Tomislav Gotovac, Julije Knifer, Mladen Stilinovic
"My sweet little lamb (Everything we see could also be otherwise)" takes its title from a work by Mladen Stilinović (1948–2016), to whom the project is dedicated. Stilinović's life-long anti-systemic approach, his quiet but shrewd rebellion against social conventions and the conventions of art, and an artistic practice that trenchantly and humorously engages with complex themes of ideology, work, money, pain and poverty, inspired a generation of artists worldwide.
The project takes as its point of departure works from the Kontakt Art Collection, based in Vienna and initiated in 2004. Today the collection includes seminal works by a number of the most prominent artists from Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe since the 1960s, over the years selected by the members of its advisory committee that includes Silvia Eiblmayr, Georg Schöllhammer, Jiří Ševčík, Branka Stipančić and Adam Szymczyk. As such, it is a crucial source for research pertaining to the art history of the region, but also a suitable starting point to critically approach the very notion of Eastern European Art as a short-hand for the geopolitical paradigm and ideological framework in which it is contained, as well as the mechanisms of filtering local material to international prominence within new circuits of communication, distribution and exchange in the art world that, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, has become internationalised through models not unlike those of corporate internationalism.
The series of exhibitions "My sweet little lamb (Everything we see could also be otherwise)" will stage an interplay of works from the Kontakt Art Collection with other historical, contemporary, and newly produced pieces that interpret and critically examine the collection. The project will interlace geographically and poetically heterogeneous artistic practices in order to challenge the collection as a finalised and ordered body of knowledge that strives to dislocate the modernist western canon, only to find itself enmeshed in the formation of a "contemporary global canon."
"My sweet little lamb (Everything we see could also be otherwise)" will unfold in six episodes over several months in Zagreb (November 2016–May 2017), influencing, contradicting and reinforcing each other, and taking place in a number of smaller art spaces, artists' studios, private apartments and other locations related to artistic production and the broader cultural landscape of the city of Zagreb. The project revisits the endeavours of artists like Geta Brătescu, Stano Filko, Ion Grigorescu, Sanja Iveković, Július Koller, Ewa Partum and Zofia Kulik to make art that subverted the impact of social norms and different degrees of state control, in an attempt to punctuate fixed presentations and interpretations of their work that have been dominating the international art circuits during the last decades with more disorderly and experimental arrangements rooted in the cultural and artistic context of Zagreb.
In times of drastic cuts in the cultural sector and its increasing dependency on private money accumulated as a result of financial speculation that wreaked havoc on social structures, to dedicate the project to Mladen Stilinović also means to rely on one of his typically astute observations: "All the money is dirty, all the money is ours," although there is something less than truthful about claiming to use it as knowingly as Mladen did. And yet, to present the collection in a number of smaller institutional public, semi-public and private spaces in Zagreb, is also a chance to create a manoeuvring space for wider dissemination of the emancipative content of the historical achievements of artists. But most of all, it is a chance to open a playing field in which different criteria of value formation and different genealogies might emerge, in the paradoxical endeavour of simultaneously supplying imaginary solutions and disclosing their impossibility in the current predicament of art and life.
Curated by What, How & for Whom/WHW in collaboration with Kathrin Rhomberg.