The artistic research project “Exhaustion and Exuberance or I Can, I Can’t: Four Figure Studies” by Darko Dragičević was performed and documented at locations in Berlin and Belgrade between April 2021 and November 2022. Within this project, the artist explores the processes of performative embodiment and public speech through figure studies, reconstructions in the form of interventions in public space specific to the locations where they were performed, and audio-visual documentation processes.

In this way, Dragičević examines how his research affects the specific social characteristics of selected locations in Berlin and Belgrade urban spaces, paying special attention to his long-term presence as a researcher and short-term presence during interventions as a performer. Thus, he further analyzes how the proposed research-performance processes are manifested in the selected location and the audience’s relation towards the performed reconstructions.

In the spirit of Jan Verwoert, who, in his essay “Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform” (Sternberg Press, 2010), asks: “But what would it mean to resist a social order in which high performance has become a growing demand, if not the norm?,” Dragičević chose four existing works of art in which each of the figures expresses precisely not high performance, but collapse and falling through their posture in the selected spatial location. At the same time, each figure embodies a kind of thrill, as each is willing to accept the absurdity of its position. Here, by surrendering to falling and thus resisting the verticality of high performance, the figure outside the static image builds resistance during each re-enactment.

Exhaustion and Exuberance or I Can / I Can’t: Four Figure Studies is published as a series of re-enactments performed in four places in the urban space of Berlin and Belgrade. Speaking the texts of different authors, the artist re-enacts images of static postures of figures from the following three artworks: Thomas Ruff’s photograph The Emperor 06, Bruce Nauman’s Failing to Levitate in the Studio, one figure in movement which is Bas Jan Ader’s study for Broken Fall (geometric), Westkapelle, Holland as well as a documentary photo of one of Rodin’s authorized copies of his sculpture The Thinker which is lying toppled and damaged on the floor after the bombing that it suffered at the Cleveland Museum of Modern Art in 1970. Like a ventriloquist, Dragičević gives voices to these silent figures and assigns them also new locations: Ruff’s Emperor performs Charlie Chaplin’s speech from the film The Great Dictator in a supermarket, Rodin’s The Thinker makes John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing heard in a public square, and Ader performs Donna Haraway’s tale The Camille Stories: Children of Compost in a wooded park.

Darko Dragičević (1979, Belgrade) is a visual/performance artist, filmmaker and lecturer who has showcased his work internationally since 2003. Expanding the notion of artistic practice, he moves between the fields of visual arts, performance, choreography and film. He is involved in interdisciplinary projects and cross-media collaborations. Dragičević has shown his works in various solo and group exhibitions, festivals and curated programs such as Kunstmuseum Bonn, David Zwirner Gallery New York, The Armory Show New York, Oberhausen Film Festival, Ann Arbor Festival Michigan and at Tanzfabrik Berlin, among others. Since 2017, he has been collaborating with the Goethe-Institut Belgrade on the projects: Failure as Practice, Lie & Theft as Practice, Inequality as Practice. He studied Film and Television Production at New York Film Academy in New York City and Visual Arts at The International College of Arts & Sciences in Milan, where he earned a BA in Visual Communication and an MFA in Visual Arts. He lives and works in Berlin.

Concept, Performance: Darko Dragičević / Sound Design: Austin Fisher / Camera: Christina Ciupke (Figures #1-3), Marina Ćuruvija (Figure #4) / Choreographic Research: Martin Sonderkamp, Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir, Zeina Hanna, Christina Ciupke / Project Advisors: Austin Fisher, Christina Ciupke / Colour Correction: Dragana Krtinić (Figure #4) / Thank you: Una Popović, Zorica Milisavljević and Sunčica Šido (Goethe-Institut Beograde), Synne Behrndt, Marija Torlak, Dragana Stojanović, Juan Dominguez.

Project Exhaustion and Exuberance or I Can / I Can’t: Four Figure Studies is supported by Fonds Darstellende Künste e.V. #TakeCare and DIS-TANZEN within the NEUSTART KULTUR program.

Guided tour of the exhibition and talk with the artist: Saturday, June 17 at 6 p.m.
The exhibition runs from June 16 to August 21, 2023

Exhibition curator: Miroslav Karić

The exhibition in the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade is realized with the support of the Federal Republic of Germany Embassy in Serbia.