b / w video, MP4 video file
Goran Trbuljak (1948) is one of the most prominent representatives of Conceptual art in Croatia, as well as one of the first Yugoslav artists who embraced video technology. Van Schley and Willoughby Sharp, two American artists, were responsible for the emergence of the new medium in Croatia, who, as the former curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Marijan Susovski said, “brought video equipment with them and revived the interest in video among Zagreb artists.” Trbuljak recorded his first video in 1972, however, the decisive event for his video work was the exhibition “Audio-Visual Messages”, held in 1973, as part of the Trigon international biennial art festival in Graz. In Graz, Trbuljak recorded five short videos, which are characterised by an analytical approach to the video medium. Trbuljak was more interested in where the limits of the new technology were than in what it could do, especially in relation to other visual arts. Three years later in Motovun, at the first and most important video art festival in former Yugoslavia, Trbuljak recorded four videos (two were recorded in the meantime in Gdańsk and Zagreb). All videos are titled “Untitled”, a reference to abstract painting and a signal to the audience to understand the videos as works that deal with the properties of the medium. However, from today’s perspective, it is difficult to see only the image of a medium in these works, especially when the video inadvertently (?) documents a cultural practice of the time, such as listening to gramophone records together. Specifically, the camera in the foreground records a portable turntable playing two singles, that is, songs: “Da mi je znati koji joj je vrag” by Bijelo Dugme from 1975 and “Moja generacija” by the Korni Group from 1974. In the background of the filmed scene, we see body parts of three people in conversation. We don’t know what they are talking about, or what they look like, just like we don’t know what the man who is playing the records and who disappears from the foreground after the second songs starts, looks like. The camera is constantly fixed at and slightly lowered towards the table where the gramophone is playing. The gramophone is the compositional and symbolic centre of the video. It, in turn, emits messages that, depending on the social position of the observer in the Yugoslav socialist system, can be interpreted as contradictory of complementary: the song by Bijelo Dugme, in fact, speaks about winning girls’ hearts, while the song by the Korni Group – which represented Yugoslavia at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest – speaks about the responsibility of young people for the future of the country.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: still image from the video / From the National Museum of Modern Art's archives