Issue 2: (Non)Artistic Practices
From The Citizens to Their City (2/2)

Issue 2: (Non)Artistic Practices

The Second Issue of GSG Magazine focuses on artistic and non-artistic practices aimed at developing social cohesion and strengthening disadvantaged communities.

Iva Kovač has been a visual artist at fokusgrupa.net since 2012, an editor at GSG magazine, and a curator at gsg.hr since 2017. She was the curator at PM Gallery in Zagreb from 2010 to 2012 and at SIZ Gallery in Rijeka from 2013 to 2015.
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This is the Second Issue of GSG Magazine, a publication of Inicijativa Građanke Svom Gradu (GSG), the From the Citizens to Their City Initiative. This issue focuses on artistic and non-artistic practices aimed at developing social cohesion and strengthening disadvantaged communities.

Since its beginning, GSG has been trying to establish itself as a platform for linking artistic practices with the community. With its initial projects, such as the From the Citizens to Their City pilot project that launched our name in late 2016, GSG has been focusing on the the centre of Sušak—part of the larger city of Rijeka in Croatia. Building on that experience, we implemented the Misliti zajednicu [Thinking Community] series of talks and presentations in the spring of 2017, through which we learned about various initiatives in Rijeka and its surroundings. In 2018, following a public call, we initiated artistic productions under the umbrella name Invisible Barriers—Visible Shifts. At the end of the same year, the first two out of the five selected projects were presented. Tajči Čekada’s video work Sa o Roma, Rijeka Grade [Sa o Roma, Rijeka City], in collaboration with the members of the Roma community, thematised the current topic of Roma emigration to “the West.” The Belgrade collective Tačka komunikacije [Communication Point], in collaboration with the micro-communities of Sušak, explored the transformations of the city told from personal perspectives, and organized the walk Neispričani Sušak [Untold Sušak]. Both projects were presented during the second Misliti zajednicu edition that extended to include (non)artistic organizations and initiatives in Croatia and Serbia.

In the first text of this issue of GSG Magazine, Sherif Rushdy writes about the methods of work in communities and the education of future managers from his position as a community development manager, as well as touching on the importance of using artistic methods for developing social cohesion and imagining future models of coexistence. When he talks about art, Rushdy is not talking about the discipline practiced by trained or amateur artists. He discusses techniques employed in many areas of life that open up communication channels which would otherwise remain unexplored. He lists various methods of working with communities, such as Freire’s generative word technique, catalyst theatre, and the use of drawings or mapping a territory. By engaging in education, Rushdy has contributed to transmitting community development knowledge, which he also describes using the example of The New Era Development Institute in India.

Art historian Irena Borić has prepared an interview with Maja Hodošček, a visual artist and educator. Hodošček talks about her practice that is closely related to education and which she carries out through educational institutions or workshops in cultural institutions. Through workshops with high school students she tries to infiltrate the existing educational system and raises questions that will encourage young people to become active members of society. She wants to inspire a collective sense among youth as well as introduce social and political topics in the field of education through contemporary art. Along these lines, among other topics Hodošček also recalls the Non-Aligned Movement as the third option in the extremely polarized Cold War world, as well as the Partisan school as a form of resistance to the occupation of Slovenia during World War Two. Hodošček contemplates the political background behind the decision to have such topics either completely erased from the curriculum, or presented in a one-dimensional manner and interpreted from a colonial perspective.

The text by art historians Ivana Hanaček and Ana Kutleša, “Learning from Zemlja,” includes the discussion of a long historical period starting from the time between the two world wars to today. The authors point to the paradigmatic difference between the art practices of the first half of the 20th century, which were directly related to political movements, and present-day practices that are often focused on general values and do not side with concrete political programs, putting into question the effectiveness of the values on which they are based. By pointing to the basic postulates of the Zemlja members, the authors are looking for the reflection of their ideology in the new Yugoslavia where, immediately following the Second World War, during the time of the National Front, it seemed as if this ideology briefly experienced its realization only to become parole [just words] yet again.

The contribution of the Belgrade-based duo KURS, selected through the public call Invisible Barriers – Visible Shifts, is the first elaboration of their proposal for a public intervention in Rijeka. The proposal is based on a number of archival photographs. It covers the history of the location and sometimes emphasizes even mundane gestures that point to the necessity of action through the collective effort for the benefit of the community.

The introduction to the magazine is accompanied by short texts in our first response (“The Fight Continues!”) that remind us of the socially engaged art practices of some artists who are dear to us, and the illustrations by Ana Tomić and Marino Krstačić-Furić who were also responsible for the GSG Magazine design. The texts first accompanied posters created by Rafaela Dražić which were used to launch the visual identity of From the Citizens to Their City and to celebrate International Workers’ Day.

Jump to Response

Iva Kovač
Sherif Rushdy
Sherif Rushdy
Maja Hodoscek
Maja Hodošček
Ana Kutlesa
Ana Kutlesa
Ivana Hanacek
Ivana Hanacek
KURS
KURS

Iva Kovač has been a visual artist at fokusgrupa.net since 2012, an editor at GSG magazine, and a curator at gsg.hr since 2017. She was the curator at PM Gallery in Zagreb from 2010 to 2012 and at SIZ Gallery in Rijeka from 2013 to 2015.

The Fight Continues!

In the year 2000 in Zagreb Andreja Kulunčić launched the project Nama: 1908 Employees, 15 Department Stores, designed as a public awareness raising campaign about the difficult situation faced by the formerly prominent Nama department store chain. Since the early 2000s when it went bankrupt, to date, Nama was reduced to only two department stores in Zagreb. After an interview with trade union representatives, workers and sales personnel, Kulunčić designed a number of public posters featuring the real Nama employees whose economic security was brought into question, and whose portraits on the posters warned about the serious state of affairs within the company. Happy International Workers’ Day! The fight continues!

Between 1973 and 1975 Margaret Harrison, Kay Hunt and Mary Kelly worked on the project Women & Work: A Document On the Division Of Labour In Industry in which they engaged in a comprehensive study of “female“ work using the example of workers in a metallurgical plant in London. The study, which aimed to test the implementation of the recently adopted Equal Pay Act, showed that women mostly worked in lower-paid positions and, along with the working hours in the industry, they had disproportionately more hours of unpaid housework than their male colleagues. The project developed from the Women’s Workshop of the Artist’s Union with the aim to solidarize the female workers in the industry and culture. Happy International Workers’ Day! The fight continues!

In 1995 Harun Farocki made Workers Leaving the Factory, a documentary taking us through numerous film scenes of workers leaving factories. Starting with the film of Lumière brothers, the first film ever made, Farocki criticized the distribution of wealth and power resulting from capitalist labour relations. Using Farocki’s film as inspiration, the performance collective BADco. created a piece titled “1 poor and one 0” in 2008. While referring to the topic of representation of labour on film, BADco. also touched upon the question of body movement in physical labour. Fast forward through the history of film and we come to the issue of contemporary post-industrial work and leisure time. Happy International Workers’ Day! The fight continues!

In 1972 Krsto Papić made a short documentary titled “Special Trains.” The film followed the fate of workers travelling from the former Yugoslavia to temporary employment in West Germany. In 1968 Yugoslavia and Germany signed the Guest Worker Agreement, which led to mass organized work migrations to West Germany. The film’s plot took place on one of the “special trains“ that used to take workers from Zagreb to Munich. Although the employers in Germany, allegedly, greatly appreciated the work of Yugoslav workers, the workers interviewed on the train were reluctant to leave, and saw the migration to the north as a necessity. Happy International Workers’ Day! The fight continues!


