Kopljar versus museums and vice versa

Željko Kipke / 2016

American artist of German descent Hans Haacke fell from grace with the director of the Guggenheim museum because at an independent exhibition in April 1971 he intended to inform on the background of the murky business with the real estate in some New York neighbourhoods (Harlem, Lower East Side).

The exhibition was cancelled six weeks before the opening, the curator Edward Fort Fry – as the museum’s external associate – was fired and the director Thomas Messer tried to justify these actions by saying that Haacke’s research was incompatible with the function of an art institution. Fifteen years later, the same conceptual artist exposed suspicious transactions with the real estate at another New York museum (Hans Haacke: Unfinished Business, New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1986–1987). Without any doubt, Messer’s explanation sounds ridiculous nowadays and it is hard to understand for the generations of artists who, if they feel like it, tear down the walls of galleries in order to publicly display their frustrations or disagreement with their organization, especially with the politics of leading institutions in the world of art.

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Empty in-between: Closing Time for Art? (K20 Empty, Zlatko Kopljar)

Žarko Paić / 2015

1 Placements

 The greatest taboo, dogma, and totem of that which we call contemporary art is its paradoxical task to make itself timeless by entirely blending in with the space of its disappearance. Although it has declared its mission in the spirit of absolute de-foundation of the fundamental idea of imitating God and nature (mimesis), arranging the Euclidean space and opening many worlds of difference, which assumes a step beyond the boundaries of creation and the created, something still remains after this monstrous prohibition. The iconoclasm of the image and the transition of the realm of speech into the corporality of events have enabled the emergence of something which has been outlined in the works of great thinkers/artists of the 20th century, Duchamp and Artaud, since the very beginning of the contemporary obsession with the visualisation technology.

This is the experience of the end of metaphysics and its transition into pataphysics without/of moving up and down. What they anticipated in the impossibility of further depiction and representation of the pure artwork corresponds to the ideas of the philosophical and scholarly turn in relation to something which in analogy to the linguistic turn into image can be termed spatial turn.[1] When in the idea of contemporary art we are not anymore able to find God, nature, man, or the world in the metaphysical sense, we face empty signifiers. The replacement does not simply come in for something original, so that maybe programming of digital media could replace the painting medium reaching from Giorgio de Chirico to Francis Bacon.

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Ivana Mance / 2015

Although presented in slightly unexpected forms, the works from the new series by Zlatko Kopljar, Empty, do not shift away from his basic and well-recognized artistic preoccupation. Whatever the subject matter of his works or projects may be, and regardless of whether it is a performance, video-film or another media form, Kopljar’s concern,or to be more precise, his uneasiness about the fate of art and artists in contemporary society always seems to prevail over any other thematic category that enables discussions on a work of art or its identification in the context of contemporary art production. We may reasonably argue that every work of art has a dimension of meta-language, or meta-discourse, for exploring the existing paradigms of understanding art. However, in Kopljar’s work, this inherently philosophical thought is intentionally placed in central position. Moreover, often presented in colossal shapes or expressed in a gesture of pathos, or even directly communicated with the artist’s own body in its strength or helplessness, this grave thought about art and its existence leaves little room for conversations about anything else.

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Overcoming history and the emerging community

Žarko Paić / 2014

On Truth, Guilt, and Forgiveness
Zlatko Kopljar, K-19

Streu deine Blumen, Fremdling, streu sie getrost:
du reichst sie den Tiefen hinunter,
den Gärten.
Paul Celan, Kenotaph

Strew your flowers, stranger, strew them confidently:
you are handing them down to depths,
to gardens
Paul Celan, Cenotaph

Procedures of Truth

 Can contemporary art provide a possibility for man’s redemptive reversal? This issue is not a question of aesthetics or art as novelty. It triggers a different historical order than the one which finally found its place at the cemetery of metaphysics. At the time of techno-science it seems that the question about the redemptive is maybe just a leftover of one other demand. Contemporary art operates with it ‘today’. Alain Badiou resolutely maintains that with the end of aesthetics as a theoretical guardian of the art world art has been directed solely to disclosure of the procedures of truth.[1] If, therefore, the reversal of man is not anymore possible by just returning under the wings of the traditional systems of religion and ethics, the only remaining possibility emerges from the frail web of events. From that source art only regains its lost purpose. However, instead of finding that ‘purpose’ in something external, the artistic act becomes its own truth in the capacity of the redemptive reversal of man. The problem contained in the concept of life as art since the beginnings of avant-garde art in the first half of the 20th century is the difference between two basic approaches to the event. These are two ‘occupations’ of the territory of sorts. This territory is the scene of the struggle for establishing the ‘procedures of truth’.

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A letter to Zlatko Kopljar

Ory Dessau / 2014

Artist Zlatko Kopljar was invited to present his vertical-rectangular brick structures in the circular space of The Barrel Gallery in Zagreb. The structures are made with a particular kind of bricks, manufactured during World War Two in Jasenovac camp, outside Zagreb, by prisoners.

After the war the people from the surrounding villages were taking those bricks and used them as building blocks for their houses. Eventually, Kopljar decided to keep the space empty and constructed the structures, brick by brick, in front of the building, around the fountain. The following text is written in the form of a personal letter, which I delivered to Kopljar on the evening of the opening.   

Dear Zlatko, I decided to write you this personal letter because I cannot simply inhabit a critical external standpoint in relation to your work. When it comes to K19, being a Jewish Israeli, third generation of survivors, makes it impossible for me to judge and interpret it from the outside. My thoughts are moving around and go back and forth to many different directions, when associated with your K19, which I find ethical as much as conceptual, a personal gesture as much as a theoretical gesture. One of the directions my thoughts go through includes a story I want to share with you on architect Louis Kahn and his 1968 revolutionary proposal for the restoration of the ruined Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish quarter of old Jerusalem, a proposal that was never put into effect, that remained a pure concept. The Hurva synagogue was founded in the early 18th century by followers of Judah he-Hasid, but it was destroyed by Muslims a few years later in 1721. The plot lay in ruins for over 140 years and became known as the Ruin, or Hurva in hebrew. In 1864, the Perushim, a local Jewish sect, rebuilt the synagogue, and although officially named the Beit Yaakov Synagogue, it retained its name as the Hurva, the ruin. It became Jerusalem’s main Ashkenazi synagogue, until it too was deliberately destroyed by the Arab Legion after the withdrawal of the Israeli forces during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

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