A pocket of energy in Cockatoo Island’s Industrial Precinct, in Marko Lulić’s short video work Space-Girl Dance (2009) a trio of dancers in binding space-themed costumes perform choreographed moves to a pulsing dance track. They chassé, fan kick and body roll against a backdrop of large stainless steel sculptures that dot the grounds of the estate of German sculptor Erich Hauser. The piece is comical and catchy, bizarre and more than a little silly; but true to Lulić’s body of work, there is more to glean beyond first impressions.
Space-Girl Dance is a lovingly reproduced homage to an eponymous segment of the series Raquel!, broadcast on the US television network NBC in 1970. It was then that the notoriously glamorous movie actor Raquel Welch made her television debut – when Lulić was just two years old. In the original Space-Girl Dance, a scantily clad Welch and her shiny support dancers gyrate and jiggle on and around sculptural forms that resemble gigantic pieces of Lego. The abstract, concrete shapes form part of the Ruta de la Amistad, or Route of Friendship, and were commissioned ahead of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to serve as permanent markers of the event. Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer, king of kinetics Alexander Calder and Australia’s own Clement Meadmore were part of the international team engaged for the commission. Space-Girl Dance was a sexy-space-bop-meets- touristic-promotional-video for the city. Since then, its population has more than tripled and what was once an obscure, quiet road is now a major highway. The sculptures have suffered neglect, vandalism and relocation.
Having grown up in the heyday of music videos, when MTV popularised the genre and made it readily available to the masses, Lulić is drawn to the energy of pop music and to methods of appropriation and recontextualisation. He tests the interesting quality of difference between the ‘original’ and his ‘copy’, which in itself is an original, a cover version. Notwithstanding a certain irony on Lulić’s behalf, there remains something sweetly earnest about both works.
There are, of course, other artistic concerns at play here: the relation of the body to space, movement to stillness, human to monumental, and the man-made to the natural world. Lulić considers spatial practice to be an act that explores more than just physical space; for him, it is a mode of work that tests all the connotations that the word ‘space’ can have – be they geographical, temporal, sociological, political or historical. An embodied formulation of this approach is taken by the artist in the video Reactivation (Circulation in Space) (2002/2009), in which he uses the metal rings of a 1971 sculpture by Vojin Bakić like a gymnastics apparatus. Pushing himself into somewhat ungraceful, uncomfortable positions, Lulić explores everything that is or can be understood as ‘circulation in space’ in the most literal sense.
With a multidisciplinary practice that is largely focused on urbanity and the sculptural, an exploration of modernism and the modernist aesthetic are central tenets of Lulić’s work. In particular, he questions, challenges and pays homage to the legacy of monumental modernist pieces, pursuing affinities between the present and past, ideology and social reality.
Lulić has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including ‘Psychogeography’, Gabriele Senn Gallery, Vienna (2013); ‘Death of the Monument’, Galerie im Traklhaus, Salzburg (2010); ‘Museum of Revolution’, Belvedere/21er Haus, Vienna and Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb (2010–11); ‘Unsocial Sculpture’, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Gallery, Reed College, Oregon (2007); and ‘Modernity in YU’, Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York (2005). Lulić’s works have also featured in international group exhibitions, including ‘Museum Show Part 1’, Arnolfini, Bristol (2011); ‘Morality’, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2009); and ‘Fare Una Scenata’, Fondazione Morra Greco, Naples (2009).