Collapsible Monument-Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Projects 05

 

Collapsible Monuments started as a project by Zlatan Vukosavljevic for Museums Quartier in Vienna in 2004. Devices of war and political rallies were to be re-erected

in true scale in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art Vienna. Decoys (devices

of war) were integrated later in the Manual, solo project for Q21, Vienna in 2004.

 

In 2005, Zlatan Vukosavljevic invited several artists to participate in the project

and test the original idea (see text Collapsible Monuments from 2004). Collapsibles are easy to be folded, transported and unfolded, adjusting to the particularities of individual exhibition spaces. Collapsibles are repetitively folded and unfolded, compressed and expanded, broken down and re-erected, burnt down and built from scratch, like a virus.

 

Collapsible Monuments was presented for the first time as a group show within the
Transcontinentall Nomadenoase, a collaboration project of Jason Rhoades, Robertho Ohrt and Lutz Kruger. The exhibition space was constructed inside of a semi-truck trailer and was presented as a part of Miami Basel Art Fair, Art Projects in 2005.

 

Una Szeemann and Henry Vincent collaborated on a wall mounted collage, combining poster materials and fluorescent graffiti with blown-up party photos. This wall echoed the events happening in the secret event room behind the wall accessible only by climbing through a false painting frame (events in the secret room were organized by Jason Rhoades).

 

Paul Theriault in Miami found new plants for his ongoing River project.  Psychedelic flags with images of dogs and collected plants (from Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami) were attached to the long rope over the heads of visitors.

 

Skyler Haskard created portable receivers of site/place/moment. These simple boxes made of plywood are housed inside of cardboard boxes and sent on individual voyages. The Receiver is to be used by the carrier and photos of the various sites, places or moments visited are mounted on the box for exhibition.

 

Zlatan Vukosavljevic stole the title plaque from the Martin Kippenberger Ventilation Shaft. The plaque was on the floor connected to an uncovered foam-rubber mattress. Banners made of blue tape and aluminum wool saying 40 days after (Serbian ritual of mourning) and Erwartung (expectation) were collapsing from the ceiling to the floor.

 

Wendell Kling's performance occurred in secret room and was projected live via video within the gallery space. Toothpick structures were repetitively burnt down accompanied by music from a specially made instrument using altered music boxes.

 

This group of artists collaborated before on different projects in Los Angeles.

Wendell Kling and Henry Vincent presented their projects on Plugged and Haunted

at MAK Center LA in 2004, organized by Zlatan Vukosavljevic. Una Szeemann and Zlatan Vukosavljevic collaborated on the project Home Scenes: 8 Days of Revision  at Schindler House MAK Center LA in 2003. Zlatan Vukosavljevic presented his project

Monument at Peanut Batter Shop in LA in 2004, alternative space organized by Paul Theriault.

 

Zlatan Vukosavljevic

 

 

 

 

O.T.

 

Like a true military intervention, Zlatan Vukosavljevic's installation at the MAK Center's Mackey Apartments relied upon the powers of perception to activate a network of relationships between objects, architecture and the public, creating a territory of engagement.   Vukosavljevic's interest is in the representation of architectural intervention and in the case of this project specifically, the ways in which the military has historically occupied territory — physically, theoretically and psychologically.  The spatial strategies of such occupation may be likened to the strategies of Minimalist sculpture.  The artist quotes Carl Andre in this regard, "I wanted very much to seize and hold the space of the gallery — not simply fill it, but seize and hold that space."(Phyllis Tuchman, ”An Interview with Carl Andre” Artforum,  June 1970,, 61).  Just as the quintessential Minimalist cube occupied a space in order to activate not only the viewer's perception but also his/her behavior, military intervention, broadly speaking, is intended as a temporary intervention which produces order through the activation of people's perceptions and the adaptation of their behavior. Space can be defined as territory when objects and architecture intervene.  When inside and outside are established, the resulting psychology of security and vulnerability can be activated.  In the case of military intervention, architecture and technology combine to establish zones of protection and danger, the very presence of which creates a response of fear and defensiveness.  Tactics are developed experimentally in response to perceived or imagined situations of danger and threat. Until the threat is actualized, the defense mechanism remains theoretical and yet it is self-perpetuated in an endless cycle by the constant perception of threat and the innate response towards self defense. As seen in the Cold War, the threat of military assault feeds the drive and determination to produce weapons of greater impact regardless of the real and existing need for such. The cycle of production is fed by fear and intimidation, anticipating a moment that is yet to come.  The artist relates this endless loop of theory and experiment to the indeterminate dichotomy of "which comes first - concept or praxis?" 

