Museum of Contemporary Art – Skopje
The Large Glass is being published again 23 years after its first issue and ten years since its last issue. The journal was first launched in 1995 by Sonja Abadzhieva, who became editor-in-chief, working with Liljana Nedelkovska, Zoran Petrovski, Marika Bocvarovska and many other collaborators to create a journal of art reviews and criticism.
The journal expanded on the initial ambition of the Skopje Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) to radiate new ideas and maintain the highest ethical and professional standards, but also signified a new beginning of constant reassessment through criticism and analysis of contemporary art.
With this relaunch it is crucial we are showing that the termination of The Large Glass was only temporary and that the pause has only served to complement its history – fractured like the artwork from which it derives its title: Duchamp’s The Large Glass. For this reason we have decided to mark this new beginning with focus on the current social challenges.
The Large Glass will act as one of the essential mediums of MoCA for the presentation, analysis and discussion of a wide range of current challenges and topics in culture, art and theory. Publishing the journal in English will also give the MoCA the opportunity to reach a wider range of creative and international environments and take part in other cultural, artistic and academic communities. This will extend the international recognition and cooperation of the Museum.
This commitment to contemporary art and international trends in art and criticism is in line with the original ideals and establishment of the MoCA, which was founded in 1964 as a modern museum fully engaged in dialogue with international authors and with a focus on the ever-changing challenges in the sphere of culture and art.
The revitalization of The Large Glass as a venture should confirm the reputation of MoCA Skopje as an institution with significant experience and a publisher in the area of contemporary art and critical thought.
Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje
Reinventing the Horizon of Visibility
Conceiving a vision of a different society, inventing new modes of ethical, political and aesthetic dimensions, is an increasingly difficult but pressing challenge. Artists are exceptional in this regard insofar as they demonstrate an intersection of creative routes and the formation of alternative visions. Artists have long taken an active role both in demonstrating their connections with social movements and political activism and in producing new imaginaries. The importance of such artistic practices can begin to be grasped when we consider what artists are already doing in terms of reinventing possibilities and generating new forms and knowledge – not only what we have already learnt but what we can still learn from their experiences, successes and failures. Working outside of established ‘common sense’, disputing and disrupting what is ‘visible’, artists express their strong disagreement and resistance to current conditions and alter our perceptions and understanding of a politically marked spatiality. They act in a field where ‘politics is first of all a battle about perceptible and sensible material’1 – one that revolves around what can be seen and sensed and by which politics is brought to visibility, so that it ‘renders an object, event, practice, or person at once visible and available for accountability.’2 The horizon of visibility in this context is shaped and framed by power relations: ‘Foucault illustrates that during different historical periods, distinct modes of visibility are produced by power in order to control society.’3 Hence state authorities and powerful bodies often develop the technology of a disciplinary order, or in Rancière’s words a ‘distribution of the sensible’, in order to impose their regime over visibility and modes of perception – a regime that ‘provides the political life of sensation.’4 This is enforced by decisions, policies and values driven by governing and powerful bodies. This leads us directly to Berkeley’s claim that ‘to be is to be perceived’5 – or in the specific thematic discussion that what is perceived in a society is associated with an ‘ontological ground’, or in this context into existence within the social sensorium.
