The power and vulnerability of the firefly

Sanja Cvetnić / 2019

The fate of each artist is situated somewhere between the oft-cited words of Martha Graham, “No artist is ahead of his time. He is the time. It is just that others are behind the time”, and, perhaps even more well-known, and certainly more enduring, is the Old Testament wisdom – “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun”(Eccl. 1:9): this reflects the fates of artists who have been cursed and of those who have been divinized. Zlatko Kopljar (1962) is one of those artists who most profoundly experiences both fateful points, as well as the tension between both statements concerning artistic and human existence. In a quick survey of his oeuvre, if we filter by the key words of “time” and “artist”, many of his works apply. We encounter these elements in an art installation (1993) named after an inscription engraved on a metallic plate, Panta rhei (Τα Πάντα ῥεῖ), in which the beginning of one ofthe most famous Greek philosophical sentences is reinforced by the high voltage with which the work is charged and in an abstract video, K9 (2003), to which the artist’s own DNA forms the key. We see the topics “time” and “artist” in the tableaux vivantsportraying a company of “dead” painters in a series of photographic portraits of colleagues, maverick artists all, in K11(2007). And we find these elements in the striking stills from the performance K16(2012), in which Kopljar, dressed in his silver, phosphorescent suit, digs himself a deep grave that slowly swallows him up, along with the light that reflects off  his silver suit, glowing to the end, like a big firefly in the darkness.

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Reflections on a trail of blazing light

Kate Christina Mayne / 2020

In an upstairs gallery of MSU, Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art, honey floods over a smallish, solid-steel, rectangular prism. The light reflects off the volume, through the faintly golden substance, and lends the sculpture an air of a sumptuous jewel. This combination of fluid and solid substance overrides any thoughts of minimalism that might be tacked onto it: the properties of honey suggest the touch of a finger or a fleck of dust could desecrate its presence. The two materials are distinct, yet both have their own relationship to fluidity, if at different temperatures. We might be forgiven for wondering if some kind of alchemical exercise were at hand. It has no title. Onlookers have very little concrete reference to go by, other than the object itself, which just lies there, basking in inquisitive, inexplicable beauty. 

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Zlatko Kopljar (born 1962 in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina; lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia) critically examines contemporary history in his performances, video works, and installations. He calls his works “constructions” because they question and reconstruct patterns of memory, both during the performative creation process and in their reception. In the photo series K9 Compassion, his act of kneeling in front of places such as New York’s Wall Street, the EU Commission in Brussels, or the Duma in Moscow is a compelling pose of powerlessness against global power structures. With this clear and potent gesture of humility, Kopljar symbolically calls for reflection.

The catalog Constructions accompanies Kopljars eponymous exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb and reviews nearly 30 years of artistic creation.The texts were written by Sanja Cvetnić, Ory Dessau and Kate Christina Mayne.

Publisher: DISTANZ Verlag GmbH, Berlin


Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
14.12.2019 – 16.02.2020

History, Architecture, Performance: On Zlatko Kopljar’s Body of Work

Ory Dessau

In 2002 Zlatko Kopljar blocked the main entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. He did so with a twelve-ton block of reinforced concrete, corresponding in size to the measurements of the building’s doorway. Titled K4(1998–2002), the action was part of the group exhibition Here Tomorrow, in which curator Roxana Marcoci offered an examination of the contemporary Croatian art scene seven years after the end of the war in former Yugoslavia. However, since it kept the museum closed and inaccessible, the protective concrete shield of Kopljar’s K4implied that even in 2002 the war was not over yet. By sealing its entrance Kopljar referred to the museum as if situated in a stage prior to demolition. He marked the museum’s building as a future ruin among already existing ruins. Likewise, Kopljar’s sealed entrance also suggested that the premises were being purged, purified of the near past sediments and ghosts of the war.


The 5th Project Biennial of Contemporary Art D-0 ARK Underground

26.04.2019 – 26.10.2019.

Do secret services dream of a museum?

Curated by Basak Senova, Branko Franceschi, and Jonatan Habib Engqvist,

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”.1984 by George Orwell

The D-0Ark Underground Contemporary Art Biennial was initially programmed to be completed in 5 editions and designed to become an amalgamation of a military and contemporary art museum after completing its cycle. In this respect, the 5th edition is the “end” that is also the “new beginning”. “Do secret services dream of a museum?” underlines this transition that overlaps closures with the openings and transcends function with vision. The project is a unique example of how the contemporary art —whilst in a situation of insufficient financial resources, intermittent professional opportunities, and lack of political or social stability to maintain any of the art institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina— saved a military museum, thus preserving the archives from the past for the future. Furthermore, it suggests how different fields of knowledge and research can nurture one another other and create a common ground for social growth.

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