Art at Work
At the Crossroads Between Utopianism and (In)Dependence
22 September 2022 – 29. January 2023, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM), Ljubljana
Exhibition opening: Thursday, 22 September 2022, 8 p.m.
The Art at Work exhibition looks at three different segments of the genealogy of the concept of (artistic) work in the region of the former Yugoslavia: first, the way work was conceived by the avant-garde artists of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; next, the transformations of the concept of artistic work and art spaces in the 1990s; and lastly, the labor-related political art practices since 2000.
The early 1990s – the time of transition from socialism to capitalism in the territory of the former Yugoslavia – saw some fundamental shifts in the way artists’ work was perceived, as well as structural changes of spaces of art. And more than that: in the post-socialist world, artists’ production time changed as well. While under socialism artists had viewed indolence and the time of “running on idle” as creative time, in capitalism this was replaced by a time dictated by deadlines. Furthermore, the former utopianism of art collectives was replaced by the newly-founded NGOs’ pragmatism and flexibility of work, due to their predominant dependence on public funds in the 1990s. Artists became producers, and both artists and other cultural workers came to depend on projects for their survival, thus joining the ever-growing ranks of precarious workers. While working conditions for artists can hardly be said to have been much better under socialism, at least artists were masters of their own time. As the precariousness of (artists’) work is only intensifying with the globally deteriorating conditions (the pandemic, right-wing policies, wars, the economic crisis), the need for building more intense horizontal connections and rethinking the legacy of the avant-gardes is ever more urgent. Another fact underscored by Art at Work is that art collectives used to be predominantly male; women organized and articulated their work in other ways. The projects produced over the past twenty years that are included in the exhibition address the concept of work in the manner of political associations, thus directly influencing cultural politics in their respective states. This exhibition chapter relates also to the local traditions of collaboration between art institutions, NGOs, and individual artists in terms of labor, thematically extended to encompass the struggle for (cultural) workers’ rights, including the rights of domestic workers, care workers, and migrant workers.
More than 50 artists, art collectives, and associations from the region of the former Yugoslavia are participating in the exhibition. Many of the presented works are from Moderna galerija’s collections, a majority from the international Arteast 2000+ collection.
Two special projects included in the show are curated by Jelena Vesić and Sezgin Boynik respectively, while the curator Teja Merhar has conducted extensive research into and mapping of the independent spaces of the 1990s in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
Nika Autor & Newsreel Front | Damir Avdić | Milijana Babić | Jože Barši | Marko Brecelj | Danica Dakić | Walter De Maria | Goran Đorđević | Lenka Đorojević & Matej Stupica | Šejma Fere | György Galántai | Gorgona | Tomislav Gotovac | Igor Grubić | IRWIN | Hristina Ivanoska | Sanela Jahić | Filip Jovanovski | Doruntina Kastrati | Božena Končić Badurina & Duga Mavrinac | Andreja Kulunčić | KURS (Miloš Miletić & Mirjana Radovanović) | Siniša Labrović | Irena Lagator Pejović | Nebojša Milikić & Jelena Mijić | Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) | New Tendencies | OHO | Marika & Marko Pogačnik | Darinka Pop-Mitić | Zoran Popović | Uroš Potočnik | Projekt Westeast | Radical Education Collective | Rena Rädle & Vladan Jeremić | Mladen Stilinović | The Šempas Family | Nebojša Šerić Šoba | Škart & Horkeškart | Biljana Tanurovska - Kjulavkovski & Ivana Vaseva | Raša Todosijević | Slaven Tolj | Goran Trbuljak | TV Gallery | ULUS – The Association of Fine Artists of Serbia | Via Negativa | Za K.R.U.H. | Zrenjanin Social Forum
Curated by Zdenka Badovinac, Ana Mizerit, Bojana Piškur, Igor Španjol
Curators of special projects:
Sezgin Boynik: Impure, Democratic, Concrete: the Westeast Project
Jelena Vesić: On Collectivizing: Narratives about Yugoslav Avant-Garde Art Collectives and Examples of Feminist Interventions
The Archive of Sanja Iveković | Džuverović (she/her) | Vukica Đilas | Goranka Matić, Conference Drug-ca žena | Darinka Pop-Mitić
The exhibition is part of the larger project Our Many Europes, organized by the museum confederation L'Internationale and its partners, and co-funded by the Creative Europe program of the European Union. Besides Moderna galerija (MG+MSUM, Ljubljana, Slovenia), L’Internationale comprises Museo Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain), MACBA, Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (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 the HDK-Valand Hogskolan for konst och design (HDK-Valand, Gothenburg, Sweden) and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD, Dublin, Ireland).