June 19, 2007 - Fundació Antoni Tàpies - Sanja Ivekovic
June 19, 2007

Sanja Ivekovic

Sanja Ivekovic; Trokut (Triangle), 1979, Photographs of a performance, text, copyright Sanja Ivekovic

SANJA IVEKOVIC.
GENERAL ALERT. WORKS 1974-2007

31 May – 22 July, 2007

Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona
Curators: Natasa Ilic and Kathrin Rhomberg
Organization: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona; Göteborgs Konsthall, Göteborg; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Köln; and Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck

www.fundaciotapies.org

Sanja Ivekovic studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb from 1968 to 1971. There she began an artistic practice which was far removed from “official art” and the predominant tendencies in Yugoslavia at the time. In her work from the seventies and eighties she often used her own image and personal experiences as a woman and a citizen of an communist regime to show how the public, political and social spheres affect the construction of ones own identity. Her work reveals a concept of identity as something complex and in constant evolution, constructed from the confluence of a host of dimensions and reciprocal influences between the public imaginary and personal notions. Dvostruki zivot (Double life, 1975) is a series of 66 pairs of photographs where snapshots from her personal album are placed side by side with images of women from women’s magazines, paired according to the similarity in their appearances, figures, accessories and situations. The emphasis on the parallelism between the mass media and the private photographs blurs the distinction between original and copy, between model and representation, and invites us to think about the nature and origin of the stereotypes of femininity. Is it the mass media that appropriate expressions, poses and attitudes which are typical of female behaviour or is it women who, under the influence of those media constructs, have ended up adopting them? Ivekovic suggests the influence of the mass media in the shaping of feminine stereotypes and turns them into elements of identity.

In many of her works from the seventies, national symbols and representation of the state play an important part, but the core of interest is not communist dissidence but the relations between gender and power. Her stance was a politically committed one, not as ‘a battle against communist obscurantism and totalitarianism’ but as a struggle for the pursuit of self-fulfilment by individuals and culture. Trokut (Triangle, 1979), one of her most important performances, was developed during a visit to Zagreb by Josip Broz Tito, then president of Yugoslavia. Disobeying the official instructions what forbade the presence of people on the balconies of buildings while he was there, Ivekovic stepped out and simulated an act of masturbation, assuming that although she could not be seen from the street, the surveillance teams on the roofs would detect her presence. Moments later a policeman knocked on her door and ordered the balcony to be cleared of people and objects. With Trokut, she exposed government repression, not only of the rights of women but also of freedom of speech in the Yugoslavia of the seventies.

During the eighties and nineties, as a reaction to the political and economic events of former Yugoslavia, Ivekovic’s art work took on a more marked political slant. It denotes a sharp awareness of the extent to which the media shape our understanding of the present and our perception of the past. She uses television programmes, magazines, advertisements and news items from the daily papers to structure a micropolitcal reading of history and affect the recovery of the collective memory. The video Osobni rezovi (Personal cuts, 1982) shows her with her face covered by a black stocking which she herself is cutting with a pair of scissors. Each ‘cut’ is followed by a short sequence from a historical documentary about Yugoslavia. The video ends when her face is completely uncovered. Gen XX is a work published in 1998 in the Croatian magazines Arkzin, Kruh i ruze and Zaposlena, all three products of the independent, alternative scene which led the criticism of nationalist politics and culture in the nineties. The work consists of a series of textual interventions on photos from magazine advertisements. The women who appear in the photographs are fashion models who are known to the public. The images are accompanied by biographical details which correspond not to the models photographed but to women who had been officially proclaimed ‘national heroines’ in memory of their struggle against fascism in the Second World War and were well known figures for the generations that grew up in the socialist period of former Yugoslavia. Her mother, Nera Safaric, is represented in one photograph, taken two years before she was captured and sent to Auschwitz, where she was held until the country was liberated. For young Croats today, these ‘heroines’ are unknown women who have been erased from the collective memory. Throughout the nineties, with Croatian society influenced by the nationalist ideology, the war, the triumph of capitalism and the rediscovery of the market economy, the struggle against what was denounced as the cultural hegemony of the left officially accepted their antifascist legacy, although in fact it denied it by encouraging collective amnesia about the entire socialist era.

Since the early nineties Sanja Ivekovic has been an important figure in political activism and, through her participation in collective initiatives and public projects, has defended a critical concept of gender politics, undertaking a personal commitment to social issues such as violence against women. Zenska kuca (House of women) is a project in progress which she began in 1998 and has developed internationally in association with different reception centres for women who have been victims of domestic violence. At each centre she asks the women to tell their stories and makes plaster models of their faces. This work is expressed in different forms: texts, postcards, posters, lectures, video presentations, etc. It is also structured as an installation, which presents the moulds of the faces of each of the women accompanied by their respective personal histories. So far she has worked with reception centres in Zagreb, Luxembourg, Bangkok and Pristina (Kosovo).

Ivekovic, a conceptual artist, gives priority to the artistic concept and uses all kinds of techniques and media to formalise it. However, she shows an unusual capacity for putting her ideas into visual form and finding the right expression for each of them. In her artistic practice, a single idea often takes different shapes, changing from a performance to a video or an installation. She also uses different media to channel the ideas, often having recourse to infiltration strategies that enable her to go beyond the sphere of the museum and enter the mass media. Whether through the political and social content or the reflection on gender politics, her work turns a critical eye to the traditional power structures and analyses the relations between gender and power, constructing an artistic practice that has an unprecedented impact on the contemporary aesthetic and ideological debate and is always linked to a constant quest for human emancipation.
Press Department: Alexandra Laudo
(Tel.: 934 870 315 / Fax: 934 870 009 / press@ftapies.com / www.fundaciotapies.org)

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