Kontakt: Conceptual Art from Ex-Yugoslavia

Kontakt: Conceptual Art from Ex-Yugoslavia

SFU Galleries at Simon Fraser University

May 11, 2011
Kontakt: Conceptual Art from Ex-Yugoslavia

Curated by Walter Seidl and Sabine Bitter

May 12–August 13, 2011

May 11, 8pm

Hours: Tues–Sat: 12pm–6pm
Talk by Walter Seidl:  May 11, 6pm


Walter Benjamin
Sanja Iveković
Katalin Ladik
Kazimir Malevich
Neša Paripović
Raša Todosijević

This exhibition gathers works from some of the most important representatives of Yugoslavian conceptual art, which developed in the late 1950s, first on the level of performance, printed matter, and photography. In the 1970s, video was added as a means to document performative gestures, and also to question the meta-structures of this device for technical image (re)production. Video’s intrinsic quality, and the recognition of Vancouver as an important early site for conceptual art practices, led Croatian artist Sanja Iveković to realize the performance Meeting Points at Vancouver’s Western Front in 1979. This work marks the international connections of conceptualism at a time when political borders hindered mutual artistic exchange. Hence, our presentation at the Audain Gallery showcases conceptual art from the former Yugoslavia that take up performative and conceptual strategies that developed alongside geo-political restraints.

Locating the art of the former socialist countries within an international art context draws attention to not only their wide set of practices, but also the dynamic reciprocal connections and dialogues from which these practices sprung. One major aim of the Kontakt collection is also to reflect on forms of conceptual art production within Europe’s changing political geographies, and indeed, the changing parameters of time and space particularly made the artists of the 1970s precursors of the political changes yet to come. Without pointing only to phenomena in Eastern Europe, the exhibition reflects the transformed political geographies and the international emergence of conceptual and actionist tendencies that have been developing simultaneously since the late 1960s.

One of the most striking works of art from former Yugoslavia that takes up the transnational notion of art is Raša Todosijević’s Was ist Kunst? (What is Art?) from 1976/78. The choice of a Serbian artist to use the German language clearly confronts viewers with questions about Western artistic values and critiques narrow notions of the international canon of art. At this year’s Venice Biennale, where Todosijević’s work will be installed as the representative of Serbia, the Pavilion still declares, in large letters: Yugoslavia.

About the Audain Gallery

The Audain Gallery serves as a vital aspect of the Visual Arts program at Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts. Its mission is to advance the aesthetic and discursive production and presentation of contemporary visual art through a responsive program of exhibitions in support of engaged pedagogy. The Audain Gallery encourages conceptual and experimental projects that explore the dialogue between the social and the cultural in contemporary artistic practices. The Audain Visual Artists in Residence Program and student exhibitions are central to the gallery’s programming. The Audain Gallery is curated by Sabine Bitter.

Without the generous support from Kontakt. The Art Collection of Erste Group, this exhibition would not have been possible. Thanks go to Christine Böhler, chairwoman of the board, Walter Seidl, curator, and Karolina Radenković, curatorial assistance.


Audain Gallery SFU Woodward’s
Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6B 1H4
[email protected]

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SFU Galleries at Simon Fraser University
May 11, 2011

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