The Venice Questionnaire #30: Jasmina Cibic

May 24, 2013 8:37PM

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to a selection of the artists exhibiting in various national pavilions of the Venice Biennale, the responses to which are being published daily in May, in the run up to the Biennale opening. Jasmina Cibic will represent Slovenia and is exhibiting at the Galleria A+A, San Marco 3073.

What can you tell us about your plans for Venice?

My project for the biennale, For Our Economy and Culture, condenses many of my earlier preoccupations, but through very specific elements that examine the position of the artist as a state representative. The project tackles the ideology behind defining a ‘representative’ national iconography and will manifest an architectural visualisation/reconstruction of the processes of national myth making through an immersive multi-media installation that appropriates the entire space.

The Slovene pavilion will essentially become a site of interrogation, questioning the ideological tendencies that underpin selection processes and the way that our ‘gaze’ is therefore directed.

I’ve created an architectural framework, which redefines the interior of the Pavilion and contains the presentation of two new film works that utilise documentary formats to both anticipate and subvert expectations around fact and fiction. One is shot at Tito’s residence in Lake Bled, where he received royalty and state dignitaries in post World War II Yugoslavia, and dramatizes a conversation between an architect and a journalist around strategies of state architecture. The other, shot at the Slovenian parliament, re-enacts word for word a parliamentary committee discussion of the “appropriateness” of specific artworks proposed to decorate the People’s Assembly. The debate took place in 1957 but it cannot be experienced as purely a historical reconstruction, since it could easily – and eerily - be mistaken for a current debate around cultural selection processes. Interestingly, the transcript of this debate was actually found abandoned in a dank garage, in a shopping trolley filled with the archives of the former Yugoslav state architect. It is not recorded in any official state archives as far as our research has discovered.

Other elements explore the choices behind particular decoration and state/national representation. I’ve created a wallpaper, which covers the entire interior and features scientific illustrations of an endemic Slovene beetle that attempted and failed to be adopted as a national icon. This beetle which uniquely lives in five Slovenian caves carries the somewhat charged moniker of Anophtalmus Hitleri, a title given in the 1930s and which subsequently, due to its inconvenient ideological associations, spectacularly failed as a national icon.

There will also be a selection of paintings: still-lives drawn from the historical art collection of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, which continue to decorate the walls of the current Slovenian parliament.

Are you approaching the show in a different way to how you would with a ‘normal’ exhibition?

It is the very ‘normality’ of the exhibition format that my practice tries to subvert, and this project perhaps does this more acutely than any previous works. My starting point is an explicit unpicking of the processes of selection and constructs that certain ideologies reinforce in order to be recognisable and assert legitimacy. I wanted to use the seemingly neutral format of an exhibition to more deeply explore issues around presentation and reception and in doing so to liberate spectators from a prescribed, even passive acceptance of what is being shown. In essence, no exhibition is ever ‘normal’ for me and the context around this particular presentation gave me an almost perfect opportunity to articulate my main concerns.

I explore the consequences of the backfiring of attempted national branding and the project further attempts to reveal the behind-the-scenes of selection processes and expose the cracks and flaws within the smooth well-oiled machine that nations brandish almost like a shield to position and convey a ‘brand’ identity.

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Jasmina Cibic Framing the Space, 2013 single channel HD video, sound, 10:45 min stills photography: Pete Moss. Jasmina Cibic Framing the Space, 2013 production shot stills photography: Matevž Paternoster