The argument can be supported with examples of artists’ joint practices and modes of re-configuring sensory experiences, which enable some subject-agents to regulate what is visible and what is not. These practices counter and resist predominant political trends, whatever the political mainstream may be, through various forms of direct intervention. These acts can be delineated as ways and methods aimed at something arbitrarily below a social horizon of visibility, or else at provoking issues proscribed in relation to it. This calls for and entails the creation of a new vision, for perceiving new contours and participating and constructing moments beyond and counter to regimes of appraisal that ‘customarily organize the world, compelling us to have to reconfigure our own postures’6 in opposition to the world as it is. It includes reflections that provide an innovative and comprehensive understanding of the role of art, which in radical instances achieves ‘a collapse of the representational paradigm, which means not only the collapse of a hierarchical system of address; it means the collapse of a whole regime of meaning’.7
Accordingly, the main thematic scope of this edition of The Large Glass is that of activist art as a form of political protest. It is a common practice in urban landscapes, manifested in various actions, from the occupation of buildings to the use of walls for displaying messages, creating resistance that transforms public spaces. Examples include artists protesting in key public spaces to raise the visibility of certain communities such as refugees forced to leave their homes ‘because of war, environmental waste, and famine, marginalized and simultaneously subjected to a new form of slave exploitation8 at a time when, as Berardi points out: ‘the massive internment of migrant workers in detention centers disseminated all over the European territory dispels the illusion that the “camp” has been wiped out from the world.’9 The level of complexity of these artistic practices can be interpreted as a result of their being attempts to reassess the current visual horizon and to challenge existing boundaries of spaces of power. To some extent these efforts constitute a critique of museums and galleries as tools that serve to maintain the capitalist system and the ways in which capitalism commodifies artworks and instrumentalises artists. Some examples recently made public seem be the subject of great attention, such as cases where collective artistic groups and individuals have attempted to decolonise the domain of museums through direct interventions. This
mode of acting is most evident in the case of interactions between protesters, artists and audiences in various movements in which artists have protested and occupied cultural institutions along with the movement. Aside from exploring the possibility of occupying museums, artists have redirected their creativity from instrumental participation in the art world to an expanded field of collaborations in order to produce a new vision and political imaginary.10 What this means is that practices interrupt ‘a set of principles by which a given society and art institutions are symbolically staged’11 and where specific visibility is experienced and meanings are established.
Other papers and reports in the second part of this issue highlight engaged visual methodologies that present an equally important approach, urging the use of visual materials and data to engage in concrete cases of symbolic, political and legal prosecutions. This is one way in which artistic practices can heighten public focus and connect artworks as a tool for visualising data and visions for justice founded upon evidence and intended to achieve profound effects. These actions are anchored in everyday political situations and have both a responsibility and intensity – aiming to challenge and reorganize societal visibility while pushing back what is hidden by official institutions. The ideas examined in this part relate to the recuperation of data and the rebuilding of an ‘image’ of what was the case before, which opens new possibilities for artists in creating a horizon of visibility, bringing visual data to light for public scrutiny and highlighting official concealment, neglect and distortion, as well as unjust and oppressive acts by state authorities and official narratives. The focus is on achieving a set of new interpretations, as in the case of Forensic Architecture, and this issue considers ways in which artists collaborate with scientists and follow technological developments to present visual data that can play a valuable role in legal forums. These methodologies have been used to highlight violations of humanitarian law and war crimes. This part of The Large Glass includes more extensive combinations of present, historical and comparative data and analysis, presenting some recent artistic works as well as theoretical insights that afford a deeper understanding of engaged art in this context.
The third part of this journal presents a sequence of different artistic works developed in relation to certain spatialities, thus contributing to an understanding of the ways in which politics and ideologies are associated with the organization of spaces and visibilities. These artistic examples highlight an important link between regimes over certain spaces as well as their inconsistency throughout history.
Along these lines, this issue of The Large Glass presents a range of contexts in which artistic practices coexist with further possibilities. As the following papers, interviews, reports and other materials show, the status of engaged artistic practices continues to raise questions in important debates and practices, especially reflecting on the complex connotations of artistic visions that challenge the paradigm.
- ‘Jacques Rancière: Literature, Politics, Aesthetics: Approaches to Democratic Disagreement (interviewed by Solange Guénoun and James H. Kavanagh)’. SubStance Vol. 29, No. 2, Issue 92 (2000), pp. 3-24, p. 11.
- Davide Panagia. The Political Life of Sensation. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009. p. 12.
