Artist: Vlasta Delimar
Guest artists: Lea Culetto and Olja Grubić
Curator: Anja Guid
23. 6. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with the artists and the curator
2. 7. at 4 pm: Ljubljana Feminist Tour as part of the exhibition of performative artist Vlasta Delimar at Škuc Gallery, guided tour: Ljubljana Urban Tours, meeting point: Cobblers’/Shoemakers’ Bridge, concluding act: viewing of the exhibition with the curator, expected at 6 pm
16. 7. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with the artists and the curator
22. 7. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with the artists and the curator
40 Years of Art(istic) Love by Vlasta Delimar
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of working in art, Vlasta Delimar, one of the most prominent performative artists in Croatia and beyond, decided to exhibit again in the gallery spaces of the former joint nation, where she presented herself in the 1980s.
Because of the wider context, which includes the present exhibition project at the Škuc Gallery, the show seems retrospective through its return to the past and a new presentation of Vlasta Delimar’s older works, yet remains focused on the present by considering the potential and possible subversiveness of the artist’s older projects within the context of today. All the more so because the current set-up includes works by two artists of the younger generation, Lea Culetto and Olja Grubić, whose art practice problematises similar themes as Vlasta Delimar has addressed in the past and continues to do so today. With their work, they allude to the fact that even in today’s seemingly progressive present, we have to ask ourselves certain questions over and over again.
From the very beginning of her work, the body remains at the core of the artist’s interest and at the same time the central medium of expression – the bare, naked, relentless naturalistic body. So when we want to talk about Vlasta Delimar, we cannot bypass talking about the body. About the body that resists social representation of corporality, aestheticised images of sexuality, established criteria of commercial beauty – and as such, obscenely everyday–like, continues to excite and provoke.
Her works are often sexually explicit and direct, they cause discomfort in the viewer, they embarrass him, and when simplified and read uncritically, they are still frequently prey to outrage and belittlement. But the provocativeness that often springs from visualising destabilised social norms has a deliberate tendency: to encourage the viewer to reflect. The viewer’s participation, especially intellectual, thus remains an essential part of Vlasta Delimar’s work. It is expressed most clearly and completely illustratively in the work Reflect On Yourself Daily (1981), the central motif of the present exhibition.
The works Fuck Me (1981) and other untitled projects that have already been shown at the Škuc Gallery as part of her solo exhibition Woman is Not a Warrior in 1985 are presented again – including those that have been damaged or were completely destroyed by unknown perpetrators – marked by issues of sex, eroticism and sexuality, as well as her own experience of them. Through the persistent, almost obsessive transformation of her image, the artist directs them towards the recognition and alleviation of internalised social norms and, through them, to the search for her own authenticity and naturalness.
All the works on display stem from the search for a liberated and emancipated female sexuality within a patriarchal society, questioning the cultural conditioning of gender perception, sexuality and sexual identity, as well as the stereotypes tied to the female body. The early, sexually more explicit ones focus mainly on the artist’s own anatomy, marked by a symbolic reduction of images to the genitalia. They are juxtaposed with later, less direct, even allegorical works that shift the attention from her body to more general, broader social and political issues, implying corporeality – questioning, for example, social imperatives about the eternally youthful body or the self-evident right to sexual pleasure. The starting point of the multifaceted narratives of the exhibited works is symbolised by a simple sound installation, a poetic metaphor for a once uncertain period, from which the artist’s unwavering determination and, above all, fidelity to herself took root.
The present exhibition does therefore not merely gaze back at the past with characteristic art-historical distance, it does not try to reinterpret the past; it looks at the period of creation of most of the presented works with nostalgia, allowing itself to be subjective and poetic. It hints at the distance of the past and the anaemia of memory with a prudently chosen form of presentation: the black-and-white reproductions of works, created several decades ago, have been printed on paper and will be destroyed after the exhibition closes. With their ephemeral format, the reproductions allude not only to the distant time and place of origin of the original pieces but, in combination with the pink background, also to the theoretically elusive, naive and uncertain element of the artist’s work, which usually remains hidden behind explicit imagery and a confident, usually blunt (self) image.
The reason for the creation of her works comes as reflection, stemming from careful observation of the society that surrounds us. It is the awareness of the marginalised position of the body as a consequence of somatophobia and dualism, it is the transcendence of alienation from one’s own body and the re-establishment of a mindful relationship with oneself. With the constant emphasis on corporeality, the works are an inherent affirmation of the body and all that is enmeshed by it, even if penetratingly assertive, they are purely subjective statements that do not presuppose a single, universal truth, merely the possibility of a different, liberating and more honest relationship to one’s own corporeality and the world to which we belong.
 The concept of somatophobia (soma – Greek: body, phobia – Greek: fear) is introduced by the philosopher Elizabeth Grosz in her deliberation on the causes for the subordination of the body to the mind present within history. She places the origin of subordination to the beginnings of ancient philosophy, which anticipated the separation of the body from the spirit and consolidated the discrimination of the corporeal and its inferiority in relation to reason, a frequent occurrence to this day. See Elizabeth Grosz, Neulovljiva telesa. H korporealnemu feminizmu, Zavod Emanat, 2008, p. 32. [Original: Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism]
Vlasta Delimar (1956, Zagreb), a key figure in Croatian performative art, has defined contemporary performance through the prism of her own body as the primary means of expression and as the object of content at the same time. Uncompromising in her critiques of the ideologies, which she has pursued in her art career since the early 1970s, she explores the notions of sexuality and femininity, gender relations and different stages of the life cycle, introducing autobiographical narratives into the public space that question the definition of both the public and private, as well as the normative, politics of identity.
Lea Culetto (1995, Trbovlje) is a visual feminist artist who explores a variety of topics related to the female body and its representations within society. Her artistic practice takes on a wide variety of creative approaches, from drawing and sewing to video, performance and spatial installations. She has taken part in numerous group exhibitions and festivals at home as well as abroad. She completed her master’s degree at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana in 2019.
Olja Grubić (1990, Pula), visual artist and performer, graduated in 2014 from the Academy of Visual Arts in Ljubljana. She works in the medium of performance, cabaret, video installation and drawing. She has collaborated with many artists and art institutions and has prepared several performances as part of the Via Negativa collective. She manages the Cabaret Tiffany group together with Jernej Škof.
Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa
Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar
The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia.
The Škuc Gallery programme is supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Ljubljana.