Marko Golub

(exhibition catalogue Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space 2015 – Intangible:

Upon finishing her formal education at the Graphic Arts studies of the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts, Božena Končić Badurina gradually began adopting performance art as her ‘central’ medium of expression in the mid 2000’s. During this period, she created the works/exhibitions To Myself (The Matrix Croatica Gallery, Zagreb, 2004), For Hours (Studio of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, 2004) and Temporary Body (The Triennial of Croatian Sculpture, Glyptotheque of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Zagreb, 2006), all of which featured properties of the so -called durational performance, supplemented with some aspect of intervention in the space between the performer and the spectators or mimicry, with the performer consciously ‘transforming’ into a passive and static exhibition artefact. In her work titled Hours, for example, for the entire duration of the one week exhibition, she sits in the centre of the exhibition space, inside a cubicle made of non transparent linen; in the performative segment of the exhibition To Myself, she is also present inside the gallery, but separated from the spectators with a white linen wall, whereas in A Temporary Body she sits at a standstill like a sculpture during the most significant Croatian sculpture review exhibition, completely masked with silver aluminium foil, removing it only after the heat becomes unbearable. In all three cases, there is no communication between the performer and the audience, and in two of them her presence is registered only via minimal signs —the amplified sound of her breathing (Hours) or her silhouette seen through the linen (To Myself). In a peculiar way, in her early works the exhibition/performance space itself is deliberated as a live breathing space, although the emphasis was placed on the existential absurdity of the utter passivity of the artistic act. The shift that significantly determined the direction of her subsequent artistic deliberation occurred between two performances created in 2006 and 2007 — Getting Closer and Connected —both held at the same circular space of the Bačva Gallery, at the Croatian Association of Visual Artists. In the scenario of the first performance, the artist stands in the centre, with the visitors approaching her, one at a time, and staying with the artist as long as they wish. In the monumental rotunda she is exposed to the gaze of the spectators, but does not look back. A year later, in the performance Connected, Božena Končić Badurina hires forty extras, positioned in a circle along the walls of the rotunda. The extras stand with their eyes closed, with a posture and attitude of apparent placidity, expressly instructed not to react to the visitors, as if in a bizarre sophisticated psychological experiment. Nominally, performers, who are reduced to props in an artistic project, seem to be the ones in a subjugated position, exposed to the gaze of the spectator without the possibility of returning it. However, due to their multitude, it is the ‘spectator’ who is unintentionally taking on the full emotional, psychological and ethical intensity of the performance. This is in a way unavoid ­ able because the performance itself is documented by video and photography, making the spectators’ behaviour, reactions and confrontation with the faces of the others the operative prin ­ ciple of the performance. Also, with the space being circular, thespectators can never really know whether they are covertly observed by at least one pair of eyes of the quiet and still bodies displayed. The eminent Croatian photographer Boris Cvjetanović called them portraits, but he is a photographer. I personally felt an awful discomfort and averted my gaze, although it was never really returned to begin with. It was probably after her experience with this work that Končić Badurina began indirectly refer ­ ring to the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who contends that the proximity to the Other itself contains an ethical dimension, that is a sense of vulnerability and a sense of responsibility. Paradoxically, probably none of her later works possess the psychological intensity of Connected, but it opened an entire arsenal of curious, imaginative and witty confrontations