Fight the Dragon Long, the Dragon You Become: Performing Viewers in the Graffiti Monument
Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll is a Humboldt Fellow in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and the Humboldt University in Berlin. Address for correspondence: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you to Beatrice Jaurejui, Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, Alex Flynn, Anastasia Piliavski, Toby Matthiesen, and the peer reviewers for detailed suggestions in the revision of this paper. Azra Akšamija and Aleksandra Sekulic for the collaborations with which this work took shape if not form. Carola Dertnig and Alexander Schweder at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna for their contributions to the Performing Viewers project. The British Academy’s Newton Fellowship, Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, Frank Knox Foundation, and Project Zagreb at Harvard University, who supported the fieldwork, research, and time to write this paper.
It theorizes a conceptual art that gives viewers the opportunity to participate using the example of how drawing graffiti on monuments or on their pedestals redefines the monument, author, and artist. Performing viewers are considered in the article as vital constituents of ethnographic conceptualism—the artist’s version of informants.
Taking the situation and history of pedestals (such as one, in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, without the Bruce Lee monument it was built to support) as an artifact of ethnographic conceptualism, the pedestal is turned into a document for urban ethnographers studying the Balkans. Structured as an experiment in conceptual writing, this piece is a continuation of the author’s art practice, which explores the history and politics of multiple kinds of authorship in the Balkans. The article reflects current debates on nationalism through the lens of ethnographic conceptualism. It analyses the interviews and statements about the future of the Balkans that were collected during the project Graffiti Monument.
Keywords: Graffiti Monument; Performance; Audience; Performing Viewers; Nationalism; Authorship; Intervention; Participation; Collaboration; Artistic Research; Urban Ethnography; Yugoslavian Conceptual Art
As you read this sentence you are performing in a project that dematerializes monuments. This project is my response to actual monuments that have been written on in postwar former Yugoslavia. From that urban condition, I subtracted the physical monument from the acts of public writing on them, which are termed graffiti. The graffiti writing that is the subject here is a collection I constructed specifically within the context of the art exhibition of the 52nd Venice Biennale and Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana in 2007. The Graffiti Monument, as the vast assemblage of graffiti mapped out on the gallery wall was called, is an artwork made of a conversation. All that physically appeared in its installation were the textual responses to actual monuments, pedestals for absent monuments, and writing on them. It was based upon a collaborative writing experiment, taken from the “Europe Lost and Found” website onto a separate site, where I invited people to edit a text about performing viewers and monuments in the city using Microsoft Word’s track changes function to insert their contributions. The accumulation of short texts was documented on an eight-meter-long and three-meter-high wall (Figure 1). Arrows and colored marks held the responses together in spatially proximate comment clusters and threads (Figure 2). What was submitted online was printed and pasted in a way that did not reduce order to the bureaucratic aesthetic (Buchloh 1990) but highlighted the urges to classify the world that emerge in conversation. Seen as an experiment in conceptual writing, this piece is a continuation of an art project in which I use only text to create a platform for communication and urban ethnography.
Through this exploration of self-reflexivity and conceptual art outside its usual metropolitan centers I will describe the context of the Graffiti Monument’s resistance to the heroic figural sculpture type in the postwar Balkans (Figures 4–6). To situate the significance of this conceptual dematerialization of the monumental object into text (Lippard 1973) I discuss the history of authorship and conceptual art in Yugoslavia. Benedict Anderson’s (1983) and Michael Herzfeld’s (1982, 1997) anthropologies of nationalist imagination underlie my deconstruction of the phenomena of heroic monuments. The orientation, rotation, and removal of monumental sculpture and pedestals provide the context for my interest in drawing viewers into the constitution of the work of art. Being an artist rather than an anthropologist, I cast my fieldwork as an exploration of the politics and language of memory in the wake of the Yugoslav wars of 1990–1995. My retrospective analysis of attitudes to history and the future of the Balkans are based on commentaries I collected and displayed as a conceptual work of art entitled Graffiti Monument.
I term the audiences in my artworks “performing viewers” because the audience are the performers through which the distinction between viewer and art can be erased. These viewers-cum-performers are a necessary part of each project’s whole, involved actively from beginning to end. There are no art objects in my exhibitions to which an audience responds—they themselves are the objects and the subjects. This trajectory has one source in the artist Marcel Duchamp, who asserted that it is the spectators who make the images (quoted in Virilio 1991). Paul Virilio’s notion of “negative monument” describes the multiplication of media and perspectives that this Copernican revolution in perception enabled.
Who are the performing viewers exactly, these audiences, what class and context do they come from, and can their position be altered during the performance? Augusto Boal (1979) used theater to rehearse social change, and visual artists have also articulated attempts to enable their participants in their process. In many art worlds the very condition of being on display privileges other artists as viewers and these politics become the exhibit. As in many disciplines, the discourse of conceptual art has a tendency to become closed to those outside of the profession. It is a perpetual struggle to open the work of art up to more viewers, and each of the conceptual categories in this essay, for instance, reflects my performing viewers’ different paths into the artwork.
Attempts at breaking down the differentiation of passive audience and active performer is a strategy with a history. Relational aesthetics, in particular, shares with anthropology a focus on human relationships. It defines art as information exchanged between the artist and the viewers: “The artist, in this sense, gives audiences access to power and the means to change the world” (Bourriaud 2002:33). I have written (Carroll, Dertnig, and Schweder 2010) a history of performance art works of the past half-century in which the camera turned toward the viewer to record their voices. These artists have the ethnographer’s interest in capturing the texture of social life as voiced by performers. Within performance art, which was traditionally focused on the performer, it is a significant shift to instead conceive of the audience as those who perform the work.
Ethnographic conceptualism takes conceptual art’s rejection of the traditional media used to produce conventional art objects in favor of using ethnography as the artistic medium (Sosnina and Ssorin-Chaikov 2009; Ssorin-Chaikov, introduction, this issue). The legacy of conceptual art has recently used direct citations of anthropology as further means to explode the hermetic discourse of reference within art history. In the interdisciplinary method explicated in this volume, it is not art history that is participating with ethnography but actual conceptual art. Beyond its aesthetic, this strain of conceptualism subverts notions of fieldwork with indigenous others, with its claims of truth and power in expert commentary. In exhibitions by Clemens von Wedemeyer (The Fourth Wall, 2010), Willem de Rooij (Intolerance, 2010), Simon Fujiwara (Phallusies: An Arabian Mystery, 2010), and Ben Rivers (Slow Action, 2011), an anthropological aesthetic has been articulated in a representational style that takes its format from academic ethnography. Conceptualism’s recent interest in anthropology could thereby be argued to be producing an art of ethnography in conceptualism, and yet the topos I want to explore here is a different one.
