Performing the Exhibition: ART-ACT-BOX

Tihana Puc


Interactive dan­ce per­for­man­ces and exhi­bi­ti­ons, text by Tihana Puc from the pro­ject publication

The basic defi­ni­ti­on of an exhi­bi­ti­on is a “form of pre­sen­ta­ti­on (show, dis­play) of a work of art in a gal­lery or muse­um spa­ce.”1 In the nor­mal order of thin­gs, visi­tors enter the exhi­bi­ti­on spa­ce after the exhi­bi­ti­on is set up, to obser­ve the exhi­bi­ted wor­ks of art. The exhi­bi­ti­on is cre­ated befo­re the audi­en­ce arri­ves,2 and its form, cour­se and dura­ti­on gene­ral­ly do not depend on the­ir pre­sen­ce or absence.

In Andreja Kulunčić’s art pro­ject Performing the Exhibition: ART-ACT-BOX, each of the­se assump­ti­ons is over­rid­den. The exhi­bi­ti­on spa­ce is not found in an art ins­ti­tu­ti­on, the audi­en­ce does not ‘enter’ the spa­ce, but rat­her the spa­ce whe­re they alre­ady are is ‘tran­sfor­med’ into the exhi­bi­ti­on spa­ce, and wit­ho­ut them the exhi­bi­ti­on itself does not exist. The exhi­bi­ti­on is not set up in advan­ce, but per­for­med live with the audi­en­ce. The per­for­mer, a con­tem­po­rary dan­ce artist, using the ART-ACT-BOX object, con­ta­ining col­lap­si­ble props, “assem­bles” the exhi­bi­ti­on with the audi­en­ce. Taking the dis­cur­si­ve wor­k­shop for­mat, the exhi­bi­ti­on deve­lops from a sta­tic to a dyna­mic, col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve event, whi­le the audi­en­ce ceases to merely obser­ve and beco­mes an acti­ve participant.
In her expe­ri­ment with the exhi­bi­ti­on medi­um3 and its per­for­ma­ti­ve, par­ti­ci­pa­tory and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve poten­ti­al, Andreja Kulunčić attemp­ts abo­ve all to medi­ate the cri­ti­cal art prac­ti­ce of the 1960s and 1970s to the public, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly pro­vi­ding them with cre­ati­ve tools for soci­al acti­va­ti­on and cri­ti­cal engagement.

By uni­ting artis­tic, orga­ni­sa­ti­onal, cura­to­ri­al and edu­ca­ti­onal fun­c­ti­ons, she reali­ses the exhi­bi­ti­on as a work of art and the work of art as an exhi­bi­ti­on, achi­eved thro­ugh per­for­ma­ti­ve inte­rac­ti­on with the audi­en­ce. It may be non-artis­tic like the actu­al per­for­man­ce con­text. If invi­ted, the exhi­bi­ti­on “goes” to a local com­mu­nity, ins­ti­tu­ti­on, orga­ni­sa­ti­on or infor­mal group.
As in other pro­jec­ts, Andreja Kulunčić4 begins the ove­rall pro­cess of reali­sing an artis­tic pro­ject with rese­ar­ch, in this case, into docu­men­ta­ti­on of wor­ks of art held in the arc­hi­ves of the four muse­ums which have come toget­her for the Performing the Museum pro­ject: the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, the Antonio Tàpies Foundation in Barcelona, the Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina in Novi Sad, and the Koroška Gallery of Fine Arts in Slovenj Gradec. From this rese­ar­ch, the con­cept for the per­for­man­ce and the ART-ACT-BOX itself has ari­sen, the con­tents of which are based on the met­hods, mate­ri­als and tec­h­niqu­es used in wor­ks of art by the Group TOK,5 the Group of Six Authors,6 Pino Poggi, the Group KÔD,7 Bogdanka Poznanović, the Group Bosch+Bosch,8 the Group Art&Language, and Lygia Clark. These indi­vi­du­al artis­ts and gro­ups are lin­ked by the prac­ti­ce which was known as ‘New Art’ in the years of its incep­ti­on – the 1960s and 1970s. The artis­ts intro­du­ced non-art mate­ri­als into the sphe­re of art, expe­ri­men­ted with new media, tes­ted out unco­nven­ti­onal met­hods of exhi­bi­ting wor­ks of arts, addre­ssed a ran­dom public, often in non-artis­tic spa­ces, paying gre­ater atten­ti­on to the pro­cess of how a work of art is cre­ated than the objec­ts them­sel­ves, and esta­bli­shing com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on at the cen­tre of the­ir inte­rest. Questioning cri­ti­cal­ly the soci­opo­li­ti­cal con­text aro­und them, they aimed thro­ugh the­ir acti­vi­ti­es at soci­al tran­sfor­ma­ti­on, in which each indi­vi­du­al could be invol­ved by acti­va­ting the­ir own cre­ati­ve potential.

