Andreja Kulunčić: You Betrayed the Party Just When You Should Have Helped It
February 22 – March 20, 2022
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art – MMSU
Krešimirova 26c, 51 000 Rijeka, Croatia
In collaboration with anthropologist Renata Jambrešić Kirin and psychotherapist Dubravka Stijačić
Curators: Irena Bekić, Anca Verona Mihuleț
KEYWORDS: anti-monument, camp, women in marginal histories
In her work, the Croatian visual artist Andreja Kulunčić, interrogates various aspects of social relations and practice. Her interests lie in socially engaged topics, confronting various audiences and initiating collective projects. Setting up her own interdisciplinary network, viewing artistic practice as research, a process of cooperation, co-creation and self-organisation, she often demands active collaboration on the part of the audience, asking it to “complete” the work.
Andreja Kulunčić’s latest research project, You Betrayed the Party Just When You Should Have Helped It is a rhizomatic approach that aims to ponder upon the transformation of the body subjected to self-colonization in order to survive in a traumatic environment, and, furthermore, to present methods of activating a symbolic location deprived of modern forms of public acknowledgement. In 2019 Andreja Kulunčić started to research the internal mechanisms and the apparatus of constraint behind the oppression of women in the political camp from Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur, two islands situated in the Adriatic Sea. The forced labour camp was created in 1949, as the Yugoslav Communist Party’s answer to the break between Tito and Stalin, with the intention of “re-educating” those members who were politically disloyal or critical; it operated until 1956. More than 850 women were interned there at one time or another, accused of connections to the Cominform. The regime in the camp systematically threatened their reproductive health, sense of ethical responsibility and care for others, and excluded their sexual specificities. The convicts were forced to punish, supervise and interrogate each other, which, along with hard work, resulted in deep trauma and long silence of the women.
The artist initiated a complex process of historical restoration, involving several levels of artistic and social practices – site visits, collaborations with the feminist anthropologist Renata Jambrešić Kirin and the psychotherapist Dubravka Stijačić, interviews with the female descendants of a few of the women imprisoned on the two islands, and the production of a series of art works, interventions and workshops that were translations of actions and states of mind specific to life in the internment camp. The project deconstructs the intentional amnesia surrounding the women’s histories on Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur, in order to open a passage to memory. In doing so, it reaches a subversive commemorative form – an anti-monument – which does not impose memory, but seeks it in the constantly renewing permeation of disputed memories, together with the knowledge and feelings of the audience. The anti-monument thus opens the process of decentralized collective memory as one of the filters of acceptance of the past. In this sense, it actively encourages discussions about how we remember, what we remember and what is the role of the past in the future.
The exhibition that borrows the title of the project You Betrayed the Party Just When You Should Have Helped It is centred on the transformation of the female body when subjected to oppression or trauma. It aims to deliver ways of activating memory, while participatory threads are constantly reconfiguring the mechanisms of understanding a marginal historical phenomenon. The exhibition is divided into three stations: a site for the gestural interpretation of the daily tortures endured by the women on Goli Otok and Sveti Grgur in the form of a four-channel video installation, a collaboration with dance artist Zrinka Užbinec, saxophonist Jasna Jovićević and vocalist Annette Giesriegl; a space for reflection and complimentary thinking containing visual materials – drawings, photographs and objects – resulted after the artistic research; and a zone for participation, performed daily by the artist herself through various actions, from the ritualic writing of prisoners’ names to executing a series of clay figurines, simulacra of the 850 women confined on the two islands. Constructed on polarities, areas of inclusion and exclusion, and determined points of silence and noise, the exhibition evokes the ideas of camp and anti-monument as epitomes of the political existence of women throughout modernity. Inside the spaces of the museum, the visitor becomes, one at a time, keeper, participant, and witness. The exhibition opening at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka is accompanied by a roundtable, the launch of the publication containing theoretical texts, and a series of workshops and reading sessions coordinated by the artist and her collaborators.
Andreja Kulunčić’s work has been shown in international exhibitions, including: Documenta11 (Kassel), Manifesta 4 (Frankfurt/Main), 8th Istanbul Biennial, Liverpool Biennial 04, Tirana Biennale 3, 10. Triennale-India (New Delhi), and in collective exhibitions in museums, including: Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), PS1 (New York), Museum MUAC (Mexico City), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), Garage Museum (Moskow), Kumu Art Museum (Tallin), MSU (Zagreb), MMSU (Rijeka), Lentos Kunstmuseum (Linz), Museum of Modern Art (Saint-Etienne), MSU (Ljubljana), MSUV (Novi Sad), MSU (Belgrade), Ludwig Museum (Budapest).
Production: Association MAPA/Maja Marković and Association Goli otok „Ante Zemljar“/Darko Bavoljak.
Generous support for the project is provided by Neda Young.
The project You Betrayed the Party Just When You Should Have Helped It is supported by: the Kultura Nova Foundation, EPK Rijeka 2020, the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia, the City of Zagreb, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Dialogue Southeast Europe and the Romanian Cultural Institute.