This article tests the claim that ethnographic conceptualism can analyze the performative responses of an art audience. I seek to further define what the paradigmatic relationship is between the artist as author of history and the productive provocations and failures of political art interventions. The focus on audiences of art is what ethnographic conceptualism and my series of Performing Viewers works have in common. The major difference is that conceptual art does not read the audience through participant observation but makes the participants into a constitutive element of an artistic performance. Seeking to invert the notion of a public that is being displayed and explored as an informant of a fixed social moment, my projects aim to effect a conceptual shift in the subject in the process.
Both conceptual art and ethnographic conceptualism have different outcomes from academic anthropology. Collaboration with a community rather than the study of informants and the resulting participatory, visual, public work rather than academic text are two differences separating the artist’s and the traditional ethnographer’s methods. I argue that performance is a medium through which ideas can be rehearsed more effectively with nonacademics than through texts alone. For me, art and academia have always taken from the other in an alternating rather than simultaneous practice. To date, I have written about others in the history of art rather than analyzed my own authorship of artworks. However, the author of history as expressed in creative works is of broad concern in both my academic and artistic practices. Reading my art as ethnographic conceptualism is therefore a method in which the two that have for a long time overlapped in different ways are sutured together and not merely in the mode of a cross-disciplinary theorization through citation.
If art and performance are productive research tools, then my method here hopes to further define artistic research. This has become a contested term within debates about the assessment criteria for academics (for example, the ranking of publications) and the output and impact of research from art academies as they complete the Bologna Process. What is at stake is a greater academic grasp on the research done by artists and the potential of the exhibition as an effective way of disseminating ideas to the public. To study the audience as an artist and academic is therefore my methodological experiment in this article. To effect change in the audience is one way in which both the format of exhibition and of theoretical text gauges its response. I read audience responses to understand how art projects I have done in the past can retrospectively be material for anthropological analysis.
Anthropologists such as Marcel Mauss ( 1979) and Tim Ingold (2011:51) have analyzed technique and craft through ethnographic description. In those examples it is the author’s own body, engaged in the act of making, that generates the data. Comparably, I take my own art-research techniques, the experiences, conversations, and cultural analysis done in the process as the subject of this article. Can the techniques of the historian and the craft of the visual artist be made mutually productive? I argue that, as a research method, art enables access to archives and methodologies that artists such as Julie Gough and Renee Green also make instrumental for their postcolonial critiques (Carroll forthcoming).
Authorship is central to ethnographic conceptualism, which conceives of the author of ethnography as sharing a method with the conceptual artist. The author in ethnographic conceptualism desires to script a discourse by collectively defining a new method for ethnographic writing that acknowledges interventions in the field. Artists on the other hand have no stake in not intervening in their context; indeed conceptualists have long problematized the position of the artist-author by collaborating in and thus multiplying or erasing their authorship through anonymity. Though it must be added that while ethnographic conceptualists also distribute authorship to their collaborators, they retain academic and artistic authorship in publications and authored curatorship.
The research in this article was initially designed to explore relationships to history through authorship in Eastern Europe. The history of conceptualism in Yugoslavia affirms the influence of preceding authors in the canon to the responses both to socialist and postsocialist society. Pursuing the difficulty of articulating a future in a language burdened by having been made instrumental in a recently traumatic past, Graffiti Monument highlights struggles against language via the ethnic and religious connotations of names. After violent transitions due to imperial legacies, changes in governance, and war, how do visual and verbal languages reposition a culture?
Ethnographic conceptualism is not the ethnography of conceptual art, yet the inflection of that key term in this special issue describes well what conversations in postwar Yugoslavia led me to. I travelled to Belgrade and Zagreb to interview the generation of conceptual artists who have been practicing there since the late 1960s. We conducted conversations during walks through the city, in which these conceptualists outlined the histories of the places that were important to them. Their predecessors were the Minimalists of the 1960s, named New Tendencies, who collectively authored their works under that title. The next generation made a defiant shift from New Tendencies’ ideology of collectively authored discourses. Acts of authorship asserted individual agency in the form of interventions in the public space of the city—its history, apparent chaos, and state of constant transition (Blau and Rupnik 2007).
Unlike other politically engaged artists, Tomislav Gotovac did not remain anonymous in his Fluxus performances, Sweeping Streets and Begging, knowing that they would lead to his arrest in the 1970s and 1980s (Cramer and Stipančić 1993). Aberrant on one hand within the total image of the nation-state, Gotovac also embeds socialist symbols and strategies into his provocations (Herzfeld 1982). Herzfeld’s anthropology of the Balkans reveals the roles of imagining nationhood through performances and monuments of creative dissent that are both rebellious and patriotic at the same time (1997:91). The trajectory of politically oppositional art in the Balkans has a history of local and highly conceptual provocations on which authors in the twenty-first century clearly build.
Though authors often remained officially anonymous to avoid arrest or implication during the communist era, the conceptual practices with which they reshaped the use of the cities in Yugoslavia had a longer history. From an outlying trading post of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the nineteenth century Zagreb grew into a city through a series of performances that conceived of institutions before they or their buildings existed. For instance, within the space of seventy years Novi Trg (The New Square) developed from a pasture to a temporary event space to a theater and square for political protest. Agrarian events were first staged on the Novi Trg when it was bought by the city of Zagreb for a cattle market in 1826. The insalubrious cattle market had to move in 1864 to the brick yards and the farmers market moved into the New Square. It became the place where folk singers performed and then later where they staged choral works for an Austro-Hungarian audience. The very same site would then be chosen for the National Theater, which opened in 1895.
Anderson argues that it is the imperial and national spaces that are enacted through institutions like museums, censuses, and even theaters (1983:163–187). The kinds of individual interpolations into Zagreb that came to constitute the city are less constitutive of a coherent nation in the Balkans. Nineteenth-century imperial Zagreb did imitate the cosmopolitan ring of Vienna, yet the formation of the institutions along Novi Trg (which became a horseshoe shape rather than a ring) developed through a series of events organized by locals rather than from the Austrian imperial center. The town planner Milan Lenuci’s placement of the national theater beside a gasworks shows how radically he lured the historic limits of the city into a new series of exchanges with the industrial and agricultural areas. Histories of events such as these, in which audiences opened up new public spaces, are the basis for the series of Performing Viewers works, which includes Graffiti Monument.