- Neve Gordon. ‘On Visibility and power: An Arendtian Corrective of Foucault’. Human Studies Vol. 25, No. 2 (2002), pp. 125-145 and p. 126.
- Davide Panagia. The Political Life of Sensation. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009
- George Berkeley. Principles of Human Knowledge and Three Dialogues. Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Davide Panagia. The Political Life of Sensation. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009. p. 31.
- Jacques Rancière. Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics. London: Continuum. 2010, p. 159.
- Franco Bifo Berardi. After the Future. AK Press, 2011, p. 19.
- Ibid, p. 19.
- Yates McKee. Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition. Verso, 2016.
- Oliver Marchart. ‘The second return of the political: Democracy and the syllogism of equality’. In: P. Bowman and R. Stamp, Reading Rancière, pp. 129-47. London: Continuum 2011, p. 143.
Tihomir Topuzovski: Introduction – Reinventing the Horizon of Visibility
ARTISTIC PRACTICES AND POLITICAL IMAGINATION
Kim Charnley: Activist Art and Visibility after Brexit
Stephen Duncombe: The Power of the Imaginary in Activist Arts
Reassessing Socially Engaged Artistic Practices – Interview with Grant Kester by Tihomir Topuzovski
Grant Kester: On the Relationship between Theory and Practice in Socially Engaged Art
Portrait Ai Weiwei
The Politics of Shame – Ai Weiwei in conversation with Anthony Downey
Ai Weiwei: ‘Mirror’, FOMU Antwerp
Maja Ćirić: ‘Comrades’ & ‘Gentlemen’ – Contemporary Forms of Activism in the Balkans (The case of Belgrade)
Bojan Ivanov: On the Current Thematizations of Crisis in the Social Superstructure
Rena Rädle & Vladan Jeremić: Fragile Presence, Time for Movement
MTL COLLECTIVE: From Institutional Critique to Institutional Liberation? A Decolonial Perspective on the Crises of Contemporary Art
Steve Lambert: Capitalism
Dimitry Vielnsky: We Have a Situation Here…
Elena Veljanovska: “Mastering the Art of Conviviality” – The work methodology of the art collective Chto delat? (‘What is to be done?’)
ENGAGED VISUAL METHODOLOGIES, UNEARTHING DATA AND MEMORIES
Eyal Weizman: Forensic Aesthetics
Forensic Architecture: Unearthing State Violence
Milica Tomić, Branimir Stojanović: Towards a Matheme of Genocide
Damir Arsenijević: Grupa Spomenik – Repeating the Dissociation
Ana Hoffner: The Queerness of Memory
The Spatiliaties of Inconsistency
Coco Fusco: Empty Plaza 2012
Ben Gravile: Quotations of Chairman Mao (part 1)
Kumjana Novakova: To Resist: The Dream of a Ridiculous Man
Johannes Gierlinger: Voyeurs of the Utopian through a Resisting Body
The MoCa’s Exhibition – All That We Have in Common
Ai Weiwei is a Chinese contemporary artist and activist. His father’s (Ai Qing) original surname was written Jiang (蔣). Ai Weiwei collaborated with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics. As a political activist he has been critical of the Chinese Government’s stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called “tofu-dreg schools” in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, following his arrest at Beijing Capital International Airport on 3 April, he was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed; officials alluded to their allegations of “economic crimes”. He is one of the leading cultural figures of his generation and serves as an example for free expression both in China and internationally.
Anthony Downey is an academic, editor and writer. He is Professor of Visual Culture in the Middle East and North Africa within the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University. Recent and upcoming publications include Zones of Indistinction: Contemporary Visual Culture and the Cultural Logic of Late-Modernity (forthcoming, Sternberg Press, 2019); Don’t Shrink Me to the Size of a Bullet: The Works of Hiwa K (Walther König Books, 2017); Future Imperfect: Contemporary Art Practices and Cultural Institutions in the Middle East (Sternberg Press, 2016); Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2015); and Art and Politics Now (Thames and Hudson, 2014). In 2019, he will launch a new series of books, Research/Practice: 25 Artists/25 Projects (Sternberg Press, 2019).
