The CAPC Museé d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux recently inaugurated a new programme of exhibitions conceived and curated specifically for the institution’s seductive spaces by Charlotte Laubard: the group show ‘Lost Worlds’, which considers memory, disappearance and oblivion, and three related solo shows – Diego Perrone in the main space, Laurent Le Deunff on the museum’s terrace and David Maljkovic in a side-wing.
Born in Croatia in 1973, Maljkovic has attracted attention over the past couple of years for a series of solo shows and for his presence at a number of important group exhibitions in venues such as KW in Berlin, Artists Space in New York and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. His name also became prominent, somewhat unfortunately, when he was unexpectedly excluded by the commissioner, Zeljko Kipke, from participating in the Croatian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. In recent years his work has developed in the form of two related projects: the trilogy ‘Scenes for a New Heritage 1–3’ (2002–6) and These Days (2005). Each of these narratives-in-progress comprises either a video – the main medium in Maljkovic’s practice – or occasionally photographs, collages and drawings, which are reminiscent both formally and conceptually of the radical and Utopian architecture of the 1960s and ’70s. As the title of this exhibition, ‘Days Below Memory’, might imply, Maljkovic’s interests lie in suspending, slowing or looping time. His works constitute a cultural and historical exploration of the events of Croatia’s recent past, through confrontations between the country’s current younger generation and its historical monuments, and also present his interpretation of the future for former Soviet bloc societies.
Maljkovic’s art is open and fluid: the narrative structure of the episodes from which it is composed can be manipulated and reordered. At the CAPC, he underscored this ability to reinvent his approach through a careful dialogue with the museum’s architecture, by dividing a wing of the building into distinct thematic areas. In the first he presented the two video episodes of These Days (2005) and Lost Memories from these Days (2005–6), shown on small screens supported on wooden stands designed by the artist; in the second he presented the video Again for Tomorrow (2003–5); and in the third he installed the entire series of ‘Scenes for a New Heritage’ on large-format screens supported by precariously assembled cardboard panels. Set between 2045 and 2060, ‘Scenes for a New Heritage’ centres on the monument designed by the artist Vojin Bakic in memory of the Yugoslav victims of World War II, realized in Petrova Gora in 1981. Over the course of three episodes Maljkovic presents three different moments in time and the varying attitudes groups of young people have towards this historical and architectural icon. While they initially approach the monument with a feeling of wonder and disengagement – apparently unaware of its function or history – a new relationship to the memorial is progressively established, as it becomes a sort of recreational meeting space for new groups of young people.
Maljkovic’s other projects, These Days and Lost Memories from these Days, take as their point of departure another architectural icon from recent Croatian history: the Italian Pavilion at the Zagreb Fair (established by Josip Tito as a rare example of economic exchange between East and West), which was in its heyday in the 1960s and '70s, but which today languishes in a state of semi-abandonment. In these works, the hypnotic nature of the gestures and words of the protagonists creates an effect somewhere between the hallucinatory and the absurd: in one instance a group of young people mechanically repeat, in a trance-like state, what sound like phrases from an elementary course in English; in another, through physical gestures that are decelerated until they become almost sensual, girls describe their relationship to cars: symbols of a future that seems never to arrive. The columns of the iconic Italian Pavilion – a monument to what was once a successful economic and cultural dialogue between the former Yugoslavia and the West – appear to be echoed in a set of polystyrene shapes that lock the tyres of the cars the girls describe to the land: prevented from moving, the static vehicles seem to allude to Croatia, a country whose potential is effectively being hindered until it enters the EU in 2009.
Like the fragments of a thought that slowly piece together, Maljkovic’s works steal up on us gradually, transporting us to a dimension outside of time, where the past and the future are invisible poles between which flickers a uniquely imagined perception of the present.