Novi Sad Neo-Avant-garde Collection
The exhibition hosted artwork of different individuals and groups from that period, included video documentation and reference publications and was realized in wallpaper format. The members of New Media Center_kuda.org from Novi Sad curated the exhibition.
Novi Sad, Serbia
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Name of collection
The Continuous Art Class, The Novi Sad Neo-Avantgarde of the 1960’s and 1970’s
Provenance and cultural activities
“The Continuous Art Class project is a megastructure and a living structure, not an organized archive” explained Zoran Pantelić of New Media Center_kuda.org in a conversation with COURAGE.
Pantelić emphasizes the difference in the interpretation of socialism’s role in repressive processes towards artists in former socialist countries such as Hungary, Poland and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). That long 50-year period is often subject to oversimplification, he holds, because interpretation relies on stereotypes about Soviet domination and hence on a victimization discourse. Polish and Hungarian society differed from that of the SFRY. Pantelić understands socialism as being widely emancipatory in Serbia and the SFRY, where poverty prevailed before the Second World War. He explained that general knowledge was enhanced and the phenomenon of worker’s self-management led to new organizational techniques.
Furthermore, Pantelić stresses that there was a diversity of interpretations of practices within the SFRY. It is important to understand a number of ideas before explaining these avantgarde operations. For example, the traditional framework for valuing artistic activities stems from art education. Members of groups related to the institution ‘Youth Tribune’ gathered on the margins, since there were still no art schools in Novi Sad. These young people were the children of workers, who struggled for their position in culture. They showed interest in literature, sociology, philosophy and film, but not so much for the visual arts. Since literature was their primary platform, they gained interested in the Index magazine, which developed into their medium. The written word was their connection with the public, which is how they shaped new relations. In 1971 they rejected exhibiting at the Paris Biennale (for young artists), considering the event to be a market affair. Pantelić noted that nobody guaranteed them a place in history, but it did not trouble them.
Pantelić also explains that the structure of culture in Belgrade was different, that it was mainstream oriented and party connections interfered. Young artists in Ljubljana on the other hand had space to conduct their work, while politicians in Novi Sad had no interest in understanding them.
Protests in 1968 in SFRY differed from those in France. The group within Youth Tribune with around 35 members were able to question the political and cultural situation and to be much more critical, but it ran into great resistance and misunderstanding. Most of them were in their early twenties or younger and presumably feared political pressure, since they did not know what kind of sanctions or punishment could follow. Zoran Pantelić thinks that “Slavko Bogdanović and Miroslav Mandić had the most political knowledge within the group and they had the energy to be the driving force.” After the group disintegrated, many of its members moved abroad or to other cities.
From 1968 to 1971, while Judita Šalgo was program director of Youth Tribune, there was a space for public dialogue and critique of the political system in Novi Sad. Judita Šalgo recognized the group of very young artists engaging in radical poetry, publishing in Index magazine, and invited them to be program directors at Youth Tribune, an institution established by the party. As the main program director, Judita had to provide a spoken and written account of their work every month to the city’s committee of the League of Communists, explained Pantelić.
Within a few months in 1971, the artists Slavko Bogdanović and Miroslav Mandić were given yearlong sentences. The Student Cultural Centre and Index magazine and its editorial board were shut down, while the management of the Neoplanta film production company, Új Symposion magazine and Youth Tribune were deposed. In Pantelić’s belief, the artists were the biggest victims, because their role pointing towards the avantgarde and a new kind of dialogue was not recognized by the political establishment. Zoran Pantelić told COURAGE that “no one in Yugoslavia experienced the kind of repression exercised in Novi Sad, which led to the “Yoghurt” Revolution in 1988, because it killed the category of public dialogue in Vojvodina. In 1974, Vojvodina was granted a great constitution, which recognized its autonomy, but its capacities as a territory were at the lowest point, since there was no intellectual strength which could develop public dialogue.”
The Yoghurt Revolution is the name of mass protests in Novi Sad, organized by the supporters of Slobodan Milošević. Protesters threw rocks and cups of yoghurt on party officials. The protests brought down the government of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and put the supporters of Milošević into power. They changed the constitution of Vojvodina and of the Socialist Republic of Serbia, depriving Vojvodina of its autonomy.
The groups constituting the neo-avantgarde scene in Novi Sad did not have infrastructural support from the city and they started a series of group performances titled Public Art Class. Kuda.org adapted the title and changed it to The Continuous Art Class, thus relating it to the organization’s long-term research program and marking the 50th anniversary of Youth Tribune towards which kuda.org took a critical approach. The exhibition showed important artwork and their political context. The Continuous Art Class was initially a single event and exhibition, but some of its components remain active.
The exhibition was organized with a group of actors, and specific pieces of art have been reanimated with the aim of making them relevant to current social contexts. Artists were invited to discussions, and the opening of the exhibition was accompanied by a public discussion on the official politics from respective periods, with the famous film director Želimir Žilnik as moderator. Latinka Perović, who served as a secretary of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Serbia during that respective period, was one of the speakers at the public discussion.