In this contribution I am intentionally not aiming for a comprehensive summary of the anthropological work on the relationship between monumentality and the formation of the nation-state. To circumscribe and detail a discourse in a totalizing way is typical of the anthropological and other Enlightenment disciplines (Carroll forthcoming). Instead I am applying to ethnographic writing conceptual art’s evocation of a whole through a part. With references to some key works, such as Herzfeld’s and Anderson’s, that have been paradigmatic in this regard, I hope to flag the larger discourse and give a sidelong view at any claim to totality.
The Graffiti Monument installation responded to a problem that had formed for me around Conversazja (1999), the Belgrade Art Museum’s first exhibition after the war, which posited that conversations are central to the exhibition. As an exhibition, Conversazja, curated by Branislav Dimitrijevic, remained an array of objects struggling to express a way forward for subjects in a postwar condition. One attempt to document the postwar condition without resorting to the stereotypical image of disaffected youth in a ruined city was Phil Collins’ photographs Young Serbs (Figure 3).
Since the 1960s, conceptual artists have questioned the dubious role that class and location plays in art education. Marga van Mechelen (2012) recently stressed the importance of asking when—and I would add where—one learns about conceptual art. Especially in the history of the Balkans the local has always been influenced by an interaction with the interests of the broader European and world geography: the Austria-Croatia nexus, Serbia-Russia, UK-Serbia, and Serbia-Greece—to name just a few of many alliances. The monuments I will discuss underline the centrality of the international in the Balkans.
The long pre-performance to my research on monuments began when I joined the conceptual art master class at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 2000. It is important to acknowledge that Performing Viewers are themselves performed within a political economy of the contemporary art world in which my response reflects the particular era in which I received my training at art school. The Yugoslav wars and the history of Austria as the threshold of Eastern Europe was the context of my education. Yugoslavia was geographically and historically proximate to Vienna through the former Hapsburg Empire. Yet the refugees streaming into Vienna at the time had become extreme outsiders, even in the shattered remains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that Sarajevo, Zagreb, and surrounds were once part of. How would these communities and cultures survive war and their refuge in places like Vienna, and how would history tell their story? This was my research question at the outset, which resulted in a work entitled Insert New Image Here (Soho in Otterking, Vienna, 2001) about the resignification of public monuments in Vienna.
At the Academy in Vienna we engaged politically by attempting, through collaborations with artists in former Yugoslavia, to enable them to travel and show the work they had been making during the war. It is from collaborations in the period of recovery after the Yugoslav wars that the work presented in this article arises. Boris Groys’s (1992) work on Stalinist art as the Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work,” and Renata Salecl’s (1999) writing on the socialist realist conception of the state as a work of art would influence a whole generation of postsocialist studies. Conceptual art’s specific discourse in Eastern Europe was introduced to me by Groys’s conference on “Art+War” during the six months that he was the director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna in 2001. A decade later, I remembered the proverb that was told to me then by Caca Sekulic (Figure 3), one of my interlocutors in Belgrade, “Ko se dugo sa azdajom bori, azdaja postane”—fight the dragon long, the dragon you become. This echoes the 1944 play by the Soviet writer Evgeny Shvarts, which was a political satire of totalitarianism in all its forms.
This is a monument for all those that still carry a little dragon within … to start fighting and to keep fighting for what they think is good.
—Enter the Dragon
The context of monument making in the Balkans into which I inserted Graffiti Monument can be given through just a few examples. The first monument to Bruce Lee was unveiled in 2005, one day before the Chinese star’s sixty-fifth birthday, not in Hong Kong but in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Designed by the young artists Veselin Gatalo and Nino Raspudić of the Mostar Urban Movement, this gilded monument was erected as a symbol against the ethnic animosities in the divided city of Mostar. As an earnest intervention rather than the tragic-comic gesture it appears to be at first glance, the Bruce Lee monument was witnessed and documented by the filmmaker Ozren Milharcic as Enter the Dragon (Bosnian: U zmajevom gnijezdu). This film depicted, through interviews with the artists Gatalo and Raspudić, both basic and radical levels of discourses with inherent contradictions and rationalities in a postwar chaotic context where all the references have still to be imaginatively reinterrogated:
Who knows? Maybe some vandals will destroy the monument next day. Maybe it will last a few generations. But that’s not the point. It’s about this moment and people with ruined childhoods and youths. And it is important that Mostar became famous for something that is not destruction, division, ethnic conflict and so on ... That’s important for us.
I think monuments like this one, that have some deeper meaning, radiate in space. For instance, when you get depressed in Mostar, it’s enough to remember that near you stands the bronze Bruce Lee statue with the text: “BRUCE LEE 1943–1973, your Mostar” and it gives you some strength, you feel some relief. It tells people to keep on fighting for what they think is good. In that sense it will be a source of positive energy that certainly won’t chase people away from Mostar.
Bruce Lee was cast as a hero from the past shared by Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, yet he is not the only imported superstar to inspire new monumental curiosities in the Western Balkans. A bronze statue of Rocky Balboa, for example, now stands in a victory pose over the main square in Žitište, a small village in Vojvodina, while the locally born Johnny Weissmuller (best known for playing the title role in the 1930–1940 American Tarzan movies) and the busty singer and model Samantha Fox also received pedestals in the Serbian townships of Međa and Čačak, respectively. What all these muscular monuments have in common in the context of the Yugoslav disintegration is that they have become a-national icons for people struggling with their identity amidst an eroded history.
The replacement of the Yugoslavian motto under socialism of “Brotherhood and Unity” with paroles of nationalist separatism announced the beginning of a disjointed ideological era, in which diverse and competing political sentiments are still in search of new icons for public representation. While the meaning of the sculptural monuments to the pan-Slav revolution has been seriously contested in the war of the 1990s, the repertoire of recent national heroes that could be monumentalized as statues is shrinking with each war crime trial in The Hague (Akšamija 2011). Yet, the search for new heroes that could fill the cultural gap produced by the Balkanization of Yugoslavia has, according to Akšamija, apparently been satisfied with icons from the entertainment industry—hence forcing an unlikely conjunction of Hollywood and the recent political crisis in the Balkans. The monuments play a role in the new signification of urban places, creating new meanings that produce a cleavage between the past and the present and facilitate the production of a symbolic system.
