Re-imagining the community through art


Zoran Eric’s text for the women.index exhi­bi­ti­on cata­lo­gue in the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade

A seman­tic analysis of the title of the women.index pro­ject will reve­al the par­ti­cu­lar met­hod of rese­ar­ch employed in the work of Andreja Kulunčić. The first part of the for­mu­la­ti­on, the word index, is a sig­ni­fi­er with mani­fold poten­ti­als for inter­pre­ta­ti­on. On the one hand, it sug­ges­ts a met­hod for rese­ar­ch into public opi­ni­on via viral stra­te­gi­es that pro­du­ce cer­ta­in sta­tis­ti­cal resul­ts; on the other hand, in ter­ms of con­tent, it indi­ca­tes a cer­ta­in pro­per­ty of some tar­get gro­up in the body of soci­ety, label­led as the subject of the rese­ar­ch. In the case of the pro­ject women.index it is cle­ar that the soci­al gro­uping in the focus of the rese­ar­ch is gen­der-defi­ned, and that the artist wishes, in the who­le of the cam­pa­ign being car­ri­ed out in the media spa­ce, to analyse the way in which women are per­ce­ived in a given con­text in the­ir roles in the family, soci­ety and the public.


The poll and media cam­pa­ign con­duc­ted over the peri­od of a mon­th in Belgrade showed that 34% of women felt sati­sfi­ed, an alar­ming 38% abu­sed, and 28% felt dis­cri­mi­na­ted aga­inst. The artist arri­ved at the­se sta­tis­ti­cal resul­ts thro­ugh a pro­cess of col­la­bo­ra­ti­on and joint cre­ati­on of all the ele­ments of the cam­pa­ign with networ­ks she had esta­bli­shed with pro­fe­ssi­onals of vari­ous pro­fi­les (the­oris­ts, desig­ners, experts in mar­ke­ting and so on). The first ques­ti­on that at once appe­ared in the dis­cu­ssi­ons with aca­de­mic cir­cles was whet­her the ques­ti­on­na­ire cove­red a suf­fi­ci­en­tly repre­sen­ta­ti­ve sam­ple of soci­ety for it to have sci­en­ti­fic vali­dity or whet­her it was just abo­ut an art pro­ject. Could the sta­tis­tics real­ly refer to symp­toms to be found in Serbian soci­ety and could art do anyt­hing more than cre­ate a fra­mework for dis­cu­ssi­on and visu­ali­sa­ti­on and then docu­ment the rese­ar­ch pro­cess in an art gallery?

After such ques­ti­ons, the art was imme­di­ately pla­ced in the field of soci­al acti­vi­ti­es wit­ho­ut obli­ga­ti­on or res­pon­si­bi­lity to the object of the sear­ch that it took up, which in this case is only the field of “soci­al”, and not, in the way they are usu­al­ly under­sto­od, of “aes­t­he­tic” pro­blems. Here lies the key for fur­t­her analysis and inter­pre­ta­ti­on of art prac­ti­ces that take up and incor­po­ra­te in the­ir stra­tegy the met­ho­do­lo­gi­es of other, frequ­en­tly sci­en­ti­fic, dis­ci­pli­nes, so as to be able to give a cri­ti­cal reflec­ti­on of soci­al problems.


Lying behind a met­ho­do­logy set up in this way and then sys­te­ma­ti­cal­ly and analyti­cal­ly appli­ed is the soci­al­ly awa­re posi­ti­on of an artist who is enga­ged in the reve­la­ti­on and unma­sking of pro­blems and ano­ma­li­es in vari­ous soci­al con­texts. In her work, Andreja Kunlunčić focu­ses on the sore points of dif­fe­rent soci­eti­es, the­ir bur­ning pro­blems, and attemp­ts to return them, via and with the help of the art sys­tem, to the field of the soci­al. And so the rig­ht answer to the ques­ti­on whet­her soci­al­ly enga­ged art wor­ks wit­hin or out­si­de the sys­tem of art is that such artis­tic prac­ti­ces actu­al­ly brid­ge the gap and link up the ende­mic field, the oasis in which, for the gene­ral public, her­me­tic and inac­ce­ssi­ble con­tem­po­rary art prac­ti­ce wor­ks and the media-affec­ted, post-ide­olo­gi­cal soci­al sphe­re that is per­ce­ived by every individual.


Andreja Kulunčić takes as her point of depar­tu­re the posi­ti­ons of almost-always-mar­gi­na­li­sed indi­vi­du­als and the­ir inte­rac­ti­ons in con­cre­te soci­al fra­mewor­ks, not making a plea for the re-esta­bli­sh­ment thro­ugh art of bro­ken soci­al bon­ds. This posi­ti­on repre­sents the viewpo­int that in a post-uto­pi­an soci­ety com­mu­nity repre­sents what is actu­al­ly an elu­si­ve, una­vowa­ble and ino­pe­ra­ti­ve phan­tom con­cept, or cons­truct, and that every attempt to set up this macro-com­mu­nity has to count on its own inhe­rent failu­re. This fact does not pre­vent the artist from acti­vely wor­king in soci­ety, from thin­king thro­ugh and laun­c­hing in the public sphe­re a deba­te abo­ut the soci­al pro­blems observed.


For the artist, more impor­tant than the actu­al detec­ti­on of the pro­blems is the ope­ning up of new possi­bi­li­ti­es for the cre­ati­on of rela­ti­ons and inte­rac­ti­ons among the diver­se agents that are acti­ve wit­hin the field of the pro­blem esta­bli­shed. The artist wor­ks as medi­ator who pro­du­ces spe­ci­fic, often para­doxi­cal or inver­se situ­ati­ons and cons­tel­la­ti­ons that will per­haps be able to acti­va­te, raise awa­re­ness or per­haps empower the actors them­sel­ves to bring abo­ut a rede­fi­ni­ti­on of cur­rent hege­mo­nic rela­ti­ons in soci­ety and sha­ke from insi­de the foun­da­ti­ons on which the­se rela­ti­ons are based. With this kind of appro­ach, Andreja Kulunčić occu­pi­es a rat­her par­ti­cu­lar posi­ti­on in the fra­mework of the wider com­plex of soci­al­ly ori­en­ted art prac­ti­ces cha­rac­te­ri­sed as com­mu­nity based art, acti­vist art, soci­al aes­t­he­tics, dialo­gi­cal or par­ti­ci­pa­tory art. In the con­cre­te case of the con­text of Belgrade and Serbia the subject of analysis is the issue of gen­der equ­ality, for in a patri­ar­c­hal soci­ety in which the pro­cess of re-tra­di­ti­ona­li­sa­ti­on is incre­asin­gly to be obser­ved, many ste­re­otypes rela­ted to gen­der pro­blems are still pre­va­lent in the public sphe­re. Through this prism, the who­le of Andreja Kulunčić’s indi­vi­du­al exhi­bi­ti­on can be con­si­de­red; wit­hin this fra­mework, the artist deals in vari­ous ways with the pro­blem of soci­al segre­ga­ti­on and mar­gi­na­li­sed gro­ups such as ille­gal immi­grants in Switzerland (1CHF = 1 VOICE), pati­ents in a psyc­hi­atric hos­pi­tal in Zagreb (Within) or dis­cri­mi­na­ted fore­ign wor­kers in Austria (Austrians Only), the thre­ad that bin­ds toget­her all the wor­ks pre­sen­ted being gen­der determination.


Published in the cata­lo­gue of the solo show by Andreja Kuluncic “women.index” , Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Serbia. Zoran Erić, Belgrade, September 2013