The project developed into a didactic process and an exchange with the students Audrey Morency, Anouk Muller, Pol Olk and Laura Winterberg. The exchange was initiated through a series of lectures and discussions, which explored the value systems produced and reproduced through material practices such as design, architecture and art. The intention of the seminar was to encourage the students to explore the ways in which these questions find expression in the built environment or, more importantly, to look at alternative ways in which architecture has tried and may try again to address these questions.
The outcome of the seminar simulates a conventional exhibition of architecture, consisting of a 1:1 model of a living unit and a 1:30 model of a modular system implemented at the specific site, that of the Kunstpavillon. In the exhibition space the 1:1 model allows the visitors to relate physically to the space, while the discursive 1:30 model, provided with 10 living units, is a sort of a board game that the visitors can play and experiment with, allowing them to accommodate different possible social and architectural configurations parasitizing on the Kunstpavillon. The players might try to maximize the number of units per sq. meter following the logic of a dormitory, or organize a housing and working collective that can acquire more communal space to use for social or commercial activities.
Stories about Frames is a series of interventions throughout the exhibition space, realized as a system of labels that adapt to each particular exhibition by renewing the content of the labels. Texts on the labels focus on the years in which exhibited artworks were created in order to establish the links between artworks and selected art institutions from around the world. Instead of revealing the properties of the artworks, new texts point to the material reality of the art institutions, taking us beyond the boundaries of the exhibition space. The project thus creates a parallel history of contemporary art, based on the art institution rather then an artwork.
The basis for the Stories about Frames is a digital database in development that contains institutions of modern and contemporary art. It includes information such as when and where the institution was established, if and what kind of transformations, architectural extensions it underwent, etc. Is it privately or publicly funded? Does it have a collection? How large is the exhibition space?
Today, the e-flux mailing list informs more than 90 000 subscribers about the events in the contemporary art world. The work Perfect Structures combines the titles of all the announcements sent via e-flux mailing list in 2015. The titles form a continuous line of words, a sentence. By leaving the choice of words to e-flux we can be confident in the legitimacy and quality of what is written. The uninterrupted sentence defines the parameters of the physical space of the SC Gallery, its exhibition and auxiliary premises, through a direct presentation of the language (of contemporary art) – in the spirit of concrete poetry. If language defines the world around us, the language in Perfect Structures, which guides us through all the rooms, points to visible and invisible work behind art production. Fokus Grupa confronts the representative language of art with art-as-work. By establishing institutional critique as the language of solidarity between art workers, we are collectively faced with the (absent) positions of power.
technical info: intervention, text-based, poetry / dimensions: variable / year 2016
exhibition view: Imperfect structures, SC Gallery, Zagreb
photo credits: Tjaša Kalkan & Fokus Grupa
Vjera Pavlovna's Fourth Dream is a site-specific intervention into the display system developed by the Bauhaus Dessau to narrate the history and the ideas of the Bauhaus via images and texts. Using the pre-given display mechanism as well as archives of historical documents / photographs of Bauhaus Dessau, by a way of textual re-framing, another (fictional) narrative has been established. The text is a digital collage of textual fragments of the chapter “Vera Pavlovna’s Fourth Dream” from the novel What Is To Be Done? by Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky (1863). In her dream Vera Pavlovna imagines a society where social relations and scientific progress find their expression in crystal palaces that are spread around the world bringing about a “radiant and beautiful” future. A variety of utopian, ideological and architectural nodes can be mentally remapped via this intervention; from Paul Sherbert’s Glass Architecture, Bruno Taus’s Glass House to Domestic Revolution’s kitchen-less houses and communal housing ideas.
Description of a Family Apartment is an installation, which represents an “ideal home”, made in order to reveal the political and ideological background used to define “the basic social unit.” The 29 plywood cubes, taking their shape from the monument Altar of the Homeland, transform the gallery space into a prototype of the family apartment as proposed by conservative politics. By building the private space using the elements of state representation, a dystopian collapse of the division of private and public is made apparent. In Croatia, the civic initiative In the Name Of the Family initiated a referendum in 2013, in order to constitutionally define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, which had an affirmative outcome. Fokus Grupa branded the elements of their work using the logo of the organization, featuring a heterosexual couple with two children.
