Blaženka Perica and Janka Vukmir Fantasizing – Dislocating
The Split Salon, organized by the Croatian Association of Visual Artists in Split, is one of the largest periodic exhibitions among the exhibitions organized by local/regional art associations in Croatia; however, on the Croatian culture scene, its public reputation lags behind the importance of the event. The Split Salon is distinguished by several specific qualities concerning other art events in Croatia, but neither the professional nor general public care about that. That was one of the reasons we decided to take the dialogue between the individual and social and cultural institutions as a topic around which we developed the concept of the exhibition and as a working title, we suggested: Fantasizing – Dislocation. However, this title was so well received and generally accepted in communication that it was a shame to change it afterward.
It does not, however, hurt to ask: Daydreams – about what? Dislocations – of what, and in relation to what? One can daydream about dislocation from reality, but also about some other (past or future) reality. We can dislocate ourselves into the imagination, but also within reality itself.
In her text, The Crisis of the European Subject Julia Kristeva writes about how free subjectivity is under threat because society is no longer constructing a narrative about itself. She claims that, because of our dependence on the mass media and politics, we have lost the capacity to elaborate on our inner self, to define our sensibility and we fail to understand life reflexively. Collectivism, which dominates social situations and social networks, a banal dichotomy of attitudes for and against, excludes the complexity of a situation, and mainly for a while it has not contributed to a good society, but indifference within and towards the society.
In the light of these considerations, the primary interest of art today, and therefore of this Salon, turned out to be the communicative value/role of art in its various manifestations within the social reality as well as the necessity of questioning the effectiveness, possibilities, and even meaningfulness of the communicative potential of art. In this process, vectors are in alternating directions: from dealing with the culture of memory to the utopias and visions of the future.
Hence, we conceived the exhibition as a space of dialogue, for imagining changes, making suggestions, social criticism, raising issues of urban topography, and “activating the symbolic order” within and outside the institutional context.
From the submitted proposals (as many as 150!) on the given topic, we selected the ones that focused on the positioning of urban issues, both Split’s and general ones, and the way they are, through art, present in the social fabric of the city. In 22 locations around the city, and even outside Split, 55 projects were realized in the broadest imaginable scope of art media: from conventional drawing, through painting and sculpture, then sculpture in its various postmodern interpretations, through installations, performances, photography, and photo installations, various audio and/or visual works, animations, to the works created due to collecting data from the Internet, created in public spaces, which can be of various duration, from the time-based ones to the ones that have a chance to last forever.
Such different approaches to strategies and media of artistic production have resulted in the selection of many and varied spaces for the realization of the project: Diocletian’s cellars, Galić Salon, Multimedia Cultural Center Split, Split City Museum, Art Gallery Cafe, and other, public spaces, the ones in the urban tissue of the city, such as the Riva waterfront and some city streets, as well as the media spaces, which were seen as a medium of public advertising and the press, and public institutions that are not directly related to the concept of culture and cultural production, but are related to a broader social significance and the general public.
During the selection process, we were faced with the decision of whether to invite some of the mythical figures from the local scene or not; indeed we intended to move away from the well-known (and not only those!) Split exhibition stereotypes, to confront the audience with the like- and unlike-minded themes, as well as with the generation gap between the Salon participants. For that reason, the contribution of the students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Split and young artists from Split and beyond was of great importance to this Salon.
The collaboration between the professors and students from the Academy of Fine Arts and the Salon organizer, the Croatian Association of Visual Artists – Split, has resulted in a new practice of team interactive working process, the results of which can be seen in the Academy building and several other university institutions, such as the building of the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, the School of Medicine, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Economics, the workshop in the Multimedia Cultural Center, but also places other than Split, such as the Community Space for Retired People in Supetar, Brač.
Precisely these team projects managed by students give a glimpse of an entirely different approach, both of a critical and action/activist nature (a characteristic of the entire off-scene) – however, this one does not stop with the eloquent engagement, but also shows what art can effectively DO in a given moment. By deciding to join forces and take matters into their own hands, the students decided to dislocate their fantasies – or at least some of them! – and incorporate them into their future reality. Their presence and voice in the city have to be as visible and as loud as possible.
In the cultural context, this exhibition with a tradition, good and bad history behind it, in a city that is seen both as matchless and less worthy, the city full of culture, which comfortably relies on its heritage, and yet ironically looks upon its creativity, in which the entire population is prone to hedonism, but with a schizophrenic atmosphere that, in the days of the south wind in winter, culminates in overconsumption of tranquilizers of choice, we thought that everybody could use a bit of fantasizing, whereas dislocation could be used as a defense against escapism.