Sherif Rushdy holds a master’s degree in systems science and international development. He has 40 years experience in professional and volunteer engagement in community development and consulting work in local, national, and international social and economic development projects across four continents.

Art and Social Change – A personal perspective

Whether visual, performative or literary, the arts have always, consciously or unconsciously, been powerful instruments of social change. Over the past few decades, art that is engaged in social change—known alternatively as community-based art, socially engaged art, or participatory art—has become the object of much study that has been formalised through academic programs.[1]

There are two general approaches to discussing the role of the arts in social change: the perspective of the artist wishing to contribute to social change, and the perspective of the agent of social change wishing to use the arts to enhance that action—with, of course, some overlap between the two.

I will not approach the question of arts employment in social change from the perspective of an artist. My perspective is one of having engaged, for the past 40 years, in social and economic development processes in three continents, at both the grassroot and higher levels, and of having trained many cohorts of community development facilitators. Here I will discuss how in my direct experience, creative or artistic processes have been used in these development activities, and I will also offer some reflections on the larger context of urgently-needed social change and the fundamental role that art can play in it.

There are many ways in which the arts are used at various stages of community development. Community development is a process that involves understanding the reality of a community, exploring issues together, raising awareness about identified issues, conveying that awareness to others, building unity and mobilizing people for action, visualizing alternative futures or courses of action, changing attitudes and behaviours, empowering people to act and building their capacity to do so, organizing and planning for action, and evaluating and reflecting on that action. After the initial engagement, which includes the sequence of consulting on an issue, deciding on and implementing an action plan, reflecting on the results of the action and learning from this reflection, reopening the discussion in light of that learning at a deeper level can lead participants into in progressively more complex, sophisticated and far reaching action, a movement propelled forward by a series of cycles of consultation, action, and reflection.

The first step of community engagement is often a collective exploration of its history and its issues. While drawing a map of a village or neighborhood or laying out a timeline either on the ground or on paper using a variety of materials is not exactly producing a work of art, these activities do allow for a dynamic interaction among participants free from the inhibitions of formal interviews or focus group discussions. The so-called product does generate useful information, but much more information is unconsciously generated by the comments, conversations, discussions, and arguments that happen during the activity.

Raising awareness can take many forms and is often another prerequisite to community action. One activity often used is to ask communities to draw a collective picture of their community as they currently see it and then another as they would like it to be. Typically, the picture that reflects the current situation is not very pretty and focuses on the negative, whereas the future one looks like a mega-city with skyscrapers, satellite dishes, airplanes, tractors, power plants and so on—a lot of material goods, symbols of narrow economic progress. Generally, neither picture includes people. A discussion may then follow about why the community drew the posters in this way, and whether they think they would be happier in this imagined future community, if they know of similar places, and if they think people are happy there. In general, the discussion leads to the conclusion that development is about changing people, not things. When asked to draw a third poster after this discussion, it is often full of people working together in unity!

Once awareness is raised about the need for people to change, it is the beginning of a whole new reflection about what must change, how we can improve as people or as a society, and what it takes for people and social systems to change. And here again there can be many different forms of artistic activity that illustrate visions of change, the obstacles to change, or the processes of change using visual, performative, or literary arts.

In terms of consciousness-raising and mobilization for action, a powerful approach to adult literacy based on Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed[2] is the “generative word” technique. He found that illiterate adults are much more likely to engage in the difficult process of acquiring literacy if they are first emotionally engaged in a discussion of powerful words related to their reality—words like work, water, equality, justice, and prosperity, for instance. The curriculum includes a carefully constructed list of such words that cumulatively contain all the letters of the alphabet. Each set of lessons is structured around a word or theme, often illustrated by a picture, and sometimes even acted out. The experience can also be enhanced by composing poems or songs and telling stories that relate to each of the themes. The literacy program, then, ignited by the evocative power of words, goes well beyond literacy and transforms into a program of social change.

Once a small group of people has begun a process of change, they are usually faced with the task of conveying this needed change to others and, in turn, mobilizing them for action. Theatre is a powerful medium for achieving this; it allows the audience to laugh about themselves while highlighting undesirable behaviours, but without directly criticizing the audience. This is an age-old form of social consciousness-raising (I was brought up with the fables of LaFontaine and plays of Molière). But it is not sufficient to just perform a play. A more successful form of theatre for social change is “catalyst theatre”[3] or variations thereof, in which a play stops after presenting a problem and the audience has to choose one of several alternative pathways (pre-rehearsed possible solutions) that are played and “rewound” if they do not lead to a desired outcome. In many countries, various forms of drama are used in consciousness-raising and behaviour modification for HIV/AIDS education, sexual and gender-based violence, gender equality, prejudice, corruption and the like.

Similarly, groups of youth have used specially choreographed dances to convey messages about prejudice, alcohol and drug abuse, conflict, peace building, and equality, and to initiate a dialogue about the issues in order to effect changes in attitudes and behaviours. For example, a dance choreographed and performed by students in the Maxwell Dance Workshop[4] illustrated the effect of the racist attitudes of parents on their children and how the children can help overcome these barriers. The dance was replicated in many countries in many different contexts and is usually followed by a discussion with the audience about how to overcome prejudice in their communities.

Stories have always been used as an educational tool to inspire, motivate, and change behaviour. Storytelling becomes more transformative when the participants, particularly youth, co-create the story, either as a story or as verse, song, or film. A particularly effective approach to empowering young adolescents, in my experience, has been Rap Camp,[5] where in a workshop setting, adolescents, often marginalized, discuss the issues that affect them, turn them into verse, compose music, perform and record a rap song, sometimes with video, and perform it for their peers, parents or community. Testimonials abound of the highly emotional, transformative nature of the experience for these youth and it empowers them to begin taking systematic action for change.

A program I helped establish and develop in India[6] trained unemployed rural youth from all over the country as “teacher-developers.” Half their intensive residential two-year program is teacher training and half is community development. They were expected to return to their communities and use schools as a base for community development, engaging these communities in all the stages of the community development process described above.[7] Their training provided the experience they then attempted to replicate in the community. As part of their training, they must become imbued with the messages they wish to convey and learn how to convey them. For example, students are grouped in small diverse training communities and they must learn to overcome differences and create unity among themselves and transform their own training community. Here the arts become an integral part of the capacity-building process. Once a community is formed, its first task is to select a meaningful name for their community (preferably a quality that is needed for development, such as trustworthiness, courage, patience, humility, unity, or justice) and to create a program that illustrates it to the rest of the student body using as many forms of art as possible, without saying or writing the selected name. Others must guess it from their performance. The all-important skills in the cycle of consultation, action, and reflection as described above are learned first in the context of this initial simple artistic activity. The power of the arts to convey important themes is experienced first hand. The creativity of usually shy individuals lacking confidence is immediately released and they feel empowered. The group is unified in the course of the activity and establishes strong bonds of friendship and cooperation (or their egos are challenged, and they learn about cooperation the hard way). They carefully evaluate this first activity and from it learn how to organize their community and help it grow. Individuals also engage in self-reflection in light of the qualities they need to acquire to be effective change agents and begin a process of personal change rooted in the collective process of social change.