Off with the Action Pants
The artist Milica Tomic warned early during the new wave of monuments (which added Bob Marley and Tupac to Bruce Lee) that they were a dangerous joke in which history was being erased and replaced by Mickey Mouse. The Serbian city of Čačak has an empty pedestal that has been appropriated by the artist Michael Blum with the title The Rumor (Or How Samantha Fox Helped Čačak Reach Fame). The rumor is that there was a planned monument to the pinup model Samantha Fox, in tune with the gender stylization often present in Serbian turbo folk music, which instantiated the blond and the warrior as lasting stereotypes of “Serbianness” in popular culture.
It has been said by the feminist art historian of militarized sculpture, Sue Malvern, that the monument is an “obsolete category” for contemporary sculptors (2007:131). Robert Musil anticipated the antimonument discourse in his essay Monuments, which he argues are “conspicuously inconspicuous” to viewers ( 1957:61). However, Performing Viewers shows that there is still an intense interest in monuments as sites around which contested identities are played out publicly and artistically. To become the dragon is a powerful critical strategy, exemplified by Jochen Gerz’s practice of public monument making. The post–World War II monuments in Germany sharpened again the potential for intervention in public space by provoking performing viewers to articulate latent fascism. Gerz’s Monument against Fascism took the shape of a column that was slowly sunk into the ground in Hamburg in 1986 after becoming covered with violent graffiti made not only with ink but also with bullets and knives (Wilson 2004). The tension between the immediate performative articulation and the permanence of a memorial was fused in a literal graffiti monument that could not be rewritten or erased once buried. Invisible Monument Square in Saarbrücken, Germany, in 1993 continued Gerz’s language-based requisitioning of the monument through participative processes, engaging the collective memory, the shared or unshared social or personal experiences, incorporating them in an elaboration of the artwork and in its final perceptible or imperceptible results.
There are also, among those critical contributions to the contemporary political monuments discourse, those that did not “become the dragon,” which is to say they did not take on the violent energy of what they set out to fight. Rachel Whiteread’s Nameless Library sculpture for the Jewish Holocaust Memorial in Vienna (1996) exemplifies the contemporary artist’s peaceful resistance to the historical genre of monuments. The erasure of Jews in Vienna sits as a heavy presence in the stone library. Whiteread’s monument uses nameless books to evoke the defacement of the Holocaust.
The responses (Figure 2) to the Turbo monument in Mostar are revealing of the fragility of the hypermacho figure in transition from the heroic equestrian type (Figure 6). The Bruce Lee statue suffered more swift and lethal blows in the Mostar community park. A black graffiti painting of a vagina on the crotch of his Kung Fu pants undermined the masculinity of his golden body. Promptly, such feminization of the freedom fighter was sufficient cause to remove the sculpture altogether (Figure 10).
Most recently Aleksandra Domanovic has taken to copying the Yugoslav Monument to Revolution by Ivan Sabolić (1963, now in the Memorial Park Bubanj, Niš, Serbia) to scale but in bright pink for the Marrakech Biennale 2012. Morocco’s oppressive state regime likely did not see the irony in the conceptual appropriation of a Soviet monument and personally had the monumental fist moved.
Anticipating attack from either Bosniaks or Croats, Veselin Gatalo and Nino Raspudić intentionally oriented the Bruce Lee sculpture’s fighter pose neither to the east nor to the west. Regardless, unknown writers expressed their animosity to the statue, despite the fact that it faced north, “where all decisions are made.”
This was not the first time that a Balkan monument was covered and disappeared. The heroic monumental statue of Josip Jelačić, the mid-nineteenth century ruler of Croatia, that was erected in 1866, facing east in the central Jelačić Square of Zagreb to celebrate his defense of the city against the Ottomans, was suddenly covered up in 1945. The statue itself disappeared, and in 1947 a communist star appeared on the cover, as on a giant plinth (Figure 7). Ban Jelačić’s statue was exiled from its pedestal until 1990 when it returned to the center of Zagreb, but rotated. Since then Jelačić’s figure looks in the other direction: he faces west.
No amount of rotation, however, can make monuments—in their premodern, prepedestal form—admirable again as unproblematic figures of history. Hence my turn to those instances where graffiti in former Yugoslavia has gained the status that the monument once had in public space and popular imagination. A widely reported example in the national media of Serbia was the visit of television idol Rob Stewart (who plays private investigator Nick Slaughter in the Canadian television series Tropical Heat) for a photo shoot in front of a piece of graffiti in which the town “hails Nick Slaughter.” The press reverberated the legendary status of this graffiti, and Stewart embraced the image of himself as living monument by posing with the graffiti inscription before his live concert appearance in Belgrade. The relationship between figure and author in the case of Samantha Fox’s sculpture was rotated in a different way again. The British star was to have a monument in honor of a visit she made to the Serbian town of Čačak, but after she left, offended by remarks about her body, the figure was never finished. The pedestal was however already in place and was repurposed in a conceptual work in which contemporary Austrian artist Michael Bloom appropriated Fox’s pedestal with the word “rumor” that had been graffitied on it.
The humor and energy, and also the tragedy and fear, expressed by the Turbo monuments was the inspiration for Performing Viewers, which provided a way out of the fixture of otherness by turning each and every one into living monuments. One experience of performing viewership in which the litter of statues vacant of meaning was turned into a performative subject was during my fieldwork for the graffiti monument. In 2006 I travelled with a group of artists along the “Highway of Brotherhood and Unity,” a road that Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito had planned (though construction was never completed) between Ljubljana, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Skopje, Priština, Tirana, Podgorica, and Sarajevo. Along the way, in each of these cities, performances, presentations, or tours were staged by locals and by the travelers. These encounters with places, each other, and time intentionally avoided making monumental gestures. The group set out to explore the kind of self-management that the Yugoslav regime began to experiment with after it defiantly broke from Stalinist rule in 1948 (Rusinow 1978). The self-managed state had produced a dynamic space that the group sought to reengage in this critical moment after the Balkan war had torn the Yugoslavian cities apart. The experience of the performing viewer was thus one of temporary interrelation with three hundred other artists involved in what became known as the Lost Highway Expedition (Figure 8).
In a place where traumatic recent history has burdened the future with a failure of forgetting, a living type of monument may provoke an insight into fraught forms of memory. That was the premise of my collaborations on the manifesto (Akšamija and Carroll 2007) that formed the basis for the Graffiti Monument. Beyond standard conversation or interview formats, the Graffiti Monument allowed me to harness aggressive, nationalistic, disenchanted, nostalgic, but also optimistic commentary (Levi 2007:103). Building a monument that provided a space for such expression of memory showed that in the venting of verbal attacks and vandalism, the national language and locations were interchangeable even within a neutral gallery environment.
