Where is the essence of art’s unfulfilled promise of a better world? If we follow Bojana Kunst, a possible answer lies in the paradox that the artist personifies the ideal of the post-Fordist worker that produces using cognitive and affective powers in flexible working conditions without separating between work and free time. In the project of the Fokus grupa art collective, time is the neuralgic point of general precarisation symbolised by the image of the artist, which is the focus of the exhibition A Taste for Work.
Art’s active role in changing the world is riddled with paradox, almost irony, which is most evident in the long twentieth century. It begins with the experiments of historical avant-gardes, particularly the Russian avant-garde, whose quest for a new man strived to erase what it understood as the bourgeois separation of private and public life. As the avant-garde implemented this idea consistently, it inevitably started to redesign everyday objects. In their project, Fokus grupa follows the designs Alexander Rodchenko’s circle, and re-construct two pieces of furniture, multi-functional objects that sought to revolutionise everyday life and break through the shell of the private sphere as the refuge of outdated bourgeois habits. By emphatically reshaping everyday life, the avant-garde experiment sought to transgress the old: the multi-functionality of furniture thus reflected the efficiency of the new man, which was seen as an emancipatory choreographic moment. Almost a century later, its paradoxical post-Fordist rearticulation appropriates the avant-garde principle through office furniture, seeking to preserve the body’s ability to serve the capital as long as possible by combining working movement and particular “office workout”. Therefore the exhibition also features mass produced kneeling chairs, which introduce the film What could possibly incite human beings to undertake tedious, tiresome, tasks? that combines meditative rituals of the Holy Week and the excerpts from Michel Houllebecq’s Platform. By juxtaposing ritual chores and literary fragments, the work questions the disappearance of the separation between body movement induced by rational organisation of labour, and the movement of free time. Perhaps the ritual motif can also be interpreted in terms of the visibility of labour in late capitalism, where work is considered a means of self-fulfilment and consequently a value in its own right, which is performed before the eyes of others.
The focus of post-Fordist production methods on what is common to humanity (Agamben), radically re-values the emancipatory force of creativity, where the art of the twentieth century put its faith, and transforms it into the core power of the capital. This fact is also hinted at (with a bit of sarcasm) in the video Fenêtre sur le monde, which points to the hybrid combination of working tasks and relaxation through creative play with office paraphernalia on the windows of buildings in a business district of Paris. In perfidious “relaxation” of corporate working day an unattainable goal is flaunted: a supposed abolishment of work through transition into pure creativity.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the starting point of the exhibition A Taste for Work pays homage to the work Reveries by Solitary Walker, where Rousseau made philosophical elaborations through descriptions of his botanical walks in Paris environs. The reenactment of Rousseau’s reveries led to a series of performative walks, where the artists discussed the issue of time in the context of precarious work at different locations with different people. As the conversations were not recorded, the only document registering their occurrence is the Herbarium, listing next to selected plants the crucial concepts that appeared in the conversations while discussing the transformation of work through, as argued by Bojana Kunst, “constant and ruthless actualisation of potentiality, where form, the temporality itself (…), is conditioned by its own finalization “. This obsessive goal-orientation is questioned by the work Perfect lovers Vol2, which re-formulates Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s critique of hetero-normative economy of partnership transforming it into a graph of Owen’s eight-hour day movement (labour, recreation, rest), which is not recognised in the same register of today’s condensed time.
The position of the artist in the production process is a central focus of the Fokus grupa. Paradoxically, the artist as the ideal paradigm of post-Fordist dreams on infinite flexibility realised by exploiting the creative, affective and cognitive abilities of individuals becomes the person that is most often excluded from the economy that it embodies so exemplarily.
Curated by: Vladimir Vidmar
This exhibition would not be possible without generous (and insufficiently) compensated work, time and capital of a number of friends, colleagues and relatives; Irena Borić, Nemanja Cvijanović, Iva Gobić, Vera Krstulović, Eva Kovač, Lily Hall, Marina Doritis, Milijana Babić,Saša Šimpraga, Rafaela Dražić, Valerija Barada, Kristina Čavlović, Bojan Mrđenović, Tamara Duganđija, Stane Huljić, Nika Mišković, Boris Rakamarić, Ekatarina Gavrilova, Petr Žukov, Nikita Kadan, Corina Apostol, Andrej Zavodnik.
Sponsored by: DONAR
Preview of the show with the artists and curator on Saturday, 21st June at 7 pm
Artist talk with Fokus grupa on Tuesday, 24th June at 6 pm
Guided tour of the show on Wednesday, 2nd July at 6 pm