Following this early experience, every day a small group from each of the training communities prepares a small program for the morning assembly in order to convey one point they see as important using any form of art. This extends their individual empowerment, develops their creativity and self-confidence, reinforces collective learning about the themes, and prepares them for the task of engaging real communities in this process. Cooperative songs and cooperative story- telling are used regularly to review and evaluate progress. Regular “cultural days” where the entire student body experiences various aspects of one of the cultures represented in the group help students to understand the power of culture in social change and to overcome prejudices about cultural differences.

Culture underlies all forms of social change, often resisting it. Social change processes must identify elements of culture that are conducive to change and help move those forward while identifying and addressing elements that will resist social change. For example, the Four Worlds Project[8] in Canada arose out of the desire of Indigenous elders to fight the social devastation brought on by alcohol, poverty, and an increasing sense of powerlessness in Indigenous communities. The name Four Worlds is based on the powerful cultural and spiritual significance of the Medicine Wheel, a symbol common to many Indigenous cultures. The Medicine Wheel is usually a circle with four cardinal points, each representing an element or power in a journey of personal and collective development, with a multiplicity of layers of meaning related to each point and its connection to all the others. For example, one such set associates East with vision (awareness/seeing), South with time (understanding), West with reason (thinking) and North with movement (action/wisdom).[9] Tapping into these cultural roots has helped the Four Worlds Project to develop processes and materials based on the layers of wisdom, interconnectedness, and action found in the Medicine Wheel as well as on ancient stories and legends. This connection works to inspire and empower Indigenous youth to engage in a sustainable path of development by, for example, using the Medicine Wheel as a mirror which reflects not only what a person is, but also what they might become.

Various uses of arts in social change processes have been analysed and classified in ways that reflect the above examples.[10] In most of these examples, the arts are used informally. They are not centered on an artist as we normally understand the term. The value of the arts in this case is not the art itself, but the dynamics that a collective artistic activity allows. The interactions during the process are as important, if not more important, than the product.

There are also many ways in which art practiced by trained artists is used in social change, and these are well documented in the growing literature on social art or engaged art. As when the arts are used in various stages of community development, artists who use their art for social change are working to raise awareness, to inspire, and to incite to action, with the main difference being that the art and the artist are more formal and more central to the process. The challenge for the artist, who is usually trained to project his or her individuality or talent onto the world stage and compete for attention, is to adopt a humbler posture of learning and promote the leadership of the participants. It cannot be art for the people, it must become art by the people. The participants are not an audience, they are the actors. But the need to learn how to facilitate dialogue and translate the experience into action are the same. These skills need to be acquired by the artist.

Beyond the instrumental roles for art described above, there is a much more fundamental role that art can play in social change. We live in a time of global environmental, social, and economic crisis due to the fact that humankind as a whole has come of age, while our vision, thoughts, and habits are not in harmony with the needs of age. The problems we face today cannot be addressed without profound personal and social transformation—and the calls for such transformation are increasingly widespread and insistent. A key ingredient in this transformation is the capacity to change the image we have of ourselves as human beings and to imagine alternative futures. Imagination is the most powerful faculty of the mind. Everything we perceive is imagined before it is understood and stored in memory. We cannot change if we cannot imagine ourselves as different beings, with different powers and with different relationships with others and with the world around us.

Art stimulates and frees our imagination. It helps create a new reality. The world we wish to create requires social innovation, and creativity is key to social innovation. Not only does art have the capacity to inspire and stimulate action, but creativity in the arts can also spill over into creativity in addressing social issues beyond engagement with the arts.

It is therefore essential that the two perspectives mentioned here be brought together in one unified systematic change process. Artists can play a critical role in helping to release this creativity for social change, but they need to learn the ways of the change agent. On the other hand, change agents need to go beyond the superficial, instrumental use of art and learn how to engage artists and the power of the arts to achieve a much deeper level of personal and social transformation.


Endnotes

[1] Frasz A. & Sidford H. (2017). Mapping the Landscape of Socially Engaged Artistic Practice. Helicon Collaborative, artmakingchange.org, retrieved September 28, 2018, from http://artmakingchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Mapping_the_Landscape_of_Socially_Engaged_Artistic_Practice_Sept2017.pdf

[2] Retrieved September 28, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy_of_the_Oppressed

[3] See http://www.canadiantheatre.com/dict.pl?term=Catalyst%20Theatre, retrieved September 28, 2018.

[4] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7ldHxrOLC4, retrieved September 28, 2018.

[5] See http://therapcamp.org/, retrieved September 28, 2018.

[6] The New Era Development Institute, now New Era Teacher Training Centre, retrieved September 28, 2018 from https://www.nettcindia.org/

[7] Understanding the reality of a community, exploring issues together, awareness-raising about identified issues, conveying awareness to others, building unity and mobilizing people for action, visualizing alternative futures or courses of action, changing attitudes and behaviours, empowering people to act and building their capacity to do so, organizing and planning for action, and evaluation and reflection on that action

[8] Retrieved September 28, 2018, from http://www.fourworlds.ca/

[9] See for example: https://www.edcan.ca/articles/teaching-by-the-medicine-wheel/, retrieved September 28, 2018

[10] See for example Art and Civic Engagement: Mapping the Connections A Tool Of The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Mn

Retrieved September 28, 2018, from http://animatingdemocracy.org/sites/default/files/documents/resources/tools/art_civic_engagement_walker_art_center.pdf and [Korza P. & Bacon B.S. (2011). Artists Engaging in Social Change: A Continuum of Impact. Retrieved September 28, 2018, from http://animatingdemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Power%20of%20Arts%20for%20Change%20outcomes%20continuum.pdf


Maja Hodošček (1984) is an artist, pedagogue, curator, and researcher. She makes video works, installations, and book projects as well as initiates various workshops. She completed her MA at the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem, NL.

A Parallel Education Program

Maja Hodošček’s interview is based on her recent video works which were preceded by various collaboration processes with high school students. Hodošček (1984, Slovenia) works at the intersection of art, education, and everyday life, creating videos and installations and facilitating workshops. Her work focuses on different concepts of learning as well as on policies and methods of knowledge production. She often constructs situations that promote non-identification with imposed roles, self-awareness, and temporary alliances. In March, 2019, she participated in the artist residency at Tabakalera—International Centre for Contemporary Culture in San Sebastián, Spain.


Irena Borić: For years, the classroom has been the venue for your artistic interventions. Regardless of your role—be it as a cameraperson, moderator, or director—the created video works, presented in a gallery space, are often preceded by months of group meetings at schools. Why is it important to you to go to schools to talk about specific socio-political contexts?

Maja Hodošček: I come from a pedagogical background. I have combined my interest in education and contemporary visual art and it seemed completely logical that I should work with schools. One of the reasons is that in public schools, certain socio-political issues are not sufficiently represented in terms of encouraging the active role of citizens. It seems to me that by introducing certain political topics through art we can stimulate this social potential. Students’ active participation creates a space for their voices to be heard. The second reason is that contemporary art is rarely part of the curriculum or is not represented at all. This intervention is also meaningful because it familiarizes students with contemporary art practices.

IB: You mentioned that you have a background in art pedagogy, but where does your interest in education come from? Why do you see the field of education as a space that provides the possibility of change?

