2006 // Exchange or – what we did not know about amateurism

2006., Gallery MK



Intro by Antonia Majača

The first time Ana and I talked (having lunch at the INA–naftaplin restaurant, with a view on the sad roof of the Badel ruin) about her interest in amateurism, art but also a project which would at the same time refer to the gallery’s history and its beginnings and redirect its program to a different audience, it seemed quite natural to take KUD Ina (Ina Arts Club) – the organization which was also a legal founder of the Gallery Miroslav Kraljević exactly 20 years ago – as a starting point.

Today it is really difficult to bring into connection amateurism in art and culture, organized in the form of arts clubs, with an image of a progressive and prestigious 21st century corporation. In the overall acceleration, under the impact of information technologies in the society of late capitalism, the remnants of arts clubs in Croatia seem to be a sort of survived archaic form, even a simplistic way of workers’ collective organization of their free time but also a form of self-initiatiated uniting of workers in big companies through cultural and artistic activities. Today, when free time is becoming a luxury, they are being replaced by various forms of «team building» and carefully formulated models of «active and strategically conceived collective activities». In the local context of the old «complex organizations of united work» (SOUR), the form of arts club was, surely, strongly encouraged, which is witnessed today by various monographs and overviews of cultural initiatives and artistic organizations of united workers. The 20 years of KUD-Ina monograph, for example, states that «passive participation in already finished cultural projects (theater shows, concerts, exhibitions, libraries) did not satisfy a part of employees. They wanted to use their own creativity to produce art programs, so they suggested cultural self-activities in their own working environment». As soon as 1973 «the first exhibition of artworks of Ina’s employees» was organized and it is stated that «the art section proved that art amateurism isn’t an unworthy weakling in relation to the more known and more commercialized academic creation; in fact, it is a real and distinguished cultural value that reveals, in the context of evereyday life, all its creative potential». What I find interesting here is also the relation to the so-called academic production, in a specific situation in which the arts club of a huge «SOUR» founded an independent gallery twenty years ago which, managed by the excellent curator , became fully independent and even transformed itself into one of the most relevant venues on the national contemporary art scene. Ana Hušman’s project deals with the very form of an arts club as a model of self-organized art amateurism, but also the relation between the artist-amateur and academic artist (of which only some are ‘professional’ artists, if we use that word to designate work that also brings financial gain). At the beginning of her research Ana was regularly visiting events at the INA Arts Club in Gajeva street, researching (with the help of the manager Dubravka Vuletić) the history of the Club, spontaneously meeting amateur artists, finding out about their reasons and motivation for making art, the ways in which they work and function within the „art section“. In the second phase the artist made audio records from interviews with three artists, members of the art section, whose works she then decided to present within her project for Gallery Miroslav Kraljevic. In the well conducted, bur primarily cordial and direct interviews three clear and vivid portraits were created, showing different approaches towards their work, but also different attitudes towards contemporary, ‘professional’ art. In the third phase Ana decided to invite them for participation in yet another way: along with their exhibition she suggested an exhibition of contemporary artists at the Arts Club gallery in Gajeva street. She made a public call for applications intended for her colleague artists, inviting them to participate in the project by submitting their suggestions for the exhibition, stating that the three works would be symbolically awarded by the jury consisting of three amateur artists. The very decision to launch a public call for applications is surely an interesting and symbolic gesture. In the period of three weeks an impressive number of around 40 applications were submitted (many of which were applications by well-known artists belonging to the younger and middle generation). The jury, whose members were Nada Aslanovski, Vlado Bogadin and Senka Varga selected the works by three young artists (Lala Raščić, Jelena Bračun and Gordana Jančetić-Pogletić), which will be presented in the Arts Club gallery in September, 2006. In the meantime the author will organize lectures by the selected artists, workshops about the „old“ and „new“ media techniques, the action of aquiring painting material for the yearly award to members of the art section, temporary reading-room etc. Ana Hušman’s interest for amateurism is primarily related to the interest in the ways concepts of art professionalism and „hobyism“ are created, interest in the amateurs’ motivation and different approaches for maing art. At the same time, she is interested in the very form of „organized“ art amateurism and, on the other hand, the situation on the local art scene in which the way „academic“ painters approach art often becomes a kind of „hobyism“ under the circumstances in which they need to ensure basic existence by doing something else. In such a struggle for survival (due to the non-existence of the art market) even artists doing „object-based“ art hardly survive by doing art exclusively. Those who persist on making non-object art (which often also means not marketable) do various jobs in order to survive, in the best case earning money as designers, cameramen, teachers etc. For them, art becomes almost a luxury they approach in their „spare time“. (This situation, not so long ago, resulted in an art project in which artists identify making art with weekend picnics in nature). Ana Hušman sponteneously experiments with the perception of individual cntemporary artists from the scene which she is also part of, and artists-amateurs gathered within an arts club collective. She places the first into an unusual situation where their work is being judged by amateurs, non-agressively testing in this way the vanity of her colleagues. By making the others members of the jury with insight into applications by contemporary artists, she almost invisibly points them to different, new artistic media and praxes which they usually don’t understand but which, through the process of decision and selection, become closer and more readable. By exhibiting the works of her three collaborators, members of the Arts Club, in GMK, along with the audio records of interviews with them and three videos that additionally depict the process of creation of works by the three of them, Ana neither exotizes nor patronizes art amateurism but approaches it directly and honestly as a social phenomenon. At the same time, she juxtaposes it with her own position of academic artist, who makes art (with the passion she also discovers with her interviewees) after she finishes the „jobs she does for living“. It is also important that the author, in a couple of simple but well thought out, steps attracts the Arts Club audience into GMK and vice versa. Finally, we can ask ourselves why we should at all try to reconnect these two small worlds that existed in the 1980s, in the early constellation of GMK, in a kind of harmonious relation. This question is best answered by the author herself stating how contemporary art is so distanced from the average citizen that even individuals especially interested in it, such as members of different art organizations, don’t feel comfortable in contemporary art galleries. It could be added that this is also the fault of the hermeticity or complete non-communicativeness of key contempoarry art institutions, as well as the undeveloped conciousness about the need for mediation and activities that could convert the inactive institutional mastodonts and open them towards the community and environment they are working in and for which they, after all, exist. In this sense, GMK tries to consciously destabilise the tragicomic selfsufficiency of art – by opening it towards its environment, encouraging direct communication and creating a sort of meta-situation in which, by dealing with certain «basic concepts» and using a «simple vocabulary», we take ourselves as a starting point, questioning and critically investigating our own history, our present position, and even our role in the artistic and social context that we should have in the future, in the upcoming 20 years. 🙂

1 Twenty years of KUD INA in Croatian cultue, Zagreb, Biblioteka Ina, eds. M. Ivurek, M. Kovačević, 106-107

2 The manager of Gallery Miroslav Kraljević from 1986 to 2004 was the art historian and curator Branko Franceschi

3 the project Weekend Art – Hallelujah the Hill (T.Gotovac, I.Keser, A.Ilić)