The Howling Wilderness of the Maladaptive Struggle in Belgrade in New York
Between 1974 and 1975, Zoran Popović, a conceptual artist from Belgrade, Yugoslavia, and his wife Jasna Tijardović, an art historian, spent a year in New York. During that time they engaged closely with the New York Art and Language group. This friendship and collaboration resulted in a rare instance of East-West exchange in Conceptual art: Popović and Tijardović published both co-authored and individual articles in the US journal The Fox, and members of Art and Language (Mel Ramsden, Michael Corris, and Jill Breakstone) gave a seminar in Belgrade’s Student Cultural Center in the fall of 1975. One of the most important outcomes of this exchange is Zoran Popović’s film Struggle in New York—Борба у Њујорку, which he made on his return visit to New York in the fall of 1976, and which features the members of New York Art and Language and other artists and activists from the downtown Manhattan art scene of the mid-1970s. This essay argues that in this film, Popović uses documentary techniques to establish a space for the display of radical artistic practices that engaged in a vigorous critique of art institutions. In so doing this film marks a limit position of institutional critique that approaches the idea of the abolishment and abandonment of art practice altogether. Further, the essay explores some differences between Conceptual art practice in Yugoslavia and the United States, arguing that Popović uses the crisis that tore the New York Art and Language group apart to address the unraveling of politicized Conceptual art practice in Belgrade’s Student Cultural Center.
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