Sharing simi­lar convic­ti­ons, con­sis­ten­tly pre­sent thro­ug­ho­ut her artis­tic prac­ti­ce, Andreja Kulunčić adop­ts artis­tic met­hods she has detec­ted (for exam­ple, pro­po­sals for acti­ons in public spa­ces, exhi­bi­ti­ons-acti­ons, the­ore­ti­cal ins­tal­la­ti­ons, arte uti­le, direct work, per­for­man­ces, mani­fes­tos, bodily ges­tu­res, etc.), and tran­sfor­ms sim­ple mate­ri­als (for exam­ple, mir­rors, adhe­si­ve tape, colo­ured rib­bons, pen­cils, mar­kers, tor­c­hes, car­d­bo­ard boxes, pos­t­car­ds, etc.) into the cons­truc­ti­on ele­ments of a ‘do-it-your­self exhi­bi­ti­on box’.
By yiel­ding her voice to the per­for­mer (a dan­ce artist), Andreja Kulunčić cre­ates a situ­ati­on in which the cho­sen artis­tic prac­ti­ce is made visi­ble and acce­ssi­ble to the public. Through pre­de­ve­lo­ped cho­re­ograp­hy, the per­for­mer uses move­ment (ges­tu­res) and wor­ds (dialo­gue, readin­gs, sta­te­ments, recor­ded mate­ri­al) and the com­po­nents of the ART-ACT-BOX to give ins­truc­ti­ons to the audi­en­ce and invol­ve them in the pro­cess of cre­ating the exhi­bi­ti­on. At the same time, the actu­al pro­cess can be iden­ti­fi­ed with the desi­red artis­tic pro­duct.9 It depen­ds pri­ma­rily on trust, coope­ra­ti­on and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on betwe­en the per­for­mer and par­ti­ci­pants, and betwe­en the par­ti­ci­pants them­sel­ves. In the spa­ce-time event thro­ugh which the dan­ce artist guides them, they deve­lop gra­du­al­ly from mute reci­pi­ents, thro­ugh trying out new cre­ati­ve tools, into acti­ve per­for­mers. By using artis­tic mate­ri­als, they per­form wor­ks which encom­pass the seg­ments of the spa­ce (pri­va­te body spa­ce, public city spa­ce, and wider natu­ral spa­ce) the soci­opo­li­ti­cal con­text (the city, the sta­te, the wor­ld) and the effec­ts (inte­rac­ti­on, com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, con­tact) desi­red by the selec­ted artis­ts. As the per­for­man­ce pro­gre­sses, the ART-ACT-BOX is emp­ti­ed, and the art mate­ri­als used disap­pe­ar, beco­ming part of the dis­car­ded object. So each work of art is tran­sfer­red live into the pre­sent. From the visu­al docu­ments – mos­tly black-and-whi­te pho­to­grap­hs on which often con­si­de­ra­bly com­plex acti­ons are redu­ced – ges­tu­res return to spa­ce and time. Documentation is per­for­med, not with the aim of recre­ating the actu­al work of art,10 but rat­her acti­va­ting a tota­lity of inte­rac­ti­on which the work has the poten­ti­al to ins­ti­ga­te. In this kind of inte­rac­ti­ve reali­sa­ti­on, the acti­ve inclu­si­on of the audi­en­ce is needed and wit­ho­ut it, the exhi­bi­ti­on would be impo­ssi­ble. By libe­ra­ting the knowled­ge of art loc­ked away in ins­ti­tu­ti­onal reser­ves, and tran­sfer­ring it out­si­de conven­ti­onal ins­ti­tu­ti­onal spa­ces and utte­ran­ce, thro­ugh new com­bi­na­ti­ons of recog­ni­sa­ble pre­sen­ta­ti­on and edu­ca­ti­onal for­ms, the artist dis­cre­etly conveys it, thus ope­ning up a spa­ce for cre­ati­ve (co)operation.