The urge to inscribe graffiti on the wall of the gallery installation was so strong that even a contrived environment that did not offer any of the privacy of a toilet wall or dark alley received tags and curses. Anonymous “go to toilets” graffiti, as one commentator tagged it, included everything from “The only constant is change—Buddha” followed directly by a hand-drawn and carefully designed serif font in red pencil. It read “whip me, bite me, eat me, fuck me, treat me like the whore I am & get the fuck off,” added just below the Buddha quote. Above, a carefully colored homage to Edith Piaf “Je ne regrette rien” (I regret nothing), was to the left of “rêve + evolution = revolution.” Slogans of activism, “Police partout (everywhere)/ Justice nulle part (nowhere)” and “¡No pasarán! (They shall not pass)” were visible throughout.
None could be as iconic as the anonymous author who feminized Bruce Lee, yet instead there was conversation back and forth between different interlocutors on the topic. Thereby the Graffiti Monument became the kind of ruse that lures honesty from its assailants, the kind of uncontrolled interface that can be a tool for unassuming research. In the process, living people replaced the monuments that have lost their meaning for these postwar cities. They embodied the temporality of the present, with which they could free themselves of nostalgia. They debated the politics of the Graffiti Monument aesthetic as a means to think through the possibilities for writing and representing history collaboratively.
Thereby the genre of manifesto writing that is typically a crystallized form of ideology or instruction could be opened up to many voices that all read and write on a topic, on the same page. To counteract the physical and temporal constrictions of the page, I designed a reflective environment for reclining while reading, lying down to rest while thinking of a response. I modeled cocoons for the living wall text in the gallery, the artist’s manifesto, a graffiti wall. Of those many hundreds of visitors, around forty people contributed, in fifteen different languages.
By dematerializing the monument into a text work I experimented with the writing of history. I ask repeatedly in my work: how can history be performed differently through the methodologies of artists? This very essay is an experiment with writing that tests the ways conceptual artists and ethnographers conceive of the text-work in ways that are productively similar. Ethnographic conceptualism thus provides a framework for my critique of monumental public sculpture in the Balkans.
In the same conceptual vein (Krauss 1986:280; Kwon 2004:38), the curator Mihnea Mircan made part of the exhibition he curated for the 52nd Venice Biennale into a broadsheet publication (Akšamija and Carroll 2007). He asked a handful of artists and writers, including Akšamija and myself, to submit proposals and theories for monuments. These were printed and stacked en masse as a monumental wall of dematerialized monuments. The manifesto we submitted was printed within, and as the members of the audience each took one copy, the monumental wall disappeared and the broadsheet circulated around Venice.
On the Graffiti Monument there was a visibly heated debate about language, its origins, the dominance of English, Latin roots, and the threat of “French,” “Dutch,” and “Flemish” “all” “madly learning Chinese.” In this discussion about the supremacy of Latin one person scrawls in red pencil “English will only remain the second [language] forever.” “What about Chinese?” another answers in orange. “English is the new Latin,” no, “Latin is the origin of so many languages.”
These contributions to the Graffiti Monument grapple with the desire for an absolute present. Two graffiti writers, Galena Eduardova Hashhozheva and Mark Ihnatowycz, debate an idealized present beyond the constraints of “those monsters” of past and future. (The following citations were all made as part of the project, either via the Internet or within the exhibitions; for instance, Ihnatowycz physically added on the gallery wall to Hashhozheva’s printed “track changes.”) Those monsters are fought within the line, as into each sentence were inserted interjections that read as constant wrests of the very linear temporality of reading line by line. These interjections from the “present” disrupted the typical mode of narrative unfolding over time to reflect the history being discussed. For example, in the first line Hashhozheva wrote, “or living MO(nu)MENT? and this residual ‘nu’ squeezed in between the two limbs of the past/future mo/ment isn’t meaningless either: it is Swedish for ‘now’ ….” Ihnatowycz replied by inserting, “It’s unfortunate that the ‘nu’ must be conceived as merely residual, squeezed in parenthetically between those monsters: then + then (past and future). As long as these 2 points continue to structure our linguistic and metaphysical conception of the ‘now/nu,’ no untied/unbound present can reveal itself to us. Note: ‘nu’ is also French for ‘naked.’ Such a gift, such a present, is the art of undressing the self of the burdens of then-centricity. [signed] Mark Ihnatowycz, Toronto Canada.”
The monument was cut up into multilingual significances in a section that Ellen Smith tagged “The English Department.” No referent could be dropped in, it seems, without karate chops being dealt to the center of the word. From the corpse of these words, from the title in the first line, springs “nu.” Also nostalgia was invoked, in a move against the grain of these lines in which the Graffiti Monument proposed to become a means of fragmenting the linear progression of history, to dissolve the hierarchy of the present over the past. Addressing the Yugo-nostalgia in which the former socialist state of Yugoslavia was yearned for after the Yugoslav wars, Stephen Zachs wrote on the wall,
I think that in a way the past is maybe dominant, in the sense that it has such an overwhelming influence over the present. The “fight for the oppressed past” is in a way a fight to recover what was lost not from the point of view of an interested present—a lament about today reflected back through nostalgia—but in its full form, unencumbered by history. So for instance, the Yugo-nostalgia phenomenon misses the sense of a shared history but forgets the contentiousness of today, which is so overwhelmingly present that it is not missed. Or in the case of my lost soul, is it possible to remember the presence of a person in the fullness of the moment in which they were present, and what do I do with that memory, which is so overwhelmed by the sense of loss from their absence. I don’t permit myself to remember. Only the ruin remains. Maybe the paradox of the Graffiti Monument is a pile of ruins, still decaying.
The struggle to design a Graffiti Monument that would define time spatially gave rise to several suggestions in the tracked changes. Zachs’s conception of a ruin resonated in a sense with the etymology of monument, as the Middle English term for burial place. From this, Wietske Maas elaborated a more abstract definition of “an unlimited assemblage or an always incomplete inhabitable structure … I think of the Graffiti Monument as a construction site whose material is the ‘in-between’ … : the collision between fake and real, between folklorism and difference, between familiar and unfamiliar where new meanings emerge and dislocate and emerge again.”
