THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT TO THINK SHOULD BE THROWN OUT! Joseph Beuys and Mangelos – 100 years and art today


August 26th – September 18th

Artists: Sanja Latinović, Slobodan Stošić, Nadežda Kirćanski and Luka Cvetković

Curators: Ivana Bašičević Antić and Selman Trtovac

“There is no genius among artists”, Mangelos claimed. What leads us to proclaim certain artists “great” is the trace they leave behind. Both Beuys and Mangelos left an immense imprint with their theoretical and practical work and opened new outlooks in practising art. That is why it is precious to observe their art through the prism of today’s young artists, and the fact that this exhibition contains four exceptional works dedicated to or inspired by the work of two great predecessors testifies of the deep and enduring legacy they left.

In her artistic practice, Sanja Latinović has dedicated herself to performance, video and photo documentation, approaching these forms as special manifestations of sculpture, that is, she explores sculpture itself as a medium through the aspect of its possibility of transformation. The relation matter – space – form, which this artist describes as the basic relation of transformative potentials of sculpture, directly associates us with Beuys’s commitment to social sculpture, and his strong ambition to abolish the generally accepted view of a sculpture as a physically tangible form of artwork. Even the idea itself is a sculpture that just needs to get in physical shape, Beuys thought. Energy is the central concept of Mangelos’ opus. Everything that exists represents different forms of energy. Even thinking is a form of energy. While thinking about the work of her great predecessors, Sanja turns her thinking into a performance “On time” in which she devotedly, with physical effort, at exact time intervals during the exhibition, waters dead, dried trees. The artist brings dried trees and earth from the forest and waters them with the help of two buckets that she carries on her shoulders, the shoulder yoke, thus emphasizing the dimension of physical exhaustion, that is, the effort required to revive a withered plant that cannot revive; thus, the effort is in vain. However, the performance is talking about a man, about people willing to sacrifice for things greater than themselves and beyond personal interests. The work also refers to Beuys, who initiated the planting of 7,000 seedlings at the exhibition of Documenta 7 (1982).

Slobodan Stošić received the Mangelos Award (2012) very early, at the beginning of his career, and as part of it he went on a residency in New York. Whether because of the experience of that award or following his artistic affinities, Stošić became interested in the work of Mangelos, an artist who during his lifetime made great efforts to recognize and encourage young artists who bring innovations and who seek true changes in the approach to art. Stošić becomes an artist for whomlanguage, narrative and the intangible dimension of artistic work are powerful instruments that he does not approach lightly. At the exhibition, we see his work “Walkthrough” consisted of a spatial installation and a film. The topic of the work is the destroyed building, the museum of the artist Živko Grozdanić Gera, who, after a decades-long career as an artist and many years of work as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, decided to build his museum on a field near Vršac. The idea of ​​the museum was created, as Gera tells us in the film, based on Beuys’s idea of ​​social sculpture, and its purpose is not just to exhibit artefacts, but the goal is to be a meeting place for selected artists of previous generations with young people for them to come to know their predecessors thought and estate so that the museum would become a place of reflection and creation of art. Gera suffered a stroke and while he was in treatment, some people destroyed and destructed everything he had built. The inability to speak is an important instrument for conveying the artist’s message about deprived of their rights, silenced actors. The black-and-white image, the sound of Gera’s disease-damaged leg pounding when he climbs the steps, evokes strong emotion and incites anger towards society, towards destruction, towards people who demolish, but also towards those who bless demolition. The observer’s discomfort is heightened by the fact that while watching the film, he stands on rubble, the same one that Gera walks on when he passes through his destroyed object. Mangelos’s thoughts are the titles of chapters that introduce the terrible problems of this society into the philosophical mode of thinking, as well as the tendencies of the society towards destruction and the fact that in 90% of casesinstincts, instead of reason, motivate a person. “Memory is older than reasoning”, is Mangelos’ quote that gives a theoretical framework to Stošić’s reflection on the topic.

Luka Cvetković deals with the issue of the audience, models of audience participation in the process of creating a work of art, but he is also deeply committed to researching the audience’s reactions to cultural, social and political states and problems. Quite logically, a series of performance-protests resulted in that focus, in which art imitates protests, and the artist aims to point out the problem of activity – action relation, versus passivity, inaction, maintaining the existing state. With a series of photos from the performed performances-actions, the artist leads the audience to reconsider what it really means to work on change. Does an individual, after participating in a protest in which a voice is raised against a condition or phenomenon, feel good and self-content, even though in reality nothing has been achieved? The protest gave the illusion of working on change, which is a problem that the artist describes as performing the change and the change that performs through human action. With that topic, Cvetković aligns with Beuys’s combat for the artist, in fact, for every man, to take a stand and actively contribute to changes in society. An artist as an active actor of current society and era is the definition of an artist according to Mangelos, who claims that an artist is not a prophet nor a genius created by birth, but an actor of his time who has the task of noticing the problems of society. In another exhibited work, Cvetković addresses a specific topic related to artists of conceptual art, with which, by definition, both Beuys and Mangelos are related, and that topic is the stance of conceptual artists towards death. According to Cvetković, this obsessive attitude is the result of their fear of death, and the artist symbolically deals with it by writing words on a stone typical of monuments. The thought of their fear of death turns into a monument to their legacy. And the past.

In her practice, Nadežda Kirćanski deals with various media: from drawings, objects, to site-sensitiveinstallations, focused on the topic of the collision of socio-political realities and the modern language of young people. Kirćanski is the winner of the Mangelos Award for 2018 and an artist who approaches art as a practice that combines life and creation, and for her art does not become a separate segment of life, a profession that separates itself from life itself. Motifs such as the Internet-defined memory of today’s young generations become the motifs of her work, which occasionally spills over into curating the practice of others. At this exhibition, the artist responds to the theme with her work “3 years, 3 months and 23 days” whose motif is death. Yet, death is not felt through words or images, but through things, ordinary everyday objects like the personal wardrobe that become frozen in time, preserved as a testimony to one’s existence. In addition to the theme of death, which is important and almost obsessively present in Mangelos’s oeuvre, a piece of clothing, stiffened and desolate in its form, Beuys’s recognizable work of art (felt suit) which, although ephemeral and prone to decay, frozen and positioned, testifies as a work of art of the people who wore it and their destinies.

Photo: Marijana Janković