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Artistic contacts between political blocs in post-1945 Europe

October 16, 2019

 Our team member Dora Derado is off to Poland for a conference - "Artistic contacts between political blocs in post-1945 Europe".

 

The conference is being held in Kalisz on October 18 - 19, 2019. You can find the full program here.

 

In case you are interested in the topic Dora is going to present at the conference, you can read her full abstract below. 

The Transposition of Readymade Strategies into the Socialist Republic of Croatia

 

In 1915, Marcel Duchamp left his atelier in Paris - where he had just produced his first ready-made, the Bicycle Wheel - for New York, where he would stay until 1918 and which he would revisit throughout his lifetime.

Many of Duchamp's contemporaries, including artists, art historians and art critics did the same during both world wars. All the while (at least until his death in 1968), Duchamp’s influence was present physically and through his exhibitions on both continents, particularly in the mid-60s with the freshly-made replicas of his ready-mades, produced alongside Arturo Schwarz in Milan, that caused an upsurge in his popularity.

Some artists from Croatia (then the Socialist Republic of Croatia, a constituent of the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia, later the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) came across his work and/or ideas one way or another. A lucky few had the opportunity to see them in person, some heard of their underlying philosophy or, typically, artists came into contact with ready-made works by other artists who had adopted Duchamp's strategy (some of them entirely independently). The result of this exchange was the appearance of the ready-made and similar artforms in Croatia during the 50s and 60s. However, the examples examined in this work lead one to see them not as direct citations of or references to the ready-made, but as adaptations of this artistic phenomenon in their own rite, created in a unique socio-political environment.

This transposition of readymade strategies and those similar to it illustrate the newly-allowed flexibility of the Yugoslavian Communist government which, up to 1952, made it difficult for its citizens to travel abroad and, at least from 1945 and partially through the first half of the 50s, insisted on art production that was strictly in line with the Communist agenda and made predominantly in the spirit and style of Socialist Realism. The gradual opening up to external influences in terms of popular culture, political and sociological ideas, especially those of the US which greatly aided Yugoslavia throughout the 50s, could be said to have had a large influence on the slowly-changing artistic norms of this cultural space. Furthermore, the adoption of the readymade strategy proved greatly influential for ensuing artistic forms/movements in the following decades, including: collage, conceptual art, various sculptural strategies that incorporate found/discarded/recycled objects and, in some cases, even film. A markedly interesting aspect of the US-Yugoslavian relationship worth delving into is the influx of popular and consumer culture during the 1960s and continuing into the 70s and 80s. Just the extent of new goods and services available during the 60s (the so-called golden era of the supermarket) might be interpreted as influencing the predominant attitude towards commodities and objects in general, but also art objects (as commodities). Given the symbiotic relation between ready-made artistic objects and objects of mass production, this influence seems plausible.

This work delves deeper into the repercussions of Duchamp's legacy on the Yugoslavian, but primarily Croatian art scene from the 1950s onwards, in works of artists such as Braco Dimitrijević, Radomir Damnjanović Damjan, Tomislav Gotovac, Sanja Iveković, Mladen Stilinović, to name a few. In doing so, it attempts to elaborate on the importance of intercultural exchange and national openness towards exterior influences for the development of a critical and social form of art.

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