produced by Skills Division, Beograd
assistants: Vaso Lukić, Filip Zarić, Goran Marinić
produced by Ban Drvo, Debeljača
ARMATURA, architectural hymn
choir members: Aleksandra Vilotić, Ana Karlović, Danilo Šolović, Đordje Ilić, Filip Zarić, Goran Marinić, Maja Konstantinović, Midica Milovanović, Milica Vilotić, Tamara Milanović
Snežana Skoko, Sanja Stamenković (textile), Saša Djukičin (web design), Vladimir Brašanac, Čedomir Kovačev (translations, web design), Dušica Parezanović (documentation), Darka Radosavljević (text), Eric Eng (translations)
Ministry of Culture, Republic of Serbia
Nebojša Bradić, Minister
Serbian Union of Architects
Association of Belgrade Architects
Ministry of Culture, Republic of Serbia
printed by Standard 2, Beli Potok
On a cold, rainy, hopeless evening, a select few and those in the know set out to attend an event which they did not know much about, except for a puzzling information in the invitation which read, “Premiere performance of the Architectural Hymn – a love-technical poem, Faculty of Architecture, Belgrade, 8 November 1993, lecture room 301, 9 p.m., ARMATURE, armature, that’s what bonds us together…”, along with the score, and the names of participants, producers and assistants.
The central hallway of the Technical Faculties building was festively decorated with banners and posters (the Armature’s graphic identity was the work of Branko Pavić, a graphic artist and assistant professor of fine arts at the Faculty of Architecture), but were it not for a lad who was giving directions waving his Armature flags, hardly would anyone find the 'clandestine meeting place' in the attic of the awe-inspiring building in the Revolution Boulevard.
Members of audience were entering the lecture room in small groups, taking turns every fifteen minutes. Those who were patiently queuing, waiting for their turn, were baffled by the change that they noticed on the faces of people who were coming out. And the people coming out had smiles on their faces, being truly in a good mood and content that they ventured out of their homes in the first place and into an uncertainty.
Each of five performances of the Architectural Hymn, composed by Ana Kara-Pešić, observed the same scenario. However, those who were present at the first performance fared the best. At the very beginning, after the introduction of participants by Dragan Protić, a member of ŠKART group, the organiser and creator of the event, the dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Mr. Mihailo Živadinović, at his personal request, announced prior to the first Armature performance, read out an introductory address:
“ARMATURE, THAT’S WHAT BONDS US TOGETHER
Armature bonds us together with a steely embrace of its iron heart. It bonds us together with its bars, stirrups, hooks, anchors and wires. It may be: pre-stressed, strained, compressed, twisted, cranked, spirally twisted, suspended. It resists stretching, failure, breaking, torsion, shearing stress and other Fascist elements.
ARMATURE – a whole poetry in a single word. At the end of this tiring speech, let’s exclaim in unison:
ROLL THE BARREL, VIVA-LA-ARMATURE.
The audience, equipped with special paper caps and small flags, were thrilled by the scene. While Mr. Živadinović was speaking, members of URGH (thrash/speed metal or something like that) band were on the stage, horn players above them, and to the side – girls from “Josip Slavenski” music school choir, while underneath the dean’s feet, there was Mr. Marc Hawker, an architect and body artist from Scotland (whose life, apparently, would be significantly changed by his one-month stay in Belgrade), lying. To the left, for the duration of the entire show, lay actor Miodrag Mišić was drowsing in an armchair, and to the right, there were Mikrob’s family members, standing (a week before the Armature premiere, Saša Marković, an artist performing most often under his pseudonym of Mikrob (Microbe), but as of recently also as Bridegroom, when asked what his greatest wish would be that a shooting star could make come true, said he would want a wife and a beautiful child; Armature made his wish come true).
Under ŠKART’s discreet guidance, the hymn performance was progressing from the URGH’s version of the hymn, while tireless Mr. Hawker was grappling with a red laser beam, to the horn players and “Josip Slavenski” music school choir, whose members were ardently clutching reinforcing bars, taking occasional pauses in singing so that another lay actor, Goran Savčić, could recite the lines, “Had I lived in that building, I would’ve incessantly, through an open window, caressed the façade… Had I lived in that building… Had I lived”.
After the performance, the audience were leaving the Technical Faculties building, taking away proudly the Armature paper caps and small flags, which they probably, even now, keep with special reverence in a prominent place.
Irrespective of how strange, eccentric, humorous, emotional, extraordinary, dream-like and removed from everyday drudge what happened that evening may have looked like, Armature is yet another argument in favour of the proposition that a very distinct phenomenon is in the making in the nineties in the contemporary culture of Belgrade City.
From the seventies, when engagement in conceptual art was the issue of one’s critical stance, through the eighties, which featured expression, carefree attitude and lightness, we have reached the nineties in which art (creativity) is the only way out, a way to preserve one’s personality. Of course, this refers to those persons by way of whose sensibilities certain time is recognised and remembered, and who are smart and strong enough in present circumstances to endeavour to protect themselves from the society without a system, collapse of morality, brutal daily sensations, and physical and psychological injuries.
In this seething Balkan chaos, a couple of years ago, ideas started cropping up, after which semi-illegal art projects were timidly coming to the fore, and they laid foundation for a new parallel cultural scene, a grassroots and disregarded phenomenon, which is even being undermined by the society at large, by both those in power and the opposition. Implemented projects like PRIVATE-PUBLIC by LED ART and URBAZONA in a wider sense, or ARMATURE in a more narrow sense, form a new art wave instigated by artists themselves, which, for the most part, propagates through, or relies on, like-minded individuals and those with suppressed, pent-up creative energy.
Anyhow, the Armature premiere performance was supposed to take place two years ago at the Applied Arts Museum’s Architectural Salon, but was put off because of a potential scandal that might break out, or, as the museum’s curator later put it, “They were too radical for that time”. Have the tastes and art scene changed so substantially in these past two years? Perhaps they have. A novel situation where artists join forces, support and encourage one another, rallying round in the process other benevolent ‘operatives’, creates conditions for different assumptions of an artistic action. It would be both hard and pretentious to attempt to classify and interpret this phenomenon (which is mildly reminiscent of the Russian art experiment’s experience) from the history-of-art viewpoint.
What may be singled out as indicative is that the existing situation has given rise to, above all, a sociological necessity for the formation of new groups for the purpose of satisfying spiritual needs, devoid of aspirations to gain potential societal or material acknowledgement. A new possibility in contemporary art has been created – full freedom of expression and self-responsibility vis-à-vis passing time and history. In a position of isolation, there is no room for a compromise.
15 November 1993
Almost seventeen years after the premiere at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade, in late August 2010, in a completely different setting, a different audience will have an opportunity to experience a new performance of Armature – Architectural Hymn – a love-technical poem. In Giardini, ARMATURE opens the ŠKART art group’s exhibition-project named SEASAW PLAY-GROW - Non-Equilibrium Ground, representing Serbia at the Venice Biennial of Architecture. This time PROBA (=REHEARSAL) choir, consisting of former HORKEŠKART choir members and featuring several 1993 premiere participants, will perform Armature.
More than sixteen years on, Armature has withstood all the pressures, strains, ruptures, breaking, torsion, corrosion…
Audience and performers, who were present at the premiere of Armature – Architectural Hymn – a love-technical poem, constituted a particular social network of, both then and now, “different” persons reluctant to accept stereotypical models and solutions, but willing to search and create seemingly unusual combinations of socially acknowledged and unacknowledged forms. Albeit completely contrary to the exacting characteristics of an armature, the unusual network based on underlying spirituality, shared sensibility and commitment persists to date. Parts of the network are scattered over all walks of life; some go, and then come back; some grow stronger, and when some of them wear themselves out, they are replaced by new ones.
ŠKART ARMATURE comprises a multitude of little/big people. It is hard to make an estimate, but about a couple of thousand people all over the world are participating in its creation and maintenance.
Ever since Dragan Protić and Đorđe Balmazović set up ŠKART art group, as a product of quarrels / dialogues between two personalities, in a derelict graphics studio at the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade, the group was alternately expanding and contracting.
Žole and Prota are an odd couple. While Prota is making an effort to find time and show understanding for everything, to do favours even when he cannot possibly do them, to get in touch, to agree and forget, “hovering” somewhere in-between, Žole looks at the world around him in a more rational way, with a down-to-earth approach, and seeks to be in control. On the face of it, they are totally different and could hardly be envisaged as individual authors set apart.
It has never been clear who exactly, except for Žole and Prota, makes up the Group. The question is whether it really is a group or it has evolved into a movement in which many partake developing and supporting what these two authors manage to kick-start through distinctive designer enterprises and initiation of various artistic actions.
By intertwining graphics and performance, by involving many contributors and associates, they are relentlessly creating a unique environment consisting of carefully selected (public) space, human energies and experiences. Their “public works” in the border area of art and activism always target very accurately crucial societal problems drawing attention to (un)common people – our neighbours, friends, passers-by…
From Armature – Architectural Hymn, through music performance piece of Lili Marlon where the main actors were choirs of pensioners and sailors, and the creation of Horkeškart or Proba choirs, to the present-day project of Pesničenje (Poetree), a platform for take-off and landing of all sorts of creative individuals has been in the making.
Whatever ŠKART group members did, it would come to life through the presence and participation of others. Many of their graphic design works that arose from projects like “Sadness”, “Your Shit, Your Responsibility” or “Coupons” are today the artefacts which themselves speak about a certain point in time of a society. Each of them tells a long story seasoned with destinies and movements of nameless persons who have been zealously promulgating and sharing them as verbal messages moulded into small visual objects.
The majority of the actions performed had their lifetime, the beginning and the end. Armature is something else, something more comprehensive. Throughout all these years it has been peeping out every now and then.
When ŠKART set up HORKEŠKART singing group in 2000, one of the first actions took place once again at the Faculty of Architecture. Unannounced, en masse, they stormed into a crowded, astounded amphitheatre to complement the lecture on metal constructions with a concert starting with ARMATURE. Later on, in 2005 and 2006, ARMATURE was formally performed in the same place, in the grand amphitheatre, on the occasion of presentation of matriculation books to first-year students.
From the very beginning, albeit performed at the Faculty of Architecture, ARMATURE was addressing a much wider audience. Like architecture which makes no sense without the presence of people, this love-technical poem makes no sense without those who make up the armature. And these are the kind of people who were there in November 1993, in those troubled times, at the Faculty of Architecture.
It is a troubled time today as well. It is different, but troubled nonetheless. There are threats no more of physical injuries that might be inflicted by the then raging Balkan war chaos, but psychological injuries and immorality are clear and present threats spreading beyond this geographical region. The need for communal spirit in mental oases is even bigger. Hence, increasingly more people take refuge in them. Art has come out of galleries and museums, and calls on us to join in, to participate, to help find its free, its own alter ego.
The present-day ŠKART art group has many faces and facets. ŠKART is “Proba”, and “Pesničenje/Poetrying”, and when women and men are sitting in city squares embroidering “Kuvarice”. It is something like a movement consisting of a plethora of creative individuals who wish to partake in this informal community.
If ŠKART is a movement, then Armature is its hymn. Just like the hymn itself chants, “ARMATURE, armature, that’s what bonds us together”.
Darka Radosavljević Vasiljević
1 August 2010
Typically, pieces of white linen embroidered with idyllic scenes and traditional proverbial sayings that used to decorate kitchen and bathroom walls in rural areas.