 

Zlatan Vukosavljevic wants to stage the organization of military experiments, recreating a moment when theory is put to the test.  His installation of sculptural and architectural objects mark a territory and activate a field through the reverberations of association.  Drawing upon a diverse range of references to art history, politics, architecture and military technology, Vukosavljevic plotted an installation that overlaid the suburban domestic space of the Mackey Apartments and established points of contrast and connection from which the viewer could construct a web of associations.  From the romantic image of 19th century casemates (underground tunnels used for securing soldiers and weapons and facilitating undetected movement — today they are mostly preserved as historic sites for tourists) to the nostalgic objects of 20th century do-it-yourself defense products such as bomb shelters made popular during the Cold War, Vukosavljevic's sculptural objects remind one of the days when military intervention was territorial and heroic verses contemporary times when such intervention is virtual and suspect.

 

Vukosavljevic's installation reflected the spirited response of some Americans at the start of the Cold War in the 1960s when the threat of nuclear weapons for mass destruction spurred individuals to action, inspiring the widespread construction of underground shelters equipped with food, water and survival supplies to protect a family in the case of attack.  The artist cites the start of the Cold War as a shift away from the heroic and monumental presence of the military toward a military presence that is imminent, pervasive, invisible and mediated.

 

 

"Our present houses are too strongly under the influence of the past and its outlook on life. Fear dictated originally the form and spirit of the house. The behavior of our ancestors was overshadowed by constant defense reactions against real and imaginary enemies. The emphasis of the historian upon war and its physical heroism proves the tremendous need to counteract these fear complexes. … All rooms will become part of organic unite, instead of being small separate boxes with peepholes."

 

- R.M. Schindler (excerpt from Care of the Body, Los Angeles Times, May 2 1926)

 

"Life is haunted and filled with the idea of protection."

 

-Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, 1927

 

 

Architecture is the backbone of social infrastructure.  It provides basic shelter; organizes social, economic and civic functions and thus it is a reflection of individual and collective ideals. Architectural intervention is a political act.  It is an act of aggression aimed at impacting the space, its function and ultimately its occupants.  To intervene in architecture is therefore not only a physical act but also a psychological one.

 

Vukosavljevic's installation at the Mackey Apartments applied a militaristic mask to the domestic architecture of an apartment building.  Activating the entire site including the normally un-seen spaces (i.e. the basement and rooftop), his installation re-presented the strategies of military architecture and technology of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Borrowing from structures such as the World War II concrete bunker, the camouflage tent and the self-assembled reflector, Vukosavljevic presented a military map that was almost romantic in its nostalgia for a bygone era — a time when power was established through physically intimidating landmarks rather than through state of the art media and nuclear technology.  With the placement of sculptures and constructions of industrial materials, he seized the site, re-organizing it as occupied territory and re-defining its occupants as subjects to its order.

 

A tower of reflectors perched upon the highest point of the roof announced to the residential neighborhood that a temporary transformation had taken place.  Modifying the stark white silhouette of the building, the tower seemed to suggest the capability of sending and receiving signals from an invisible source.  It was planned that during the course of the exhibition opening, a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter would hover overhead and illuminate the reflectors thereby completing the sculpture both physically and psychologically.  Beaming a searchlight downward, a vertical line would be "drawn" between the static object of the tower and the moving, fleeting object of the helicopter.  The helicopter's presence was another sort of intervention in the site and the surrounding neighborhood.  It was at once a sign of protection and intimidation, like the tower itself.