Exercising Novy Byt* consists of two pieces of reconstructed furniture made after designs by Alexandr Rodčenko and his pupil Nikolai Sobolev, paired with two sets of photo-collages made as instructions for the use of the furniture. An office table and a sofa/bed are multifunctional objects designed in the first years after the Russian Revolution as part of an attempt to redesign the everyday life and help create a new efficient human. The bourgeois separation of private and public is manifested in the object of the bed where the bed is a dedicated object for leisure or procreation set apart from daily, namely public, activity. The bed for the new human, hence, needs not to be separate but needs to change its shape and function for a new daily/public activity. The office table changes from a table for a singular practice into the practice for many, it bridges the space of privacy and a public space. Almost a century later these principles are easily recognized within the register of flexible, precarious working conditions where an individual is endlessly able to erase every distinction of private and professional. The reconstructed furniture is accompanied by photo collages that borrow the form, both from user manuals and body exercises. The instructions show how even the time needed to adapt the furniture from one type of use to another can be utilized as an exercise device to enhance body’s ability to ever greater achievement. * Novy Byt is a Russian term for the new quotidian
technical info: furniture prototype & photo collages / dimensions: variable / year 2014
exhibition view: A Taste for Work, ŠKUC Gallery, Ljubljana
photo credits: Dejan Habicht, Vladimir Vidmar
Paraphrasing the film theoretician Hrvoje Turković “Horses Heads” are less memorable shots, filmed before or after filming the main plot, inserted in order to bridge main shots and help the narration flow, most commonly used in interviews when the head shots are interwoven with close-ups of hands. People Love Monuments consists of a 3D print of a part of an equestrian sculpture of Viceroy Josip Jelačić and a series of photographs documenting roughly 150 years of life on the main square in the city Zagreb. Horse, a traditional attribute of figures of military power, when part of an equestrian sculpture, literally and metaphorically elevates the protagonist. Laid down in front of the viewer, 3D printed head implies an act of mutilation of the signifier, it also enacts a technique of omission, a standard editing method used to remove problematic, unwanted, uncanny elements in order to create seamless narration. The revolutionary potential of the cut is pitted against the final cut as the privilege of those in power.
technical info: 3d print (thermoplastic polymer) & photo archive / year 2014
exhibition view: People Love Monuments, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow
photo credits: Tor Johnson
Investigating the significance of nature for the nationalist discourse, the film There Aren't Words for What We Do or How We Feel so We Have to Make Them Up is both political and escapist. Trough contemplation of the narrator and the imagery of national parks, the film explores the questions of representation and the notion of the “national essence.” Fokus Grupa is taking its language out of a variety of sources from the Croatian national anthem to nature documentaries and tourist campaigns, in order to compose the text for the narration. Through various topographies, from open plains to mountain peaks, the camera explores the notions of the sublime, establishing it’s (critical) relationship to romanticism, and making a full circle, all the way back to contemporary (Croatian) nationalism. When exhibited as an installation, the film’s premise about the relationship of nationalism and nature extends into gallery space via the use of the work Altar of the Homeland that transforms the national monument into an auditorium for the film, serving also as its ideological framework.
Perfect Lovers is an appropriation of Felix Gonzales-Torres work with an intervention, a redesign of the front side of two clocks into pie-charts. In Torres’s work two ready-made clocks inevitably go out of sync as time passes, illustrating a painfully simple allegory of love and partnership, while at the same time making a sharp critique of the heteronormative paradigm. In the case of Fokus Grupa the work approaches both the question of time and the idea of partnership, trough an economic lens. Here, the time is less a matter of meditation and more something to be measured, divided and instrumentalized. In an attempt to represent an ideal workday, which the 19th century proletarian desired; Eight hours labor, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest the required time has to span two clocks. Perfect Lovers fulfil the tasks of an effective worker. The function of their union is thus one of survival, essentially an economical one. The clocks/partners fulfil this function perfectly, but they are also, and this is an important difference with the Torres’s work, out of sync from the very beginning.
