Conference “The place of performance and city-making”

Scientific conference

The place of performance and citymaking

April 4, 2016

Zagreb, Klub HDLU, Meštrovićev paviljon, Trg žrtava fašizma 16

Organizing committee: Valentina Gulin Zrnić, Nevena Škrbić Alempijević, Josip Zanki

The conference is organized by the projects CreArt (Croatian Association of Visual Artists, EU), and City-making: space, culture and identity (Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Croatian Science Foundation); and in the collaboration with the Department for Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb

 Check the programme here (in croatian).


Suzana Marjanić, Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb

Performance of the city: local scene

Observing the dichotomy between Split and Dubrovnik and bearing in mind the psychotopic wordplay of Danijel Dragojević in his essay Split – grad na ulici [Split – city in the street] (Slobodna Dalmacija, 1962), I will look at Dubrovnik as a city of interiors, an introverted city, versus Split as a city of exteriors, an extroverted city. I employ Handelman’s dichotomy between public events as models (events shaped so that they transform) and public events as mirrors (events that act as presentations or representations). I chronotopically  follow the performance of the city/cities in their local scenes, considering the aforementioned architectonic introversion and extroversion. Likewise, John Rennie Short, a geographer and anthropologist, distinguishes between three basic discourses of the city: authoritarian, cosmic and collective.

A particular emphasis is on the dichotomy between the authoritarian city vs public events as models. An example is the recent (2015) counter-protest of Njec Hranjec, frontman of the punk machine Abergaz, who read aloud Marija Jurić Zagorka’s complete novel, the Secret of the Bloody Bridge, at 77 Savska St. (Zagreb), which took 15 hours and 15 minutes. Particularly interesting is that the artist-counter-protester, or, as Aldo Milohnić would designate him – “artivist,” determined that the quoted artivist action, a “novelist-peacemaking performance,” was a social experiment. My colleague and punk artist said that he chose the novel of Marija Jurić Zagorka because it is related to the theme of the event, which demonstrated the futility of the conflict between serfs (two opposing parties in a conflict) because of the interests of the gentry – in today’s terms, the Parliament  and the President. In the meanwhile, the contemporary counterparts go on joint business trips to corporate centers and the authoritarian cities of the EU.


Kirsti Mathiesen Hjemdahl, Agderforskning Kristiansand, Norway

Innovation and re-invention by art: upcycling, performing and curating

Innovation is the headline of numerous cooperation between research and art, with the intention of creating an edge, making statements, commenting, highlighting, changing or challenging. While businesses, institutions, cities and other spatial places seem to be increasingly aware of the notion of “innovate or die”, programs that encourage and stimulate transformations by exploring knowledge borders seem to attract more actors also from the artistic, cultural and creative sector.

The author will present and discuss three such specific Norwegian cases, where artists work together with researchers to invent and re-invent places: 1) Upcycling the city – artists and researchers engage groups of youngsters who normally aren’t engaged or wanted in public planning and development processes. The aim is to explore how upcycling processes in the city’ “trash areas” (streets, public places and buildings), can be processed by means of artistic street art and installations. 2) Performing the road – inhabitants give input to site-specific performances along an apparently futile road, to highlight hidden treasures, oddities, marks and stories that make it worth paying attention to or maybe even stopping the car, and 3) Curating the fjords – the International Music Festival invites tourism companies to curate the fjords of Norway for international art- and culture audiences, instead of “being packed” into a tourist experience by transport companies or hotels. All three projects are ongoing, in their initial phases. The discussion will therefore focus more on the motives, aspirations and questions, rather than the results and evaluations. All cases will be contextualized theoretically and methodically, and reflected particularly in relation to an ethnological perspective.


Andrej Mirčev, Academy of Arts in Osijek

Anamnesis, Archive, Antifascism

This paper maps the methodological-discursive strategies that were the guiding principle of the course, Theory of Space and Shaping – part of the curriculum of the Department for Fine Arts of the Academy of Arts in Osijek. Starting with the thesis that space (especially in its urban configuration) is never neutral semantically, or comprehensible as a mere empirical fact, but is the effect of relational-topological social practices, i.e., materialized consequences of ideological-historical conflict, we will focus on the analysis of a series of interventions in a public space which were thought about and implemented by the students of the college course.  Considering that the teaching process was interdisciplinary and shifted among media, the artistic operations also moved across disciplines and media (performance, photomontage, video, site-specific, installation), ensuring that the insight, articulation and provoking of urban experiences came from the perspective of suppressed and censored narratives. The consequent mixing of theoretical-speculative engagement and particular practices of work in space and with space, resulted in the realization of the emancipatory pedagogic model, whose primary goal is to activate spatial (auto)reflection and phantasy. Thematically, these works attempt to locate the symptoms of transition, devastation/commodification of what is public, and revisionism in the modes of their placement in particular spatiality. While developing and reflecting on the artistic project within the experimental model of the critical-dialectical dealing with space, alternative modes of perceiving the city are generated, as fields of class, economic and worldview antagonisms. Dealing with space becomes a model of extended artistic education, approaching art both aesthetically and through responsible social action.


