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Born in 1937 in Sombor (Kingdom of Yugoslavia, today in Serbia), died in 2010 Zagreb, Croatia.
Tomislav Gotovac was film-maker, photographer, visual artist and performer. He studied at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb (1955 to 1956) and enrolled in the Film-directing Program at the Academy of Performing Arts in Belgrade in 1967. He graduated in 1976.
Since the early 1960s, he introduced social themes in his work that he approaches critically, using a contemporary language with a radical attitude. This structuralist filmmaker and actionist looked not to politics, which he considered dead, but to art as a vehicle for change. He marched naked in public spaces in an attempt to provoke a state built on mass docility, asserting his difference amid hard-line social conformity. He ridiculed all positions of power and “all those who serve the power, regardless of political and social systems”.
Along with his actions, Gotovac made experimental films and, in 1964, inaugurated the golden age of Yugoslavian underground cinema with three of his works. Gotovac showed an early interest in film watching film classics in Zagreb's cinemas. In mid-1950’s, he atendend screenings and meetings at the Kino-klub Zagreb (Cine-club Zagreb) where he met some of his future collaborators. His artistic career began in the 1960 with a series of photographs (Heads 1960, 1960), soon followed with other photographs relating to his body as main subject (Showing Elle, 1962; Breathing the Air, 1962; Hands, 1964; Posing, 1964; Heads 1970, 1970 and afterwards Heads 1981, in 1981). He made his first experimental film in 1962 (Death). For experimental-documentary films such as The Forenoon of a Faun (1963) and trilogy Straight line (Stevens-Duke), Blue Rider (Godard Art) and Circle (Yutkevich-Count) (all made in 1964) he received several prizes on films festivals.
Beside work in photography and film, Gotovac made a great number of collages in 1964-65, inspired by work of Kurt Schwitters. He did his first performance piece Our Happ in Zagreb in 1967. In most cases his provocative actions were not announced and performed in front of wide audience such as Streaking (1971), when he ran naked through street in Belgrade, or Zagreb, I love you! when he walked naked and kisses asphalt in the center of Zagreb in 1981.
He is the author of the first happening in Yugoslavia (Zagreb, 1967) and the first streaking (Belgrade, 1971), and various photographic series that he presented as movie sequences or as documents of his performances, such as Showing Elle (1962), Hands (1964), or Streaking (1971). In 1971, Gotovac ran naked through Belgrade's Sremska Street. Gotovac reenacted the performance ten years later on Ilica, Zagreb's main street, in his performance entitled Zagreb, I love you (running naked, kissing the asphalt). The performance shocked Zagreb's otherwise dormant public. It downplays the recuperation of his opus within the narrative of Croatian national art history and the usual clichés of the underrepresented dissident who fought for the freedom of artistic expression in the dark times of communist repression, as the story goes in the standard readings of the 'body in socialism'. The selection of his works attempts to accentuate specific procedures whose strict discipline and analytical possessiveness often trespassed into excess and transgression, to reinforce once again the systemic organising principle that underlies them, maintaining their autonomy as the ultimate responsibility to the self-devised and perfected system whose iron logic governed Gotovac's life and art.
In mid-1980’s Gotovac performed several actions dressed in different costumes such as Superman, street-cleanner, chimney sweep, mummy or Santa Claus. He spent years doing performances close to body art in public spaces, that were provocative in their content and purposely shocked and scandalized the civic environment. Gotovac’s exceptional popularity or the fame of his “rhetorical body” is based on photographic performances that made his artistic practice accessible to the general public. Gotovac’s cult status is based on a creative and existential persistence in identifying art and (his own) life, on the consideration of creativity as an extension of the artist’s existence and the anticipation of art of individual mythologies through (his own) realization of the absolute uniqueness and inadaptability of artist’s personality. For these reasons, Gotovac’s performing charisma was immeasurable, and his performances –especially when they referred to the relationship between art and politics– were anthological.
In 1984 he proclaimed Paranoia View Art as series of activities such as performances and exhibitions of documents. During his whole artistic career, Gotovac was using his own body as the subject, showing all physical changes without hiding. Such an example is photo cycle Foxy Mister (2002), where Gotovac reenacted the same poses as female model published in porno magazine.
In 2005, he changed his name to Antonio Gotovac Lauer as an act of dedication to his mother Elizabeta Lauer.
