vitić’s Trogir motel made of clay was subjected to subtle but definite dis-aggregation and thus slowly disappearing. The process was filmed while being set in public space of Trogir, in February 2020.
Tilmann Meyer Faje is a Dutch/German artist who works and lives in Amsterdam, where he graduated in 2000 from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and in 2004 from the Sandberg Institute.
Vlado Danailov/ Mila Dimitrovska: ARHI.TEK pamphlet
HYBRID LANDSCAPE. A research report │2020
Motel Trogir was built in 1965 and designed by one of the leading architects of the Socialist Yugoslavia – Ivan Vitić. It is situated at the western entrance to the city of Trogir on the Adriatic coast. Built at a time when the character of tourism in Trogir was mostly transitory, the motel was conceived in parallel with the construction of the Adriatic Highway. At the time it was seen “as one of the “performative” elements that would fit into the utopian vision of this road imagined as a feature film that would be “shown to the passengers on the screen of their car window.”
In an attempt to explore one part of the Adriatic Coast as a space-time continuum, Vlado Danailov and Mila Dimitrovska ask: how do we move beyond our own anthropocentric world, including all species to whom the land belongs? What kind of scenery can encompass both humans and non-humans while preserving the modernist legacy? The project is inspired by the spontaneous landscape in and around motel Trogir, a condition that shines a light towards a new possible place-making approach. It can be perceived as an investigation of the coast and the motel that resulted in an imaginative homage to a park and an elevated path. The work is still in progress.
Vlado Danailov is an architect and researcher. After obtaining his Master degree from the Faculty of Architecture in Skopje, Vlado was enrolled as a researcher at Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design in Moscow (2013/2014). Together with Mila Dimitrovska he founded and edited ARHI.TEK / АРХИ.ТЕК, free monthly pamphlet publication at AFS Faculty of Architecture Skopje, opening a space for critical reflection on different topics concerning architectural profession and the wider cultural context that concern our time and space.
Curator: Nataša Bodrožić (Loose Associations/Motel Trogir project)
Researchers: Antonia Vodanović, Ivan Huljev
“Minister of Fear”, article by John Wray, September 23rd, 2007 https://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/23/magazine/23haneke-t.html
“Images of Past as Images for the Future”, text by Isidora Ilić and Boško Prostran in Modelling public space(s) in culture. Rethinking Institutional Practices in Culture and Historical (Dis)Continuities, Lokomotiva, Skopje, 2018
Methodological nationalism is manifested in imposing the nation or the framework of the nation-state as a unit of analysis. For example, in textbooks in the post-Yugoslav republics,the history of a nation-state is often discussed as it were the only historically sustainable unit of analysis, a natural or inevitable phenomenon.Florian Beiber, Debating Nationalism: The Global Spread of Nations, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2020
Levan Asabashvili inMotel Trogir: It is not future that always comes after, ed. Nataša Bodrožić and Saša Šimpraga, Slobodne veze/Onomatopee, 2016
The practice of David Maljković is certainly one of the examples.
On the one hand, it can be argued that the increased interest of artists in these themes is related to local activist endeavors and their own contribution to preserving (or questioning) the structural frameworks and landscapes of collective memory. On the other hand, it can be argued that it is the result of a general, global trend and a somewhat waning interest in socialist (and ‘brutalist’) architecture andofa depoliticized multiplication of decontextualized images.
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The Motel Trogir project in 2020 is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia and the Kultura Nova foundation.