Forensic Architecture is an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London. The interdisciplinary team of investigators includes architects, scholars, artists, filmmakers, software developers, investigative journalists, archaeologists, lawyers, and scientists. Their evidence is presented in political and legal forums, truth commissions, courts, and human rights reports. Forensic Architecture also undertakes historical and theoretical examinations of the history and present status of forensic practices in articulating notions of public truth.
Stephen Duncombe is Professor of Media and Culture at New York University. He teaches and writes on the history of mass and alternative media and the intersection of culture and politics. He is the author of Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy (The New Press, 2007) and Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Underground Culture (Verso, 1997). He is editor of the Cultural Resistance Reader (Verso, 2002), co-editor, along with Maxwell Tremblay, of White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race (Verso, 2011), and writes on the intersection of culture and politics for a range of scholarly and popular publications. Duncombe is also the creator of Open Utopia, an open-access, open-source, web-based edition of Thomas More’s Utopia and is co-founder and co-director of the Center for Artistic Activism.
Grant Kester is a Professor of Art History in the Visual Arts department at the University of California at San Diego and the founding editor of FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism. His publications include Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage (Duke University Press, 1998), Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (University of California Press, 2004),The One and the Many: Contemporary Collaborative Art in a Global Context (Duke University Press, 2011) and Collective Situations: Readings in Contemporary Latin American Art 1995-2010, co-edited with Bill Kelley, Jr. (Duke University Press, 2017). His current book project is Autonomy and Answerability: The Aesthetics of Socially Engaged Art.
Maja Ćirić is an independent curator and art critic experienced in leading and contributing to international art projects. Maja’s practice, that is based on terms of criticality and post-globalism, is a critique of the dominant curatorial geopolitics. Maja received a PhD in art and media theory from the University of Arts in Belgrade (Dissertation title: Institutional Critique and Curating). Maja’s areas of concern span from curating as institutional critique through to the research of methodology and epistemology of curating, and to the international and transnational circulation of ideas and curating. Maja is a recipient of Lazar Trifunović Award for Art Criticism (Belgrade), CEC ArtsLink Independent Projects Award (New York), ISCP Curator Award (New York), Dedalus Foundation and Independent Curators International Curatorial Research Award.
MTL is a collective based in New York that combines research, aesthetics and activism with artistic practice. It includes artist and organizer Nitasha Dhillon and Amin Husain, lawyer, artist and organizer. MTL builds on the experiences and movement-generated theory produced recently to deepen solidarity, foster shared analysis, and produce formations that allow groups to retain the specificities of their struggles in coalition while moving together and separately towards decolonial freedom.
STEVE LAMBERT is an artist who works with issues of advertising and the use of public space. He made international news after the 2008 US election with The New York Times “Special Edition,”a replica of the “paper of record” announcing the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other good news. In the Summer of 2011 he began a tour of Capitalism Works For Me! True/False – a 9 x 20ft sign allowing people to vote on whether capitalism worked for them He is also the founder of the Center for Artistic Activism.
Dmitry Vilensky is an artist, curator, and author of numerous texts on contemporary art and activism. He is co-founder of the group Chto Delat and co-editor of the eponymous newspaper. In 2013, he co-founded the School for Engaged Art in St. Petersburg. Vilensky’s practice embraces artistic projects, public actions, and seminars directed at the art of political narrative. With the art group Chto Delat, Vilensky has taken part in numerous exhibitions, conferences, seminars, and theatrical performances.
Rena Rädle & Vladan Jeremić are Belgrade-based artists whose research-oriented work comprises drawing, text, video, photography, installation and intervention in public space. In their collaborative practice Rena & Vladan explore the relation between art and politics, unveiling the contradictions of today’s societies and developing transformative potentials of art in the context of social struggles. They engage with current debates and struggles in collaboration with social movements and disseminate their art works through reproduction in various media.
Bojan Ivanov is an art historian. He completed his graduate and postgraduate studies at the Institute of Art History and Archaeology in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of SS Cyril and Methodius in Skopje. He has been publishing studies, reviews and essays on the Macedonian contemporary arts scene on the pages of the domestic daily press and art magazines and journals since 1983. He is a founder of Mala Galerija in Skopje.
Elena Veljanovska is a freelance curator and cultural manager. She graduated from the Institute of Art History and Archaeology in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University SS Cyril and Methodius in Skopje. Her work experience includes work with the Cultural Center Tocka, Skopje, Line I+M, a platform for new media art and technology, which she directed until 2010. In 2012–2015 she was actively involved in the creation of the Association of the Independent Cultural Scene JADRO, and she works as an executive director and curator in Kontrapunkt, Skopje. Among her latest projects is the CRIC-Festival of critical culture.
Damir Arsenijević works in the fields of critical theory and psychoanalysis. His art and theoretical interventions establish settings for the discussion of painful topics after the war and genocide in former Yugoslavia as our commons. He was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar and Professor at the Department of Rhetoric, UC Berkeley in 2011/12. Currently, he is a Leverhulme Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK, leading the project ‘Love after Genocide’. He founded the Psychoanalytic Seminar Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina which opens up the public space for the exploration of the unconscious of war and genocide.
Branimir Stojanović is a psychoanalyst in Belgrade and an international associated member of SALP. He is the founder of the journal of the Belgrade Psychoanalytic Association Archive of Psychoanalysis and has been its editor-in-chief from 2008 to 2010. He was the founding member of the School for History and Theory of Painting, the art-theory group Monument, focusing on questions of disintegration, war and genocide in Yugoslavia, and a founding member of an archive-library of Yugoslav humanities Teacher Ignoramus and His Committees. He is a member of the Belgrade Psychoanalytic Association.
Milica Tomić is Yugoslavian-born artist and Head of IZK-Institute for Contemporary Art (TU Graz). Her work centres on unearthing and bringing to public debate issues related to political violence, economic underpinnings and social amnesia. As a response to the commitment to social change and the new forms of collectivity it engenders, Milica Tomić has made a marked shift from individual to collective artistic practice. She is a founding member of the new Yugoslav art/theory group, “Grupa Spomenik” [Monument Group, 2002]; she conceived and initiated the cross-disciplinary project and Working Group Four Faces of Omarska .
Kim Charnley is an art theorist and contemporary art historian who writes about art activism and institutional critique, among other issues to do with the politics of art. He has published in Art Journal, Historical Materialism and Art and the Public Sphere. In 2017, he edited and provided an introduction for a collection of the essays of activist artist, theorist and curator Gregory Sholette, entitled Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and Capitalist Crisis (Pluto Books).
Johannes Gierlinger studied Digital Media & Art in Salzburg, Istanbul and at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. His films and installations deal with memory, history and resistance as wella with the forms of representation. Within an essayistic form he explores readings, doubts and possible future images. Thereby he tries to examine a world by a flaneur-like act of seeking and by creating connections through confrontation and scrutiny of images. Gierlingers work has been screened and exhibited at various filmfestivals and institutions.
Ben Graville is a photographer, he received a diploma in photography from N.E.S.C.O.T. in 1991. He travelled and worked in various areas of photography including furniture and studio work. From 2001 to 2006 he worked in press agencies specializing in criminal and civil law for Photonews and Central news. Graville also worked for the newspaper The Independent between 2006 and 2009. Parallel to his professional practice, he creates variations on the theme of documentary and photojournalism incorporating ideas from the art world which through different projects he has exhibited and published internationally.
