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Interview with the artist - Antun Božičević
Antonija Majača

Exhibition of Radoslav Putar Award Winner 2005

The solo exhibition of the awarded artist is the final stage of the 'Radoslav Putar Award' initiated by the Institute for Contemporary Art from Zagreb. As one of the programatic orientations of 'g-mk' is also the focus on the promotion of the perspective young artists and their integration into the international art context, g-mk is the regular partner of the Radoslav Putar Award where it takes part in conceptualization, organization and production of the winning artist's final exhibition.

Antun Bozicevic's exhibition closes the fourth cycle of the Radoslav Putar Award. At the same time, the new, fifth cycle is opened by launching of the new Call for Applications for the 2006 Radoslav Putar Award. Since 2002 four artists have received the Radoslav Putar Award: Tanja Dabo (2002), Nika Radić (2003), Igor Eškinja (2004) and Antun Božičević (2005).

'Badel Station' is an audio-video installation which consists of sound recordings of the New York subway and the live sound of the street crossing in front of the gallery, which the artist mixes and broadcasts onto the street. By using a 6-channel concert sound system a new sound reality is set up on the street and in front of the gallery entrance. The sound installation is accompanied by the video projection in the gallery space and the gallery windows in which the artist uses footage from Walter Hill's film 'The Warriors', creating an audio-visual installation - an environment simulating a subway station.

With Badel Station, the artist critically refers to the 'myth' of the construction of the subway in Zagreb which, as the artist notices, is often used as an argument justifying the lack of support for other urban and cultural projects. The exhibition title refers also to 'Operation: City' a ten-day long festival of independent organizations and 'alternative' culture, which took place at the deserted spaces of the Badel factory, situated opposite g-mk. By using the footage from the cult film 'The Warriors', the artists symbolically refers to the, very often, marginal position of artists and cultural activists.

Interview:

The work is entitled Badel Station. Can you explain the idea behind the exhibition?

I got the idea last year, before my trip to the USA, while I was reading an article in the business section of a newspaper. It was commenting on the 'Operation: City', the ten-day long festival organized by independent organizations and initiatives and presenting 'alternative' art, which took place in the Badel factory, a deserted building situated just opposite Galerija Miroslav Kraljević. The article that I read before leaving Zagreb conveyed the negative attitude of the city authorities towards the possibility of letting organizations involved in the project use the object as a space for their work and activities. It was stated that this would not be in the best interest of the city, which would benefit far more from its 27-million-Euro worth sale, which would become the initial capital for the construction of the Zagreb subway. Compared to other responses to similar requests concerning the possibility of renewed use of abandoned city-owned buildings (such as 'Paromlin', 'Old Slaughterhouse', etc.) I find this argumentation original and that's why I'm doing a simulation of the 'Badel Station'.

Can you explain the technical aspect of your sound installation in 'g-mk'?

At the opening night it will be a live act in which I use live sound from the microphone as well as documents from the hard disc and their mix I create by using a commercial software. By using the concert 6-channel sound system a new sound reality is set up on the street and in the gallery. For the remaining days of the exhibition I will reproduce in the gallery the sound generated on the first day by using a simple surround system.

The works consists of 4 sound recordings I made on the New York subway, each 26:35:13 minutes long. These recordings are mixed with the actual sound of the Šubićeva - Martićeva crossing and are then digitally processed. In this way I create the sixth sound and I simultaneously broadcast all the sounds onto the street - which is at the same time the space facing the entrance into 'g-mk'. In the gallery space a 26-second long video consisting of parts of the film Warriors by Walter Hill is projected, accompanying the sound recordings. It is projected on three walls and the gallery windows.

I assume that the concept of the show is also influenced by the experience of New York as well as with the differences in the positions of artist, art and culture in general? Using footage from the Warriors is of course symbolic?