on the relation between the spectator, performer and spatial, institutional and social context in which such confrontations take place. At the same time, the works themselves began to evade a classic definition of performance, drawing closer to something we might call interventions, actions, situa ­ tions, and in a sense even ‘scenographies’. The scenarios of her works, namely, increasingly drew their content from the environment in which they were to take place. In an illuminated window of one of the numerous empty shops of the pedestrian underpass below Kvaternik Square (Shop Window, Max Art Fest, 2008), she places a group of Zagreb high -school students, who silently follow with their eyes passers by and visitors of an arts festival taking place in an underground garage nearby. At the opening of a large collective exhibition with the telling title Looking at Others, held in one of the most representative galleries in Croatia, she hired extras to play unusually invasive and indiscreet guards, who often entered the personal space of the visitors and stared rudely at them (Museum Guards, Art Pavilion, Zagreb, 2009). In her series titled More Passive than Every Passivity (Art in General, New York, 2010), she directed a number of minor situations in which the visitors of this New York gallery participated, whether they were aware of it or not, by riding the elevator with six suspicious persons, who never leave it, or gathering in an empty gallery space in which they are permitted to do anything, except acknowl ­ edging the presence of the other visitors. At the same time, Božena Končić Badurina developed a number of concepts to make unseen structures of relations within the institutions in which she has been invited to exhibit visible and operative. These are exhibitions showing nothing except for ‘inside skin’ of the spaces themselves — for example wall drawings pointing to a hidden room or audio guides narrating about a gallery guide, who is present the entire time (Guide to the Gallery, Gallery Forum, 2013), a voice coming from loudspeakers asking the visitors of the museum to take a seat and wait at the reception desk, or (again) audio guides talking about the museum complex and subtly choreographing the conduct of the visitors and their perception of the space itself. Many of these works could have found their place in our selection for the Prague Quadrennial precisely because they, from the aspect of visual arts, thematise what could be Getting Closer (Bačva Gallery / Croatian Association of Visual Artists, Zagreb; 2006) – photo: Željko Badurina 27 called a stage space, scenography or even ‘fictional’ space, for which the gallery white cube provides a fundamental atmosphere and conditions. Rather than constructing anything in these spaces, the artist takes the existing architecture and populates it with gazes, behaviours and rules of conduct that erase and flood the border between the audience, performer and performance space. The work Protected Space (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka, 2011), which we selected for this exhibition, probably represents the most consistent and concise execution of the two fundamental strategies employed by this artist—on the one hand, shifting the gaze from the performer to the audience, and on the other making invisible social relations and conventions active and visible within contemporary art exhibition spaces. The ‘protected space’ is in reality a room within a museum in which a large collective exhibition is held (Out of Left Field). The room is almost completely empty, with only a few chairs along the wall, but the entrance is strictly controlled by two guards in charge of searching the visitors entering the room, and a set of rules printed on leaflets that are handed to every visitor imposes strict rules of conduct for those who enter the space: Carry your bag or backpack in front of you—not on your back or on your side. Walk at a moderate speed without sudden movements. Do not approach other visitors too closely. Do not rustle plastic bags or other objects. Avoid loud conversation and laughter. It is forbidden to bring in any type of food or drink. Move in the same direction as the other visitors. Do not touch the exhibits. No photographs. Mobile phones must be switched off. Most of the rules are not made up since many of them are presumed to apply and some of them are even explicitly prescribed by the museum. In this way, a space without any content or substance obtains completely new dimensions, invisible and insignificant to anyone not previously familiarized with the conditions and rules for its use. The rules give it structure, the conduct gives it a form more impenetrable and rigid than any wall, than any architecture.


