Project: Secret Exhibitions

Where Are We Ivo?
Gallery SC, private flat, Zagreb, Cro, 2010
Action, installation

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One evening a year and a half ago I was trying to find one photograph from my childhood. I still don't know the reason why. This photograph was taken when I was about five. I still vividly remember that day. I was in a park near my house. My mum and my little dog were with me. There was a sign prohibiting people from walking over grass field. I was still running in my new red playsuit and rolling over that grass field and almost bumped into a shrub of carefully cultivated red roses. Our reason for going to this park was to take a few snaps of me and my pinscher who just won award at the dog competition. That had to be captured. Photshooting started. I still don’t know if purposely or not, somehow frame of those pictures captured a statue of Ivo Lola Ribar that was placed behind.

I never spoke too much with my parents about figure he was representing. Though my parents were anticommunist orientated, they never tried to influence about Ivo Lola Ribar. I was introduced to Ivo as some kind of a national antifascist hero from W.W. II. I assumed he was a ‘big fish’ because the park, the street and many other public institutions such as health institution were named after him.

In the early 1990s, the statue was removed over the night, street name and institutions names were changed too. I remember even then, to me as nine year old child the story of changing values and meanings over the night was unconvincing. There was something odd about it.

The only thing left was massive monolithic marble pedestal, sticking out from the ground, still surrounded by the red roses, empty, representing nothing, meaning nothing, strongly emphasize nothing.

For years I was passing by that empty plinth, a relict of history, a mutilated phallus, an eunuch of the present. But that night, this absence of my private photography invoked an awareness of emptiness. Not just physical emptiness or, in other words luck of figure that was once existing but it emphasized the absence of understanding for all the period that was growing for these years.

Raising awareness of emptiness, caused by systematical and almost successful elimination and erased memories initiated an avalanche of questions. The gap had to be filled with a new meaning, or better to say, just a meaning and my own understandings. Nothing could stop me from further massive research.

I began with the study of his biographies and continued with reading his private and published letters. Trying to reach the facts, I was constantly dealing with different and contradictory assertions or meanings with the possibility of ambiguous readings.

Over night 'The big fish' turned to 'The bad guy'.

After reading, questioning, interpreting different interpretations of Ivo Lola Ribar life and deeds, a curiosity made me to continue my research.

As part of completing the puzzle, missing part, bronze bust had to be found.

In an attempt to fold and reconstruct the story around the monument, I found myself in a Kafkaesque process.

In the last ten years the passion created around his name somehow calmed down. So I could continue with my research without great concern of the way it will be observed.

Using the identity card of the visual artist, I search for the missing part of the puzzle, a bronze statue figure of Ivo Lola Ribar.

I started to contact all the institutions that might be related to or know something about the statue. I contacted City Institute for Protection of Monuments of Culture and Nature, Ministry of Culture, Department of Art History, local community, Anti-fascist Association and many others. Although all the officers I contacted have been receptive, no one was able to give me relevant information about the current residence of the sculpture.

At that time I was hang out a lot with the young Croatian curator Ivana Hanacek. I spoke with her about my research. At that time Ivana was engaged with her new project ‘Secret Exhibitions’. 'Secret exhibitions' functioned as an interdisciplinary collaborative platform consisting of curators, artists, historians and art historians. Their critical review, analysis or project exhibitions were supposed to contribute to the clarification of the complex mechanisms of censorship and destruction of art that had been developed within the process of post-socialist transformation.

All the programs exept the final one were placed at private locations.

She got interested in my private project and asked me if I could update her with the news about my research. Which I did.

After many unsuccessful attempts to locate figures, I finally got a positive response from Croatian History Museum of Fine Arts Secretary stating that Croatian History Museum of Fine Arts has in the collection of 20th century, two bronze sculpture or Ivo Lola Ribar, made by sculptor Kosta Angeli Radovani.

I was so excited that I had to contact Ivana the curator. I wrote to her immediately:

‘OMG! I could not believe when I read it. Costa Andgeli Radovani! I did not know he made it. They removed it in early 1990s when I was nine or ten. I so didn’t know of Radovani at that time but now precious.’ I was shouting trough my words.

Kosta Angeli Radovani was one of the most prominent Croatian Sculptors of 20ct; I was really excited about that.

All story all of sudden, from then till now; become an element of public interest. Spontaneously it turned into a project and become a part of ‘Secret Exhibitions’ research and was supposed to result with final exhibition and presentation.

Since the whole story began to receive public attention main museum curator was kindly requested to make her statement of issue. What she refused with an excuse that she is engaged with too many project at the moment and can not take a time for this one.

Still somehow we managed to find a common language with them. The museum director even agreed to lend the sculpture for exhibition purposes. We conducted a verbal agreement and the whole thing was just supposed to go trough paper bureaucracy framework. The only condition was to ensure sculpture at the insurance company and hire security guards for the event. Which we did.

After all the director of museum concluded that the bronze sculpture originally intended for the exposition in a public space with all the security measures taken was still not safe for being exposed in a private area.

Even without statue exhibition was held.

But statue was missing.

My private photography was still missing too.

And that emptiness was becoming louder.

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