The term ‘new art practices’ was applied to various avant-garde trends developing in Yugoslavia after 1968. In Zagreb, Ljubljana, Belgrade and Novi Sad, artist collectives sprang up, their work combining themes of conceptual art, land art and Arte Povera with performance and body art practices, experimental film and video art. In Yugoslavia – aligned neither with the Soviet Union-dominated Warsaw Pact nor the capitalist West – artists, despite the lack of political freedom, were allowed to experiment, and they ostentatiously contested the official art of modernism promoted by state cultural policy. Searching for new spaces for their art, they went beyond the gallery, into public space, into the street. The Slovenian group OHO often worked directly in urban space, as in The Pharaoh’s Funeral (1968), staged and filmed in Ljubljana’s main square. A film recording of Bogdanka Poznanović’s Action Heart-Object (1970) shows the artist with a group of people carrying a large red heart through the streets of Novi Sad, from the bank of the Danube to the Student Cultural Centre. The role of art in public space was addressed by the Zagreb-based activistic collective TOK (Dubravko Budić, Vladimir Gudac and others); a recording of their performance Cleaning Public Space features in the documentary Urban Guerrilla (1972). The Group of Six Authors, active in Zagreb from 1975, situated their projects (works, exhibitions and performances) in urban spaces, seeking contact with an audience from outside the art world. Vlado Martek and Sven Stilinović engage in an improvised street fight, forcing each other to make a significant declaration (Admit that You Are an Artist, 1985). No less ironic towards the traditional notion of art is Martek’s street performance where, before he can start writing poems, the artist has to clean his street. A perverse sense of humour characterises the short video performances of Nuša and Srečo Dragan, e.g. The Heart Line (1977) and From East to East (1978), where they draw lines connecting Yugoslavia with Poland. A commentary on the geopolitical situation between’ during the Cold-War relations of two opposing blocs is provided by The Flag (1974), where Radomir Damnjanović Damnjan superimposes the communist hammer and sickle on an American flag. Marijan Molnar, creator of public interventions staged in Zagreb under the title For the Democratization of Art, pushes ideological discussions to the limit in the performance MARX – BAKUNIN (1980), where he paints and rubs off the names of the political opponents from his forehead in turn.
Introductory lecture: Ivana Janković (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb)
Artists: Radomir Damnjanović Damnjan, Nuša and Srečo Dragan, Vlado Martek, Marijan Molnar, Grupa OHO, Bogdanka Poznanović, Sven Stilinović, Slobodan Tišma, Grupa TOK