Marko Golub

(iz kataloga Praškog kvadrijenala scenografije i kazališnog oblikovanja prostora 2015.)

Formalno obrazovana u grafičkoj klasi na Akademiji likovnih umjetnosti u Zagrebu, Božena Končić Badurina se do sredine 2000-ih postupno posvetila performansu kao svom ‘središnjem’ mediju. Tada nastaju radovi/izložbe kao što su Samoj sebi (Galerija Matice hrvatske, Zagreb, 2004.), Satima (Studio Muzeja suvremene umjetnosti, Zagreb, 2004.) i Privremeno tijelo (Trijenale hrvatskog kiparstva, Gliptoteka HAZU, Zagreb, 2006.) koji svi redom imaju karakteristike takozvanih performansa izdržljivosti, odnosno performansa u trajanju (durational performance), dopunjenih nekim vidom intervencije u prostor između izvođačice i promatrača, ili mimikrije u kojoj se izvođačica svjesno ‘preoblači’ u pasivan i statičan izložbeni artefakt. U radu Satima, primjerice, za čitavog trajanja jednotjedne izložbe sjedi u središtu izložbenog prostora zatvorena u kabinu od nepro ­ zirnog platna; u performativnom segmentu izložbe Samoj sebi također je prisutna u galeriji, ali odvojena od promatrača bijelim platnenim zidom, a u Privremenom tijelu poput skulpture nepomično sjedi za vrijeme otvo ­ renja glavne hrvatske revijalne izložbe kiparstva, u potpunosti maskirana srebrnom aluminijskom folijom, koju skida sa sebe tek nakon što vrućina postane neizdrživa. U sva tri slučaja, između performerice i publike nema nikakve komunikacije, a u dva od njih sama njena prisutnost je registrirana tek minimalnim znakovima —amplificiranim zvukom disanja (Satima), ili siluetom na platnu (Samoj sebi). Na neki čudan način, u tim ranim rado ­ vima sam je izložbeni prostor, odnosno prostor izvedbe, promišljan kao živo, dišuće mjesto, iako je naglasak naravno još uvijek bio na egzisten ­ cijalnom apsurdu samog umjetničinog krajnje pasivnog čina. Obrat koji je bitno odre ­ dio smjer kasnijeg umjetničinog razmišljanja dogodio se između dva performansa održana 2006. i 2007. godine — Približavanje i Connected —oba u istom kružnom prostoru Galerije Bačva, Hrvatskog društva likovnih umjetnika. U scena ­ riju prvog, umjetnica stoji u središtu, a njoj se, jedan po jedan, približa ­ vaju posjetitelji koji s umjetnicom ostaju koliko žele. U monumentalnoj rotondi izložena je pogledu, ali ga ne uzvraća. Godinu dana kasnije u performansu Connected Božena Končić Badurina angažira četrdeset statista i postavlja ih u krug uz zido ­ ve rotonde. I oni, poput umjetnice, stoje zatvorenih očiju, u stavu prividne mirnoće, izravno upućeni da ne reagiraju na posjetitelja, kao u nekom bizarnom, sofisticiranom psihološkom eksperimentu. Nominalno, izvođa ­ či svedeni na rekvizite u umjetničinom projektu su ti koji su u potčinjenom položaju, ogoljeni pogledu promatrača bez mogućnosti da ga sami uzvrate. Međutim, u njihovom mnoštvu ‘promatrač’ je zapravo taj koji na sebe nehotič ­ no preuzima puni emotivni, psihološki i etički intenzitet ovog performansa. Jednim dijelom neizbježno svakako zato što je sama izvedba dokumentirana videom i foto ­ grafijama, gdje je upravo on i njegovo ponašanje, njegova reakcija, njegovo suočavanje s licima drugih to što čini djelatnu osnovu rada. Drugo, kako je prostor kružan, pro ­ matrač ni u jednom trenutku ne može znati da li ga barem jedan par očiju tihih i nepomičnih tijela koja su mu izlo ­ žena gleda. Ugledni hrvatski fotograf Boris Cvjetanović nazvao ih je portretima, ali on je fotograf. Ja sam osobno osjećao užasnu nelagodu i odvraćao sam pogled, koji mi nije ni bio uzvraćen. Vjerojatno nakon iskustva ovog rada, Končić Badurina počinje se neizravno pozivati na francu ­ skog filozofa Emmanuela Levinasa koji upućuje na to dasama blizina s Drugim već u sebi sadrži etičku dimenziju, odnosno osjećaj ranjivosti i osjećaj odgovornosti. Paradoksalno, vjerojatno nijedan od kasnijih njenih radova ne posjeduje psiho ­ loški intenzitet koji je imao Connected, ali on joj je otvorio čitav arsenal čudnih, maštovitih i duhovitih konfrontacija na relaciji između gle ­ datelja, izvođača i prostornog, institucionalnog