Gotovac is viewed as an artist whose innovations had a major influence on later generation of visual artists, filmmakers and performers. His cult status is based on a creative and existential persistence in identifying art and his own life, stated that When I open my eyes in the morning, I see a movie.
Gotovac was widely presented in Croatia and abroad. Among most notable recent exhibitions and screenings are solo shows in Galerie Frank Elbaz, Paris; Edward Krasinski Studio, Warsaw (2012), 54th Biennale di Venezia, The Croatian presentation (2011); Moderna galerija, Ljubljana (2009) and numerous group shows: Formas biográficas. Construcción y mitología individual – Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (2013-14); The Freedom of Sound: John Cage behind the Iron Curtain - Ludwig Muzeum, Budapest; Naked Men from 1800 to the present - Leopold Museum, Vienna; The Naked Man - Lentos Kunstmusem, Linz; Ludwig Muzeum, Budapest; Zagreb kino klub; Performance, action & film - Centre Pompidou, Cinema 2, Paris; Yugoslav Experimental cinema - Anthology Film Archive, New York; Una sexta parte de la Tierra. Ecologías de la Imagen / One Sixth of the Earth. Ecologies of Image - MUSAC Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, León (2012); Museu de les narratives paral-leles / Museum of Parralel Naratives – MACBA, Barcelona; Socialism and Modernity: Art, Culture and Politics 1950 – 1974 – Museum of contemporary Art, Zagreb (2011); Promises of the Past. A Discontinuous History of Art in Former Eastern Europe - Centre Pompidou, Paris; Masqué – Bregenz, Magazin4 Bregenzer Kunstverein (2010); Gender Check - Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe - Museum Moderner Kunst Vienna (2009) Cutting Realities. Gender Strategies in Art - Austrian Cultural Forum, New York (2008).
Tomislav Gotovac by his own words
I did not make distinction between life and film. I don't know if I can explain this... I am now watching, I am watching a movie...
I wanted to be completely informed, about all things, I was interesting in everything.
There's one thing which cannot be explained easily, that is, I can't explain it well... It was that we started to recognize – not the content of the films and not their genres, but the rhythm which every individual person brings, the lifeblood and breathing which that person gives to each film. You feel that behind every film stands – if the film is good – a person who is, for example, nervous, who enjoy pans, tracking shots, who is keen to close-ups, who has a certain rhythm of cuts... we talked about those things. The content interested us only in relation to a procedure.
Things happened, as it was, only in my head. I simply enjoyed myself – I would be reborn every time I entered a movie theater! And if something appealed to me, I would then watch it a hundred times... it's true that things came together in my head.
I simply felt this irresistible need to go to the movies. I simply wasn't interested in the content anymore, all at once the content flew out. After the tenth viewing of Rashomon you no longer have anything to say about content.
I said: „Considering that I am interested in photography, let's go make a film by photographs“.
In 1963 I shot the film Forenoon of a Faun. It was conceived to be in three segments of one scene each. All three parts were filmed with a camera which was fixed on a tripoid. In a first part there is no change in the focal length while in a second and third parts the focal length changes – in a second part it goes only in one direction and in the third part it goes back-forth; zoom. In the first segment something is happening in the scene, and the camera is static. In the second segment there is nothing happening in the scene, a wall is being filmed but there is a change in the focal length zoom-in on the wall. And in the third part there is action in the space, and it comes to change in the focal length. And to chaos. In the first version titles were used to the first part: „It is necessary to live...self-confidently“...
The Forenoon of a Faun had the meaning of manifesto for me.
I am constantly intrigued by what there is in the relation between my eyes and what it is I am looking at. What makes one thing one way, another a different way? What determines this? That is why I made this distinction: this scene, that scene, that scene. In all likelihood other things also existed. On the one hand I am expressing my awe towards the rhythm of things which I recognize among others, but at the same time it is struggling within me: well, where are you?! And it is not enough for me to be my own movie, that as soon as I open my eyes in the morning, I am watching a film. No, I mean, look... that may seem funny but to me that is the greatest thing, that: a movie. But, considering that I cannot present my eyes to the crowd and say look, that has to come out somehow. That is why I am against psychology, sociology,... no. look, that exists without me... that is why I am against a message as disfigures that in itself. I can't explain it.
