Slovenia: Voices of Transition

Imago Mundi

Contemporary Artists from Slovenia

"In many situations of artist’s labour, the conditions and value are misunderstood in the market and money driven contexts; therefore I strongly believe that we need to fight for a true understanding of work and the motivations that fuel it. Bare survival is a reality of many, poets as workers. We need to redefine the idea of success, see it as a fist of clay that has to be molded by many hands into a new shape. Togetherness is not only a word, it should be the world.” These words by Jaša, one of the most prolific and influential contemporary artists from Slovenia, protagonist of the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015, outline an innovative and participatory idea of art, very close to the Imago Mundi project, and as such represent an ideal introduction to this collection that brings together so many contemporary Slovenian artists.

Andreja Eržen - Tilly after Joseph Cornell (2016)

Historically part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire and then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, from 1945 Slovenia was a federal state in Marshal Tito’s Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia. In June 1991, Slovenia was the first of the republics to unilaterally declare its independence, and completed the separation from the federation after a brief, low intensity conflict, known as the ‘Ten-Day-War’. As such, it remained largely sheltered from the violence of the civil war that instead characterized the secession of the other Balkan republics.

Dragan Živadinov - Postgravityart UMBOT::MG (2016)

Geographically small, with a population of around two million inhabitants, Slovenia is conscious of its importance as a hub between the Germans, Slavs, Magyars and the Mediterranean, and has always seen its destiny in Europe: in 2004 it became part of the European Union and, three years later, relinquished the tolar in favour of the euro.

Arjan Pregl - Bangladesh Textile Workers (2013)

Rich in history and tradition, from the early Christian culture of Aquileia to Charlemagne, from the Benedictine monasteries to links with Venice and with Central European civilization, today Slovenia is moving quickly towards the future. In 2015, industrial production jumped by more than 5 per cent and Standard & Poor’s has upgraded its credit rating from A- to A.

Zora Stančič - Fear Has Big Mouth (2013)

One sector showing particularly strong growth is tourism, thanks to the great richness and variety of its natural and historical heritage. Slovenia is, in fact, the greenest European country after Finland, with beautiful valleys, lakes, pristine rivers and forests that cover more than half its territory.

Ištvan Išt Huzjan - For U.C. of Benetton (2016)

The Triglav National Park, for example, which comprises a large part of the Julian Alps on the borders with Austria and Italy, is the first and only Slovenian national park, established in 1924, and one of the best preserved in Europe; with Mediterranean, Alpine and continental flora, it is rich in rare plant species. Slovenia is also home to more than eight thousand karst caves, including Postojna, Trebiciano and Škocjan (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986), which are among the most beautiful and famous in the world.

Lučka Šparovec - Papaya (2016)

The small stretch of Slovenian coast overlooking the Adriatic Sea, in turn, is a mix of nature and history. Piran, a picturesque village dotted with red- roofed houses, is embraced by the sea and traversed by walls and towers dating back to the Serenissima. The Cathedral of St. George is a miniature copy of that of San Marco in Venice and the main square hosts the birthplace of composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini and the Venetian House, a pink fifteenth century building, whose facade bears the inscription Lassa pur dir (let them talk): according to legend this is a message addressed to gossips from the wealthy Venetian merchant who had the house built for his mistress.

Borut Peterlin - Self-Portrait with Dog (2016)

The larger cities, of ancient medieval or Renaissance origin, are also on a human scale, well ordered and full of greenery. Like Ljubljana, voted European Green Capital 2016 by the EU Commission, which has become, with its nearly three hundred thousand inhabitants, a model for every medium- sized centre on the continent. A true urban laboratory of sustainability, with a third of the territory covered by forests, bans on construction and a rubbish collection system that already enables almost 70 per cent of waste to be recycled. All this in a city that boasts visible ruins of Roman Emona and an elegant old town, which, enclosed by the hill of the castle and the Ljubljanica river, is rich in examples of European Baroque, elegant Austro-Hungarian architecture and Art Nouveau buildings. Its layout also reflects the influence of the highly personalised style of Joze Plecnik, one of the major architects of the first half of the twentieth century, who redesigned Ljubljana after the earthquake in 1895, combining neoclassical inspiration with ideas taken from the Egyptian, Byzantine and Islamic worlds.

