This is a very important Exhibition at the Nottingham Contemporary , Nottingham’s foremost modern art gallery. ‘Monument should not be trusted’ is a display of how Art flourished in all forms during the period of the Stalinist Regime of Josef Tito in the late 70’s and 80’s before the Yugoslav republic was broken up by Imperialism and Stalinism.
The program notes give an indication on the development of art which at times was a critique of Stalinism by the modern artistic milieu. It is spread over 4 Galleries and each Gallery has a theme.
” Encompassing the period from the early 1960’s to the mid 1980’s ,the exhibition features over 100 artworks and artefacts which illuminate the key contradictions of this single party state”. .
This Exhibition features a number of artists who used different mediums to work in . The first Gallery is subtitled ‘ Utopian Consumerism’. The programme notes give a flavour of the time. ” Partisan ascetism inherited from the anti-fascist struggle was maintained in the rhetoric of the Yugoslav state”..
Many of the artists involved turned to collage using humorous Dada influenced collage technique with Pop arts brash commercial Imagery. Goran Djordjevic in his sites of Modernity 2 and Sanja Ivekovic were prominent artists who used collage and other Dada influenced material.
” The artist group Otto who were highly critical of consumer overload of the Vietnam War and western Imperialism”.. This exhibition takes on a political flavour with its critique of Imperialism.
The notes continue to point out the different and varied art forms mingling with different artists. ” Mutual influence of pop culture , film music and art resulted in the 1980’s boom of punk new wave performance art”. . Tomislav Gotovac’s Jazz 2964 is an example of this type of art”. .
Examples of this art were reflected in the work of Vera Fische (Slika) August Cernigog , Lozar Logar and Bogdan Pozanovic .
Many female artists wished to identify with a strong feminist movement and this is evident in the 2nd Gallery subtitled ” Comradess Superwoman”. As the notes indicate many women artists tried to get out of the straitjacket of Patriarchy . ” Yugoslav women found themselves negotiating between public patriarchy , the State and private patriarchy, with the proliferation of tabloid magazines Film and advertising had a new role the sex symbol”..
Showing the importance of Sanja Ivekovic’s work which sought to develop a feminist perspective. ” It was only in the early 1970’s with Sanja Ivekovic’s wrk that a female artist began to articulate issues pertinent to women from an explicit feminist perspective”. .
Ivekovic’s work included Tragedy of Venus 1975, Women in art, women in Yugoslav art 1975, and Tomislav’s Gotovacs Showing Elle 1962. Cindy Borghesia’s Tozi babe 1986 Katalyn Ludvik Dame in Revolutionary work 1979 and March for Partisan women 1979 .
The third gallery shows ” Socialism and class Difference”. In this gallery with its overt political title there is an attempt to form a critique of the Stalinist regime. The notes comment ” By the late 1960’s Yugoslavia experienced high levels of unemployment and rising inequality. Whilst the system did provide free healthcare , education , housing and even company sponsored holidays for the employees of its self managed enterprises and their families , by the mid 1960’s economic inequalities between the ruling elite and ordinary citizens had become obvious”. . ” Critical voices began to emerge amongst artists and intellectuals whose works criticized the Yugoslav system”..
Student protests emerged in 1968 and this is reflected in the art of the period. the programme notes identify this development. ” During the student protests in Yugoslavia’s larger cities in 1968 one of the key reasons for dissatisfaction was the League of Communists failure to embrace culture as a central element in the creation of Socialism”. .
Many students during this period started chanting slogans such as ” down with the Red Bourgeoise in reference to the lavish lifestyles enjoyed by the political elite who were seen to have betrayed the original promise of an egalitarian society”. . Many artists reflected opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy and artists and students demonstrated against this clique who had usurped power from the working class.
Zelimar Zilnik’s Unemployment and poverty in rural areas represents the feeling and opposition to the Stalinist bureaucracy.” Mladen Stilnovic points to the discrepancies between the rhetoric of socialist ideology and the place of art in Yugoslav society”. .
Karpo Godina has shown in the images I have displayed Litany of Happy People Rasa Todosijevic and others have shown us a full critique of Yugoslavian society during the Stalinist years from 1945 until the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s.
For a Revolutionary Communist perspective it is necessary to refer to the statement of the League for a Revolutionary Communist International , the Predecessor organisation of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency. The statement written in February 1999 is clear on the role of the Titoist Stalinist bureaucracy which ruled Yugoslavia for a number of years. ” For Fourty years the ” Communist” rulers of Yugoslavia , under the leadership of Tito held the country in a bureaucratic vice. The working class was excluded from political power and economic decision making. Stalinist policies fuelled national hatreds and helped fuel the murderous wars that have tormented the region throughout the 1990’s”. .
The weakness of the Exhibition has been its failure to appreciate that Tito’s so called ‘Market Socialism’ was nothing more than Stalinist counter revolution. As the LRCI correctly analysed in 1999 showing that Tito’s regime was not socialist or indeed revolutionary . ” Indeed Yugoslavia was the ‘ pioneer of market socialism’. The Yugoslav economic stagnation and breakdown which became critical in the mid 1980’s was the crisis of the system in extremis, rather than of the old Soviet model of ‘command planning’. Tito’s system could not survive his death because no Bonapartist arbiter could replace him”. .
This concludes my review of this very important Exhibition showing the varied artistic practices of art during the period from 1968 – Tito’s death in 1980. A revolutionary communist perspective is required to understand the demise and break up of Yugoslavia into various republic which led to Western Imperialist intervention , but the responsibility lies with the Stalinist bureaucratic henchman who together with reactionary Nationalist perspectives aided by Imperialist intervention led to the destruction of Yugoslavia.
If anyone can visit this Exhibition in the centre of Nottingham it is worthwhile a visit. It will remain open until 4th March 2016.
1) MONUMENTS SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED EXHIBITION NOTES