The works submitted to be exhibited at the Salon, some of which have already been exhibited, while the others were created inspired by this exhibition, could be grouped into several dominant themes and units. Here we give an example of how the associatively used terms were linked to the works of individual authors and turned out to be intertwined in meaning and contextually layered:
City – utopian and fictitious, imagined, threatening, recycled, mutual, monument city: Brkić/Nikolić, Perasović/Alajbeg, Sato, Stojićević, Sušac, Šolman, Živković Kuljiš,
Monument – to the city and society: Perkov, Radić real and fictional characters and non-persons: Runjić, Matijević, Ruf, Sušac, Špika, Vukasović customs: Korkut, Ružić, Sterle, Šitum place, remembrance, memory, time: Batinić -Kuveljić, Efendić, Popović V., Ružić, Sladetić, Sterle, Turčić, Živković Kuljiš
Poetic space – del Castillo, Efendić, Restović, Stipanović, Vodopija
Advertising / urban areas of communication/technologies – Anonymous artist, Boban, Giba, Končić Badurina, Perkov, Project Workshop
Social / national / religious content – Anonymous artist, Brajnović, Cvijanović, Dragičević, Popović M., Ruf, Sato, Šitum, Šumonja,
Cultural and institutional content – Burilović, Pavić, Perasović, Popović M., Popović V., Vukasović, No Name Group, Room for a Better Life Project, Banks Project
Economic and institutional content – Bavčević, Crtalić, Banks Project
Dislocations – physical: Končić Badurina, Labrović, Pavić, Popović V., Sladetić, Stipanović, Banks Project, Supetar Project time: Golub, Korkut, Matijević, Ruf, Sato, Špika from the present condition and position: Golub, Popović V., No Name Group, Room for a Better Life Project critical-ironic: Perkov, Labrović departures: Kuštre, Pagar
The given topics and their subtopics also include a special comment and review of the position of the artist in society, present in almost all the works, but also his/her position in the increasingly isolated world of culture and cultural institutionalization.
What is important for the 38th Split Salon, which has become a traditional festival of artistic creation, is a reflection on the Split of today, which is not quite the same as the Split of yesterday, and within the framework of the activity that, in these difficult living conditions in Croatia, mainly remained without nowadays omnipresent paradigms for its existence. The subject under discussion is contemporary art that, in Croatia, still (traditionally!) does not have a developed market and parameters for dealing with itself on the levels of its distribution. Still, even within that invalid network of institutions, means and motivations, in a society that pays little or no attention to it – art still deals with that same society, it deals with the genuine situation which often results not so much in local, but in a surprisingly lucid, specific artistic expression. And following the conditions of their origination, these artistic expressions differ in Osijek, Zagreb, and Rijeka, as well as in Paris, Riyadh, Tokyo, and elsewhere. Although there is no tendency toward a natively determined scene or parochialism – global networking and the heterogeneous status of art in constant motion are still seen as differentiated and locally situated. In Split, such situatedness of art is on the one hand characterized by a very lively scene, which also includes the activities of the Academy, and on the other hand, there is a striking, and in relation to that contemporary scene, inadequate scarcity of exhibition spaces.
We think the exhibited works are eloquent, fun, sometimes funny out of desperation, and sometimes powerful in their dealing with helplessness. The selection is focused on the works we thought fit the topic and correspond to each other, in a dialogue, we also wanted to achieve harmony and polyphony among authors, and enable artists to talk not only to Split but also to the others about Split.
If it would be possible, it would be nice to use multiple languages at the exhibition, to dislocate from the local and regional and enter into an international dialogue. Lately, since roaming became cheaper on July 1, 2013, that could even be possible. Or is it just a fantasy?
Despite all its shortcomings, and even in these conditions, the local art scene demonstrates an enviable level of production and quality of global involvement in the buzz of world art movements, reaching precisely for the resources and voice of the environment in which it is created.
The artists sometimes speak about their position, and sometimes about the position of all artists in culture, with obvious dissatisfaction, and even to the extent that “…the majority of artists retreated to their intimate spiritual refuges, and a common rebellion, explosion of thoughts and actions failed to take place…”1. Perhaps contradictory, but an accurate diagnosis, it is even more important to notice the continued vitality of the scene despite the circumstances, and emphasize the conclusion “…that all of us still believe in art.”2
Mladen Lučić, foreword to the exhibition “Apatija/Kriza II”, Pula, October 25 – November 17, 2013