Open Reel, 1976
b/w video, MP4
Dalibor Martinis (1947) is one of the pioneers of video art in Croatian and Yugoslav art. He made his first video works in 1973 in Graz (Austria), in collaboration with his then partner, Sanja Iveković. Initially, Martinis was attracted by the socio-utopian aspect of the video technology: he actually saw it as a counterpoint to public (state) television. In 1973, for example, together with Iveković, Martinis recorded “TV Timer”, a video that consists of twenty or so one-minute interventions into the regular program of Austrian state television (both artists would later make several other videos openly confronting the medium of public television). The new technology, therefore, soon became a new medium – an instrument suitable for simple and fast production and distribution of video content. However, the full potential of video technology had not been reached, mostly due to technological and institutional limitations in the field of distribution. Marijan Susovski took note of this development in 1982, when in one of the first reviews of video art in Croatia, he wrote that Martinis, after 1976, turned towards the relationship between video technology and his own artistic identity. “Open Reel” belongs to this phase of the artist’s work. It is a recording of a video tape being wound around the artist’s head: the artist’s head plays the role of the second reel on the video recorder. This spooling is the only content of the video, so when the face is completely swathed in video tape, the recording is over. The video (what we see) is thus tautologically connected to video technology (what is making the recording), and technology is then tautologically related to the artist (the one who records). In fact, tautology was one of the favourite procedures of conceptual artists, and in Croatian video art we can trace it through the video works of Goran Trbuljak, Braco Dimitrijević and Mladen Stilinović. The same could be said for the humour or irony that characterise the “Open Reel”, as well as most of the artworks of other conceptual artists.
Text: Klaudio Štefančić, senior curator of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Photo: a still image from the video / from the National Museum of Modern Art's archives