The Best New York Exhibition is Croatian!


Last October New Yorkers had the chance to visit an interesting exhibition held at the Stephan Stoyanov Gallery. As New York’s cultural renderings are quite opulent, this isn’t that hard to imagine, while it certainly is a stretch to believe that one of last year’s best exhibitions was precisely this Croatian project on Yugoslav modernity, music and psychedelic films along with its pop culture during the 1966-1976 period. The exhibition ‘Tune in Screening: Psychedelic Moving Images From Socialist Yugoslavia 1966–1976’ by Branko Franceschi was set up this past Fall, and the critics from the prestigious Village Voice included it in their Fifteen Best Art Shows of 2011. The recently passed Helen Frankenthaler, along with Sigmar Polke and Willem de Kooning are also on this prestigious list.

This project presents film production and pop music originating in Yugoslavia during the 1966-1976 period. It presents a variety of materials, predominantly a 75-minute loop of experimental film that exemplifies Yugoslavia’s transcendental brand of socialism through incorporating culture from the capitalist West. The Tune in Screening project also demonstrates how imports from the West had a profound effect on the local society, arts and, especially, the public visibility of this psychedelic lifestyle and pop culture. The show is part of a private collection by Marinko Sudac, containing the largest number of avant-garde art from Yugoslavia.

The exhibition itself is part of a larger critically inclined project focused on exploring the openness and permissiveness of Yugoslav socialism towards western capitalism, proving the myth of a totally closed-off and severely totalitarian country as incorrect. Let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves of the ‘jeans prose’ that emerged at that time: Majdak’s, Majetić’s, Slamnig’s characters are rebellious heroes bellowing against the government and authorities, the Vietnam War, sabotaging work actions, at the same time becoming hedonistic consumers of the western culture – blue jeans, bubble gum, psychedelic drugs, rock bands. However, the resistance and political opposition embodied by these characters don’t embody a reliable place, but an unpredictable one, as is pop culture itself. Their courage wasn’t the strength of overturning the government and revolution, rather a continuous provocation aimed at perturbing mental structures.

At the exhibition, which is currently open at the Ljubljana ŠKUC Gallery under the broader name  “High Times: Reflections of Psychedelia in Socialist Yugoslavia 1966 – 1976“, one can also view Marko Pogačnik’s object paintings, Pogačnik being one of the initiators of the influential Slovenian OHO group; Marina Abramović’s video performance, Marjan Ciglič’s films, and listen to the music of Josipa Lisac, the Indeks’, Uragan, and many others.

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