Eyal Weizman is Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures, and Director of Forensic Architecture. He is a founding member of the architectural collective DAAR in Beit Sahour/Palestine. His books include Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability (2017), The Conflict Shoreline (with Fazal Sheikh, 2015), FORENSIS (with Anselm Franke, 2014), Mengele’s Skull (with Thomas Keenan at Sterenberg Press, 2012), Forensic Architecture (DOCUMENTA13 notebook, 2012), The Least of All Possible Evils (Verso 2011), Hollow Land (Verso, 2007), A Civilian Occupation (Verso, 2003), the series Territories 1, 2 and 3, Yellow Rhythms and many articles in journals, magazines, and edited books. He has worked with a variety of NGOs worldwide and was a member of the B’Tselem board of directors.
Kumjana Novakova works in the field of creative documentary cinema and audio-visual arts since 2006. Her formal education combines social sciences and research studies in Sofia, Sarajevo, Bologna and Amsterdam. She was the co-founder and director of the Pravo Ljudski Film Festival in Sarajevo. She collaborates as a film curator with several film festivals and cinema platforms worldwide. She teaches documentary cinema at Béla Tarr’s film factory and at the non-fiction department at ESCAC in Barcelona. Kumjana develops projects between cinema and contemporary art, exploring the interplay between identities and memories. Her works have been exhibited at international festivals and galleries. She currently works as a film curator at the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Skopje.
Ana Hofner is engaged in an art practice that excavates moments of crisis and conflict in history and politics. Ho¡ner’s performances, video and photo installations seek to introduce temporalities, relations and spaces in-between established perspectives and memories of iconic images and highly performative events. Ho¡ner employs means of appropriation such as restaging photographs, interviews and reports and desynchronization of body and voice, sound and image. She has finished the PhD in Practice Program at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 2014.
Coco Fusco, interdisciplinary artist and writer, explores the politics of gender, race, war, and identity through multi-media productions incorporating large-scale projections, closed-circuit television, web-based live streaming performances with audience interaction, as well as performances at cultural events that actively engage with the audience. Fusco has performed, lectured, exhibited, and curated internationally since 1988. Her work has been included in two Whitney Biennials (2008 and 1993), the Mercosul Biennial (2011), the Sydney Biennale (1992), the Johannesburg Biennial (1997), the Shanghai Biennale (2004), and Performa05. She is an associate professor and Director of Intermedia Initiatives at Parsons The New School for Design in New York.
Tihomir Topuzovski received his doctoral degree from the University of Birmingham in the UK. He also has two BAs in Philosophy and Art, and an MA in Art, and has received numerous academic achievement awards and research grants. He was a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies in the Södertörn University in Stockholm. His research is at the intersection of philosophy, politics and the visual arts. He is currently collaborating on a research project on the politicisation of spaces and artistic practices, developing a new understanding of temporary urbanism. Topuzovski currently works as a research leader in the interdisciplinary programme of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje and is editor-in-chief of the journal The Large Glass. He has published a number of papers and participated in individual and group exhibitions.
Mira Gakina is an art historian and a director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje. She graduated from the Institute of History of Art and Archaeology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje and completed her postgraduate studies at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Zagreb. She gained her PhD in Art Management at the Faculty of Philosophy in Skopje. She has curated a number of exhibitions in the country and abroad and has presented her work in New York, Krakow, Berlin, Ljubljana, Texas and Zagreb. She has published her writings in diverse publications, catalogues, books and magazines.
Jovanka Popova is a curator and programme coordinator at the Press to Exit project space and curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje. She completed her B.A. and M.A. at the Faculty of Philosophy Institute for History of Art in Skopje. She has curated exhibitions in the contemporary art field in Macedonia and worked on international curatorial projects. She has also presented her work at the Humboldt University, the Central European University in Budapest, the Goethe University in Frankfurt, the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, the Kunst Historisches Institut in Florence, the Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, the Trondheim Academy of Fine Arts and other institutions. She is a president of the Macedonian Section of the AICA International Association of Art Critics.