Mladina cover, 27 November 1990, design: Zdravko Papič, creative director: Robert Botteri
REALIZE! RESIST! REACT!
Performance and Politics in the 1990s in the Post-Yugoslav Context
Curated by Bojana Piškur with Siniša Ilić, Jasna Jakšić, Vida Knežević, Nita Luci & Linda Gusia, Asja Mandić, Biljana Tanurovska – Kjulavkovski & Ivana Vaseva, Rok Vevar & Jasmina Založnik.
24 June – 3 October 2021, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM)
The research and mapping project of political performance of the 1990s seeks to shed light on what political performance actually was in the post-Yugoslav context. Specifically, what did performance, then an already established art form in the Western world, bring to, mean, or change in the broader field of art of the 1990s? Can one actually talk about “performance beyond the political”? Is performance even the right term to encapsulate such a vastly varied production in the then newly founded states from Slovenia to Macedonia? Outside the art institutions, there was no common or shared understanding of performance in the region, which was primarily the consequence of considerably different socioeconomic and political circumstances. And herein lies the main difficulty of our project. Its unifying thread was not a search for similarities but a juxtaposing of certain “absences.” Generally, a lack of political engagement and the considerable unresponsiveness to or silence about certain political events, such as the wars and related crimes in Bosnia and Kosovo, or the case of the erased citizens in Slovenia, was characteristic of art in Slovenia.
What is evident in the Slovenia of the 1990s is the absence of emancipatory left-wing politics, a growing marginalization of the working class, and civil society’s inability to reform as a motor of new politics, to shake off the logic of its 1980s struggle and rise above the horizon of neoliberalism. Civil society was split apart by conflict and power struggles, political influence, and social power, with the discriminatory logic of exclusion clearly evident. At the same time, there was a distancing from the “idea” of Yugoslavia and the discovery of a new “European” identity, which resonated also in art. That difficult decade – not only for researchers in the field of art, but also or even more so for scholars exploring its history, society, and economy – left a profound mark on the decades that followed, with its nationalisms, transition, revisionisms, corruption, particracy, and market capitalism. Tomaž Mastnak described it as “the creation of post-socialist klepto-oligarchies.” Our present time of “state of emergency” (or almost state of war) seems in many respects a direct continuation of the 1990s, particularly in the way in which right-wing politics/parties are managing the current crisis and govern the state.
What is quite evidently happening in the field of culture in Slovenia is an aggressive turn to national (mono) culture, conservativism, and populism, with a political campaign of removing critical voices from institutions, etc. This is, in short, a time of attempted “silencing,” and those active in the field of art and culture are resisting and fighting against it in ways and with means similar to those employed during the 1990s. Consequently, political performance here is not understood merely as some kind of “witness” to events, but as a form of resistance against “war machines” (related to power, institutions, state, identities, language), a resistance that has often emerged under extreme political circumstances. On the other hand, one of the questions raised by our research was whether a withdrawal into the apolitical (even in art) is ever possible in a complex political environment.
The exhibition is organized in the framework of Our Many Europes, a four-year programme organised by the museum confederation L’Internationale and its partners, and co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. L'Internationale comprises seven major European art institutions: Moderna galerija (MG+MSUM, Ljubljana, Slovenia); Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain); MACBA, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Spain); Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen (M HKA, Antwerp, Belgium); Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej w Warszawie (Warsaw, Poland), SALT (Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey) and Van Abbemuseum (VAM, Eindhoven, Netherlands), and its partners are HDK-Valand Academy of Art and Design (HDK-Valand, Gothenburg, Sweden) and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD, Dublin, Ireland).