November 20, 2009–January 16, 2010
Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers are pleased to present two installations by Croatian artist David Maljkovic. The artist’s practice engages with the heritage of modern utopias, both in its theoretical and practical manifestations. His films, drawings, sculptures and installations often evolve around the potential of monuments and pavilions built during a period of optimism in former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s that have now been neglected or forgotten. Maljkovic resuscitates such former memorials by turning them into sites for alternative activities, often carried out by members of his own generation.
Evolving around two films and a series of collages the exhibition focuses on two architectural installations, confronting the viewer with a seemingly forgotten or invisible ‘heritage’- one that is not presently perceived as valuable or legitimate. In ‘Images With Their Own Shadows’ (2008), Maljkovic is concerned to convey a spirit of missed opportunities and resigned optimism within an alternative narrative of Yugoslavia’s postwar cultural movements. The work places a number of hip and detached-looking youths in a vaguely futuristic environment, alternating with long shots of geometric mobile sculptures made of a greyish metal. The film is set at the estate of Croatian artist, architect as well as EXAT 51 founding member Vjenceslav Richter and uses audio footage from a final interview with him. EXAT 51 – short for Experimental Atelier – was a group of artists, designers and architects active from 1950-1956. In the context of the social realism that dominated the cultural landscape of post-war Yugoslavia, the group announced their own particular vision of progress, collectivity, experimentation and freedom of expression and articulated singular stances on subjects ranging from the synthesis of all artistic forms as well as the importance of social and cultural conditions in artistic production. The collective played a crucial role in the contested narrative of socialist modernism in the former Yugoslavia.
The second film ‘Retired Form’ (2008) was shot in Memorial Park, a commemorative space for the victims of the Second World War in Dotrscina, Zagreb. The park is organized around a monument by artist Vojin Bakic which was inaugurated in 1968 and yet which was neglected and devastated during the 1990s. Bakic's work occupies a central position in the art of the former Yugoslavia. During the Cold War, abstraction in art provided the arena for quite different ideologies and their interpretations yet Bakic's work rejected such simplifications by employing abstraction inside the social art system. Maljkovic’s related collage on aluminum ‘Retired Form’ (2009) displaces a silver obelisk that was once designed as a public monument and relocates it into a field of a historically uncharged space. Though ‘retired forms’ such as these may not have fulfilled their utopian promises, Majlkovic envisions an alternate history for them, as monuments to eras not yet come to pass. As the artist says, ‘I consider the tired place also to be an oasis, a place of potential pause’.
Majlkovic´s work is not concerned with nostalgia as such, but rather possibilities of looking into the past to reassess its potential for the present. Like an archaeologist, he explores the aftermath, the disruption and continuity with the socialist project of modernity, insofar as this heritage is realizing itself in and through our imagination. In relation to the historical, political and cultural contexts in which Maljkovic´s work comes about, it mirrors the categorical transformation of understandings of East and West, of communism and capitalism.