The exhibition Malunion is the result of collaboration and program exchange between the Belgrade and Zagreb Museums of Contemporary Art, which officially began with the presentation of the exhibition by Goranka Matić Crowd Experience at the MOCA Zagreb in September and October 2022.
The exhibition features a selection of photographs by Ivan Posavec and Milisav Mijo Vesović (CRO) from the Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, which we interpret today using analytical tools created through the fusion of art and popular culture. Photographs executed in the language of popular culture can be seen as a form of resistance to the dominant cultural models imbued by the development of the so-called youth culture of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the exhibited photographs date from the period of mature socialism and were published or created for reproduction in the magazines Polet or Studentski list, the most popular youth publications in Croatia during the time of the SFRY. Until the end of the 1980s, when they suddenly disappeared, these publications were innovative and often subversive voices regarding various forms of student movements, lifestyles, sexuality, student and worker daily routines or left-wing critiques of the system. These are mainly reportage, urban photographs through which Posavec and Vesović practiced Henri Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the decisive moment: they interpreted events or journalistic narratives constrained by practical limitations such as short deadlines or editorial criteria without resorting to the conventional photography typical of daily newspapers. Since 1978, when Croatian conceptual artist Goran Trbuljak became the graphic editor and photo editor at Polet, photography took on a completely new function and occupied one or two entire pages. The editor sought to respect the photographer’s framing orientation and encouraged the active involvement of photojournalists in newspaper creation. Although photographic topics were commissioned, each author’s visual solutions were distinctive and characteristic. Numerous authors such as Andrija Zelmanović, Šime Strikoman, Nino Semialjac, Goran Pavelić, Ivan Posavec, Dražen Kalenić, Milisav Vesović, Fedor Vučemilović or the duo Bachrach & Krištofić, at the outset found themselves in a “faulty union” in relation to the conditions in which they started their artistic careers. Today, within the context of a falsely free and visually and culturally impoverished society, they could hardly recognize their own work or its legacy. Does this imply that we are speaking of multiple fractures and “faulty unions” in relation to contemporaneity?
The exhibition thematizes the phenomenon of photography, such as the popularly named “Polet photography,” which played an important role in the broader cultural scene of the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s. By surpassing the designated boundaries of reportage or documentary photography, the new sensibility in photography eventually became a local phenomenon, and the works of many authors are today part of museumized artistic practice.
The curator of the exhibition, Leila Topić, notes that, while thinking about the photographs of Posavec and Vesović, she almost unconsciously chose the title of the production from the song Krivo srastanje / Malunion by the croatian music band “Azra” from their album of the same name released in 1984. The album’s cover, designed by the Zagreb artist duo Greiner & Kropilak, shows a black-and-white photograph of workers leaving a factory, visually close to the motifs in Posavec’s photographs. Reflecting on the concept of a faulty union, Leila Topić observes that workers have disappeared from privileged positions in media representation, just like photojournalists, i.e., photo-reportage. Therefore, the intention of the Malunion exhibition is not to present another project that glorifies a retro-maniacal fantasy of the new wave glory of the 1980s in Yugoslavia or Zagreb but to raise questions about how to read these photos today and what they communicate to contemporary audiences.
Ivan Posavec (1951) graduated at the Camera Department from the Academy of Theatre, Film and Television in Zagreb, and in 1984 he received a master’s degree in photography from prof. Dragoljub Kažić at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade. His opus is considered, along with Toša Dabac, the most complete photographic opus of recent Croatian photography. In 1979, together with his colleague Mijo Vesović, he founded the group Meko okidanje/MO. He built his entire successful career in newspapers, from the cult youth magazine Polet, to Start, Svijet, Globus or Jutarnji List. His works are in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka. He lives and actively exhibits in Zagreb.
Milisav Mijo Vesović (1953) began his photography career at the Zagreb Photo Club, and completed his studies at the Camera Department in 1981 at the Academy of Theatre, Film and Television in Zagreb. In 1976, he started working in Studentski list, the following year he became a photo editor when he also started working in Polet – a youth newspaper in which the aesthetics of “new newspaper photography” were created (V. Gudac). In addition to Polet and Studentski list, he published his photographs in the magazines Start, Svijet, Danas, Quorum, Pitanja, Vjesnik and others. He also worked as a photographer on the films: „Šefica Cvek u raljama života“ (dir. Rajko Grlić, 1984), „San o ruži“ (dir. Zoran Tadić, 1986), „Obečana zemlja“ (Veljko Bulajić, 1986) and „Manifesto“ (dir. Dušan Makavejev, 1988). He exhibited his works at a large number of individual and group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad the photographs are in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.
Curator: Leila Topić, Senior Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb
Curator – Coordinator for exhibition from MOCA, Belgrade: Una Popović, Senior Curator