Find out more about current events and everything we have prepared for the near future at Lauba House.
Ivan Fijolić, NEO N.O.B.
Exhibition opening and artist talk: 01/05/2012 at 20h
Curators: Becky McKay, Ivana Bertić, Vanja Žanko
Text: Ivana Hanaček
Our comrades are called to arts at Lauba! The opening of NEO N.O.B. [Neo Narodna Oslobodilačka Borba] will see the largest solo exhibition of works by Croatian sculptor Ivan Fijolić to date, with 7 monumental sculptures inspired by the history of the socialist liberation struggle and the public sculptures that formed a visual language of ideology for a generation.
The exhibition opening will be accompanied by a performance of the Girls choir Cantus ante omnia.
Ticket price for the exhibition opening is 10 kn
(Un)popular Culture of Memory
The new series of sculptures by Ivan Fijolić entitled NEO N.O.B. does not even try to hide its references to (Croatian) Socialist Realism art that was a dominant artistic method for only four years – from 1945 to 1949 – after which it was abandoned due to new political circumstances and the process of de-Stalinization.# This is a marginalized artistic production that did not make its way into the official narratives of Croatian art history, or was only mentioned briefly, and for which, unfortunately, it was claimed, as Ljiljana Kolešnik states in her book Between East and West, that it left only a small number of works worth mentioning. Why does Fijolić, almost seven decades after, go back to the theoretical premises, or even better: “guidelines” by Pavlov, Rozental, or in our case, Gamulin, who strictly prescribed the topic, content and formal solutions for artists by narrowing the boundaries of artistic “freedom”? Why is Fijolić now interested in references to the circumstances of production of “instrumentalized” art that was supposed to create “classic images of the present and glorious struggle for the happiness of humankind”? And what meaning do those references have in Lauba, the most important private collection of contemporary art in Croatia, which in our limited production conditions occupies an important production and representational role?
Ivan Fijolić in his atelier with one of the sculptures from the series NEO N.O.B., photo by Damir Žižić
One can look for the answers to these questions by looking at the central sculpture from the NEO N.O.B. series, created based on (with deliberate slippages from the original) Augustinčić’s monument to Josip Broz Tito, erected in 1948 in front of his birth house in Kumrovec. Fijolić, one of the rare artists of the younger generation whose focus of interest is figurative plastic art, has chosen the reference to Augustinčić’s monument as the starting point of playing with the aesthetic and ethical categories of socialist art for several reasons. His choice seems to be based on the strategies in the remake of Jorgen Leth’s film The Perfect Human2, whereby the artist decides to play the obstruction game of “two grown men” with himself. Fijolić took on the task of finding a Socialist Realist sculpture “worth mentioning” and make a new one based on it. However, the new sculpture must not be a copy, but extremely close to the original. Then, he tasked himself with finding a way to classical antiquity and Renaissance art, to the Greek canon, to Doryphoros, Nike, Michelangelo, through Socialist Realism, but to remain true to his pop style. The third obstruction, to which the artist responded through the NEO N.O.B. series, was to “translate” the pedagogical role of Socialist Realism into the contemporary context, namely to actualize the principle of creating art for “higher goals”.
Can art be instrumentalized to such an extent so as to awake society from its lethargy, as the artists in the early post-war period on the other side of the Iron Curtain advocated –remains an open question. However, Fijolić directly refers precisely to the utopian ideas of the left-wing artists of Italy and France, who in the atmosphere of increased resistance towards the Americanization of European culture, found their role models in Goya’s artistic position, Courbet’s honest art and Daumier’s socially critical perspective3.
In the process of reenacting the formal premises of Socialist Realism, Fijolić is intentionally sloppy, and by introducing mistakes and/or shifts with regards to the strict context of the original, he alludes to the relation towards the National Liberation Movement’s (NOB) cultural heritage (be it the works of high Modernism, Social Realism or memorial plaques) that has been systematically destroyed within the process of remodeling the semantics of the universe of transition society (where are we going exactly?). Among the 2965 destroyed anti-Fascist monuments in Croatia was Augustinčić’s monument to Tito, which was knocked down from its base by an explosive device in 2004. According to the police inquiry, the Marshall’s head had been cut from the blown up torso. In that sense, Fijolić’s sculpture, in which the artist has (forever) removed (Tito’s) head and replaced it with “some” other head, is also a monument to the fallen monument, it calls us to think of, talk about and remember the attempts of systematic suppression of anti-Fascist values in our society. His work does not fall into that of romanticized stereotypes and idealization of past times, but reflects a complex process we can call a “continuity of discontinuity” of Croatian history of the twentieth century.
photo by Damir Žižić
Let us pause for a moment on the head of Fijolić’s sculpture. The monumental torso, wrapped in the impressive drapery of the Marshall’s coat, was given a new head of a not so fragile woman. By replacing the heads, the artist further develops “the educational program” of the NEO N.O.B. series towards the (still) current “sweet violence” over women in society, who are, as statistical data shows, employed mostly in precarious jobs, do the majority of jobs dedicated to social reproduction, and the current “policy of saving” massively puts them back into the domestic sphere, to “the position of universal housewife” which is nothing more but difficult physical and (still) unrecognized labor.
It is also interesting to ask what is woman’s role in the context of creation of contemporary artistic production on our scene, especially if we take into consideration the numerous successes of local artists, but also the number of female curators and mainly female curatorial collectives that dominate the scene. And that question is important in the context of Lauba, a private collection of contemporary Croatian art, which clearly, defines itself as a house in its title.
1 Ljiljana Kolešnik wrote about the deconstruction of Socialist Realism in her book Between East and West: Croatian Art and Visual Arts Criticism of the Fifties, Zagreb, Institute of Art History, 2006.
2 Reference to the film The Five Obstructions made in collaboration with Lars von Trier and Jorgen Leth.
3 Ljiljana Kolešnik, Between East and West, Croatian Art and Visual Arts Criticism of the Fifties, Institute of Art History, Zagreb, 2006, 32.
More photos here:
Ivan Fijolić is one of the most recognizable Croatian artists of the younger generation and predominantly works in the medium of sculpture. To date he has exhibited in around 30 group and 23 solo exhibitions both within Croatia and abroad.
He has received the Academy of Fine Arts Award for his diploma work Skirmish (Zagreb, 2001), the Rector’s Award for the exhibition entitled “Check Your Head Out” with the work Twelve self-portraits (2004) and the 37th Mediterranean Sculpture Symposium Award for the work Hopscotch (Labin, 2009) which is awarded at the Croatian Sculpture Triennial. He has three realized public sculptures: Foundation Batta, Zlín, the Czech Republic; Black Foot, Park of Sculptures, Vrsar, Croatia; and Bruce Lee, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also made the sculpture series for the Krapina Prehistoric Man Museum in Krapina (2009). He lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia.