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THE ENTHUSIASTS ARCHIVE

Banner stills L to R: Encounters, courtesy Croatian Film Association;
Anthony's Broken Mirror
and Vowels, courtesy Alternative Film Archive, Academic Film Center, Belgrade

Acceleration (Ubrzanje)
Ivan Martinac, Croatia, 1969, 35 mm transfer to digiBeta, 7 minutes 14 seconds

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Still from Acceleration, courtesy Croatian Film Association

Although he made approximately 60 films (including one feature film, House on Sand [Kuća na pijesku], 1982–85), it is often said of Ivan Martinac (1938–2005) that he had been making ​a single movie all his life. Indeed, his entire oeuvre, both the early works made at the Kino Klub Belgrade before 1962 and later shorts shot in Split, consists of structural and poetic variations on the existentialist themes of life and death, anxiety and loneliness, transcience and eternity. Acceleration, his second professionally produced film, also pursues these themes, and it is structurally comparable to his representative Monologue on Split (Monolog o Splitu) (1961–62), a poetic reflection on the transience of material life characterized by a Mediterranean ambience, contemplation, mosaic structure, and repetitive editing patterns. The filmmaker himself described Acceleration as “a film about the dominance of time and space over a human being.”[1] It is composed of progressively accelerating juxtapositions of transition shots reminiscent of the style of Yasujirō Ozu—postcardlike images of stone walls and windows, ships, roofs, city panoramas with passersby, trains in motion, a graveyard, and other mundane subjects suggesting the passing of time—and a lonesome or alienated human being surrounded and gradually absorbed by them to the point of absence or disappearance. The film’s form makes it somewhat neurotic, which can also be said of the film’s psychological effect.  — Diana Nenadić

With thanks from the series organizers to Diana Nenadić and the Croatian Film Association (Hrvatski Filmski Savez), Zagreb, for assistance in research for the series and for making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

Ping-Pong
Ivan Ladislav Galeta, Croatia, 1976–78, U-matic transfer to digiBeta, 2 minutes 18 seconds

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Still from Ping-Pong, courtesy Croatian Film Association

The key subject of Ivan Ladislav Galeta’s (1947–2014) early experiments with the new medium of video was the exploration of the ways in which this technology could make the physically impossible seem perceptually real. In this video work, he shot footage of a Ping-Pong game in a studio with three cameras from different angles and presented it using a split screen. The result is an M. C. Escher–esque scene in real time: it preserves the game’s action and temporal continuity but is full of impossible spatial relations among players.

Though U-matic was not the first video format that became available to artists and experimental filmmakers, it did belong to the early days of video as a medium, and Galeta’s film shows the excitement that those who experimented with this new medium felt about its easy manipulability, which was one of its most significant characteristics (for more on this, see the introduction to the Medium Experiments program in the present series). The technology was all the more interesting because access to it was limited throughout the 1970s and 1980s, available usually either at international artistic colonies and residential programs or, later, in television production.[2] The fact that this enthusiasm crossed borders in Eastern Europe (the rich history of Western video art is well documented by now) can be demonstrated by the similarity between Galeta’s Ping-Pong, made in 1976–78, and the video made by the Polish filmmaker Grzegorz Zgraja in 1978 titled Distance, which similarly uses video to produce the physically impossible but visually believable situation of a man playing Ping-Pong with himself.  — Diana Nenadić

With thanks from the series organizers to Diana Nenadić and the Croatian Film Association (Hrvatski Filmski Savez), Zagreb, for assistance in research for the series and for making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

Personal Cuts (Osobni rezovi)
Sanja Iveković, Croatia, 1982, U-matic transfer to digiBeta, 4 minutes

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Still from Personal Cuts, courtesy Croatian Film Association

Sanja Iveković (b. 1949) is widely acknowledged as a pioneer of feminist art in Eastern Europe and an astute observer of the role that mass media, such as newspapers, magazines, and television, play in the formation of individual identity. Indeed, the title of her first American retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Sweet Violence, came from the artist’s exploration of the “‘sweet violence’ of media seduction.” The exhibition featured such iconic works as her Double Life portfolio (illustrated here), in which Iveković juxtaposed—in a pattern of alternating images similar to Personal Cuts—advertisements from glossy Western magazines with her own private photographs that uncannily resemble the ads.[3]

