It was a Sunday and the store was closed, but a friend and I bussed into town just to confirm that this really was a purveyor of hot wax. Sure enough, sellotaped in the window were three of their more attractive artifacts, with titles at once cryptically enticing — LiveR Than You‘ll Ever Be, Seems Like a Freeze Out, Yellow Matter Custard – huh?
Opening sentences of Clinton Heylin’s book Bootleg: The Secret History of the Other Recording Industry, which explores the chronicles of underground music culture, are used as introductory lines to the concept of exhibition Tracks and Traces by the curator Katharina Schendl. Just up the street from the Belgrade City Museum, where the exhibition is showcased, a vivid music pirate market was taking place during the 1990s in the Serbian capital. Small labels were established around this bootleg production, offering a wide range of musical genres on CDs by both international and local performers. In 2003 artist Andreas Fogarasi developed two works in relation to this vibrant practice of the Belgrade urban culture – he translated the titles of the pirate CD labels Digital Justice and Sound Traveller into large neon city lights. One of them is now exhibited on the façade of Belgrade city museum, overseeing a busy intersection just down the road from what was used to be its vending spot.
Dialogues with urban landscapes and the stories emerging from fragments of their overlapping tactile and acoustic biographies, such as the one described above, are spatially articulated by Vienna-based artist Andreas Fogarasi and Belgrade-based artist Saša Tkačenko as Tracks and Traces inside the monumental yet run down interior of the City Museum. The exhibition space itself carries a distinct history – performing the premises for Belgrade City Museum, but never actually hosting its collections, the building was erected as military academy in 1899-1900. Another city chronicle to be recounted…
The exhibition offers a multifaceted assembly of materials, sounds, words and moving images that dwell into the narratives of architectural and gestural forms as constructions supporting the dynamics of urban sceneries. In Tkačenko’s sound performance Under control the shape of Atrium in Tirana’s National historical Museum is exposed by a verse from a song by The Strokes, performed by a drummer and transposed to museum space in Belgrade. Sudden drum beats offer a tact for the long corridor mapped by two Fogarasi’s Placemark sculptures (Serbian White and Macedonian Gold), the refined shapes of two local stone types that compose the outlines of architecture design in the city.
Shifting from historiographical preoccupations and memory staging, the conversation with the socialist experience in urbanity – as another trace upon which the exhibition is constructed – occurs through examination of the manner in which the ideology cultivates the sphere of collective and the public. Fogarasi’s Kultur und Freizeit video work recorded in various cultural centers in Budapest during the socialist period, as well as Tkačenko’s Pavilion, a replica of the auxiliary building to the never commenced Museum of Revolution in Belgrade, pose questions about the modernist procedures and visions of social progress in dialogue with the promises of post-socialist incertitude(s). A distinctive sculptural attitude in thinking about and reconsidering emblems and actions, which constitute appearances and representations in everyday culture and its spatial economies, provides a structure for the reflective interplay between the two artists, implicating the given museum architectonics in this exchange.
Another city light tracks the course to the finale of the exhibition narrative. The 9-chanel video installation by Tkačenko offers a studious sculptural analysis of a massive commercial sign overlooking the city panorama as the camera gradually captures its contours. This City light is an insignia of a well-known private company that marked the turbulent period of 1990s in Belgrade by playing an entirely contrasting societal role than the small-scale pirate CD production from the opening of the text.
If shaping the city sounds like stones, metal and neon lights, its rhythm stems from images of self-narration.
Text: Ana Bogdanovic
All images © Ivan Zupanc