Acting as a synthesis of the artist’s past conceptual and formal investigations, the Slovenian artist Jasmina Cibic’s new video installation and project Spielraum: The Nation Loves It
, presents the first chapter of the project Spielraum, which will be followed by two subsequent chapters that will be presented at MGLC Ljubljana and the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade (MSUB) later this year. This new body of work was preceded by Cibic’s critically acclaimed project For Our Economy and Culture
made for the Slovenian Pavilion of the 55th Venice Biennial.
The exhibition title references the writing of one of the first European political satirical writers: Karl Kraus. In his essay Spielraum
(1912), Kraus vehemently opposes the use of decoration in both language and architecture. Cibic connects Kraus with the phenomena of programmatic application of decoration by practically every (trans)national political structure within language and the built environment. Through film, performance, sculpture, and installation, Jasmina Cibic’s Gesamtkunstwerk explores the instrumentalisation of visual language and rhetoric in the construction of the State as spectacle throughout recent history and investigates modes of how art and architecture serve as soft power strategies of every political order.
Spielraum - The Nation Loves It
is composed of an immersive installation, performances, a sound-score for the installation by Simon Fisher Turner and two film projections. The scenography of the exhibition departs from the plans and designs for the hosting of the first conference of the Non-aligned movement that took place in Belgrade in 1961. This conference was a significant meeting of global states without any alignment to major power blocks. The challenge for this city at that time was to re-define and re-design the environment for presentation to the foreign delegates attending the conference whilst simultaneously re-branding the city to its citizens. The works in Spielraum: The Nation Loves It
re-configure the visual elements contained in the sketches, plans and drawings for the city with its unique pavilions, monuments and decorative additions with specific reference to the interior design of the monumental former Palace of the Federation in Belgrade, a major conference site.
The exhibition at Ludwig Museum utilises the basic building blocks of those propositions as the building blocks of the exhibition itself. The elements Cibic imports from a variety of personal and state archives are within the exhibition space manifested as large-scale two-dimensional geometric shapes that are suspended from the ceilings or attached to the walls. These same geometries repeat themselves throughout the whole exhibition as patterns on the gallery walls and interfere with other artworks as well as with the projected films. They also feature as cuts within collages of landscape photographs that the artist has drawn from the archives of the personal photographers of Josip Broz Tito, former Yugoslavia’s president. These are images that the official photographers, that were following Tito every day of his presidency, took in between his meetings with politicians, dignitaries, royalty and celebrities. They present “picturesque and sublime” landscapes, setting the scene of the various protocol events that went to shape the geo-politics of the post 2WW world. A composite landscape drawn from these diverse documents of territories ranging from Africa, Europe, America and Asia, made by the artists (photographers) in the servitude of the state, is presented within the exhibition space, covering the walls in their entirety.
At the apex of the exhibition is the installation of a fifteen-minute film. This film articulates the sculptural and decorative elements installed throughout the gallery, activating them as agents of political rhetoric at the hand of a single character. This character is an amalgam, speaking the words of global public figures scripted from a myriad of political speeches edited by Tim Etchells. These proclamations were originally made by figures politically engaged in protocolarian architecture and invested in architecture’s relationship to national identity on an international stage. The film is framed within a specifically designed set within the gallery that will also form the scenography for the next chapter of the film, due to be filmed during the course of the exhibition. The exhibition will also host a series of original performances with performers re-activating film props and elements from this same scenography. This in turn reformulates the exhibition space as a combination of gallery, film-set and theatre as the many elements oscillate from prop to sculpture to stage and back.
This first chapter – reflecting Jasmina Cibic’s basic artistic gesture which is the dismantlement and careful analysis of the work of art, its representation, and its relationship to the viewer – deconstructs, or more precisely dissects the idea of the patriotic spectacle itself into individual elements, which become objects in their own right: scenography, props, sound score and performance. On the conceptual level, the whole mise-en-scene within the exhibition space seeks to fluctuate from prop to sculpture to stage and back, raising questions regarding the spectator’s role with or within each of these situations. Is the viewer an active collaborator in the composition of the spectacle or is the spectacle produced for the viewer?
Spielraum - The Nation Loves It
confronts the viewer with the contextualization of questions which not only speak about the patterns characteristic of systems of power, but also about the glaring contradictions that are inseparably connected to transformations of national and cultural identities in the past as well as the present.