At the turn of the 1980s, the proliferation of contemporary international cultural movements and the opening of urban centers of culture for the young brought new ideas and a search for other channels of political and cultural work and forms of artistic production. It was a time of “the alternative scene”, the largest mass cultural movement in Slovenia to date. The theoretical writings of the New Left, the poststructuralist movement, and the Lacanian circle all made important contributions to the formation of such developments. Common to all of this heterogeneous production was a revolt against the cultural hegemony of the time; the political system, on the other hand, allowed such critique to project an image of tolerance.
Within the alternative scene, exciting and influential cultural and social scenes developed, owing primarily to the activities of the ŠKUC Gallery, Disco FV, the youth culture centers in Maribor, Koper, and other towns, Radio Študent, and the newspaper Tribuna and magazines Mladina and Problemi. Film and video cameras, photo cameras and slide projectors, tape recorders and Xerox machines, typewriters and Letraset were all instrumental in helping produce innumerable leaflets and graffiti, publications and fanzines, music and video cassettes, performances and videos, discussions and debates, as well as concerts and DJ nights featuring rock, funk and punk, new wave and hardcore.
The people involved in the scene saw their activities as a social practice intrinsically embedded in a specific space and social relations. The aim was to establish a position of difference from the mainstream cultural policies and the ruling ideology, to win a place for the alternative artistic practices and gain social recognition; a comprehensive in-between space and field of action with specific production relations and ways of self-organizing and inclusion. Just how intense the cooperation between the agents and spaces became is perhaps best illustrated by the example of the event Magnus Homosexuality and Culture.
The scene developed the specific dimensions of certain artistic and cultural practices; and in its wake venues for production and presentation followed.
The ŠKUC Gallery became a unique social and cultural space, where all manner of diverse events and projects took place, a laboratory for both ideas and connections. There were exhibitions of paintings, objects, photographs, graffiti, photocopies and posters, performances, installations, multimedia projects, screenings of films and videos, concerts, as well as symposia and panel discussions that reflected on the events and the production related to both mass culture and constructive theoretical and critical practices. There was a conceptual shift in artistic language and thinking, the field of visual art expanded and with it the impact it exerted, and there was a very tangible opposition to institutional culture and modernist art. The new program models led to different relations between artists and audiences, and to establishing the conditions for multimedia and interdisciplinary projects.
With a multimedia program, Disco FV was one of the main meeting points and venues for subcultural production and alternative art. Forced into changing location several times, it became a symbol of the alternative scene’s fight for its place. It was characterized by the production of a narrowly profiled themed program, and it served as the producer and motor of the development of photography, music, and video. The FV group wrote about its work with video and the club television: “The purpose of FV Video is threefold: to create our own language of video, to document the alter scene, and to follow the global video production with an emphasis on its most vital part – music video clips.”
Video was a constitutive part of the alternative scene and at the same time its outcome, and it also developed specific production and presentation dimensions. The ŠKUC Gallery, where video was an important part of the program, had a viewing room, also called the Video Box Bar, where videos selected by the visitors were played. For its part Disco FV had a video club.
While we are all familiar with some of the functions of television to the point where they seem self-evident, others cannot be foreseen and only emerge through artistic interventions. Artists employed different and potentially subversive uses for technology in creative ways, and by entering a TV studio and putting the professional video equipment there to individual use, in this way exploring its various characteristics and potential, and the structure and aesthetic effect of the electronic image. When broadcasting such programs, the TV channel warned viewers that “all the irregularities in the quality of picture and sound are part of the program and cannot be corrected by adjusting your TV sets.”
The International Biennial Video CD festival also presented local and foreign video art, thus introducing international trends and developments to the Slovene public. It also provided a temporary video studio where production was possible, which helped establish more direct and permanent production relations between television professionals and video artists, which in turn led television to develop a more open attitude to video. Special TV programs showed video works, and video artists in turn became more involved in TV and producing content, introducing specific aesthetics and semantic codes. One such special program was Avtovizija, described as “the only program about artistic contributions by video artists, on video art in Slovenia.” As the first independent TV accessible to the public already at the content design stage ATV (Alternative/Artistic Television) embodied this great new interest in the other TV and the great expectations that came with it.
The exhibition shows how expanded the field of art was in the 1980s, with practices characterized by multimedia, self-organization, interdisciplinarity, trans-generational work, and collective authorship. The display concept foregrounds the typical venues and events, putting additional emphasis on selected artistic installations. The multimedia theme is approached from two curatorial angles: via the alternative and/or subculture venues and via the institutionally and technologically supported practices. Together they reveal a media field constituted by the interrelations between production and presentation, concept and context, television and video. Individual instant media, e.g. photography, video, and Xerox, are not presented in their specific forms, but in the way they related to other media.
In presenting the venues of production and presentation, their key attributes are highlighted, derived from individuals or society: their specific aesthetics, narratives, forms and contents, and the modes, relations, means, and conditions of production. Although based on actual spaces and activities, they are described with generic names reflecting the most important practices: disco, gallery, studio, festival, other television, viewing room, reading room, cinema, and exit. To illustrate the synergy between different practices, the venues feature projects and documents, archival material, and projections of sound and text, images and light. A selection of reconstructed artistic projects is included as a constitutive part of multimedia venues and practices. The projects that have been selected – often early works and works characteristic of the artist’s multimedia practice – had an important role in determining the contexts of the venues. The exhibition aims to bring multimedia practices closer to the visitors through specific works, through atmospheric staging, and a display of documents and archives intertwining history and the narrative. The intersections of art and other cultural movements serve to arouse our curiosity, trigger further research, and enable us to encounter them also at the level of experience and pleasure in viewing.
Barbara Borčić, Igor Španjol