Bojana Križanec - More Black than White (2013)

Protagonist of a revival that in a just few years has transformed it into one of Europe’s most vibrant cities, Ljubljana feeds on rich cultural ferment, as evidenced by the more than twenty university faculties with a population of over 40,000 students, three academies of fine arts, the Opera House, seat of the national opera and ballet company, and numerous museums (the National Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art, the Modern History Museum, the Ethnographic Museum), which were joined in 2011 by the MSUM, acronym of the new centre of contemporary art. This extremely varied and lively landscape is further enriched by the international Biennial of Graphic Design and, since 1994, the U3 Triennial of Contemporary Art.

Alan Hranitelj - Seven (2016)

Today, in the winding streets of the historic centre, between Trubarjeva street and Krizevniska street, a profusion of art galleries, theatres and music clubs are to be found. Alternative culture reigns in Metelkova, the artistic and eclectic district that was transformed into possibly the world’s most successful urban squat in 1993 following the occupation of the area by Mreža za Metelkovo, an independent association of artists and intellectuals who
opposed the destruction of the former Austro-Hungarian era barracks.

Aleksandra Saška Gruden - Frenzy on the Brink (2016)

In Ljubljana, the key word is participation, in art as well as in social and ecological commitment, a bottom- up process that is driven by the younger generations in particular. In fact, culture has always played a significant role in the history of the Slovenian population. Enclosed between the Alps and with just a limited projection onto the sea, they nonetheless enjoyed a vibrant cultural scene in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example. Far from being confined in their restricted environment, if anything Slovenes have always been ready to open up to wider horizons through a continuous dialogue among academies, newspapers, cultural centres and theatres, woven between the cities of Ljubljana, Maribor, Graz and Vienna, but also with Munich, Prague, Venice, Florence and Paris.

Gašper Kunšič - Drink It Up (2016)

After World War II, in particular, once it overcame the canons of socialist realism, Slovenia witnessed the emergence of new currents linked to the European artistic avant-garde, with, for example, the conceptual commitment of the OHO Group (1966-1971). And later, with the free spirit in constant flux of the IRWIN artists’ collective that was established in 1983 from an association of young punk and graffiti artists in Ljubljana, who came together and founded a group initially called Rrose Irwin Sélavy (like eros c’est la vie), referencing the female pseudonym chosen by Marcel Duchamp.

Uroš Weinberger - Behind the Scene (2016)

In 1984 they founded, in collaboration with the musical group Laibach and the theatre company Gledališče sester Scipion Nasice, a larger group
of artists known as Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK), New Slovenian Art, which subsequently involved artistic collectives active in graphics, video art and philosophy, based on a tangible idea of collaboration and sharing.

Igor Štromajer - This Is Not A Love Song (2016)

As the coordinators of this collection, Claudio Scorretti and Irina Ungureanu, write in their introduction, collectives and arts groups “also stand out in this Imago Mundi collection, as direct participants in the project (such as BridA or Eneor), but above all cited in the biographies of the artists as significant milestones in their training.” An enthusiastic participation, fully espousing the collective (and universal) values of the Imago Mundi project, that testifies to the vitality of the Slovenian art scene and the willingness of the artists to embrace the unusual challenge of the 10 x 12 cm format. The result is “a ‘Pavilion’ which, without claiming to be exhaustive and to propose one-way selections, presents itself as a research laboratory, bringing in diverse artistic voices, sometimes contradictory, utopian images, camouflage tricks, dystopian figures and especially irony on reality, originating from the ideological, economic and political, local and global context.”

Elena Fajt - Futuring the Past (2016)

Jure Zrimšek - I Told Her, It Was Just for the Money (2016)

From the different inspirations, colours, forms and materials emerges a common, demanding investigation into today’s fluid and elusive reality and the attempt, sometimes an uphill climb, to identify a possible key to its interpretation. In the words of the Slovenian poet Kajetan Kovič:
You must be open
like a wound,
because the true name of things
is hidden.

Luciano Benetton

Tanja Lažetić - Balloon (2013)

Credits: Story

Art direction, photography and production

Project Management
Claudio Scorretti

Igor Španjol

Project coordinator
Irina Ungureanu

Valentina Granzotto
Barbara Liverotti

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Igor Španjol
Igor Zabel
Claudio Scorretti
Irina Ungureanu

Translation and editing
Emma Cole
Sarah Cuminetti
Tadej Reissner
Tamara Soban
Francesca Stopper
Pietro Valdatta
Igor Zabel

Nina Slejko Blom, Two Artists, One Line (II) (front) Conny Blom, Two Artists, One Line (I) (back)

Art direction
Namyoung An

Marco Zanin

Marco Pavan

Special thanks to
Mateja Kos
Ines Latić
Alvina Žuraj

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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