Monuments Should Not Be Trusted brings together
over 30 leading artists and groups from the “golden years” of the
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - the period between the
early 1960s and the mid 1980s.
Over 100 artworks and artefacts illuminate the key
contradictions of this single party state – built after WWII on
socialist principles, yet immersed in “utopian consumerism.” This is
the first time in the UK that the art of this period, which has
attracted increasing attention, has been shown in the context of the
social, economic and political conditions that gave rise to it. It
draws on new and innovative research on this period, and features
many of its most celebrated artists.
The exhibition begins with the rise of
consumerism, midway through President Josip Broz Tito’s 37 year
presidency, and ends a few years after his death in 1980. As well as
artists’ works in moving image, collage, photography, sculpture and
painting, the exhibition encompasses music, TV clips and fascinating
artefacts, such as gifts made by workers for President Tito’s
birthday, and relay batons which were carried across the country and
ceremonially presented to him.
Tito was the architect of the socialist federation
of Yugoslavia that lasted from 1943 – 1991/2, Built on the legacy of
the anti-fascist resistance movement, it brought together six
nations that maintained a peaceful co-existence during this period.
Tito cut ties with the Soviet Union after a dispute with Stalin in
1948. In 1951 Yugoslavia developed “self-management” within a
previously state-run economy, establishing workplace democracy and
profit-sharing. Along with Nehru of India, Nasser of Egypt, Nkrumah
of Ghana and Sukharno of Indonesia, Tito founded the Non-Aligned
Movement in 1961. It grew to 120 members, mainly from the Third
Yugoslavia had few restrictions on travel, meaning
that its citizens – and artists – were far more open to outside
influences than their Communist neighbours. During the 1960s artists
turned to conceptual art, known as new art practice. Artists working
around the new Student Cultural Centres in Ljubljana, Zagreb and
Belgrade drew on Pop Art, pop music and hippy culture to critique
their society. Black wave film - an outspoken critic of the Yugoslav
system – also appeared at this time.
Monuments Should Not be Trusted is a thematic
overview of the complexities of Yugoslav art and culture. Four key
themes – Public Space and the Presence of Tito, Socialism and Class
Difference, Comradess Superwoman, and Utopian Consumerism and
Subcultures – are explored in Nottingham Contemporary’s four
Public Space and the Presence of Tito reflects
upon the Yugoslav peoples’ complex emotional relationship to Tito, a
President with an unlimited term. Censorship “from above”, was
replaced by censorship “from within”. Many of the artefacts shown in
this gallery are from President Tito’s own collection, now in the
Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade, Serbia, the museum that
comprises Tito’s mausoleum, and many thousands of objects from his
Socialism and Class Difference looks at both
labour and the role of the artist during the Golden Period. By the
late 1970s Yugoslavia was suffering high unemployment that
threatened its socialist ideals. Student protests and underlying
ethnic tensions are also explored.
Comrades Superwoman addresses the complex issues
faced by women in Yugoslavia, where new equal rights legislation
co-existed with patriarchy in the private sphere. The growth of
magazines, film and advertising also introduced a new role for women
– the sex symbol.
Utopian Consumerism and Subcultures showcases the
explosion of punk and psychedelia that appropriated popular culture,
often humorously. These eclectic influences and media experiments,
expressed in music, video, screen printing and collage, culminated
in the emergence of Yugoslavia’s New Wave, the country’s most
definitive form of pop music, represented here in 80s music videos
and TV programmes.
Monuments Should Not Be Trusted is the largest
ever exhibition of Yugoslav art in the UK. Its title is taken from a
work by the Yugoslavian film-maker Dusan Makavejev.