One more thing arises here: Why do I want to appear before the public? The crowd won't accept you, you are boring, after all you are sufficient only yourself. You don't need cinema, nothing, you go out and watch a movie. I try to answer myself, what exactly is happening here, and what it is that I want. That is my downfall. Do I step foreward, from myself, or not. I look at what is intended for wider communication. I am watching a movie. Which means, I am always included within. As soon as I enter into it, I am already watching a message, it is not made because of what I think. but in an entertaining way to uncover that what the person in question intended. And in a fact that what interests me is where I am in a whole scenario. Will I jump out from myself or not.
Everything that I did in life were little pictures to pictures.
Sex is present in all the films. The sexiest fellow who was ever on film – do you know who that was? It was Bresson. His film, A Man Escaped is pure sex. That scenen where those two take off, you know what that is... I am oversimplifying now, but that is... that is spermatozoid that has succeeded in getting into the egg. That part where he escapes, that's where he?s managed to pass, that?s one of hundred million. it's the same with Pickpocket. Dreyer in Jeanne d'Arc, even that is pure sex, and his Vampire. And not to mention Stevens... A Place in the Sun – that reeks on sperm.
I actually really like people, and I love life, I love everything, but I don't like uniformity, that bothers me, and becoming a stereotype bothers me, and I am bothered by all those things that are canonized. You see, I never really thought about that. That just come to me spontaneously. I didn't even think that my behavior would be another type of behavior from the ordinary. It seemed to me that this would be interesting to people, nothing more.
I think that I get the most enjoyment out of my own films. But I think I would be the happiest then when I wouldn't have to do anything more than just watch.
You have to live, that's the thing. The thing is: when I began to work, I called this my first direction; I did this simply to have them leave me alone, so that I could watch my movie non-stop. That was a table and papers, a table and papers, a table and papers... For me this was completely normal. A movie in itself. When I would go to movies, I wouldn't go to entertain myself, I would go to work. I considered every one of my outing to the cinema as work. For me film was reality. That is why I revel in watching, that is why my every gaze is a film, as soon I open my eyes . film. When I look at something, I am creating once again.
I would like to make a film which begins with something and ends in something and vice verse. I don't know if I am expressing myself precisely, but I am fearful of saying it because I would like it to be said through the medium I love best, through film.
I found it was impossible for me to make a „normal“ film, that is to say a short or a feature film. My ideas remained within intimate spheres. I pictured the project and was also the author of the scenario, the director and the actor. Through the films I realized that everything in life is direct and that events fulfill different scenarios present everywhere around us. Spontaneity is ued as coverage, yet as soon as you scratch it a bit, you realize that spontaneity is not present in any social act.
All of my works are a kind of essay. So the title of my performances contain the titles of some films, while some films intentionally appear as fine art. Look why the performance Lying naked on the Asphalt (Zagreb, I love you) refers to Howard Hawks' film Hatari!. In Hawks film hunters in Africa hunt animals for Zoos around the world. The film begins with an unsuccessful chase of a rhino. In this film, each animal has its special significance, all of them refer to a certain human feelings and situations: friendship, jokes between friends, love, love passion. There are rhinos, monkeys, elephants, small elephants, ostriches... The chief animals the rhino, they first fail to capture it, than they chase other animals, and at the end of the film they manage to capture a rhino too.... How did Hawks treat rhino in his film? As a mature love passion. The rhino has no scruples regarding anything, it will charge the tank or aircraft with its horn... The rhino symbolizes the rejection of the existence of any obstacle. For this performance I shaved my head and beard and my entire habitues reminded of that fucked rhino, that's why this performance is dedicated to Hawks.
Nakedness means: this is what I am, this is how I was born, never mind whether ugly, or fat, or with a short or long cock... that is not important at all. But if you want to have anything to do with me, then you should know! When one expose his nakedness, it is like telling others: why do you have your clothes on? Take off your clothes and than we can compare. That way you challenge to a contest but in a passive manner. I did not just show up and strip somebody's clothes off, but I took off my own clothes.
Prohibitions are a part of the scenario and part of stage directing. But none of those who impose prohibitions observes them. So, why not violate them? As long as you do not damage the integrity of another, do not cause evil and do not insult anybody directly...
