Artistic director of Škuc Gallery from 1982 – 1986.
Marina Gržinić is a doctor of philosophy. She works as a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the ZRC SAZU, the Scientific and Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Art in Ljubljana. She has published extensively on issues of media, society, and visual art in international magazines and books. She also works as a freelance media theorist, art critic and curator. With Aina Šmid, an art historian, Grzinić has worked collaboratively in the field of media, video art and installation for over 17 years.
I first heard of ŠKUC in 1979. The “Škuc Gallery” did not exist at that time, there was only ŠKUC, with gallery premises. This was when the premises were opened with a group exhibition by OHO and a concert by Pankrti. The phenomenon of the Škuc Gallery is in a way artificial, since apart from the gallery there were other organisers and editors within ŠKUC in the eighties, and all of them had been cooperating and presenting their work at Stari trg 21.
In 1980 we started to invite artists from other republics of the former Yugoslavia, and I believe this was a crucial turning point. ŠKUC immediately made it clear that what was going on around ŠKUC and in Ljubljana was not the centre of the world, and offered a possibility of self-reflection through different spaces. Key exhibitions in 1981 were those of Raša Todosijević, Radna zajednica umjetnika /Working Community of Artists/ from Zagreb, SKC /Student Cultural Centre/ and Srećna galerija /The Happy Gallery/ from Belgrade. These were not institutions, but conceptions. For example, Radna zajednica umjetnika implied conceptualism, a scene in Zagreb which was talked about as a “new art practice”. This means that we did not invite an institution, but rather a conception, a way of thinking which was unknown in our surroundings. They presented not only themselves, but their mode of self-organisation. Srećna galerija, for instance, had shown us in 1981 what possibilities lay in using photocopies. It was the idea – so distant from Ljubljana’s public of the time – to exhibit colour photocopies in a gallery that was important.
Personally I was not interested in what was going on in official galleries. I was young, and my experience with ŠKUC was profoundly sensitive and intimate. Actually it corresponded with the feelings of the new generation: I could see that I thought differently, that I wanted something else. The eighties widened the space; it was not merely the next street or the neighbouring town that we were looking at. The notion of art expanded, at least for those living here. I’m not claiming that what happened was a crucial move in the relationship with institutions, although some projects, such as the Harbingers of the Apocalypse, presented a radical break with the tradition of modernism. People who came to the gallery during this exhibition must have thought we were mad. And we were: to fill the gallery with a grammar school drawing in fifty variations, and to invite serious people to come and view the exhibition. How could they possibly think us sane, what else could they say but: “Thank God, we don’t have to come to ŠKUC any more”. But everything developed very quickly, things grew organically: the Laibach-Kunst exhibition, photography, fashion, etc. I myself lived with Fassbinder’s films; it was a real experience for me to come here every day for a retrospection of his work. And next, the FV Disco; the graffiti art scene which entered the gallery, so that in 1984 the so-called office premises were transformed; the Rrose Irwin Selavy group painted the entire place, and the underground scene came into the gallery. For almost a year, the office was guarded like a fetish, although actually it was a ruin! The Laibach line ran through Irwin (an art group which made its definitive and crucial breakthrough in 1984-85), and also included Tanja Špenko, Bojan Gorenec, Savo Valentineie, etc. These were intellectually distinguished authors, whose importance and resonance came from something else: their works. One need only recall Gorenec’s work – the number of translations he made, the volume of publications he edited, and all his attachment to Malevich and the whole Russian scene. And this, through entirely different channels, also corresponded to Irwin, for example. One suddenly started to feel the complexity of the scene, but one couldn’t single out one facet, one trend. Each one of them was operating, and each had its own resonance.
Take 1984, when we organised the Magnus project, the gay scene. The constitution of this scene was in a certain way connected with the Škuc Gallery. Magnus was established through art projects – an exhibition as a cultural act – although primarily it had a social background.
I think that a fundamental project in 1985 was New Tendencies in Art and Culture (prepared together with Tomislav Vignjević). The project was wider: I connected it with video and lectures. Paradoxically, it joined Krašovec, Šušnik, Šalamun, Sambolec, with Laibach and Irwin.
This scene had always functioned in a highly sectarian way. It was always a rule that painters had to have finished the Academy – which of course is quite irrelevant from a more universal point of view. Artists who were considered to be serious (in terms of their academic pedigree, which is so important in this milieu), left when the Equrna Gallery was established. Those who stayed in ŠKUC came from marginal spheres, and their academic status was not relevant. The audience was mainly new.
In 1986 the Veš slikar svoj dolg /Painter, Do You Know Your Duty?/ tandem appeared, but this was the year of projects like The Last Futuristic Exhibition and The International Exhibition of Modern Art, both in connection with Harbingers of the Apocalypse. And with this circle we encompass the eighties: something which was parallel to developments in the world, and entirely new.
I am also proud of the Young Soviet Architecture exhibition in 1986; Škuc Gallery was, I think, the second in Europe, if not in the world, to present this movement.
In 1981 we started to publish various publications. They were made on a photocopier, and we typed and stapled… “Fanzinomania” was on its way. Italians saw our work and invited us to collaborate with Arci-Kids, the youth of the then Communist Party of Italy. The scene which was invited to Italy in this context was later constituted Europe-wide as the Biennial of Young Artists from Mediterranean Countries.
I The “grand” history of Škuc Gallery contains many “minor” histories: the history of the Laibach scene, NSK, Gorenec’s “stream”; publishing of cassettes, publications, the magazine Viks; social movements. Sometimes one can hear: “Well, there’s no more alternative scene, everything’s moved on!” I don’t see anything wrong in that. Why not? Thank God things decay. I do not believe in continuity. There are new aesthetics, new movements. One should always count on the point at which something comes to an end. The end is important, as is the beginning. It’s the end that enables one to reflect on the beginning, to launch a new beginning.
*Based on interview with Marina Gržinić, respectively, put down on paper by Alenka Pirman.