technical info: altered ready-made, mass produced objects — 2 wall clocks / dimensions: variable / year 2014
exhibition view: A Taste for Work, ŠKUC Gallery, Ljubljana
Platform is a readymade object with graphic interventions, a paperback copy of Michael Houellebecq’s novel Platform. Following the storyline, the main character Michael introduces us to different people who work in various sectors; we receive data about the time they spend at work, he tells us about their social and class background, working conditions and professional ambitions. Throughout the book, Fokus Grupa conceales the principal narrative, leaving only information about work. The method used, itself a laborious process of covering text with graphite within the span of four months, was at the same time exhausting and meditative, borrowed from a Croatian avant-garde artist Julije Knifer whose work dealt with the timelessness and abatement of progress. In an old interview Knifer gave some time before his death, he speaks about how he has acquired enough graphite to last him until the end of his life, thus, in a way, measuring time in sequences of graphite material.
technical info: altered ready-made, artist-book / unique / perfect bound / paperback / 362 pages / graphite on paper / 2014
exhibition view: A Taste for Work, ŠKUC Gallery, Ljubljana
photo credits: Dejan Habicht
Project Herbarium consists of performative walks, to which we invite people who relate to the questions of precarious work in their practice or as workers. We talk about specific themes within this field, like gender bias in regards to precarity, lack of free time, body strain in flexible working conditions... While walking and talking we pick plants to be used as documentation of event. The conversations are not recorded, but are afterwords put into short indexical textual forms within the prescribed space on the herbarium sheets where normally one would find botanical information. One image of the location of the walk is taken without protagonists in them. The project Herbarium is a sort of re-enactment of the walks described by Jean Jacques Rousseau in his book, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, a sort of praise to the slow pace, loneliness and leisure.
I Sing to Pass the Time is a series of drawings that derives its title from the work of Croatian singer-songwriter Arsen Dedić whose song expresses disbelief towards the effectiveness of political music. Alluding to this theme, the drawings explore the relations of art and political action. The imagery used in the drawings is based on historical photographs and documents, re-articulating moments of politicisation in art history, emphasizing links between art and workers’ struggles in particular. To name but a few cases: drawings referring to the German Kunstlump debate from the 1920s address the question of solidarity between artists and workers. One of the most powerful chapters in the history of artists’ labour organising originates from USA where artists employed by the state-funded Works Progress Administration projects formed the Artists' Union in 1933. A number of images featured in the series are re-articulating the visual legacy of Art Workers’ Coalition which is one of the most well-documented examples of art workers' organising in the history of contemporary art. Less known is a case from 1979 Zagreb, where artists Sanja Iveković and Dalibor Martinis drafted a so-called Agreement [Ugovor] in the context of the Working Community of Artists with which they tried to define and protect the position of artists in socialist Yugoslavia.
When founded in 2012, we appropriated a generic name for a research method. Fokus Grupa — a construction, became a fictional author that took credit and responsibility for our artwork, fictional author that sees itself as both the manipulator and the manipulated in a broader artistic and social context. We use text, objects and images, act both within and outside the gallery. The outcomes are mainly spatial installations and interventions, which consist of drawings, texts, photographs, videos or (usable) objects. Content-wise, we point to the power relations within the art system, as well as within the broader economic and social context, and we are especially interested in the role of art within those relations. Our work extends over the neighbouring disciplines and borrows and learns from design, architecture, curating and literature. Therefore, Fokus Grupa also works with occasional collaborators, be it with specialists for a specific discipline or for a specific topic.
In 2008 we co-founded a self-organised collective Kružok (group for discussions and production of discursive events), which operated intermittently until 2015. We participated in the work of the Autonomous Cultural Centre Medika in Zagreb, and co-founded a collective artist-run space Delta 5 in Rijeka in 2013. Fokus Grupa is a member of artist-run space SIZ in which it regularly co-organises exhibitions of regional and international artists since 2012.