MH: Actually, this stems from a personal frustration because I also attended a public school where I realized that this type of structure does not enable participation in the sense of allowing one to truly participate in everyday life or in a wider social context. In my experience, in Slovenia where I come from, public schools are very rigid and narrow-minded institutions that primarily support neoliberal ideology, the primary focus of which is on the individual and their own success within the reward system, such as grading. I see artistic intervention as offering the potential for change because it activates students in a different way—it is more oriented towards collaboration and group dynamics, and thus it questions, or problematizes, the limitations of the school model.

IB: Unlike the dominant neoliberal pattern that emphasizes the role of the individual, when you enter a classroom you insist on the student collaboration. Do you see the classroom as a kind of community and if so, why?

MH: I insist on the collaboration between students because the entire system is conceived in such a way that from the very beginning of their schooling, students are socialized through the prism of the individual. In the narrow sense I see the classroom as a group of students with whom I work and therefore I do see it as a kind of community, but it is not homogenous by any means. It contains different positions, views, and ultimately interests, i.e. it is not a community with a common goal and it does not follow some self-initiated program. It is temporary, existing only as long as there is an external stimulus. I am mostly interested in how to act in a diverse context, within a heterogeneous community. I’m interested in how group dynamics work and whether we even talk about community as being together but separate.

Three young people watch as a fourth writes words on a blackboard. The word "community" can be seen in the centre.
Community

IB: I would like to reflect on the specific workshops you have held with high school students, and I am particularly interested in Dreaming Society, 2015. Can you tell us more about the concept of this project?

MH: The idea for Dreaming Society emerged from my earlier video work We Need a Title, 2014. The video was created in a high school in Celje, Slovenia, in collaboration with the school debate club. It was the result of an intensive six-month parallel education program with a conceptual starting point in the Non-Aligned Movement,[1] more specifically the photo archive of the Movement, which is part of the collection of the Museum of the History of Yugoslavia. With a group of students from the debate club I went through the archive and we studied the context in which it was created as well as other materials relating to the period, which are not part of the school curriculum. For example, we watched the experimental movies of the Black Wave[2] and beyond, we read poetry. In the end, we decided to write a collective poem, and this was a challenge for the debate group members who are otherwise very self-confident in their role as speakers, i.e. as people skilled in argumentation. The video We Need a Title shows the process of conceiving a collective poem. During this process, the motif of dreams in the poem caused an internal conflict within the group and after a joint discussion they decided that dreams held no potential and dismissed them. I was surprised by this because I see dreams as a mechanism that enables hope, a sort of motivation or positive outlook on the future. I thus wanted to problematize the idea of dreams through the workshop form and this is how the idea of Dreaming Society came to be. This is basically the general idea for the workshops I run, not in schools but in art institutions like museum and galleries. The last such workshop was held in the Prozori Gallery in Zagreb, Croatia, where, together with a group of students, I conceived of a collective poem which the students performed in the end. The workshops question ideas that might be seen as utopian which try to reflect on social issues collectively. For example, we create diagrams that focus on the issue of community or we practice critical writing to comment on the diagrams. In the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ljubljana, Slovenia, we created experimental videos and organized screenings for the audience. The entire model is very experimental because working conditions are different when I hold workshops within art institutions; for example, there is a time limit, which is both a challenge and a problem.

Five students bounce across a crosswalk on large inflated balls.
The Dreaming Society

IB: Can you tell us more about the methods you use in your workshops in order to achieve a collective experience?

MH: My theoretical framework is derived from the tradition of radical criticism of education by Paulo Freire and bell hooks for whom the basic method of education lies in dialogue. Dialogue is always the starting point of my process at which point the students and I jointly decide on the final production. I open the dialogue with the question why, so we start with reflection, but in the last stage we are guided by the question how, i.e. in which way can we reflect and learn together? I would say that the works emphasize potential student-oriented pedagogical approaches. The second method that is very important to me is experiment; I am trying to put the students I work with in situations or in roles that are unfamiliar to them, but which require them to give a creative response. In this way I create conditions for collaboration, improvisation, mistakes, and opportunity. It is very important that my role be as subtle as possible and that the process be managed by the students. Because of this, the results are never predictable.

A woman writes "searching" on a blackboard, which is part of a larger web of words.
Community

IB: As you have mentioned, while creating the work We Need a Title you had access to the archive of the Non-Aligned Movement at the Museum of History of Yugoslavia. However, the archival material did not become part of a visual representation of the work, but was used as a basis for engaging students in dialogue. What led you from the archive of the Non-Aligned Movement to the classroom?

MH: One of the starting points for me was the history textbooks that are used in high schools. I reviewed the textbooks used at the time of Yugoslavia and the ones used today. The present-day textbooks do not cover the Non-Aligned Movement at all. That is, they do cover it, but in a very problematic way that is informed by a colonial view according to which when African countries gained independence this created an unstable third world in need of help. In this way, the Non-Aligned Movement is denied any legitimate space in the official school curriculum. This is how I came up with the idea to reflect on this topic through some kind of parallel education program. So, the archive was present throughout the process, although it is not visible in the work itself.

IB: In the most recent two works, The Lesson, 2017 and Community, 2017, you continue the practice of working with high school students. The theoretical basis for both works was the example of the Partisan school. What was the Partisan school exactly and why did you find its methods interesting in the context of modern education?

MH: The Partisan school took place in Slovenia in the period between 1942 and 1945 and it was launched as a form of resistance to occupation. This was an elementary school program that was illegally implemented in various spaces, such as in taverns—or out in nature. It was not implemented on school property, but wherever there were at least basic conditions for education. The emphasis was on language, meaning that children were taught Slovenian, which was banned during the German occupation. The Partisan school operated on the principle of self-education because trained teachers were either persecuted or jailed, which resulted in huge teacher shortages. As a result, educators who participated in the resistance movement were, for the most part, amateurs and not trained teachers. Pedagogical courses for teachers were organized in the field. In my work I used materials found in history museums in Celje and Ljubljana, Slovenia, which included correspondences between teachers, notebooks from pedagogical courses, and photographs. The Partisan school is a good example of how education functions in radical circumstances and is a good starting point for reflection on the professor-student relationship. How can we, for example, employ this kind of model now, in a time when radical circumstances also exist but are more abstract—almost invisible? I am interested in how a professor participates in public life; this is also the focus of my recent works. For example, The Lesson shows a school lesson in which the professor and students read the letter of Partisan teacher Vida Drofenik from 1994, which describes the structure of classes in a Partisan school in Ljubno, Slovenia, near the River Savinja. This was supposed to be a German school, but children were taught Slovenian. The school was organised in an abandoned tavern, there were 20 students, and classes took place twice a week. Through reading we tried to analyse how this worked, examining, for example, what the relationship between the teacher and students was based on.

IB: I would like to reflect on your earlier work, If You Remember, I Always Talked About the Future, 2012, a video in which one boy plays [former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz] Tito in front of an empty hall. In this work, once again, you establish the link between the suppressed past and the interpretation of this past by the generation that has never experienced it. What have you achieved by such juxtaposition?

Still from If You Remember, I Always Talked About the Future (2012).

MH: I am interested in reflecting on topics that address a past in which ideas such as solidarity and equality, for instance, were being activated. How can we reflect on these kinds of topics nowadays without a direct, physical experience? It seems that history without experience comes across as some sort of fiction. The video work you mentioned actually shows this dead end, this problem of memory that has never been personal but has always been constructed on the basis of accessible information and contact with archives. How can we articulate certain ideas in this contemporary moment if they cannot be fully reproduced, but need to be reinvented?

Still from If You Remember, I Always Talked About the Future (2012).

IB: You are currently interested in the role of the professor as a public person, participating in public life. How do you see this role and the way it should change since professors are underpaid and generally have poor working conditions? Does this problem require a systemic solution, meaning that the government should take certain measures, or do you think professors should self-educate and take a different approach to teaching?

MH: It is difficult to talk about a solution. In any case, I think that currently the dominant perception of a professor as a type of bureaucrat is problematic. I recently started to explore this and, by collaborating with professors, I would like to look at the question of whether there is a need for schools to participate in public space through the social engagement of their employees. I want to get a sense of how professors see their role in order to be able to think about possible changes. Of course, the basic problem is that the current school system is highly bureaucratic. However, I think there is space within the school for a different way of teaching. And I agree, the idea of self-education is very important, as is the way in which we work together, because the existing system isolates professors—each is in their own classroom, teaching their own subject. I see the development of education as coming through joint learning, and not through isolation in a classroom.

a young woman lies draped over a swing at a playground.
The Dreaming Society

Endnotes

[1] The term Non-Aligned Movement refers to a group of countries that did not align with any Cold-War bloc, but formed their own movement. The 1961 Belgrade Conference is seen as the date of its establishment, although some non-alignment principles had also been presented at previous conferences. The movement was established by Jawaharlal Nehru (Indian Prime Minister), Gamal Abdel Nasser (President of Egypt), Kwame Nkrumah (President of Ghana), Sukarno (President of Indonesia), and Josip Broz Tito (President of Yugoslavia). The basic goals included pursuing political and economic independence from the United States and USSR, preservation of world peace, and mutual cooperation between the non-aligned countries.

[2] Yugoslav Black Wave (also referred to as Black Wave) is a blanket term for a Yugoslav film movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. Retrieved 1.2.2019 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yugoslav_Black_Wave


Ivana Hanaček (1981) is an art historian, researcher, curator and PhD candidate in the Department of Art History, University of Zadar. Since 2010 she has been a member of the curatorial collective BLOK within which she curated the UrbanFestival, and since 2016 she has been co-curating the art and education programme of BAZA.

Ana Kutleša (1985) is an art historian, researcher and curator. Between 2007 and 2011 she worked as an assistant and curator of the exhibitions of younger artists in the Miroslav Kraljević Gallery, and has been a member of the curatorial collective BLOK since 2009.

Learning from Zemlja

Zagreb, February 4th, 1929: Six Zagreb-based artists are being followed by the police as they are headed for a studio at the Academy of Fine Arts, where they are supposed to be having a meeting.[1] Architect Drago Ibler, sculptor Antun Augustinčić, and painters Krsto Hegedušić, Kamilo Ružička, Omer Mujadžić, and Ivan Tabaković decide to take a detour and stop at the bar of the Hotel Esplanade. In this way, by an ironic twist of fate, the first and founding meeting of the Zemlja (land) Association of Artists was held at a popular meeting point of Zagreb’s elite. However, this group of socially engaged artists had their eyes fixed on the other side of the tracks, on the everyday misery of the so-called fourth class, the term they were using in their programmatic texts to refer to the proletariat. They were equally interested in the poorly paid factory workers, who were living in slums south of the railway track, and in the rural proletariat who, owing to the inadequate execution of land reform in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, lived without their own land.

Zemlja was a group of socially engaged artists that, by the time its operation was banned in 1935, included 38 male and female artists in systematic pursuit of an answer to the question, “What is leftist art, created collectively and for the collective?” The ninetieth anniversary of Zemlja’s founding is a good opportunity to reflect on its legacy. From today’s point of view, researching Zemlja leaves us with a twofold impression. First, there is the impression of a historical gap between us and them; them as people connected directly to political parties (mostly the Communist Party) and hounded by police, and us. In this case us refers to people whose creative process takes place in a depoliticized cultural environment in which artistic activity related to social movements and more progressive political formations (or even political parties) is denounced as misplaced propaganda, while social engagement through art rarely attracts the attention of police—at least not in Western liberal democracies. Looking beyond this gap, which encompasses what historian Eric Hobsbawm called “the short Twentieth Century”[2] World War Two, and the time after the collapse of Socialism, we are somewhat surprised by the second impression we get—that of a clear recognition of our present-day preoccupations with the work of members of Zemlja. Terms like participation, community work, and audience development came to us translated from the European Union’s documents in English, and now we have found them in the practices of Zemlja. Weren’t we required to free ourselves from the fetters of politics and put our socialist, “totalitarian” past aside in order to be able to execute EU directives? Trained to think this way, how can we grasp the legacy of Zemlja, whose practice challenges us by being both contemporaneous and radically different at the same time? This paper is an attempt to reflect on Zemlja’s legacy during Socialism from the present-day perspective of the 21st-century’s conditions for cultural production in Europe’s economic periphery.

Oton Postružnik, Guns on the Wall (print). Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb.

1.

The self-organized emergence of Zemlja coincided with dramatic social and political turmoil in Yugoslavia between two world wars, a context that is crucial for the consideration of its artistic engagement. Against the backdrop of limited parliamentarism, King Alexander (Karađorđević) enforced dictatorship in 1929 and with it came many new laws and the tightening of existing legislation. A law on the Protection of the State was adopted in December of 1920 with the aim of restraining the radical democratization of society that was being led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (Komunistička partija Jugoslavije or KPJ).[3] The Great Depression of 1929, whose reach extended towards the periphery of global capital flows in combination with oncoming fascism, further aggravated the already difficult social and political circumstances. In his 1932 essay, “Problem umjetnosti kolektiva” (roughly, “the problem of art of a collective”), Krsto Hegedušić commented that if we take the art of the gentry as right-oriented, there is the issue of how it relates to the left-oriented art, how the visual arts of the fourth class is defined, what its characteristics are, and so on. This is a clear indication of Zemlja’s position on the escalating fight between social classes. The group was developing its artistic idiom in opposition to bourgeois art and individual artists of the bourgeoisie, which were representative of the interests of those in power. Hence, for the first time, in the works of local artists we encounter depictions of the oppressed, of all those people who were invisible in art before late 1920s (or depicted in a highly romanticized fashion): labourers, the landless, women whose cattle is being taken away by authorities, rebellious peasants, the homeless, the labouring female factory workers. While printmaking by the members of Zemlja was preoccupied with the life of urban suburbs, factory work conditions, and strikes,[4] their painting was focused on the issue of peasantry, critically articulated through colour.[5]

It was more than a coincidence that their preoccupation with these subject matters emerged amid increasing anti-regime agitation from peasant and workers’ movements. The ties that certain members of Zemlja had to the left wing of the Croatian Peasants’ Party (Hrvatska seljačka stranka or HSS) and the KPJ must not be overlooked like they previously have been by art historians.[6] Krsto Hegedušić became politically involved during his early youth, while socializing with his relative Kamilo Horvatin, who he called Ujak Milček, and who was one of the key members of the KPJ during the inter-war period. One of the events that Uncle Milček took him to was a political rally at Nova Ves in Zagreb, which inspired one of Hegedušić’s etchings in 1926.[7] However, Hegedušić joined the KPJ only after World War Two, while during the inter-war period he was considered a supporter of HSS’s left wing, unlike his comrades in Zemlja— Marijan Detoni, Ivan Tabaković, Đuro Tiljak, Vilim Svečnjak, and Vanja Radauš—who had already joined the Party by then.[8] We must keep in mind that this was a time when any political activity against the regime was banned, so the KPJ operated illegally. Considering this, it is not surprising that numerous cultural newspapers and journals actually served as tools of covert political action and because of this we are able to trace many links between them and the members of Zemlja.[9]

