|fifth year: 2001/2002||series of lectures: lectures / conversations with lecturers / lecturers|
As an independent
curators' collective WHW acts within the sliding area negotiated between
different models of non-formal institutions. It is a creative group, an
organisational team and an 'institutionalised friendship'. It is based
on activism and it includes different partners and initiatives in its
activities. Our actions are based on a synergy that appropriates and redefines
the various representation models and systems in which they coexist.
The independent cultural
scene has been identified with alternative culture already for decades.
In regard to cultural production, the term 'alternative' is usually linked
to notions such as non-art, anti-art, avant-garde, neo-avant-garde, contra-culture,
i.e. to what is different in form and content, progressive, radical, gets
out of the mainstream and opposes the establishment (the traditional high
culture that is generally bourgeois). But in today's circumstances of
culturalising everything, in a situation when every 'avant-garde' or 'subversive'
act is immediately absorbed as a fashion, exclusively cultural and temporary
alternative, there is no alternative culture. Alternative culture existed
only when there were alternative ideas on social order, ideas of alternative
politics. To put it bluntly, alternative culture is to be articulated
only alongside politics that articulate an alternative to the existing
Obviously, our interventions in the cultural scene, although based on such belief, have no illusions about its potentials to totally articulate the political alternatives. Instead, they aim to introduce the themes we consider socially relevant (and are continuously ignored by the mainstream cultural production, academia and national intelligentsia) into the public discourse. In the present moment of time it seems as if culture is the only field that contains a political struggle. All WHW projects are based on the belief that contemporary art is capable of articulating, mediating and introducing social themes to the wider public. A realm of visual arts is conceived as a catalyst to the relevant issues and social antagonisms that can offer new models of collectivity, exchange and active participation of the audience. In these terms, WHW does not act as an isolated phenomenon on the local scene, but rather as an active part of the recent local independent cultural initiatives (Multimedia Institute mi2, Attack, Močvara, Art Workshop Lazareti, Urban Festival, Center for Drama Arts, Platforma 9.81, etc.). Since the very beginning of WHW activities, collaboration, collectivity and establishing links with different subjects was an important work model as well as a conscious strategy of working in the public sphere that became increasingly elaborate and took over a form of long-term synergies. These various models of collaboration evolved into the most important aspect of the WHW work, as well as into an important strategy of presenting specific topics and an effort of developing parallel cultural policies.
As a curators' collective
WHW started to collaborate for the exhibition What, How & for Whom,
on the occasion of 152nd anniversary of Communist Manifesto in 1999. This
was the time when the Croatian version of the democratic 'revolution'
had been finalised with the triumph of capital and the rediscovery of
the market economy as a tool of resource distribution.
Broadcasting project, dedicated to Nikola Tesla aimed to continue the discussion started by the What, How and For Whom exhibition on arts and economy, i.e. it tried to explore the issues of economical/political interests that prevent full realisation of the democratic potentials of new technologies. It was organised in co-operation with Arkzin publishing house, Multimedia Institute mi2 and the Technical Museum in Zagreb.
In the Broadcasting Project, the questions what, how and for whom related
to media: what is distributed by the media, how is it done in regard to
the technological conditions, tactics and strategies, and for whom, -
who is the public of the mass media models of communication and what are
the alternatives. In general, communication and mediation were questioned
as a project background. On the practical level the presentation of the
project in the mass media and public space was carefully planned in advance,
in order not only to increase the audience, but to make it react more
actively. By presenting art projects in electronic broadcasting media,
as well as works that question the conditions of communication in general,
the 'Broadcasting Project' functioned as a field of social experiments
trying to offer a platform for a new definition of the public, social
and political role of the media. It was conceived as a long-term series
of cultural events that question the social and artistic implications
of broadcast media from different perspectives. In the following months
the project had been developed in collaboration with the Technical Museum,
the Third program of Croatian National Radio and Radio Student as an international
contemporary exhibition and series of radio broadcasts and interventions.
In the same period, in collaboration with the cultural magazine Zarez,
two supplements dedicated to the 'Broadcasting Project' presented project
contributors and in a certain way 'documented' the project development.
The project was dedicated to Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), a Serb from Croatia
who died as an American citizen, an eccentric, charismatic personality
who invented over 800 patents and laid the theoretical ground for the
development of radio, radar, satellites, electronic microscope, microwave,
fluorescent bulb, etc. Once more, our intention was not to create a closed
'illustrative' exhibition or to focus exclusively on the biographical
references of this charismatic legend. Instead, we wanted to open space
for interaction and exchange of information, and at the same time encourage
artists to utilise in-situ installations and projects with space-visual-audio
elements exploring the experience of body movement and physical action
in technologically redefined conditions of post-information time.
During the past several years the position of WHW gradually changed and evolved. Until summer 2003 WHW operated without a permanent exhibition space, however since then it has been running the program of Gallery Nova (in collaboration with the publishing house AGM).
