Institution as an Act of Cooperation | kulturpunkt

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Institution as an Act of Cooperation

BADco., Croatian Designers Association and the Upgrade! Platform organized a unique blend of exhibition and performance, entitled Intangible - Institutions need to be constructed.

by: Iva Rosandić

Vlasta Žanić, Intagible, POGON Jedinstvo / PHOTO: Tomislav Medak

The eternal clash of institutional and independent culture, marked by the marginalization of the latter, has become a stimulant for artistic investigation into the arbitrary borders between fiction and reality, thanks to the independent culture’s invisible presence in questioning and denouncing social stratification, which it itself reflects. Abolishing the classic obstacles for inclusion is crucial for art that auto-referentially speaks about its own status, as well as that of its spectator, seeking to raise consciousness about responsibility in a shared creative situation. By transforming traditionalist, self-explanatory concepts, the independent scene injects the perception of work in culture with new tendencies, as a reaction to old-fashioned models, unadapted to new forms of cultural dynamics.

Aiming to actively rethink the space between the institutional and the non-institutional, searching for new models of realization at a moment when the old ones are losing their relevancy, and pointing out the limbo in which many participants in culture are trapped, the performative collective BADco. is organizing a series of events connecting the problems facing cultural production with wider social shifts as part of their project Institutions need to be constructed. It creates a participatory platform for a wide variety of social groups. While the old institutions provide no answers, the new ones are blocked by the absence of a support system for breaking down well-established structures. The idea behind the project is that of an institution as a living organism, transforming in response to the needs of its members and the requirements of its age. By revitalising the potential of abandoned or unfinished spaces, whose function changes according to the social context, the project is realized in cooperation with artists, activists and spectators as a series of one-time interventions in Rijeka, Zagreb and Split, focusing on contemporary forms and perception of work in cultural and social context. The temporary form of short-lived interventions is at the same time materialized on film, supporting multimediality in its creative use of all available means.

Pogon Jedinstvo, which is marked by its function as an abandoned factory hall and not fully realized as a space the independent scene gravitates to, is a symbolically potent space for questioning conditions of production, both in culture and in the wider sense. The space itself is transformed, created and disappears in the process, becoming a place of work, gathering and productivity, depending on the changing circumstances. In lieu of that, on December 11 2015. Pogon Jedinstvo became the intersection for multiple tendencies and a generator of myriad meanings arising from the cooperation of artists with various forms of expression. Organized by BADco., Croatian Designers Association and the Upgrade! Platform, and supported by Operacija Grad, curatorial collective WHW – What, How and for Whom, CMS (Centre for Peace Studies) and Attack, the result was a unique blend of exhibition and performance, entitled Intangible - Institutions need to be constructed.

The occasion was commemorating the Gold Medal for Use of space for Performance at the 13th PQ (Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space) for the exhibition concept Neopipljivo/Intangible, curated by Marko Golub, Nikola Radeljković and Igor Ružić, with Mauricio Ferlin as the designer/architect of the exhibition. BADco. conveniently related it a number of their own interventions, infusing the project with additional meaning. The goal of the exhibition was to bring together heterogeneous art groups or artists, who blurred the lines between performance and visual art to question their relationships to conventions, themselves, the audience and institutional support.

Segments from a documentary film by Ana Marija Habjan were used as a cross section of a wide range of participants in culture, who don’t work exclusively on one of the poles of institutional or non-institutional culture, but cross over and modify their influences, placing them in new relations. These are the projects realized in the past few years by BADco., Boris Bakal and Leo Vukelić, Damir Bartol Indoš and Tanja Vrvilo, Oliver Frljić and Igor Pauška, Siniša Labrović, Kata Mijatović, Božena Končić Badurina, Borut Šeparović and Vlasta Žanić.

PQ thematises scenography and stage design, and the guidelines for this year’s theme, Shared space: Music, Weather, Politics, pointed to questioning standard relationships. The chosen pieces by Croatian artists were characterised, in alignment with their own personal sensibilities, by reality’s penetration into the artwork, or the intersection of fictional and real. When the division between performers and spectators is no longer an imperative, they condition each other’s existence, while a successful performance is based on a shared experience.

The event in Jedinstvo experimented with adjusting to new spatial and performance conditions in Shared space, open for its transformation. Basically, the situation captured on film was transferred into real surroundings, and some of the protagonists who had so far only been connected by montage had an opportunity to co-exist in a communal "working commemoration of the Prague award". The multimediality at the core of the projects stressed how easy it was to switch from one format to another, while emphasis was placed on the creation of a mental and physical space for exchanging.

The stage, as a place where visual and performative arts come into contact, becomes a space that is twice determined, by the artists’ attachment to their immediate surroundings and the objectification of their own bodies (the final artefact), and the wider social (political) context that inevitably defines the situation. PQ’s theme is reinterpreted and recontextualized here, and the new situation’s different performance predispositions once again question the influence of space, with its inseparability from physicality and social setting, on the production of new interpretative possibilities. 

The liberating potential of theatre, which breaks down the borders of the closed art form, is realized by the spectators who become a constructive element, entering the theatre with no scenery. They move through the space with the performers, and all of that space is the stage, but transformed into a live place of meeting, talking and building. From the very beginning, attributing new dimensions to the found space is public, so everyone is invited to witness the transformation of concepts in the emerging panopticon of ideas and creative synergy.

However, the free flow is stopped at some point, and both the performers and the visitors are frisked. Institutional rules suddenly disrupt the established course of events, while the piece Protected Space by Božena Končić Badurina, a reminder of the usual treatment of the artistic situation within the institutional framework, stands in contrast to the realized free staging. The established hierarchy of power in which everyone takes their predestined position is an obstruction to the attempted transformation of reality.

In this way, the pieces and performances, which are simultaneous and placed in relation to each other, expand and modify the initial implications, while the result is an unexpected multiplication of meanings. The smell of burnt milk becomes the subtext of Labrović’s reading of The Communist Manifesto, while the props used in Vlasta Žanić’s previous performances come alive not only in the audience’s play, but also in its conversion into an integral part of the choreographic questioning of the scene/world. 

By employing all the senses, this creates a parallelism of experience, and each individual performance that surfaces necessarily speaks about the whole. The intangible is reflexively constituted in our consciousness as the only permanent thing outside the temporary structures of the performance. The intangible becomes a collecting point for the created meaning within the newly established framework, aspiring to discover different approaches to cultural activity.

BADco. successfully transformed the existing infrastructure for a creative joint meeting, proving once again there is great potential in dismissing hierarchy in favour of free inclusion. The once frequent places of social inclusion can, through a mix of artistic imagination, locally determined problems and appropriate mechanisms, respond to the demands contemporary world. Finally, without an active cohesive element, institutions are simply unrealized spaces.

Translated from Croatian by Lana Pukanić.

Objavio/la vatroslav [at] kulturpunkt.hr 02.02.2016