When you're coming from a country in which: there is no system for educating contemporary artists (academies are based on curriculums from the first half of the last century and there is no possibility of postgraduate study), the scene is dictated by 'salon' exhibitions (organized by several curators and featuring always the same artists) and the market exists only with the prefix 'black', you are overwhelmed, after you arrive from the half-day long journey, by the richness of all that the megalopolis has to offer. New York is, of course, one of the world's centers of art and business with innumerable museums and galleries, but also artists who live there. Only a small percentage of them manage to live off their work, most of them juggling 2-3 jobs and that's where I don't see a big difference. What is different is the quantity of information and possibilities that are available. The institutions (both public and private) support the production of the artwork and artists are granted fees. The tax law motivates tax payers to invest in art by buying artworks or by supporting foundations which sponsor art and it is a question of status to be member of some of them. The curators visit artists in their studios, they are interested in their work and both sides benefit from that. These differences are the reason that I'm using parts of the Warriors because in the local context artists are forced to be activists, idealists, volonteers, managers, bohemians, producers... In this transitional-quasineoliberal-primitivecapitalist-etcetera society there is money for everything, even for important cultural projects of national interest, but not for art.

What would you say is the main difference between the general status of art here and there and how it's position is seen and integrated in the society? Can you give me an example of an art work you saw there that best describes these constellations? You were mentioning a sound installation by Max Neuhaus...?

Newyorkers are proud of the art created in their city. It is omnipresent. The city neighbourhoods are connected with subcultures which emerged in them and which influenced the so-called high art. Art is the culture of living. This omnipresence can best be felt in the sound installation by M. Neuhaus set up on Times Square in the subway ventilation opening. This work merges sounds / vibrations of the underground and the above-ground 'life' (the visible and the invisible) of the most famous city square into one continuous sound with slight variations, isolating you from the audio / video chaos in which you find yourself. This sound becomes your own mantra. I quote this procedure in the work I prepared for this exhibition because of the way it integrates art into the life of the city.

If you would need to give a formula of what has actually made the biggest impression on you in New York how would it be formed?

'Diversity + Tolerance = Communication'.
All aspects of visual art coexist there and are classified only as good or bad art. I was impressed by many exhibitions because the high quality of works, regardless of the manner of expression. The group exhibition If It's Too Bad To Be True, It Could Be DISINFORMATION at the Apexart not-for-profit gallery, curated by Ms. Mercedes Vicente is nearest to my affinities. One of the featured works, Dow Project by The Yes Men, impressed me because of its concept, manner of execution, its consequences and its humour; it surpasses the formula: the everyday as subject + media presentation = social critique.

How would you define the role of the artist in society today? Is art capable of generating social changes or formulating new values?

It is hard for me to explain this because in my own case, rather than defining myself as an artist, I would say that art is part of my life. As it has a corrective role in my own life, I guess it should have the same function for others, for society. Its impact on certain groups of people is more important than its impact on the masses, because the history of the last century tells us that the latter can have a disastrous impact both on the society as well as art. It surely generates new social values but much more slowly than artists would want it.

How would you describe the relation between concept and form in your work in general? It seems to me that, when being persistent in using new media tools, artist in Croatia are generally forced to constatntly make compromises because of the high costs of equipement and lack of real infrastructure?

The form that becomes the final realization of my work is not important to me and I could describe the procedure as a compromise: of material possibilities, the attitude of the organizer, the space (interior-exterior) for which I'm producing the work and the available time. In most cases the exhibition opening is also its premiere because it is then that the work functions for the first time, which can be very stressful.

What do you primarily want to point out with this work?

The local hypocrisy regarding art and the explanation that we should wait for a better tomorrow. I also wanted to bring to attention the fact that Zagreb, which is striving to become the cultural center of the region, is not part of the network of residential programs and cultural exchange in the field of visual arts. That there isn't a single object / center with studios that local and foreign artists and curators could use and enrich by working there for several months, getting aquainted with the local environment, creating new work and exhibiting it. I just want to show that we are here and that the political elite doesn't have the right to decide what kind of art is of national relevance. Interview by Antonia Majača

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