The Nova Gallery is a non-profit city owned gallery in the centre of Zagreb and we try to structure its program using the WHW project strategies, conceiving it as a platform for discussing relevant social issues through art, theory and media, as well as a model of collaboration and exchange of know-how between cultural organisations from different backgrounds. In the mid 1970's the Gallery Nova was one of the most active spots of the Zagreb visual arts scene. It was open towards radical, avant-garde, unconventional and often marginalised art practices that were characteristic of the young generation of artists, whose protagonists still have an important influence on the development of the new Croatian art scene. WHW refers to precisely this period in the Gallery Nova history, and the new program concept brings a wide array of new activities into the customary exhibition and gallery practice.
Alongside producing and presenting contemporary visual arts, the gallery also focuses on establishing
links between the visual culture and other forms of cultural production
with the civil, activist, and NGO scene. Besides exhibitions, the program
is characterised by a series of events that are designed to turn the gallery
into a vivid cultural centre, and includes concerts, performances, film
screenings, lectures and public discussions. It tries to fill in the gaps
in the local cultural scene acting at the intersection of popular, high
and alternative culture in differentiated models that enable the investigation
of representational strategies, exhibiting forms and actions within a
One of our recent
exhibitions was Side-Effects which was exhibited in the Salon of the Museum
of Contemporary Art in Belgrade. This exhibition presented works by EGOBOO.bits,
Felix Gmelin, Igor Grubić, Sharon Hayes, Vlatka Horvat, Kristian
Koul, Andreja Kulunčić, Aydan Murtezaoglu, Serkan Ozkaya,
Kirsten Pieroth, Bulent Sangar, Marko Tadić, and VERSION. Side-Effects
took place within the context of In the Cities of the Balkans, which is
the 2nd part of the Balkans Trilogy. This project was initiated by the
Kassel Kunsthalle Fridericianum. Side-Effects is a good and illustrative
example of the indirect links that WHW creates amongst various projects
that take place outside and inside the gallery.
In a certain non-committed way, the exhibition is the third in a series of recent exhibitions prepared by the WHW curators' collective. It is not the same exhibition in three versions, but rather a process in which the same traumatic core is questioned in different ways. This series of exhibitions might be seen as a kind of dialectical triad in which the thesis is represented by the exhibition Looking Awry (apexart, New York, 2003), which includes works by Igor Grubić, Aydan Murtezaoglu, Adrian Paci and Maja Bajević. Starting from iek's interpretation of a Shakespeare's quote from Richard III, the exhibition is based on the impossibility of grasping the truth through a direct gaze. In this sense Marx's demand to 'look at the world with sober eyes' demands exactly that 'awry' look, which might also be understood as a look from the social margins. The exhibition Repetition: Pride and Prejudice (Gallery Nova, Zagreb, 2003/2004) presenting works by Sharon Hayes, Pierre Huyghe, Sanja Iveković, Aydan Murtezaoglu, Anri Sala and Andreas Siekmann, functioned as an antithesis: we cannot reach directly for the truth and that is why we keep repeating the traumatic event. That repetition is not a consequence of some 'objective necessity' independent of our desires, but it functions as a political option, as a payment of a symbolic debt, a gesture of repeated inclusion and symbolic appropriation. 'Pride and prejudice' in the title are not separate themes, a positive and negative feature, but they point towards their inter-relatedness - and just like pride emerges solely from the perspective of a certain prejudice, prejudice is a product of the gaze of arrogant pride. If we wish to spare ourselves the painful way around false recognition, we will miss the entire truth. In this dialectical triad Side-Effects is a kind of a synthesis, a negation of a negation.
Currently, the most
ambitious long-term project in which WHW is involved is the Zagreb Cultural
Kapital of Europe 3000. This is a collaborative platform initiated by
four independent cultural organisations in Croatia - Centre for Drama
Art (performing arts), Multimedia Institute mi2 (new media), Platforma
9,81 (architecture and media) and What, How and for Whom (visual culture).
Throughout a three-year period (2004-2006) the project will develop a
manifold of collaborative practices within the local and international
cultural scene and thus draw attention to the inadequacy of the dominant
cultural models to meet the challenges in a changed cultural action setting.
This new setting comes as a consequence of the acceleration of globalised
communication exchanges, transversality of capital and the attendant ubiquity
of economic globalisation. Contrary to these dynamic processes the cultural
field remains largely limited within the confines of the representative
cultural models, its inefficient institutional framework, without sufficient
dynamic collaboration strategies and almost without any (and increasingly
smaller) social relevance. As its goal CK3000 has set to react (in the
local context of cultural production) to this (primarily European) situation
by offering to the broader local and international cultural public an
action model which will (on the level of methodology as well as on the
level of issues) deal with the dynamics of transforming the cultural field,
which are significantly marked by the ambiguity of the notion of capital
(as in cultural capital city, socio-cultural capital and economic capital).
The initial strategic partners of the Cultural Kapital 3000 are Project
Relations from Berlin (a project initiated by the German Federal Cultural
Foundation with an agenda to promote cultural collaboration in Eastern
Europe) and Erste Bank from Vienna which supports the creation of various
cultural platforms in Central European countries in which it does business.
*Editor's note: Following the primary informal group of authors the WHW collective (What, How and for Whom) registered itself as a non-profit, non-government organisation for visual art in 2002. The organisation is lead by Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić, Sabina Sabolović (curators), Ivet Ćurlin (cultural management) and Dejan Kršić (theorist and graphic designer).