Sanja Potkonjak, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb

For „complete socializing.“ Artistic transformation of a postindustrial town/work

This paper was prompted by thinking about one artistic action performed within the Festival of Ironworks SisakCommon town/work in summer 2015. It was led by the festival’s slogan of perceiving a city as a “live place of cultural exchange and production.” While questioning the aesthetic dimension of a devastated industrial legacy, I address the idea of the transformation of industrial production to cultural production. I exhibit in this paper the mnemonic artistic action which connects ethnographic critical reflection with artistic activism. Mnemonic can be defined here as a kind of work at invoking memory and its social activation, i.e., shaping of referential framework for understanding “the present of the past” (cf. Crtalić 2011, 2015).

The project, the “Alphabet of the Ironworks” by Rene Rädle and Vladan Jeremić unfurled as a space-specific performed action. It was designed using ethnographic methods and performed with the desire to integrate the artists and the community through an attempt to evoke the common creative legacy of Ironworks Sisak and art colony Sisak. The action pinpoints the “downfall of the modernistic project of the society,” trying to remind the community of the importance of the trust in science, the role of political economy and the significance of the metaphysics of solidarity (cf. Holmes 2000: 161). The project is explained as an evocative artistic exercise in remembrance of the city of Sisak as the center of industrial manufacturing. It is a mnemonic artistic exercise which revives the industrial past of the city/labor and at the same time calls for the transformation of the post-industrial community through values expressed by socialist industrial modernization.

By combining the insights of postindustrial anthropology, which is engaged with ruined industrial landscapes, urban ruins and the collapse of the urban community, with the poetics of ethnographic experimenting, which follow the “ethnographic turn” in contemporary artistic practices, the paper wants to point to some new models of artistic practice in the time of transformation of the postindustrial city/work. Such artistic practice is led by the idea of “representing by delegating” and “dialogic aesthetic,” founded on coopting critical, collaborative and engaged principles of ethnographic research in designing and performing the artistic project.


Nevena Škrbić Alempijević, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb

The ethnological and cultural-anthropological view of city-making with artistic performances

The paper focuses on artistic performances in urban public spaces, viewed as generators of various strategies and tactics of city-making. Artistic interventions are monitored as nodes in which politics and practices of management and the usage of city spaces meet and, occasionally, confront one another, as arenas in which the dominant mechanisms of the creation of meaning of city are affirmed, redefined and questioned. Emphasis is on the articulation of urban space and way of life from the perspective of artists and initiators of artistic performances. This analysis also deals with experiences and reactions of all other actors who, with their narrations and practices, participate in the creation of the city and create with others the relations towards art in public spaces, which range from the incorporation of art into one’s own practices of city-making to the negation of such practices or censorship in public spaces. I will review here some recent theoretical and methodological theses in which anthropology of performance and anthropology of place and space intertwine, and give insight into the possibilities and scope of ethnological and cultural anthropological research in interpretation of artistic ways of city-making. I will also address the potentials of linking artistic practices and ethnological and cultural anthropological approaches to the analysis of the city during reconceptualization of the city, which differs from dominant trends, by putting into the forefront the heterogeneity of experiences of urban spaces and their incessant creative rewriting. As an example of such mutual intertwining of the positions of researchers and artists, I will point to the project realized in cooperation with the Croatian Association of Visual Artists and the project City-making: space, culture and identity, within which artistic reactions were created in a dialog and synergy with artists and students of ethnology and cultural anthropology.


Gordana Vnuk, Eurokaz, Academy of Dramatic Art, Zagreb

Theatre and public spaces of the city

Globalizing processes which transform European cities invite new forms of performing arts which would redefine the concept of passive ambiance and actively engage in cultural transformation of urban spaces. I will try to show with specific examples various approaches to public spaces as places of performance, from the festive site-specific events of the 1980s and early 1990s that were an unavoidable part of festivals and spectacular ceremonies, to conceptual projects of the last twenty years, which investigate the place and role of art in relation to “real life” within urban landscapes, relying on active participation of dwellers and their interaction with their environments and the artistic process itself.





Upcoming Events

  • Project is supported by Croatian Science Foundation
  • Project leading institution: Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb
  • Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology
  • Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Department of Geography