Stephen Zachs: It makes me think a lot about my everyday experience in this place, which I almost never have a chance to write about or think about seriously. The moments of intensification blend together with the everyday in a way that makes it difficult to remember anything. But my everyday experience is at the same time so overwhelmed by the past that I am practically buried in it sometimes—the same street I walked down with a girl I was in love with, briefly, before everything went to hell. The years I spent in that neighbourhood, the places that used to be there, and the ones that are gone are always by definition more important, larger in their absence than when they were present. Which is tedious. So if you’re like me, you take the attitude (toward those ephemeral places, and the places there now) that it’s good that things change, even if the change is horrific and frightening in the abstract (the gentrification, the high-rise condos, so out of SCALE, the yuppie scum, the invasion of starfucking trash). Something that I never ever feel about a person who has gone from me, a kind of death that takes a little bit of the soul every time it happens. And then years later, that part of the soul being dead, you hardly remember why it mattered.
Maas cites lyrics from the song “Youme & Meyou” by the band Einstürzende Neubauten to frame her critique: “…’cause out there’s always another construction site / a Starbucks and / yet another Guggenheim.” The Graffiti Monument works through a conversation piece, and that is its medium, one that is not didactic, but rather works on the basis of identification. The question is also always whether the monument should appeal to its viewers with an aesthetic effect, some would argue, that resolves fear or conflict. Maas replies that “[a]esthetics has the potential to perform conflict, to perform fear. To follow Duchamp, we must break away from aesthetics as a repetition of something already accepted. The Graffiti Monument is not a construction site for the habitual, the tasteful or the accepted (for another Starbucks or Guggenheim), but for a strange new beauty that creates a desire for looking beyond the territories of familiarity. (an)Aesthetics that brings one’s senses into contact with unknowns, an aesthetics as a poetic conflictuality, an arena where conflicts can be (constructively) performed.”
Such an unstable signifier raised the hackles of others, who made comments about the ethics and moral responsibility of remembering accurately, truthfully, with universal Enlightenment values.
That the Graffiti Monument is no longer driven by a desire to preserve memories, represent heroic figures of grandiosity, or mark voids left by genocides raised the question of ethics for readers. The statement that the Graffiti Monument is continuously lived in the present—perpetually metamorphic and ephemeral—provoked an argument for moral responsibility.
Zachs: I don’t think you can abandon the moral imperative of remembering, in which something is at stake. The value and resonance of the monument will depend on the truth of its form and its meaning to particular groups in time, but if you believe in universal values (which I do, naturally, otherwise who cares?) then you also have to believe that there is something that supersedes the bullshit of constructed histories. Without the Enlightenment, we are all lost.
While “The English Department” had responded with additions to the theory laid out by the manifesto, others would not accept the conceptualist reduction of the monument to discourse. One Russian comparative literature professor demanded an autonomous, historically true, vertical sculpture instead of one that deconstructed the institutional, rhetorical, and aesthetic principles of art.
[caps are original] AND YET, IN YOUR ANTI-COUNTERMONUMENTAL ZEAL, YOU CREATE A PEDESTAL (OR A PORTAL) TO MARK THE SPACE WHERE YOUR “MONUMENT” CAN TAKE PLACE. ARE YOU BUILDING A MINIMAL STAGE FOR THE FUTURE PERFORMANCES, A LIVING PEDESTAL, INSTEAD OF A LIVING MONUMENT? WHAT IS YOUR PEDE-STYLE: VIRTUAL RADICAL CHIC OF THE NOMADIC-RHYZOME OR SOMETHING MORE EARTHY AND GLOCAL, LIKE WORLD MUSIC?
Imagine, through reading, that you are going to walk into a space with a pedestal that has been rotated, facing east then west, looking inwards then outwards (Figures 6 and 9). As such, this pedestal provides an extra-analytical framework in which to explore the complexities of contemporary Balkan history. The absence of the original monument that the pedestal meant to support creates a space for multiple interpretations and interventions. These interpretations will structure the experience of reading the project and your role as performing viewer.
To add the pedestal to the monument discourse is a way to amplify the signal that a conceptualist reclassification is being performed. This is well outlined in a history of the pedestal that Manuela Ammer has recently written, arguing that it has become the figure of relationality in contemporary discourse (2012:99). Artist Franz West’s comment that the “‘white cube’ is an inverted pedestal” is cited by Ammer to further illustrate the leveling of the object to enable the viewer to participate.
It is a signature maneuver in conceptual art to make a mirror representation of the audience. Hence my intention was precisely not to delineate the parameters of “a portal,” as that would distance the viewer. My portal aimed to replace the art object, the way Seth Siegelaub’s exhibition January 5–31, 1969 “consists of (the idea communicated in) the catalog” (Siegelaub quoted by Jean-Charles Agboton-Jumeau 2009:1). For the first time in Siegelaub’s gallery in 1969 the typically supplementary catalogue, and no other physical presence, was the exhibition.
Siegelaub, the gallerist renowned for first supporting the conceptual artists such as Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Wiener, showed his collection of ethnographic textiles in The Stuff That Matters, an exhibition in 2012 by Raven Row gallery, a former textiles factory in London. This is a surprise emergence of a collection seemingly quite unlike his stable of conceptual art influenced by analytic linguistics. The textiles were torn into small swatches that operate as a conceptual art text does (Figure 11), exhibiting fragments of fabric to refer to capital, class, and color, which are respectively represented through the ordering of the collection.
I make a comparable methodological experiment here with the assemblage of interlocutors on the Graffiti Monument. Swatches of concepts rather than linear argument seems to me exactly the way that the ethnographic conceptualists can assemble their material, even if formally the outcomes (essay versus exhibition) are different. In other words I present a monument that has been dematerialized into text by laying them out like swatches on the pages that follow. It was perhaps radical in the 1960s to dematerialize the art object, but the same objects have since rematerialized as “found objects” like Siegelaub’s textiles. These objets trouvés trouble the traditional methods for making art, their ur-iteration being Duchamp’s fountain.
SveBo: I, THE LAST OF THE PILOTS OF THE RUINED LETATLIN, CHALLENGE THE CONTEMPORANEITY OF YOUR ENDEAVOR!
CAN WE EVER BE CON-TEMPORARY WITH OUR TIMES? MIKHAIL BAKHTIN WROTE ABOUT BEING-TEMPORARILY AND SPATIALLY OUTSIDE, VNENAKHODIMOST’, AS A PRECONDITION FOR A CRITIQUE. BUT I KNOW WE ALL WANT TO “BE THERE” AND “BE-WITH” WITHOUT THOSE DAMNED QUOTATION MARKS, OH-SO 1980S, TWO SEVERED HEADS OF THE FORGOTTEN AUTHORS. ONLY, THIS IN ITSELF IS NOT SO CONTEMPORARY. IN FACT, THE WORD CONTEMPORARY, FIRST DOCUMENTED IN THE 1630 IS FIFTY YEARS OLDER THAN THE WORD “NOSTALGIA” (INVENTED IN 1688). IT’S GOOD TO BE ESTRANGED IN YOUR FUTURE CONTEXTS. FUTURE IS OVERRATED.
If ethnographic conceptualism is interested in what kind of informant an art audience is, then THE LAST OF THE PILOTS OF THE RUINED LETATLIN is a rich example of how the rancor of an academic-cum-art-dilettante rages within a discourse, which she assumes to direct. SveBo was the only author who made up another name. With a graffiti nom de plume made up of severed ends of first and last name, SveBo capitalized on the manifesto’s propositions. As intended, the manifesto presented a provocation to critique whichever notion of the present the author may associate with.
I, THE LAST CONTEMPORARY OF THE NOSTALGICS, CHALLENGE YOU TO GIVE YOUR PEDESTAL AN ARTISTIC FORM, ELUSIVE, AMBIVALENT AND UNPRECEDENTED. DON’T BE ASHAMED OF SUCH OBSCENE WORDS AS “ART” OR “REPRESENTATION.” DON’T TREAT THEM AS IF IT WERE YOUR DIRTY LACY LINGERIE. LONG LIVE DIRTY LAUNDRY, DOWN WITH CAUTION! TRUE, ART IS A BAD WORD, BUT IS LIFE ANY BETTER? ****SVEBO***
The question of how a work of art is documented intensifies around the dematerialized work, which is intentionally nonspectacular (Debord  1994). My experiment in this article is a form of conceptual writing, which is enabled by ethnographic conceptualism. Short sections are broken up by key concepts that may evoke conceptual art exhibition histories (Wiener 2008) and trigger associations to text works.
PERFORMING VIEWERS LANGUAGE AS MEDIUM SELF-REFLEXIVITY MONUMENTS OFF WITH THE ACTION PANTS ROTATION MANIFESTO ENGLISH PEDESTAL PRESENT DOCUMENTATION
Can writing a journal article this way collapse conceptual art’s language into the language of social science? That is the methodological experiment here, which seeks to respond to several urgent problems in the documentation of conceptual artworks. The placement of a text work made for the gallery within a bookwork destined for the library is clearly a significant shift in context, as is the bookwork understood as exhibition (Siegelaub 1969). The refusal of contemporary visual art to act didactically drives its transference of text into the realm of the visual and poetic. Avoiding the genres of exhibition wall text and catalogue essay, this method of conceptual writing plays with the poetics of art as research and research as conceptual writing.
As a response to the difficulty of documentation, Graffiti Monument is made up solely of commentaries and conversations. They appear as text spread out in a layout resonant with conversation itself. This diagrammatic fashion cannot be reconstructed here, in this journal article. One pressing problem is therefore how to avoid forcing a kind of linearity onto the material when putting it onto the page.
As a system for analyzing the social, political, and text-based modes in contemporary art and ethnography, mine is an actual rather than a canonical use of “conceptual art” (Skrebowski 2012). Its canon was established in the 1960s while its actual iterations since have moved beyond those tenants. In my view, two methods merge in ethnographic conceptualism when systematic analysis and artistic research approach the same kinds of human subjects. In this case the methods of art and research are studied through the audience of an exhibition and their responses to a manifesto I wrote about the presence, performance, and future of monuments.
Attitudes to the future and notions of time, culture, and tradition are markers of identity in this case of historical transition. Arguably, a constant state of transition in the Balkans has encouraged radical gestures to undermine any idea of a monumental continuum. Artists such as Azra Akšamija and myself on the Lost Highway Expedition asked whether statues of Bruce Lee, Rocky Balboa, Johnny Depp, Tarzan, Samantha Fox, and similar products of cultural globalization have a regenerative function as new monuments for the balkanized South Slavs. The sculpture of the martial arts master in Mostar was created to do exactly that with a carefully selected reference to a famous fighter for justice that belongs to all—that is, to subvert an impossibly politicized context and initiate a new form of public dialogue. In justifying the creation of the Bruce Lee statue this way, Gatalo and Raspudić theorized a field in which other contemporary makers of public art in the Western Balkans could seek out expressive forms that function not as lines of separation, but as a mediating ground to communicate differences and reconcile ethnic animosities.
The distribution of authorship in conceptualism and the collection of authorship in socialism are themes that run through the studies of ethnographic conceptualism collected here. The struggles in ethnography and in conceptual art to truly redistribute the authority of the author have led to a relational understanding of subjects in studies like these. The accumulation of quotes assembled in the Graffiti Monument can be read as a portrait of a group of voices in conversation, as a Talmudic growth of comments on an original text, or as random graffiti. Either way, the drive to have a voice in the present and about the future was enough to sustain many more contributions than I could analyze here. Graffiti Monument gave exhibition to a variety of voices I had no control over, an agency I had long wanted to give any collaborator or informant. Artistic research that coauthors works of ethnographic conceptualism can turn the audience into the performers. This is significant because while I may envisage a project for a social context, I can thereby enable the artistic interventions to empower authors from within communities. The Graffiti Monument inverted the monumental presence of the author by inviting coauthorship.
The response of the participants was guided by a history of coauthoring conceptual works that developed in Yugoslavia from the 1960s onwards. It was the strategies of anonymity and collaborative authorship used by the conceptualists in Eastern Europe that were adapted in the Graffiti Monument. Installation, sculpture, or video can encourage a viewer to perform. Following the aim of Performing Viewers to work beyond the boundary between art and audience, the method of ethnographic conceptualism offers me a theory to practice.
There is a peculiar challenge in analyzing one’s own art practice. The disciplines of art history and criticism, in which I trained, are structured to apply a hermeneutics of suspicion to artist’s intention and to analyze the work as separate from the author. Yet it seems impossible to have the same distance from one’s own work, and thus its analysis necessitates a different methodology. It is under the rubric of studying the history of reception that art history relates art to its audiences. In my methodology I have borrowed this notion of reception and applied it to a contemporary audience of my own assemblage. The way I have sutured art and academia together is distinct from the art of ethnographic conceptualism that I identified in the section on Performing Viewers as being characterized by an anthropological aesthetic. Instead, I take techniques for the embodiment of ideas from Performance art; and the focus on an idea, rather than on its form, from conceptual art; and from relational aesthetics, the notion that the viewers are the locus of ideas.
