07 03 08

radical easthetical

Elisabeth Steger

Joining the tour through the academy of fine arts in Vienna a few weeks ago I have also visited the department of post- conceptual art practices which Marina Gržinić is head of. After the tour the wish arose to ask her about post-conceptual art,  about what “post- conceptual” does mean to her and some days later I have already got an answer. It is a whole book full of art theory and until now hidden art history and missed contextualization,  an overview of past and recent writings of the philosopher, artist and theoretician Marina Gržinić.

 “It´ s becoming increasingly popular to talk about the Western European and Northern American tradition of conceptual art while the East remains silent”, Marina Gržinić is writing in the introduction. After the eight following essays this constatation is no longer true and that´ s absolutely fine. The importance of carrying out historic initiatives and interpretations of the East as quickly as possible is spoken about very directly. All I can do here is giving some notes to shared experiences and theories, recommending this book: See and enjoy the opened space.


 First of all I want to underline Marina Gržinić´ s gripping interpretation of  the film Blue made by Derek Jarman. In the essay titled “Documentary effects versus hyper- real mutations” she is analysing binary terms, the one of presence/ absence with the help of the semiotic square (developed by N. Katherine Hayles, Donna Haraway) to show what is hidden behind them and what helps stabilize meaning in a binary background. It´ s all about representation when Marina Gržinić picks up the two illnesses hysteria and AIDS, visualized through art, as a theme. She is asking about finding ways of putting “the body, especially the (real), sick body, back into the picture.” This question, this searching is fore sure an essential, maybe the core one of visual artists in their work (in any case in mine though I am not working with so-called new media. Actually how long will we use the predicate “new” to speak about already greyish media ? ). I feel proved true through Marina Gržinić´ s analysis: As a viewer of Blue I have experienced a blow (the connotations of “blow” have a kind of light effect in contrast to the heavy “Stoß” of Heidegger - I like this translation. Before reading the essay I had expressed it like that: I have been thrown back into a leibliche experience of seeing although I am actually not a Heidegger-  but a Benjamin- reader. I would not call the Blue experience a shock.) In contrary to Marina Gržinić´ s experience - “Throughout the film, we await the point of subversion, for the unmasking by the camera” - I have to confess an impatience concerning any waiting and that I have closed my eyes again and again seeing Blue. Therefore my conclusion would be a slightly different one: only the colours Blue and its complementary Orange remain - because of the Nachbilder.

 The second essay in the book -Scum Versus Monsters- introduces to us the thesis of a possible identification of two matrices of active players in Europe with regard to the new media reality. These two are the Western European “Scum of Society Matrix” and the Eastern European “Monster Matrix”.  First of all Marina Gržinić is cleansing the terrain: 1989 has been a break in the relation of East and West. Then, she is analysing some examples of contemporary art (Oleg Kulik, Raša Todosijević, IRWIN, Laibach, Mladen Stilinović) by reading them with classical ontology according to Žižek. Donna Haraway´ s semiotic square is here connected with theories of Lacan and doing so Marina Gržinić is putting forward a radical politicization of the Eastern European position. Her pleasure with/within theory cannot be overseen and has an infectious effect onto the reader, at least to me who is anyway spending a lot of time in theory spaces. So I dare to say: I am a monster.


 In “A theoretical- political positioning of Europe and (cyber) feminism” Marina Gržinić is reflecting upon her own position as an academically positioned (cyber) feminist from Eastern Europe. Her question – we must ask again, where is “home”, if we indeed have one? – is a question which I would call THE question of exile writers, of all those who are living in more than one language, those who render... I remember spontaneously the feminist literature scientist and writer Ruth Klüger who proposed in a lecture held in Vienna a few years ago to use the word home/Heimat in plural number that means Heimaten – a word which is disturbing the boring/dangerous order of identity politics. I would interpret this as a practical solution: we do not have one, we do have more (if we have at all). But Marina Gržinić is here philosophizing with references to Jacques Lacan ( the famous formula: “Woman does not exist”) and to Alain Badiou´ s ontology especially the “counting of One” which is analysed with baroque passion in “The Being and the Event” as the structure of a situation. Marina Gržinić is naming this philosophical problem less ontologically but in political terms “the tyrannical dominating entity” or “the logic of capital”. She proposes to start counting at two: “two is the first number ...Insisting on the impossible, and showing what cannot be seen by re- articulating it, is a way of curtailing the counting as One.” As an example for “a political and structural grounded condition” the Research Group on Black Austrian History and Presence from Vienna is cited with the announcement of their lecture held in Marina Gržinić´ s department.

 “On Dramatizations of Performance and Feminism in the former- Yugoslav Space”, the forth essay gives us a critical genealogy of contemporary performative practices and political spaces in former Yugoslavia: “The newly established genealogy of performance and feminism in the socialist and post- socialist context connects body art and conceptual art with the punk and rock ´n´ roll underground, illustrating the passage from sexually queer to politically queer.” According  to Beatriz Preciado, a philosopher and queer activist and her book “Gender and Performance Art. Three Episodes from a feminist queer trans cybermanga”, who developed a genealogy of performance art from the very beginning on three female sexuality “stages” (heterosexuality, drag and queer space) Marina Gržinić is re-building a new genealogy onto this three levels plus adding performing politics in relation to (post-)feminism and queer positioning. Her wish is clearly formulated: “We can learn about changes in the paradigm of queer strategy in our contemporaneity.” After contextualizing some examples of performance art like: Sanja Iveković´ s work Triangle (I downloaded the photo documents of Triangle a few weeks ago from e-flux list but –oh yes-  it is better to have it contextualized in a book), Vlasta Delimar´ s A mature woman (I have never seen yet), Borders of Control no. 4, a group Marina Gržinić has been a member of with Icons of Glamour, Echoes of Death (it is nice to meet Marina Gržinić also as an artist in her book), Tanja Ostojić with Black Square on White and Without Title/After Courbet (a work which I saw published on a rolling board on my walks at the corner Laxenburger- /Sahulka- Street in 2006. Maybe you remember, it has been removed shortly after publishing because of protests) and at least Šejla Kamerić´ s work Bosnian girl (which I saw the first time in “the box of filled silence”, a box with statements of artists about procreation/postcreation produced by womanifesto, an International art exchange in Thailand in 2003, an exchange I took part in)

- after this highly interesting contextualizing Marina Gržinić is coming to her definition of post- conceptual art I want to close with. Post- conceptuality, she writes, is a question of “exposing the central social contradiction. The post- conceptual consists of the visual plus class struggle ... the post- conceptual insists on emphasizing the social antagonism that is not just a formally performed debate that takes place between different characters, staged as a theater play with the chorus acting as the judge.” Living in a city in which the theatrical has traditionally a rate high it is a true pleasure to read this.


publications of the academy of fine arts Vienna volume 6:

Marina Gržinić

re-politicizing art, theory, representation and new media technology

Schlebrügge.Editor Vienna 2008

Elisabeth Steger