The Artefakti (Artifacts) project studied the relationship between performance as a temporary phenomenon and documentation as a longer-lasting material reminiscence of the artistic performance in the form of props, memorabilia and similar physical remains which, after the performances at the Mirabela complex, were presented at the City Gallery. The event, which saw a large number of artistic performances in one night, was held so that the audience could see the entire process of museumization of performances as they testified to the transport of works into the gallery context, observed the setup of works and witnessed the exhibition openings.
Although the photo-video documentation represents a traditional approach to recording, proofing and a means of reconstructing artistic performance, we were interested in exploring the possibilities of presenting performance by objects that, after being used in artistic work, gained intrinsic value. This questions the idea of photo-video material being the most relevant type of documentation. The assumption that such a type of documentation is the most valuable proof of performance is due to the ideology of the photographic media we mistakenly think to be ontologically connected with reality, and not just as a concept of reality. In addition to photo-video documentation being extremely easy to manipulate with, some poor performance can have great visual documentation, while some outstanding performance can be undocumented; the negative sides of photographic documentation become apparent when we consider the possibilities of post-festum gallery presentation. The possibility of unlimited multiplication does not correspond to the nature of the performance medium, i.e., uniqueness as a qualitative value, because performance is an unrepeatable ephemeral experience. The problem of its subsequent presentation, by multimedia documentation or re-enchantment, is very complex and ultimately untrue. Also, although performance can never be denied its transience (as its qualitative value) in order for the performance to become commoditized, the objects used in the work itself, as an aid to the artist in that space and in that time, represent something much more significant than mere reminders, replicas or memories, because a part of the performance value is retained by a physical object in the form of its provenance. In this way, the performance gets another life within new artwork — artifacts in a museum sense that, in the form of installation, represent a new version or form of the same work.
Gildo Bavčević used the gallery to exhibit a globe made of coins, under which he placed a plateful of coins that he had previously vomited in front of the audience at the performance at Mirabela. The artist’s performance began with a hysterical cough as a formalized criticism of the monetary system, which makes the contemporary world go around. By vomiting his savings, placing his preferences outside the distribution network of economic policies, the artist publicly expresses his disgust towards a materialist society that is obsessed with earning and spending alone. By examining the economic situation and the state logic of “savings measures”, where the only ‘savers’ are the poor that are left behind by banking lobbies, while huge amounts of money go into the hands of minorities that don’t even think of coins as real money. Coins or change thus become the symbol of the small man, and with their collaging into continents and oceans, and with their application to the globe, the artist opens up many economic, political and social connotations.
Milan Brkić exhibits matchboxes that he gave to the visitors of the Mirabela event. The boxes featured pictures of animals with the message “Love Without Knife”. Namely, a few days before the event, an unknown author posted a letter on the main street of the city, in which he expressed fear that as part of the festival at Mirabela, an artist would kill a dog, roast it and offer it as food to the public. This letter paradigmatically sees the fear of the milieu towards provocative art forms that question social taboos, and this accusation (that had nothing to do with reality) offered Brkić a possibility to use the momentum and social tension to highlight messages of nonviolence towards animals.
Ivan Bura carried a heavy stone container on his back up to the entrance to Mirabela, and he refused to institutionalize the artifact. It was a “kamenica” – an oil vessel carrying a Glagolitic print: “If shipyards leave us, Greece will come to us”, referring to the financial crisis in Greece. The artist, using the Old Slavic script, places the kamenica in the historical corpus of Croatian art, while the text itself is a warning from our ancestors who have foreseen the condition in which their descendants would live. The bowl of olive oil is a symbol of harmony and peace, as well as of the Mediterranean tradition and doctrines which place artists and citizens at the margins of society in crisis times.
Božidar Katić presented a broken bulb in the gallery, which he previously destroyed using a hammer in a performance on the highest floor of Mirabela. Wearing a classic business suit, typical for the egoistic and sadistic caricatures of the society, the artist took the audience through narrow and steep stairs to the very top of the fort, where the visibly physically exhausted audience awaited artistic performance. After all the audience gathered in a small room that was lit only by one bulb, Katić turned to the audience and finally made direct contact with people, but instead of the expected speech, the artist breaks down the bulb with a hammer, leaving the audience in complete darkness. The obscure situation and the unorganized mass are a basis for staged manipulation and the bias of media reception that carries out mass amnesia and the exploitation of those who trust them blindly.
Željko Marović exhibits an artifact that was removed from the natural environment of his own home and re-contextualized with the ready-made strategy. It is his son’s child’s toy, put in a large plastic bowl filled with water. The hippo figure seemed to be trying to maintain the state of equilibrium with the environment. The artifact is undoubtedly filled with an intimate meaning, but also archetypal, as it represents carelessness and tenderness, introverting the observer who finds similar objects in their own fundus of references to childhood and thus becomes a co-creator in the process of intimation. The plastic toy floats in the water trough on a stand made of split firewood. In a time when people are dousing their emotional world, by emphasizing the importance of interpersonal relationships, this gentle work creates a step that emotionally satisfies the individual with a pleasant interaction and associations between objects, diving into their essence.
Marin Baučić and Ivan Svaguša produced a sound recording and a large-format picture originating from Mirabela, with Baučić painting what Svaguša played on an electric guitar, while Svaguša played what Baučić painted. The result was an abstract expressionist painting and a recorded musical process, which was a type of synesthetic trans-medial loop that eats its own tail like the snake Ouroboros.
Vanja Pagar offered bread coated with butter and covered with sugar to the audience, which is a kind of warning to the ever-threatening breakdown of western civilization, because the artist believes that this dish might soon become the only candy we will have. In the gallery, the sandwich was exposed without a protective glass, left to the effects of time.
Ivan Perić prepared peppers stuffed with electronic parts, which he consumed during his performance at Mirabela. The rest of the dish was exhibited in the gallery as an electronic waste artifact on the plate, which became a sculpture in the full sense by moving from artistic performance and raised to the gallery pedestal. The artist, in a simple and witty way, questions bioethical issues caused by the inevitable genetic manipulation of food products, carcinogenic pesticides and toxic fertilizers, endangering our own homeostasis.
Milan Stanić shared papers with a message in Braille’s on Mirabela, which have remained unknown. The message was displayed in the gallery, without explanation or interpretations. The artist thus points to the frequent hermeticity of socially engaged contemporary art and the futility of such exhibition projects for the wider community.
Boris Šitum presented the audience with saints’ images, where instead of prayers, a local patriotic song was written (Na omiškoj stini / On the Stone of Omiš). Instead of the pictures of saints, there was a photo of a Homeland war veteran’s hand, missing the index finger, raising two fingers to create the letter V (peace/victory sign). This gesture of solidarity and resistance – that became known as the symbol of victory after Winston Churchill used it during World War II – was used by Croatian Homeland war volunteers, but in the context of the lacking finger, it becomes the “fuck you” gesture, because the only visible finger is the middle one. In a painfully witty way, the work faces the contemporary Croatian society and the consequences of transition. The artist decided not to give the last picture away, but to exhibit it on the wall of the gallery, next to the lyrics of the song of Omiš.