Non-Aligned Art aims to draw a comprehensive insight of the evolution of the non-conform artistic scenes of former Yugoslavia interlinking them with those of regional neighbours like Poland, Hungary, former Czechoslovakia.
The exhibition, curated by Marco Scotini and presented first at the FM Centre, Centre of Contemporary Art (Milan, Italy) in Autumn 2016, develops its narrative based on the Marinko Sudac Collection (Zagreb, Croatia), one of the conceptually most complete Eastern European private contemporary collections that preserves not only works of art but also entire archives and documentary material of outstanding art historical importance. The Collection, that gave birth to a research institute among other big scale projects, has set itself the task over the years of retracing radical, artistic trends within a coherent avant-garde line in the areas between the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union. The curator’s intention by including a considerable amount of documents alongside the artworks was to culturally embed the evolution of the displayed artistic narratives and to draw a sort of invisible web relating them throughout the different segments of the region, as in many cases they were tightly connected under the surface during their activity.
The exhibition investigates a chapter in art history that is anything but marginal, and cannot be framed either within the ideology of the Soviet Bloc, or within the liberalistic model of Western democracies. In former Yugoslavia, in fact, the compenetration of East and West resulted in an autonomous language equivalent to that of Western Modernity, which therefore cannot be regarded as the result of its passive assimilation. Is it possible, then, to interpret this scenario as a unique example of Socialist Modernism? Can we challenge the canonization of hegemonic art history and its assumptions of universalism, neutrality and aesthetic autonomy, thus revealing a multiplicity of “local modernities” which are diverse according to each geo-political context? The exhibition tries to give an answer to these questions. Re-reading the artistic scene of the ex-Yugoslavia effectively means facing a constitutive and unshakeable cultural difference.
While ex-Yugoslavia was the first region to reject the Stalinist doctrine in its cultural policies and to make Abstract art one of its main languages in the Post-War period (Vojin Bakić, EXAT 51, Gorgona, etc.), it is equally true that with the passage from the politics of workers autonomy in the ’50s to the reforms of the market in the following decade, even conceptual art becomes more politically critical, growing not only in Zagreb but in the cultural centres of Lubljana, Belgrade and Novi Sad, with figures of primary importance, starting from the experience of the Slovenian group OHO. Urban interventions, graphic contamination, performances and videos are at the centre of the collective practices of the Group of Six Authors, Bosch + Bosch, KOD, Verbumprogram, to which can be added individual achievements of some figures that have, by now, reached international recognition as Sanja Iveković, Marina Abramović, Mladen Stilinovic, Goran Trbuljak, Tomislav Gotovac, Katalin Ladik, Vlado Martek, Radomir Damnjanović Damnjan, among others.
The exhibition connects the scenes of former Yugoslavia with non-conform initiatives from Hungary, former Czechoslovakia and Poland, through the works of artists like Miklós Erdély or the activity of the Pécsi Műhely group, Julius Koller or Stano Filko or Natalia LL and Andrzej Lachowitz while also including a segment retracing a selection of the different independent art spaces that worked “behind the scenes”, driving forces of the artistic groups and individual expressions not wanting to align with the official discourse.
Image (c) Stanko Filko – 1968