In his photomontages, film projections and minimal approach to exhibition design, David Maljković returns to a group of themes time and again. The artist challenges the codified language of ‘exhibition practices’, chips away at the Socialist modernist utopias particular to his native former Yugoslavia and repeatedly returns to and modifies his own pieces. In short: he skillfully jumbles a range of past material with the specificity of the present moment.
Maljković’s third solo exhibition at Georg Kargl Fine Arts was no exception. Entering the gallery, the visitor first encountered a digital alarm clock embedded in a low-lying pedestal (Untitled, 2004). The clock was manipulated to show the wrong time and in a barely legible script. From the start, the exhibition divested ‘time’ of linearity and function. The confusion continued throughout the show with the display of older works and familiar, adapted motifs, like the wall hanging (Untitled, 2014) showing a studio light reflector panel from a previous Maljković exhibition at the gallery.
A Long Day for the Form (2012–14) is a white platform located in a hallway leading to the gallery offices, roughly in the middle of the exhibition spaces which are nested one within the other. The quiet chirps of a cricket echo through the space. The work carries the same title as two other pieces that were exhibited in 2012 at Sprüth Magers and Kunsthalle Basel. In this new iteration, interaction becomes a central element. In order to continue to the rest of the exhibition, the visitor has to walk across the platform (leaving footprints) and enter into the gallery’s office area. A small bronze sculpture was housed in a cardboard box filled with green styrofoam chips (as if about to be transported). Built into the pedestal it adds a further temporal layer: the piece will be included in an upcoming solo exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris this autumn. Here, it’s offered as a preview of sorts.
The main gallery space plays host to Afterform (animation) (2013), a projection screen on a diagonally placed platform that fills most of the large room. The screen shows a five-minute film populated with cartoon figures that Maljković adapted from a Yugoslavian architecture magazine published in the 1960s. The piece offers a cynical critique of the failures of the utopian visions prevalent in former Yugoslavia. In the video, two clueless architects engage in an absurd chess match, with toy building blocks for pieces, and a bartender is beaten to death by the clock/pedestal from the first untitled work. This is Maljković’s first animation, but here too, the artist remains true to his themes. The film cites older pieces, both in content and form, and offers a parody of modernist utopias of architecture and urban planning. In the photo collages New Reproductions (all from 2014), Maljković tore and cut up materials from older works and put them back together, layering scraps of inkjet prints on alucore.
Despite all the self-referentiality, repetitions and appropriations that rely on recognition value, the exhibition steers clear from being boring or redundant. Maljković’s investigations into his own art history, evaluations of the history of former Yugoslavia, the artistic avant-garde of the 1960s, the absurdities of socialist architecture and failures of these modernist utopias, take something old and make something anew.
Translated by Jesse Coburn