While the nine capital cities of the countries in the former Yugoslavia could be seen as the sites of the fieldwork in this article, it is actually in galleries in Ljubljana and Venice that I gathered what I here analyze as conceptual ethnography. For an artist, the exhibition is a moment somewhere between the process of fabrication and the academic discourse. This project collapsed the linear progression from research to fabrication to discourse in art criticism, investigating throughout how communities were constructing recent traumatic history through the invention of monuments.
Over my twelve years in this field I have observed how the optimism of the immediately postwar society in Belgrade contrasted with later struggles to conceive of any future at all. The debate within the citations I have given over the definition of a present, future, and the significance of the past indicate a struggle in which the mode of opposition through ambiguous authorship has drawn from the preceding generations of conceptual artists in Eastern Europe. While those practicing in the 1960s–1980s had the socialist state to test and critique, in the wake of the Yugoslav wars a posttraumatic denial of participation in history and vision for the future could be seen to characterize the society. Yet the participation of performing viewers in the Graffiti Monument articulated a future that was sometimes nostalgic, but more than this, it had an ethic of responsibility, a dedication to creative critique, the will to make a new mark using the available means and language.
Yet there is a shadow of this optimism and that is the dragon one becomes in this battle with the ghosts that haunt the posttraumatic subject of the empire, its wars and subjugations. The dragon of nationalisms’ authentic notions of the past is so eerily embodied in monumental sculpture. In turn those dragons from Tito’s Yugoslavia are mirrored in the contemporary Turbo sculptures of Bruce Lee and company. The only response is to make another monument, and if that monument fails, as it inevitably does in an attack on nationalism, the question then remains: how to break this process of mimetic fighting back to an unbecoming of the dragon?
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Кто долго сражается с драконом, сам становится драконом: участвующие зрители и «граффити-памятник»
Хадиджа фон Цинненбург Кэрролл – стипендиатка фонда Гумбольдта на факультете истории и философии науки в Кембриджском университете, а также в Гумбольдтовском университете в Берлине. Адрес для переписки: Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge, CB2 3DZ, UK. email@example.com.
Автор благодарит Беатрис Жоржюи, Николая Сcорина-Чайкова, Алекса Флинна, Анастасию Пилявски, Тоби Маттиэсена, а также рецензентов за конструктивные предложения в процессе редактирования этой работы; Азру Акшамийе и Александру Секулич, благодаря которым была улучшена структура работы; Каролу Дертниг и Александра Шведера из Академии изобразительных искусств в Вене за вклад в проект «Участвующие зрители» (Performing Viewers). Полевая работа, исследование и работа над статьей стали возможны благодаря поддержке стипендии Ньютона от Британской академии, Фонду Александра Гумбольдта, Фонду Франка Нокса и проекту «Загреб» в Гарвардском университете.
Изучение истории публичных представлений дало автору возможность сформулировать концепцию «участвующих зрителей» (performing viewers), которая изложена в данной статье. Определенные виды концептуального искусства предоставляют зрителям возможность соучастия в создании произведений искусства. Так, например, нанесение граффити на памятники или пьедесталы памятников накладывает на арт-объекты дополнительные смыслы, превращая пассивно созерцающих зрителей в соавторов художника. Участвующие зрители рассматриваются в статье как необходимая составляющая этнографического концептуализма, как аналог информантов для социального исследователя.
В статье представлен подробный анализ сюжета об установке постамента для предполагаемого памятника Брюсу Ли в Мостаре, который благодаря граффити был превращен в артефакт этнографического концептуализма и в документ для городских этнографов, изучающих Балканы. Данная работа представляет собой эксперимент в области концептуального письма и является продолжением авторской художественной практики, исследующей историю и политику множества различных видов авторства на Балканах. В работе отражены актуальные националистические дебаты, которые рассматриваются с точки зрения этнографического концептуализма. В статье проанализированы интервью и высказывания по поводу будущего Балкан, собранные в ходе экспериментального проекта «Граффити-памятник».
Ключевые слова: «Граффити-памятник»; представление; аудитория; участвующие зрители, национализм; авторство; вмешательство; участие; сотрудничество; художественное исследование; городская этнография; югославское концептуальное искусство
- A previous version of this paper was given at the “Witnessing War” conference at the University of Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) on March 8, 2012 (at: http://sms.cam.ac.uk/media/1231580). ↩
- http://www.europelostandfound.net; http://www.provisionalfutures.net. ↩
- All photos are courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted. ↩
- The Bologna Process is a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries designed to ensure more comparable, compatible, and coherent standards and quality of higher education qualifications in Europe that has been met since its inception in 1999 with intense protest in the 49 member-countries. The official website is http://www.ehea.info. ↩
- There are various strategies that the conceptual artists from Yugoslavia used to deal with the way languages, accents, and names mark the different ethnicities and religions in the region. Because a surname will immediately distinguish a Muslim from a Serbian Orthodox from a Croatian Roman Catholic, artist Goran Trbuljak for instance authored works under five different pseudonyms and heteronyms to blur his Croatian identity. Goran Trbuljak says, “[T]he dividedness of the self can only be lived out under heteronyms.” He identifies with Fernando Pessoa, who wrote poetry under four different names and their correlate personas (inteview in Zagreb, January 2006). The most outwardly provocative of the early conceptualist performance artists, Tomislav Gotovac, also recently changed his name to Antonio Lauer, his mother’s Austrian maiden name with the Latin version of Tomislav (Antonio). ↩
- One example of such collaboration was LOW-FI VIDEO project (1997–2002) in Belgrade, Serbia, that brought together many short feature and documentary films. ↩
- The literature on this field includes Benson (2002); Conover and Hicks (1998); Dimitrijevic, Groys, and Vogel (2004); Hoptman (2002); IRWIN (2006). ↩
- U zmajevom gnijezdu (Enter the dragon), documentary, 50 mins, director Ozren Milharcic, Bosnia-Herzegovina, 2006. ↩
- U zmajevom gnijezdu. ↩
- Parts of this section on the Bruce Lee sculpture appeared in an earlier text Azra Akšamija and I coauthored, which was published as Akšamija (2007). ↩
- U zmajevom gnijezdu. ↩