February 15, 2019 - Kunsthalle Zürich - Genoveva Filipovic / The Brotherhood of New Blockheads (1996–2002)
February 15, 2019

Kunsthalle Zürich

The Brotherhood of New Blockheads, The Inevitability of the Masterpiece. Photo: Alexander Lyashko.

Genoveva Filipovic
The Brotherhood of New Blockheads (1996–2002)
February 16–May 26, 2019

Kunsthalle Zürich
Limmatstrasse 270
CH-8005 Zürich

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Genoveva Filipovic
New York-based, German-Croatian artist Genoveva Filipovic' newest work runs under the title Shiva 2019 . Her art seems enigmatic, but light; it is hermetic, yet open, serious, yet oblique. It is an afterthought and an over-archiver, and never fishes for compliments. It is painting after the proclaimed end of painting that famously was never reached, except perhaps in the heads of art historians and art critics. Nevertheless, the suggestion was a powerful one—perhaps more so for male painters than female painters. The discourse centered on formalism, the idea that form in its essence is free and autonomous, with artworks wide open to interpretation and prone to long accompanying explanatory texts. This idea, pure form as a gateway to freedom, was eventually questioned by post-colonialist and feminist theorists, who pointed out that autonomy comes with a price and no form exists outside of context. This meant trouble for abstraction, the chief discipline of formalism in art. As abstraction was ideologically exposed, the figure, previously cast aside as reactionary, received a cautionary reevaluation and new standing. 

Today, as discussions on questions of gender and identity have taken center stage, the discourse of form and figure is largely obsolete (one critical assessment is replaced by another). Feeling that autonomy was impossible, artists have repeatedly chosen to empty their paintings from any content, hoping that this form of radical rejection would ultimately hold some kind of freedom.

All this seems to inform the work of Genoveva Filipovic in some sense—and then again, perhaps not. The question then is: In what context shall her work be read? How shall it be understood, if it refuses to be limited by art historical developments, contemporary gender politics, and established points of view? How shall it be registered, if it evades all calculation and passionately embraces rejection, while refusing that same rejection? 

For the time being, all we can promise is the paintings themselves, their contemplation and whatever it is they do or don’t do. One thing is certain: The art of Genoveva Filipovic combines the artist's despair facing the grandeur of ancient ruins with the viewer's despair facing the grandeur of ancient ruins.


The Brotherhood of New Blockheads (1996–2002)
Between 1996 and 2002 the artists Vadim Flyagin, Igor Panin, Sergey Spirikhin, Inga Nagel, Vladimir Kozin, Maxim Rayskin, Oleg Khvostov, and Alexander Lyashko undertook around one hundred smaller and larger performances. This art was chock-full of laconism and absurdity, modesty and exaggeration, humor and tragedy. At first glance, the actions appear pointless, irrelevant, dilettantish, and hopeless, which is why the performances went little-noticed at first. In reality the performances were engaged, intelligent, humanist, and full of eccentric purpose. Art, as it is practiced here, has high demands without overestimating itself. Everything happened in the moment, without any thought about how these actions could be turned into something more. It was art teeming with life and thoughts, with all its abysses. Thanks to these performances one is able to fathom the chaotic 1990s in Russia for the first time. The Soviet Union was disintegrating, unregulated capitalism was spreading, and yet, hope in democracy persisted. Visibly, this was also a fundamentally physical experience, one unabashedly retraced in the artists’ performances.

All this, but also the obvious humor, the contradictions, abundance and the seemingly lacking form are reflected in the exhibition at Kunsthalle Zürich. It is accompanied by a booklet, consisting of descriptions of the performances as remembered by the New Blockheads in 2016.

The exhibition was curated by Peter Belyi in collaboration with Kunsthalle Zürich.

Kunsthalle Zürich
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The Brotherhood of New Blockheads (1996–2002)
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