Zemlja’s engagement went far beyond mere representation; it was aimed at what we would describe as participation. Zemlja members were interested in activism at the grassroots level, working with workers and peasants to awaken their class awareness and politicize them through art. The result was that in our region, Zemlja became a pioneering champion of the radical impulse to make art more democratic. Its members were active in the country (the Hlebine School is a result[10]), in factories, and in trade unions—for example, Radnički slikarski kružok pri građevinskom sindikatu, [The construction workers’ union painting circle]. They collaborated with health workers at the Higijenski zavod [Institute of Hygienics] and leftist architects at Radna grupa Zagreb [Workers group Zagreb], CIAM’s[11] left faction. Peasants, workers, and even children, who were also included in the programme of what was called integral art, were also invited to present their work in exhibitions. In trying to describe Zemlja’s mode of operation in given circumstances, we could paraphrase Mladen Stilinović and say that they were well aware that art always has consequences, particularly when it is firmly intertwined with political activity. The period between the two world wars was when Zemlja’s members and their guests (Vilim Svečnjak, Krsto Hegedušić, and Danilo Raušević, for example) were followed, searched, and detained, while the establishment of the Quisling regime in the form of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska or NDH) was a reason for many of them to join the partisan fighters or uphold the National Liberation Movement and the socialist revolution through the Crvena pomoć (International Red Aid) political organization.

Print of soldiers wearing gas masks
Oton Postružnik, Gas Masks (print). Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb.

After 1945: Tomorrow’s art will be for all, or not at all…

After 1945, many of the principles practiced by Zemlja were officially integrated into the cultural policies of the new state, whereby artists were assigned an exceptionally important role in the institutionalization of the society’s democratic transformation. We can monitor how this complex, but insufficiently studied process was developed by taking as an example the cooperation between the Croatian Association of Visual Artists (Udruga likovnih umjetnika Hrvatske or ULUH) and the National Front. This was a massive post-1945 undertaking aimed at engaging all segments of society in a social and political movement in order to preserve the values secured in the anti-fascist fight. Artists cooperated with the National Front through ULUH’s production sector, which grew into a much more inclusive and democratic environment after 1945. In this way they were making a direct contribution to cultural and artistic education and activation, as well as to the spreading of propaganda and to agitation. In the early post-war period, every ULUH member was required to spend one month a year in the field with the people. Outside the sheltered walls of art galleries, museums, and theatres, they would spend months away from the comfort of their homes, in factories, villages, or on farms, at public works, in streets, and in hospitals, in direct contact with workers and peasants, recording everyday life with their artistic tools and producing so-called decorations (for example, murals in schools, Labour Day march props). From the beginning, the ambitions of their mission went beyond mere observation and representation; they were to make every member of the community as creative as possible and capable of expressing themselves artistically.[12]

The post-war years were also a period of profound transformation in cultural infrastructure, both in terms of democratizing inherited infrastructures and of building and establishing new ones. Museums and theatres of the 19th century were adjusted to demands of the new socialist reality. There was a desire to open institutions to people in the broadest sense of the word and to subordinate their function to the interests of working people. The Croatian National Theatre provides an interesting example in this context. In terms of strategies of this new cultural policy, this theatre decided to introduce regular field work for its actors, so they gave 303 performances for workers outside the theatre building during 1949 alone.[13] However, this does not mean that the theatre building was abandoned. A ticket distribution system was developed, primarily with members of trade unions, National Front-related organisations, youth and workers’ organizations, and the army in mind. To many of these people, this gesture meant the opportunity to enter a theatre for the first time in their lives. Galleries and museums at that time wanted to radically transform their roles as well and to part ways with the outdated form of a restricted scientific cabinet or a museum, a cabinet of curiosities, which only a limited number of scholars and antiquity aficionados had access to, in order to become museums in the socialist sense—schools for enlightening the masses.[14] Furthermore, we can see the emergence of entirely new types of establishments: theatres, museums and galleries, music venues, cultural centres, and public reading rooms, all of which wanted to reach even the smallest of communities. Not to be forgotten are radio stations, choirs, groups promoting traditional culture, orchestras, and an extremely rich production of newspapers, magazines, and professional publications. Information published in the 1957 issue of the Kulturni radnik [cultural worker] journal gives an idea of the situation in the Socialist Republic of Croatia at the time, where they write that between 1939 and 1954 they had seen the number of theatres increase from 6 to 16 (to which 34 permanent amateur theatres are to be added), and the number of museums and galleries increase from 34 to 82.[15]

3.

Kulturni radnik was in production from 1948 until 1991 and it is a rich source for potential research into the topic that we have opened up here, which is how Zemlja’s principle of democratizing culture was integrated into the official cultural policy in socialist Yugoslavia. The beginnings, as we have outlined them here, were ambitious. However, the post-war efforts in this sense should be considered from the perspective of their starting point, that is, extremely difficult circumstances in the newly formed federation, characterized by underdevelopment, poverty, and a high level of illiteracy. Both cultural and economic developments were taking off from the same rough ground. Furthermore, in light of the Yugoslav-Soviet split of 1948, after which Yugoslavia turned to the Western Bloc in search of “initial capital,” it is not surprising that the following decades were marked with contradictions that have called the whole socialist project into question. Culture was not immune to processes of liberalization, which gradually transformed relations in socialist production since the late 1950s,[16] in this way laying the groundwork for the 1990s collapse.

Print of soldiers marching left-to-right in a line
Oton Postružnik, Military Parade (print). Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb.

There was a report from a construction company in Zagreb published in the 1975 Kulturni radnik that is illustrative of the situation at that time.[17] It was one of a series of stories from companies (most of which have since collapsed) published by the journal since 1966 with the aim of opening a discussion about working-class culture, as opposed to dry reporting on numbers. The Basic Organization of Associated Labour (Osnovna organizacija udruženog rada or OOUR) is a new organisational arm of the Yugoslavian economy formed after the 1974 changes to the Constitution paired it with the Self-Governed Community of Interests (Samoupravna interesna zajednica or SIZ), which was the organization of non-manufacturing sectors. The purpose of OOUR was to provide workers with healthcare, education, housing, transport, communication, sport, and of course, culture. Put simply, the labour organizations (OOURs), using Workers’ Councils as their conduit, funded the Self-Governed Community of Interest groups (SIZs). In this way, the OOURs were determining the distribution of income for these services, in accordance with the so-called Self-Management Agreement social contract.[18] In this way, the financing of culture was decentralized and put in direct relationship to workers’ organizations as a result of growing and continuous demands since the late 1950s for more self-management. In practice, however, there was growing inequality as a consequence of this and other measures that were coming from the same call for more self-management. In other words, the companies that were the most lucrative were able to afford the most culture for their workers.