  1. Miško Šuvaković, 1999, Pojmovnik moder­ne i pos­t­mo­der­ne likov­ne umet­nos­ti i teori­je pos­le 1950, Beograd – Novi Sad: Srpska aka­de­mi­ja nauka i umet­nos­ti Prometej, p. 132. Contemporary artis­tic and cura­to­ri­al prac­ti­ce, natu­ral­ly, con­ti­nu­al­ly tes­ts the many spa­ces out­si­de art ins­ti­tu­ti­ons. 

  2. Among well known exam­ples of audi­en­ce par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in the pro­cess of cre­ating an exhi­bi­ti­on is cer­ta­inly do ti by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Hans Ulrich Obrist 2011, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Curating,* Berlin: Sternberg Press. 

  3. Terry Smith, 2012, Thinking Contemporary Curating, New York: Independent Curators International; Elena Filipovic, When Exhibitions Become Form: On the History of Artists as Curator, Mousse 41, 2015; Hans Ulrich Obrist 2010, A Brief History of Curating, Zurich: JRP|Ringier; Barnaby Drabble, Federica Martini, Sibylle Omlin (ed.), Performing the Exhibition, Oncurating.org no. 15, 2012. 

  4. Irena Bekić, 2013, (Po)etika druš­tve­nih pro­mje­na: MAPA, Andreja Kulunčić: Umjetnost za druš­tve­ne pro­mje­ne, Zagreb: MAPA 

  5. The gro­up was acti­ve in Zagreb from 1972 to 1973, and its mem­bers were Vladimir Gudac, Dubravko Budić, Davor Lončarić, Ivan Šimunović, Gustav Zechel i Darko Zubčević. 

  6. The gro­up’s mem­bers were Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Vlado Martek, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović i Fedor Vučemilović. It was acti­ve in Zagreb from 1975 to 1981. 

  7. The gro­up was acti­ve in Novi Sad from 1970 to 1971 and its mem­bers were Slavko Bogdanović, Janez Kocijančić (to July 1970), Miroslav Mandić, Mirko Radojičić, Slobodan Tišma, Peđa Vranešević (from December 1970) and Branko Andrić, who left when the gro­up was foun­ded. Also asso­ci­ated with it were Kiš-Jovak Ferenc, Božidar Mandić and Dušan Bjelić. 

  8. The gro­up was acti­ve in Subotica from 1969 to 1976. Its mem­bers werer Slavko Matković, Edit Basch (to 1970), István Krekovics (to 1970), Zoltán Magyar (to 1971), László Salma, Bálint Szombathy , Slobodan Tomanović (to 1971). László Kerekes (from 1971), Attila Csernik (from 1973), Katalin Ladik (from 1973) and Ante Vukov (from 1975). 

  9. Irena Bekić, 2013, (Po)etika druš­tve­nih pro­mje­na: MAPA, Andreja Kulunčić: Umjetnost za druš­tve­ne pro­mje­ne, Zagreb: MAPA 

  10. Philip Auslander, 2006, The Performativity of Perfomance Documentation, PAJ 84, pp. 1 – 10.