 

This mode of working is typical to Vukosavljevic's practice. His sculptural objects and installations are not fixed and complete in themselves.  Rather they invite the participation of the viewer physically, intellectually and psychologically.  In the case of some of his sculptural works, the viewer is invited to insert his/her body into a furniture-like object, thus becoming the material link that completes a form.  Of course this completion relies upon the viewer's participatory behavior, so that completion of the work is in his/her hands — it depends upon their complicity.  At the same time, the work is made performative by the viewer's participation which inevitably generates new associations and meanings.   Vukosavljevic is interested in this expanding web of associations which only adds to the already complex chain of references he has constructed in preparing the work.

 

At the other end of the building — the basement —  Vukosavljevic placed objects that suggested a temporary encampment with a secret passageway apparently cut out from under the floorboards of the building leading to the concrete bunker in his apartment.  A make-shift ladder, industrial light and blanket folded on the basement floor provided evidence of a temporary occupant.  More markedly, an ominous black rubber flag was erected here claiming the space as occupied territory.  Reminiscent of the anarchist's flag which stood for the negation of all flags in a protest of authority and hierarchy, this flag which appeared repeatedly around the site, was an object of contradiction.  Stilled in a half-wave as the dense rubber collapsed under its own weight, the flag was simultaneously a sign of rebellion and authority.

 

Immediately above in Vukosavljevic's apartment living room, a concrete bunker had been constructed. Nearly eight feet tall and four feet wide, the bunker's dense mass was punctuated by a long, narrow, horizontal slit window near its top providing an opportunity for occupants to peer outside.  Its stark form and slit window was a sly nod to the design of its immediate surroundings — the R.M. Schindler-designed Modernist interior punctuated by clerestory windows.  The bunker which appeared to accommodate about four people was reminiscent of the do-it-yourself family bomb shelters made popular in the 1960s in the United States.  It was made all the more surreal on the evening of the exhibition opening when the living room and the adjacent kitchen were filled with guests enjoying delicacies prepared by the artist's wife.  Several visitors were "hunkered down," eating in Schindler's built-in dinette — a strange visual analogy to the bunker. Concrete bunkers built during World War II not only served as fortifications for weapons, soldiers and civilians, they also served as civic symbols of power and defense.  They dominated the cityscape with an air of authority, providing both security and surveillance and they evoked both fear and compliance in their subjects below.  Similarly, this bunker evoked a sense of unease as it dominated the domestic terrain of its context and exposed the extreme gesture of its apparent occupant.

 

Just outside the living room Vukosavljevic constructed a camouflaged tent creating a "secret" enclosed space in an already private outdoor courtyard.  A large sheet imprinted with the color, texture and pattern of the courtyard's gravel was stretched over upright poles.  Enclosed on all sides, this space was invisible when viewed from above — it blended in with the landscape. Making a wry commentary on Schindler's use of natural materials to create a sense of enclosure outdoors, Vukosavljevic succeeded in simulating natural materials to create an enclosed space outside.

 

Vukosavljevic’s work makes us conscious of the ways in which our everyday surroundings can be interpreted as occupied or marked, and the ways that we respond psychologically and behaviorally to such cues. The subtle, or not so subtle strategies of architecture, especially military architecture,  to affect a psychological impact through physical, spatial intervention engages a cyclical response pattern similar to the artist’s central debate- which comes first-concept or praxis ?  Are we intimidated by the boundaries that secure us? Or does our insecurity necessitate the need for such boundaries? As viewers in Vukosavljevic’s installation, we are provided an overview-a historical and de-contextualized of the potential

relationship between architecture and the psyche.

 

Lou Anne Greenwald, 2003, Los Angeles