The story from Industrogradnja, a construction company founded in 1946 in Zagreb responsible for many large scale infrastructural and housing projects in Yugoslavia and abroad, included a transcript of a conversation between workers (one manager, two administrative officers, one technician, and one skilled painter) and professionals (a social scientist with the Moša Pijade Worker’s University and four members of the editorial board of Kulturni radnik).[19] The breadth of participants alone is respectable from today’s point of view. With regard to Zemlja’s operating methodology of going to factories and engaging in other activities in the field, which we described earlier, we can see some clear continuity: cultural programming consisting of film screenings, theatre plays, and lectures was organized for the workers of Industrogradnja at construction sites, the place where workers were living in sheds (and many of them were from the most underdeveloped parts of Yugoslavia). Factory complexes—spaces either built for the purpose of sports and culture, or rooms repurposed for different associations and clubs[20]—also served as the stage for cultural production. Judging by worker testimonials,[21] these were places where differences between workers from different social classes were erased: “we are made equal, although he sleeps in a two-room flat, while I sleep in a shed.” However, we also learn that so-called traditional (if not bourgeois) cultural venues remained places of social class distinction. Because of this, the managing staff of Industrogradnja refused to go to the theatre if the play being performed was one that the labourers had been given tickets to. Of course, the problem began with the distinction between sheds and two-room flats, and between the two kinds of workers, accentuating the differences within one social class.

Print of a crowd gathered in front of a military monument. Armed soldiers guard the monument.
Oton Postružnik, In Honor of the Eagle (print). Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb.

Žarko Puhovski, a member of Kulturni radnik’s editorial board, warned about this openly. He commented that culture that makes the inequalities within an organization invisible is nothing other than provincial and bourgeois because it is the only kind there is in Yugoslavia. Its purpose is to conceal social class distinctions, he said. An interesting question that is only superficially addressed in this conversation at Industrogradnja is whether a cultural activity could have been used as a catalyst for a debate among workers about the constitutional changes and Self-Management Agreement, both of which had just been introduced. The opportunity was missed, the participants in the conversation agree, and they move on to another topic. Does this mean that Zemlja’s agenda of using art to raise awareness about social class distinction has been forgotten? Is leftist art created collectively and for the collective in a socialist country making considerable capitalist concessions supposed to take an unequivocal position to exploited workers and all those coming from the deprived areas of the country to provide cheap labour? Or those labouring in mines in the south for the prosperity of large cities in the north[22] as a result of growing inequality under the aegis of workers’ self-management?

Of course, the question is rhetorical—even naïve. After the official government policy had already compromised the socialist project, how could culture have remained uncompromisingly socialist? However, is there a reason to ask ourselves about what went wrong in the organization of cultural and artistic production, particularly bearing in mind the post-war fervour for a radical transformation of that area of activity? It seems there is, because in looking for an answer many complex questions arise, bringing back the issue of “the problem of art of a collective,” which was troubling the members of Zemlja as well. Keeping in mind the group’s efforts involving peasants and workers, it is interesting to direct our attention at the spirit of amateurism that was carefully nurtured in factories in socialist Yugoslavia. Starting a Cultural Artistic Association (Kulturno umjetničko društvo or KUD) in a company would have seemed like the natural extension of the painting group that Hegedušić formed at the Construction Workers’ Union in 1932. However, a deeper look at the way amateurism functioned in socialist Yugoslavia, which we are able to take by going through the pages of Kulturni radnik again, detects problems in this area early on. We can read about “the stagnation of amateurism” and about “outdated forms” as early as 1957, while in 1962 a worker at the Sisak Ironworks, whose art colony was frequently cited as a successful example of workers’ culture, was desperate for classically-trained painters willing to help the workers.[23] Where were the likes of Hegedušić and Tabaković then? They were in the academy, dealing with “professional” culture, the kind that resides in institutions of the bourgeois, in theatres, and in museums, which obviously were not transformed (radically enough).

Was there a real need to reject inherited institutions in order to avoid the creation of two camps? Was workers’ culture a matter of ideological fiction, as Puhovski put it, confined to the ghetto of amateur associations, degraded in order to conceal social class distinctions? Again, the question seems rhetorical, but the answer gets complicated if we recall the rich production of films by amateur cinematic clubs, where the distinction between professional and amateur filmmaking was blurred, if not erased. As a revolutionary art form and with its technical nature, film was much closer to the worker and it played a role in the fight between the classes from the beginning. A ready answer to Zemlja’s question about what leftist art is has come from Lenin, who said that film is the most important of all art forms to us.[24] Bringing to mind the image of a textile factory worker from Zagreb’s periphery as it was portrayed by director Krešo Golik in his 1966 documentary Od 3 do 22 [From 3am to 10pm][25], we can easily recognize Zemlja’s agenda and admit that Lenin was right. As it is, there really was art produced in Yugoslavia that was inclined to one social class and refused to play the part of a concealer after all.


Epilogue

In our present-day world, when the myth about the end of history and the inevitability of capitalism is crumbling under the weight of social class inequality that has gone to extremes, it is not unusual to see the foundation of the ivory tower of culture shaken. Goran Pavlić has argued that culture—from rock music right down to the brewing of craft beer—has been co-opted by the elite (though of course they will disregard cajke—folk pop songs too popular to be considered “art”).[26] But to openly discuss this issue also means discussing elites and their origins, their (un)availability, their social class differences, and their causes. In short, it means discussing capitalism. When the concepts of participation, community work, and audience development are prescribed to us by the European Union, there is not much connection to Zemlja. A call for the democratization of art is plausible only when it is accompanied by a call for the democratization of society and politics in their entirety, which is not compatible with the preservation of an imperial and liberal pro-market policy. So, what may initially seem to be the ivory tower shaking is probably a case of harmless swaying in the breeze, just to remind us that the tower is not immune to the injustice that surrounds it (since the EU directives show no interest in exposing injustice within the walls of the institution of art). If we are to really bring this tower down, we need to learn from Zemlja, thoroughly and in depth, without keeping artistic and political activities separated. We also need to learn from the mistakes of those who turned Zemlja’s concepts into empty form. After all, we are bound by Zemlja’s legacy not to debate whether leftist art in a socialist society is utopian, but rather—given the capitalist reality around us—whether it is essential.


Endnotes

[1]     Vrga, B. (2014). Zemlja [Land]. Petrinja, Croatia: Galerija Krsto Hegedušić

[2]     Retrieved March 31, 2019, from https://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/28

[3]     Bilandžić, D. et al. (1969). Komunistički pokret i socijalistička revolucija u Hrvatskoj [Communist Movement and Socialist Revolution in Croatia]. Zagreb, Yugoslavia: Institut za historiju radničkog pokreta Hrvatske

[4]     See Marijan Detoni’s 1932 series of prints Cigla, which is kept at Kabinet grafike HAZU (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Department of Prints and Drawings), the 1934 Linorezi series by Oton Postružnik kept at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, the 1932 Smeće series by Antun Mejzdić, etc.

[5]     See the 1929 painting Rekvizicija by Krsto Hegedušić at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, his 1928 painting Zeleni kader (private collection), the 1932 Poplava at the Modern Gallery, the 1933 Jogenj by the same author (private collection), etc.

[6]     One of the reasons why a deeper analysis of Zemlja’s political aspect was avoided by art historians in socialist Yugoslavia (either as a group or its prominent members) must be in the rift that was created in Zemlja in 1932 with the publication of Hegedušić’s Podravski motivi [Podravina Motifs], with a foreword by M. Krleže, which was clearly anti-Kharkov. Zemlja has not escaped the conflict on the literary left, but this story is beyond our interest here. However, it can be said that, given the complex post-1948 circumstances, this definitely had an impact on the subsequent questioning of Zemlja’s political profile.

