The Foundation of Endeavour
Curated by Igor Španjol
Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova
The Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova is proud to present The Foundation of Endeavour, a solo exhibition of new and recent work by Jasmina Cibic.
First preview of the exhibition is on Tuesday, 1 September 2020 between 8 and 10 p.m. Due to the COVID-19 safety measures, the number of viewers is limited to 15 at a time. The artist will have a guided tour on Thursday, 3 September at 5 p.m. We've reached the guided tour capacity. For those who are unable to attain, we will publish a video recording of her guided tour. The exhibition runs until 29 November 2020.
The exhibition centres on the artist’s ongoing investigation into the idea of political gifts of culture, exploring their role within national and political structures during moments of European crisis in the 20th century.
The historical case studies the artist draws on speak directly to the present moment, in which culture has become a battleground for the forces of populism in their systematic attack on critical thought, bringing once again to the fore the complex relationship between culture and the state.
Cibic is well known for her work examining the mechanisms of “soft power” and the strategies through which national culture is constructed and weaponised. Her projects, realised through films and theatrical installations, are the result of a meticulous process of archival research and collaborative production, conducted with the goal of exposing moments, patterns and effects that would otherwise remain invisible. For the artist, this is a form of performative practice: a critical exercise in the dissection of statecraft.
The protagonists in this exhibition are a series of what Cibic calls “historical ready-mades”: cultural forms that were used as political devices during key post-traumatic moments in 20th-century European history. Rather than commissions, each of these examples was a gift – an offering made by the power-brokers right at the top of the political food chain, with the aim of preventing conflict and nurturing intra- and international cohesion.
The exhibition begins with the first chapter of Cibic’s film The Gift. The film’s locations are themselves examples of political gifts: the buildings of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Oscar Niemeyer’s French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris and Mount Buzludzha in Bulgaria. The narrative of the film follows three characters, the allegorical Gifts of Art, Music and Dance, during the final round of a competition that seeks to identify the perfect gift to unite a divided nation. The scripted dialogue is drawn from archival records of discussions about soft power and the role of cultural diplomacy that led to the creation of iconic architectural and artistic manifestations of political gifts within European space.
The film’s themes spill out into a theatrical mise-en-scène occupying the adjacent spaces of the museum. In the first is a performative installation drawn from unrealised musical compositions donated to the Palais des Nations. Here, on the occasion of the exhibition’s opening, they will be performed for the first time, by a pair of percussionists in a looped rhythm exchange of anthems and marches: two forms of music that are integral to the nation state: to its formation and its dissolution. The snare drums are adorned with paintings of proposed designs for the League of Nations’ flag, another series of donations by international professional and amateur artists. No official flag was ever adopted, due to fears that a single emblem would stir nationalist sentiment within this major transnational project.
In the second room, a salon-style installation presents two series of photographic still lifes of objects similarly infused with the symbolic power of the political gift, presented against curtained walls. The first set are images of batons used in the Relay of Youth, a popular annual event held in former Yugoslavia to celebrate the birthday of the federation’s president Tito. Young people from all six republics would come together to participate in this powerful effort to promote cohesion and anti-nationalist sentiment. From 1957 to 1987 the batons were crafted by artists and ceremonially presented to the president as gifts. The second set of images depict roses bred and named after founding fathers of the European project, including Sandro Pertini, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. Dramatically lit and shot against a dark backdrop, these loaded objects now carry an additional layer of meaning. Moths and other insects crawl across their surfaces – a nod to the tradition of still life or vanitas paintings, serving similarly as a reminder of the inevitable mutations of ideology and socio-political memory.
The exhibition culminates with one final image: a photographic portrait of one of Slovenia’s most hotly contested national emblems: the Lipizzaner horse, the only horse breed developed in Slovenia. In 2009 the Lipizzaner 508 Neapolitano Thais XL was presented as an official state gift to Muammar Gaddafi, just two years before his death. This literal embodiment of the Trojan horse – a gift given with less-than-pure motives, in this case as a form of cultural diplomacy – reminds us how easily culture can become not only a pawn in soft power strategies, but also complicit in the production of ideology.
Long after the demise of the beliefs and projects in the name of which these political gifts were given, these archival traces of a kind of socio-political “glue” may still be adapted and repurposed by new political agents – reminding us of what is at stake if the bond between culture and society is lost.
Jasmina Cibic (b. Ljubljana 1979) is a London based artist who works in performance, installation and film, employing a range of activity, media and theatrical tactics to redefine or reconsider a specific ideological formation and its framing devices such as art and architecture. Her work draws a parallel between the construction of national culture and its use value for political aims, addressing the timelessness of psychological and soft power mechanisms that authoritarian structures utilise in their own reinsertion and reinvention.
Jasmina Cibic represented Slovenia at the 55th Venice Biennial with her project “For Our Economy and Culture”. Her recent exhibitions include solo shows at: CCA Glasgow, Phi Foundation Montreal, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead, Kunstmuseen Krefeld, Aarhus 2017, Esker Foundation Calgary, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, MGLC Ljubljana and Ludwig Museum Budapest along with group exhibitions at Steirischer Herbst ‘19, MOMA NY, MUMA Monash Museum, CCS BARD, Guangdong Museum of Art China, Pera Museum Istanbul, City Gallery Wellington, MSUM Ljubljana, MNHA Luxembourg and California College of the Arts. Cibic’s films have been screened at Whitechapel Gallery, CCA Montreal, Pula Film Festival, HKW Berlin, Louvre, Les Rencontres Internationales Paris, Dokfest Kassel and Copenhagen International Documentary Festival. Jasmina Cibic has been shortlisted for the Jarman Award (2018) and was the winner of the MAC International Ulster Bank and Charlottenborg Fonden awards (2016). Her upcoming solo shows include macLyon, Muzeum Sztuki Łódź and Museum der Moderne Salzburg.
Cibic’s recent monograph Spielraum is published by BALTIC and Distanz and NADA by Kerber Verlag and Kunstmuseen Krefeld. Web: http://jasminacibic.org/
Produced by the Moderna galerija in Ljubljana and coproduced by Projekt Atol Institute.
The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Museum of Yugoslavia, United Nations Geneva, Phi Foundation Montreal, Kunstmuseen Krefeld and City of Ljubljana.
The Gift, Act I (2019) is co-commissioned by Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, steirischer herbst ’19 and macLYON.
Co-produced by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network with funding from Arts Council England, steirischer herbst ’19, macLYON and Waddington Studios London.
Supported by Cooper Gallery - Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design - University of Dundee, Northern Film School - Leeds Beckett University, UGM Maribor Art Gallery, Museum of Yugoslavia, United Nations Geneva, Espace Niemeyer.