Verónica Francés (1983, Valencia). Ha realizado exposiciones colectivas en más de una decena de espacios, entre ellos La Galería Railowsky, la Facultad de Bellas Artes de Cuenca o la Escuela Técnica de Diseño de la UPV. En 2008 fue galardonada con el Premio Nacional Valencia Crea de Videoarte, y en el mismo año seleccionada en el concurso Click&Rec de PhotoEspaña. Este año ha participado III Encontro de Artistas Novos en Galicia, coordinado por Rafael Doctor y en la Bienal Internacional de Arte Visual Universitario de México. En estos momentos cursa el Master de Producción Artística en la Facultad de Bellas Artes de Valencia.
Una acción abierta que se construye en la mirada de la espectadora. Una acción digerida por diferentes estómagos.
Una acción que es siempre la misma, pero siempre es diferente. Una acción que es muchas acciones.
El proyecto vídeo-llamada-acción es el resultado de 63 videollamadas realizadas por internet mediante Skype y una retrasmisión en streaming en directo. Estas videollamadas fueron desarrolladas entre febrero de 2011 y marzo de 2013 a personas a las cuales realicé una performance en exclusiva, siendo ellas únicas espectadoras de la acción. El proyecto fue dividido en tres partes: Serie I, Serie II y Serie III. Cada una con una estructura definida que analizaba un aspecto diferente en cuanto a la relación del artista y el espectador en el arte de acción. Las espectadoras directas de la acción debían estar solas delante de un dispositivo que les permitiera conectar a internet y utilizar el programa Skype. Durante nuestra conexión yo realizaba una acción. Una vez terminada la llamada, la espectadora tenía veinticuatro horas para enviarme un texto, un objeto o una fotografía según la serie a la que correspondiera. Estos elementos constituyeron la documentación de la acción que ya no se trataba pues de un registro directo de lo sucedido como podría ser una grabación en video o fotografías del momento de la performance, si no la mirada del espectador construyendo la acción, una acción digerida. La acción vuelve entonces a su concepción inicial de obra efímera, lo sucedido no es documentado en tiempo real ya que es el espectador el que mira y a la vez construye.
Tal como expone Jaques Rancière en su libro El espectador emancipado, los espectadores no son observadores pasivos, tienen un contexto social y político que condiciona e interpreta la mirada.
“El espectador (...) participa en la performance rehaciéndola a su manera, sustrayéndole por ejemplo a la energía vital que ésa debería transmitir, para hacer de ella una pura imagen y asociar esa pura imagen a una historia que ha leído o soñado, vivido o inventado. Así, son a la vez espectadores distantes e intérpretes activos del espectáculo que se les propone”.
Del mismo modo, la interpretación está condicionada por la forma, la estructura y los caminos por los que nos lleva la lectura de la obra. En la performance se crea una estructura, un juego de intensidades y ritmos. Para que esta organización fuera controlada por el artista y a la vez presentara una lectura creativa, se propusieron una serie de acciones abiertas y ambiguas que direccionaban la mirada de las espectadoras mientras dejaban espacios abiertos a la (re)interpretación. Así se creó un código y un sistema de relaciones en el que no se trataba de crear piezas pobres, sino de crear piezas ricas en posibilidades.
La acción que dio comienzo al proyecto e inició la Serie I se realizó el 29 de abril de 2011. La Llamada 0 fue realizada sin espectadores, por lo que no existe documentación de la misma. En la Llamada 1 se repitió esta acción a la primera espectadora, ésta una vez terminada la acción elaboró y me envió un texto, el cual sirvió de partitura para la siguiente acción realizada al segundo espectador, así sucesivamente hasta un total de 22 veces. Se creó de este modo una estructura de espiral. La última acción fue realizada en abierto el 22 de marzo de 2013 a través de streaming.
La Serie II se inició con una videollamada el 7 de diciembre de 2011 y terminó el 18 de enero de 2012. En esta primera llamada repetí la acción realizada en la Llamada 0 de la serie anterior. Ésta acción fue repetida diez veces a diez personas diferentes, cada una de ellas me mandó un objeto que representaba su experiencia de la acción visualizada.
La última parte del proyecto empezó el 12 de marzo de 2012 y finalizó el 30 de mayo de 2012. Se creó una nueva acción la cual fue repetida treinta y dos veces a treinta y dos personas. Estas espectadoras debían mandarme una fotografía realizada una vez terminada la acción.
Los datos de las llamadas, capturas de imagen de webcam antes de iniciar las acciones, textos, objetos y fotografías conforman la documentación del proyecto.