As the entry on Personal Cuts from the MoMA catalog states: “In 1982 Iveković presented Personal Cuts on prime-time Yugoslavian national television, on TV Zagreb’s 3, 2, 1—Action! In it she confronts the camera wearing a translucent black stocking mask pulled over her head, terrorist-style. Using scissors she cuts one hole after another into the mask, revealing one section of her face at a time, and each cut is followed by a short sequence of archival footage culled from a television program on the history of Yugoslavia, produced by the state shortly after Marshal Tito’s death, in 1980, and chronicling 20 years of the socialist republic. Cut by cut, in sequential shots, Iveković at once exposes her face and suggests the insidiousness of national propaganda—mass rallies, a public address by Tito, and monuments, all promoting the socialist way of living—thus demonstrating that historical events are inextricable from human ones, and ending with the artist’s face fully uncovered. Personal Cuts is modeled on a television documentary but formally and conceptually undercuts the totalizing, unified picture of official history; history is presented as broken inscription rather than linear narrative. Iveković infiltrates media space and disrupts the official narrative, reshuffling it, using the cut as a leitmotif and a reference to the editing and montage strategies that have informed her photocollages and video works."[4]

On the one hand, one might add that the video shows the artist gradually “freeing” herself from the propaganda as she unmasks her face. On the other, Iveković’s relationship with state television as a medium of propaganda dissemination remains fraught and interdependent since the artist herself also chooses to use it to spread her message (and, paradoxically, thus confirms both the power of the medium and the liberalism of a regime that allows her access to it).[5] The incredible power of television as a medium of contagious repetition (Iveković structures her performance as a series of repetitive actions) is something that was also explored by Dalibor Martinis, Iveković’s collaborator on a number of works in the 1970s and 1980s. His Image Is Virus (1983) is the inverse of Personal Cuts—if Iveković makes us question television’s power by cutting it up and slowing it down, Martinis undercuts the medium by collapsing broadcasts together and speeding it up.  — Ksenya Gurshtein

With thanks from the series organizers to Diana Nenadić and the Croatian Film Association (Hrvatski Filmski Savez), Zagreb, for assistance with research for the series and for help in making a screening of this film possible in Washington.

 

1. Ranko Munitić, Martinac (Zagreb, 2011). (back to top)

2. Because video technology remained expensive for a long time, members of amateur cinema-clubs in Yugoslavia continued to shoot exclusiely on 8 mm or 16 mm until the late 1980s. (back to top)

3. Information on Double Life and photographs from it can also be found in Laura Hoptman and Tomáš Pospiszyl, eds., Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s (New York, 2002), 203–19. In addition to the MoMA catalog and website, information on the artist can be found in Magdalena Zi6lkowska, ed., Sanja lvekovic: Practice Makes the Master (Łódź, 2009). (back to top)

4. For more information on the types of new programming offered by Yugoslav television, see http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/socialsciences/screening-socialism/television-histories/tvinyugoslavia/. (back to top)

5. Notably, nine years earlier, Iveković was not allowed to show on public television in Austria works that were meant to air in real time: “In 1973 she conceived TV Timer for Trigon ’73: Audiovisuelle Botschaften, in Graz, Austria, one of the first events in East Central Europe to focus on the new medium of video. Working in collaboration with Dalibor Martinis, Iveković produced fifteen one-minute videos meant to be inserted like commercials into the prime-time evening-news program on the Austrian television station ORF. Given the restrictive social environment that prevailed in Austria at the time, the artists could not get permission to broadcast the videos, so they decided instead to present the project in a gallery.” In the former Yugoslavia, in 1983, “Dunja Blažević, a producer and curator of new media, presented the video program TV Gallery on TV Belgrade.” Roxana Marcoci and Terry Eagleton, Sweet Violence, (New York, 2011), 123. (back to top)