i društvenog konteksta u kojem se takvi susreti odvijaju. Istovremeno, i sami radovi su sve više izmicali klasičnoj definiciji performansa, a približavali se nečemu što bi se moglo nazvati intervenci ­ jama, akcijama, situacijama, pa u određenom smislu i ‘scenografijama’. Scenariji njenih radova, naime, sve su više crpili svoj sadržaj iz okruženja u kojima se imaju odviti. U osvijetljenom izlogu jednog od brojnih praznih lokala nikad zaživjelog pothodnika ispod Kvaternikovog trga (Izlog, Max Art Fest, 2008.) smješta skupinu zagrebačkih srednjoškolaca koji bez rije ­ či prate pogledom slučajne prolaznike i posjetitelje jednog umjetničkog festivala koji se odvija u podzemnim garažama u blizini. Na otvorenju velike skupne izložbe znakovitog naziva Gledati druge u jednom od najreprezentativnijih galerijskih prostora u Hrvatskoj, angažira statiste koji glume neobično invazivne i indiskretne čuvare često ulazeći u osobni prostor posjetitelja i nepristojno zureći u njih (Muzejski čuvari, Umjetnički paviljon, Zagreb, 2009.). U ciklusu radova Pasivnije od svake pasivnosti (Art in General, New York, 2010.) režirat će čitav niz malih situacija u kojima posjetitelji te važne njujorške galerije sudjeluju svjesno ili nesvjesno —primjerice vozeći se u liftu s šestero sumnjivih ljudi koji iz njega nikako ne izlaze, ili okupljajući se u praznom galerijskom prostoru u kojem im je dozvoljeno sve osim uvažavanja prisustva drugih posjetitelja. Paralelno, Božena Končić Badurina razvija i čitav niz koncepata koji čine vidljivima i djelatnima neke nevidljive strukture odnosa unutar institucija u kojima je pozvana izlagati. Redom su to postavi izložbi u kojima nije izlo ­ ženo gotovo ništa osim ‘unutarnje kože’ samih tih prostora —primjerice zidni crteži koji ukazuju na skrivenu prostoriju, ili audio vodič za posje ­ titelja koji pripovijeda o čuvarici galerije koja je čitavo vrijeme prisutna (Vodič kroz Galeriju, Galerija Forum 2013.), glas iz zvučnika koji umoljava posjetitelje muzeja da sjednu i neko vrijeme pričekaju na recepciji, ili (opet) audio vodiči koji tematiziraju muzejski kompleks na način da suptilno koreografiraju ponašanje posjetitelja i njegovu percepciju samog prostora u kojem se nalazi. Mnogi od ovih radova mogli su se naći u našoj selek ­ ciji za Praški kvadrijenale upravo zato što, iz neočekivane vizure vizualne umjetnosti, tematiziraju ono što bi se unutar nje moglo zvati scenskim prostorom, čak i prostorom ‘fikcije’ za koji galerijska bijela kocka pruža temeljnu atmosferu i uvjete. U njima ova umjetnica najčešće ništa ne gradi, već uzima postojeću arhitekturu i naseljava je pogledima, ponašanjima i pravilima ophođenja koja brišu i poplavljuju granicu između publike, izvođača i prostora izvedbe. U radu Štićeni prostor (Muzej moderne i suvremene umjet ­ nosti, Rijeka, 2011.) odabranom za ovu izložbu vjerojatno su najdosljednije i najkonciznije provedene dvije temeljne strategije koje ova umjetnicakoristi—s jedne strane izvrtanje pogleda s izvođača performansa na publiku, a s druge činjenje nevidljivih društvenih odnosa i konvencija unutar izložbenih prostora suvremene umjetnosti aktivnima i vidljivima. Spomenuti ‘štićeni prostor’ u stvarnosti je jedna od soba unutar muzeja u kojem se održava velika skupna izložba (Out of Left Field). Soba je gotovo potpuno prazna, opremljena tek s nekoliko stolaca uz zid, ali ulaz u nju je strogo kontroliran od strane dvoje čuvara zaduženih za pretres posjetitelja koji žele ući, i jednako strogo uvjetovan setom pravila otisnutih u letku koji dobiva svaki posjetitelj: Torbu ili ruksak nosite sprijeda, a ne na leđima ili na boku; Hodajte umjerenim korakom bez naglih kretnji; Ne približavajte se previše ostalim posjetiteljima; Ne šuškajte vrećicama ni stvarima; Izbjegavajte glasan razgovor ili smijeh; Zabranjen unos i konzumacija pića ili hrane; Krećite se u struji posjetitelja; Ne dirajte izložene radove; Zabranjeno fotografiranje; Isključite mobitele. Većina pravila nije izmišljena, ona se stvarno podrazumijevaju u muzejskim prostorima, a neka od njih i jesu striktno propisana. Tako prostor koji sam po sebi ne nosi nikakav sadržaj niti upečatljivost dobiva neke sasvim nove gabarite nevidljive i beznačajne svakome tko nije prethodno upoznat s uvjetima i pravilima njegova korištenja. Pravila mu daju strukturu, ponašanje mu daje formu neprobojniju i kruću nego bilo kakav zid, i bilo kakva arhitektura.