It was important to analyze and to critically examine events in Novi Sad and even more so in Youth Tribune in order to properly structure the exhibition. Youth Tribune was established as a place for critical examination, but it was transformed into the Cultural Center of Novi Sad, which has since adhered to the political mainstream. “The Continuous Art Class is still happening, since there still is a misunderstanding of artists and their ideas” says Pantelić.
Description of content
“The exhibition The Continuous Art Class at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Novi Sad is part of a long-term project entitled The Continuous Art Class; a symbolic follow up of The Public Arts Class project, which was carried out in 1970 on the Danube Pier in Novi Sad by the active members of the contemporary conceptual artistic scene.
The Continuous Art Class aims at presenting a fruitful and creative production through documentation and action, and through exhibitions and performances of great significance for the region and Europe. The realization of this project indicates a common belief that it is possible to reinterpret the importance this artistic scene had for art at the time.” The interdisciplinary approach of the exhibition on The Continuous Art Class itself reflected the subject which it examined by utilizing the visual arts, linguistics, performance art, conceptual art, philosophy, sociology and literature. (The Continuous Art Class, 2005, p. 12)
Works of the groups (Ǝ and (Ǝ– KÔD created between 1970 and 1972 were exhibited in collaboration with two artists, Slobodan Tišma and Čedomir Drča. A number of highly politically relevant items were included: “An Open Letter to the Yugoslav Public”, “Song about Film”, which led to the incarceration of Miroslav Mandić and “Song – Underground Youth Tribune, Novi Sad” by Slavko Bogdanović, which also earned the author a prison sentence. There was also an introduction by part-time editors of the magazine Polja, Tibor Várady and Vujica Rešin Tucić. While working on the exhibition, kuda.org requested access to the archives of the Novi Sad Cultural Center, but were denied with an explanation that the archives were unusable due to poor maintenance.
While the exhibition was being prepared, during the research phase, interviewees revealed that they were significantly influenced by the Neoplanta film production company between 1968 and 1970. Within a short period of approximately 5 years, this the group of people around Neoplanta won the most awards in SFRY as well as numerous international awards. These achievements are not officially recognized as part of Vojvodina’s cultural heritage, mainly a political decision, as the artists were open-minded people, politically ‘unsuitable’ for their positions while the main editor and close collaborators were ‘too flexible’ and thus replaced.
The Continuous Art Class started as a single happening, an event, but certain works were re-performed and research followed thereafter. The exhibitions took place as a sort of architectural intervention – a wallpaper, with photographs and drawing arranged following the chronological order of events. Original artwork was not exhibited.
The curators did not want to focus on the art collection itself or approach it in the manner of art historians and gallerists. The artist’s manner of creating their work, the way they met, organized and made decisions, their strengths and radicalness regarding certain concepts, and, consequently, the way they decided to stop working were of greater importance to the curators. This exhibition gave the artists media visibility, a new topic of discussion opened up and between 2005 and 2015 demand for their work from private art collectors grew. For kuda.org the only significance for the artwork is its role in the further development of inquiry.
Kuda.org borrowed artwork and related documents, made digital copies, reprinted them in wallpaper format and returned them to their authors. Books and other publications which were acquired for the exhibition can be found in the kuda.org library and media archive. Private collectors and museums afterwards purchased the original manuscripts and 8 mm film reels.
Pantelić stated that most media outlets ignored the exhibition, as is common when the events in question are significantly critical and political. The creators of the exhibition expected this kind of media response but, according to them, were not concerned as they had ‘a different concept of reflection’. After its premier in Novi Sad, the exhibition was shown in Zagreb, Budapest, Graz, Vienna and Minneapolis, while it was presented in part in a number of other locations. Publications were sent to archives of art institutions, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others.
- film: 0-9
- other: 10-99
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 10-99
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Novi Sad, Serbia
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Important events in the history of the collection
- parts are closed to the public
- Members of New Media Center_kuda.org, Tomislav Medak, Petar Milat, Omitted History / Izostavljena istorija, 2006 URL http://www.kuda.org/sites/default/files/docs/Izostavljena%20istorija_0.pdf
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Author(s) of this page
- Vukmanović, Jelena
Zoran Pantelić, Kristian Lukić, Katherine Carl, Branka Ćurčić, The Continous Art Class, The Novi Sad Neo-Avantgarde of the 1960’s and 1970‘s / Trajni čas umetnosti, Novosadska neoavangarda 60-ih i 70-ih godina XX veka, 2005
Branislav Dimitrijević, Marina Gržinić, Pavle Levi, Jurij Meden, Dominika Prejdova, Branka Ćurčić, For an idea – against the status quo: Analysis and Systematization of Želimir Žilnik’s Artistic Practice / Za ideju – protiv stanja: analiza i sistematizacija umetničkog stvaralaštva Želimira Žilnika, 2009
Members of New Media Center_kuda.org, Tomislav Medak, Petar Milat, Omitted History / Izostavljena istorija, 2006
Političke prakse (post)jugoslovenske umetnosti: Retrospektiva 1, 2009
Boris Buden, Uvod u prošlost, 2013
Nebojša Milenković, Kristian Lukić, Primeri nevidljive umetnosti / Examples of Invisible Art, 2012
Pantelić, Zoran, interview by Vukmanović, Jelena, June 01, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection