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P74 Gallery

PROTESTS 6 case studies

26 November – 17 December 2013
P74 Gallery, Trg Prekomorskih brigad 1, Ljubljana

France Kralj (1953), Marko Pogačnik (1966), Antonio Manuel (1970), Goran Đorđević (1979), Peter Walsh (2010-2012), Sašo Stanojkovik (2007-2012)

Curated by: Tadej Pogačar

You are kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition PROTESTS 6 case studies at P74 Gallery on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 at 19h.

Protest is a word that with last year’s uprisings once again found its rightful place in our everyday life. We could say that it stands for an historical event that interrupts the millennium-long politics of a “culture of invisibility”, explained by anthropologists as a survival strategy (Vesna V. Godina). Protest is an exhibition and educational project which deals with the phenomenon of protest as legitimate artistic and cultural forms. The exhibition brings six case studies of protest actions that were created by artists. We present them in documentary form and also highlight their social, political and societal contexts.

In art history there are a number of known examples of critical situations (social, artistic, economic, political) that brought artists to a radical break in their work. Martha Rosler, for example, used the slogan “Bringing the War Home” in order to awaken the domestic apathy during the Vietnam War. “When I knew that the war in Vietnam wasn’t an accident, I sort of stopped painting and took up agitation art,” she points out and from protest to art market she prefers to exhibit her works on the street.

Marko Pogačnik, drawings protesting the war in Vietnam, Naši razgledi and Tribuna magazine, 1966
Courtesy of the artist

Marko Pogačnik created numerous anti-war pro-activism projects in protest against the war in Vietnam in 1967. One such action was that of drawing comic strips on public spaces in protest. Once a week, Pogačnik arrived to the Kazina underpass with a bucket of paste, a roll of paper and black paint. Each comic strip stayed on the wall until the following week, when he pasted over it with a new sheet of paper and replaced it with a new drawing.

Protest of France Kralj at Moderna galerija, 3 May 1953
Courtesy of Moderna galerija, Ljubljana

An early example of a protest action in Slovenian fine arts was that of France Kralj in 1953, when he pasted protest slogans and mottos over his paintings in the permanent collection of Moderna galerija. One of the central personalities of Slovenian arts, a cultural worker, important organiser and teacher, he had experienced in his creative work numerous obstacles and blockades and was driven to the edge of material survival. Societal ignorance reached its peak in the 1950s when he retired and his status as an artist was not acknowledged (it was only acknowledged after his death).

Just over a decade later Marko Pogačnik carried out another protest action, this time at the censorship and closure of his exhibition in Prešern’s house in Kranj. He described the event: “In response I displayed myself as a medial form among the visitors and sculptures in the gallery. I created a wooden pedestal and covered it with a white-yellow-black flag, like the type that trucks have to carry when they transport flammable substances. I stood motionless on the pedestal and in a contrapposto just like an antique statue. I was dressed in my father-in-law’s Partisan sweater and around my neck I hung a sign that read that I’m exhibiting my body because I’m not allowed to exhibit my sculptures.”

Antonio Manuel, one of the co-founders of the neo-avant-garde movement in Rio de Janeiro, made a similar protest at the rejection of his new forms of critical art. In 1970, during the height of the military dictatorship, he protested naked against the military junta with his work “The Body is the Work” in the Rio de Janiero Museum of Modern Art. The artist had already caused confusion with his unusual proposal to the jury for the National Salon: for the exhibition he had offered his own body. He proposed to remain exhibited for the entire time of the salon and if he were to win, then his father should receive the award. The proposal had been unanimously rejected. Later, Manuel participated in the opening of the salon as a spectator. Soon he revealed himself to the public as an artist who had been rejected as an artistic work. Manuel’s response to the attention that he stirred in the spectators was immediate – and of the sort which became a symbol of artistic resistance to the military regime: he undressed and mounted the stairs of the museum.

Sašo Stanojkovik, “Space for Protest”, Skopje, 2007-2012
Courtesy of the artist

In his participatory project “Space for Protest” (2007–2012) Sašo Stanojkovik followed the so-called victims of transition, referring to workers who had been laid off or fired without pay or financial compensation. The main theme which Stanojkovik employed was that of public protest and the number of questions which it carries. Around 30,000 “redundant” workers were the result of the transition period which the Republic of Macedonia has been experiencing over the last twenty years. Around 3,000 workers – the majority of them with more than 25 years of work experience and undocumented status – organised into a union of workers and protested for more than a year in an temporary camp that they had constructed themselves in the park “Žena Borac” between 4 March 2007 and 15 July 2008, directly across from the Ministry of Labour in Skopje. The space of the protest was simultaneously the workers’ living space. The social and public space also became their private space – including all the typical daily activities: cooking, washing, shaving, bathing.

Peter Walsh, Central Part Portrait Exchange, New York, 2010-2012
Courtesy of the artist

In his project “Central Park Portrait Exchange” (2010–2012), the American artist Peter Walsh touched upon the privatisation of public space. Because of “personal” economic interests, the Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg had begun to force out the street portrait artists, causing a general revolt and protest among the city’s inhabitants. These dramatic laws made it illegal for artists to work in New York City’s Central Park. The basic goal of the project “Central Park Portrait Exchange” was the desire to formulate new models of artistic exchange, which would inspire people to act as engaged citizens. Peter Walsh explained: “As a drawer, I’m inspired by the speed and precision of the artists working in New York City’s Central Park. Yet I’m also interested in the economics of art-making. The professional portraiturists in Central Park get paid one price and artists in the Chelsea district galleries get another, and as a conceptual artist supporting myself with non-art jobs, I frequently get no monetary compensation at all in exchange for my art!”

In 1979 Goran Đorđević sent a letter to a number of famous artists and curators calling them to take part in a several month international boycott of the art system. Since artists are alienated from the results of their work, he called them to participate in an action which would self-organise from the “bottom up”, without the interference of art institutions. Đorđević received about forty responses, most of them were sceptical to the suggestion, some responses were also positive. Despite the fact that he created a utopian suggestion, he hopes that the idea will one day become a real alternative to the dominant system.