[7]     Editorial board. (April 17, 1975). U povodu smrti Krste Hegedušića, Druženje s ujakom Milčekom. [On the Occasion of Krsto Hegedušić’s Death, Hanging out With Uncle Miliček]. Borba, p. 12

[8]     Archive data on the KPJ members: police records, personal folders at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU), interviews.

[9]     The exhibition titled Problem umjetnosti kolektiva: slučaj Zemlja [The Problem of Art of a Collective: The Case of Zemlja], which the curating group called BLOK (I. Hanaček, A. Kutleša, V. Vuković) dedicated to Zemlja and the art in community in late 2016 at BAZA, included a mental map with links between individual members of Zemlja and the left-oriented publications of the time, then people like Krleža, Cesarec or Horvatin, and the KPJ.

[10]    On gradual depoliticization of naïve art: Hanaček, I. (April 27, 2018). Podravska naiva: od krika za pravdu do turističkog suvenira [Podravina Naïve Art: From the Cry for Justice to a Tourist Souvenir]. Retrieved February 18 2019, from http://www.bilten.org/?p=23485,

[11]     CIAM is the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (trans “International Congress of Modern Architecture”)

[12]    Leček, S. (1990). Likovna umjetnost u društvenom životu Hrvatske 1945—1947 [Visual Arts in the Social Life of Croatia 1945-1947]. Časopis za suvremenu povijest, 1-2 (22), 131-156. Retrieved February 18, 2019 from https://hrcak.srce.hr/190522

[13]      A. (1946). Procvat kulturnog života u Zagrebu nakon oslobođenja [The Revival of Cultural Life in Zagreb Following the Liberation]. Književna republika, (?), p. 6

[14]      Ib.

[15]    Frntić, B. (1957). Kulturni život radnika [Cultural Life of Workers]. Kulturni radnik (9), Prosvjetni sabor Hrvatske, p. 56

[16]    Woodward, S. (1995). Balkan Tragedy: Chaos and Dissolution after the Cold War. Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press

[17] “OOUR i kulturna akcija (raport iz Građevinskog poduzeća Industrogradnja u Zagrebu),” [“OOUR and cultural action (brief from the Construction Company Industrogradnja in Zagreb”]

[18]    Workers self-management was the basis of Yugoslavia’s political and economic system

[19]    Namely: mechanical workshop manager Ilija Bijelić, human resources officer Stevo Ćopić, calculations officer Marija Dugonjić, skilled painter Senad Grahić, technician Katarina Kolaković, editorial board: Mirko Banjeglav, Rade Kalanj, Vladimir Košćević, and Žarko Puhovski.

[20]    The number of Cultural Artistic Associations (Kulturno umjetnička društva or KUDs) in SR Croatia was 766 in 1957, with a membership of 80.000+ workers (Frntić, B. (1957). Kulturni život radnika [Cultural Life of Workers]. Kulturni radnik (9), Prosvjetni sabor Hrvatske, p. 55)

[21]    Aside from the conversation analysed here, see also: Konjikušić, D. Lebhaft, K. Milić, J. Popović, M. (2014). Kronologija 3. maja i foto-kino kluba Jadran s komentarima P. Trinajstića [The Chronology of the Shipyard “3 May“ and Jadran Photo and Cinema Club Accompanied by P. Trinajstić’s Comments]. Radnik, radnica, umjetnica, umjetnik, Zagreb, Croatia: G-MK

[22]    Reference to the well-known slogan in Kosovo: Trepča radi, Beograd se gradi (Trepča is working, Belgrade is being built.“). More on inequalities and the economic policy in SFRY: Lebowitz, M. A. (2012). The Contradictions of ‘Real Socialism’: The Conductor and the Conducted. Monthly Review Press, (‘), p.? or Woodward, L. S. (1995). Socialist Unemployment: The Political Economy of Socialist Yugoslavia. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press

[23]    ”We need help from an experienced and classically-trained painter. We would like to exhibit more. If we were to be hired to design decorative and promotional posters, it would be of use both to us and the company.” ? (1961). ?. Kulturni radnik, Prosvjetni sabor Hrvatske, (12) p. 596

[24]    Retrieved May 2, 2019, from http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/socialist-cinema/socialist-cinema-texts/lenin-on-the-most-important-of-the-arts/

[25]    Retrieved February 18, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avaas3e37T4

[26]    Pavlić, G. (September 24, 2018). Kulturkampf na Bundeku [Kulturkampf at Bundek]. Bilten. Retrieved February 18, 2019 from http://www.bilten.org/?p=25038


Miloš Miletić and Mirjana Radovanović jointly practice visual art and research as KURS. In their work they explore how artistic practice can contribute to (and become an integral part of) various social struggles.

KURS Visual Residency

This visual contribution to GSG Magazine is the initial research phase for the work created under GSG’s residency. We have focused our research on collecting archival visual material directly or indirectly related to Rijeka and Sušak. The archive shows different types of collective work, activity, and associations from the time of the National Liberation War, the liberation of Sušak, the development of “3. Maj“, the creation of workers’ organizations, as well as leisure time. The illustrations of various collectives remind us that collective action is crucial to the well-being of a community.

“Members of the illegal group ‘Victory’.”
“A chorus of workers.”
“Transfer of the wounded to Sušak, 1945.”
“There was always dance and song on the island.”
“workers began a general strike, a protest was announced.”

Source archives used for the illustrations:  znaci.net, the monograph of “3. Maj: A Complex Organization of Associated Labour Shipbuilding Industries”, Rijeka Izdavački centar Rijeka, 1984, Sušak and Rijeka in the National Liberation War, Radule Butorović, Rijeka, 1975.


Filed Under: Roundtables

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Iva Kovač has been a visual artist at fokusgrupa.net since 2012, an editor at GSG magazine, and a curator at gsg.hr since 2017. She was the curator at PM Gallery in Zagreb from 2010 to 2012 and at SIZ Gallery in Rijeka from 2013 to 2015.

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Sherif Rushdy holds a master’s degree in systems science and international development. He has 40 years experience in professional and volunteer engagement in community development and consulting work in local, national, and international social and economic development projects across four continents.

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Maja Hodošček (1984) is an artist, pedagogue, curator, and researcher. She makes video works, installations, and book projects as well as initiates various workshops. She completed her MA at the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem, NL.

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Ana Kutleša (1985) is an art historian, researcher and curator. Between 2007 and 2011 she worked as an assistant and curator of the exhibitions of younger artists in the Miroslav Kraljević Gallery, and has been a member of the curatorial collective BLOK since 2009.

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Ivana Hanaček (1981) is an art historian, researcher, curator and PhD candidate in the Department of Art History, University of Zadar. Since 2010 she has been a member of the curatorial collective BLOK within which she curated the UrbanFestival, and since 2016 she has been co-curating the art and education programme of BAZA.

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Miloš Miletić and Mirjana Radovanović jointly practice visual art and research as KURS. In their work they explore how artistic practice can contribute to (and become an integral part of) various social struggles.
Issue 1: Queer Feminisms
From The Citizens to Their City (1/2)

Issue 1: Queer Feminisms

Contributions by Marinella Matejčić, Ana Hoffner, Mónica Cano Abadía, Antonija Stojanović Almesberger, Ana Opalić, and Brigita Miloš, Edited by Iva Kovač

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