Ana Mušćet / A Change of Air
„A Change of Air“
Multimedia exhibition entitled A Change of Air, featuring works by young Zagreb artist Ana Mušćet, is a product of combining different media, ranging from photography, performance video documentation, landscape interventions to conceptual objects/sculptures. Primary characteristic of her work is pronounced social engagement attempting to illuminate the events related to former political prison camp founded on Goli otok (1949-1986), often supressed and forgotten part of Croatian contemporary political history.
The exhibition title comes from the video documentation of its namesake performance, showing a woman unwrapping and hoisting white flag with parole „A Change of Air“ (Mladost Stadium, Goli otok, 2015) before it keeps monotonously flying in the wind within grey and rocky Goli otok landscape. The flag is erected by Miljenka Jantolek, daughter of former political prisoner Vladimir Bobinac, on his death anniversary. The work’s title comes from police vernacular, particularly from the phrase used to inform Goli otok prisoners’ relatives about their family members’ apprehension, which goes that the convicts went for „a change of air“– absurd parole which concealed aspirations of the former state to quell the freedom of thought and maintain control over people, especially those deemed dangerous to former Yugoslavia and socialism. Vladimir Bobinac spent two and a half years on Goli otok, and a large part of his life was devoted to telling about his experience, a way of overcoming personal trauma and direct reminder for future generations. Decades after the penitentiary was shut down, Ana Mušćet, along with Miljenka Jantolek, celebrate all kinds of freedom in a space that was devised for its suppression by hoisting the flag, and liberate parole “A change of Air” from the mystification it once carried within itself. For this work, the artist won an award at the 7th Passion for Freedom Festival in London in 2015.
Mušćet’s series of photographs “Welcome” (2015), sculpture maquette “Samantha Fox Was Here” (2015) and her newest performance “Online” (2016) also directly refer to the history of Goli otok. By displaying Goli otok landscapes in manner of advertisements for trips as promoted by tourist agencies, through series of six photographs with obviously misrepresentative descriptions (elegant and romantic, intimate corner, special place, VIP…), the artist ironically problematizes, referring thematically to her work “A Change of Air”, ascribed and real meaning. Spectators become aware that devastated and abandoned interiors, formerly sites of horrific crimes, do not correspond with writings such as intimate corner or special place, causing semiotic conflict and need for new investigation of the perceived. Spectators are offered printed fliers containing writings inspired by General Jovo Kapičić’s public statements, all accompanied by sound of crickets, typical for Dalmatia in the summer, hinting towards the monotony and depression of the prisoners’ daily routine on the isolated island, whose silence only they could break. Sculpture maquette “Samantha Fox Was Here” relates to the same theme. The name of the popular 80’s American singer was used to tag and humiliate the youngest of the prisoners, who were frequently molested by the other ones. Maquette is made of concrete and terrazzo grain, the material used by prisoners to make floor tiles. The artist uses the material for tiles in a symbolic manner. The tiles are intended for treading, and the monument is supposed to be elevated at 170 cm, in an attempt to correct injustice inflicted upon the prisoners. Also, it was designed to contrast the displayed maquette, whose letters lay in wooden crate, pointing to existing, widely spread social habit of covering up and negating unanswered crimes. The artist wonders if there will ever be a future where it will be possible to realise one such monument and what kind of society it will be intended for. And will then be possible to receive a clear answer to the question: what kind of society led to a need for such monument? Themes of historical oblivion are conveyed by the artist in her performance “Online”, which represents a final stage in the attempts to heal space and reform it through acceptance of history and creating Landscape of Memory. In addressing “invisible” being, defined within a partially damaged, coloured basketball hoop, she informs the “being” about instructed activity, with regards to that there is not another competent institution with which it can, in this case, communicate.
Independent of the Goli otok theme, works “System” and “Chalk” relate to the immediate present and explore recognisable phenomena in the society around us. “Chalk” is an artistic experiment in which the artist, using 212 litres of water and the process of distillation, produces chalk that, besides clearly showing what average human injects into his organism, becomes tool for expression – transforming its original meaning and allegorically adding the possibility of a new condition, image or writing – depending on what is going to be written in chalk. The primary manifestation of the object may evoke Arte Povera works made during the ‘70s, especially those by artist Gilberto Zorio, who developed interest towards process of vaporisation in art as well. “System” is shaped like a monumental dodecagon with engraved anagrams on its surface: ornament, nanometre, monetary. It is a commentary on current monetary politics. As a starting point of determining the dimensions of her sculpture, the artist picks dimensions of her own living space. According to her, these spaces are usually encumbered by loans, and monolithic and heavy construction creates a feeling of inability to escape for a man entangled in contemporary monetary mechanisms, directly depicting the nature of capitalism as a perpetuum mobile of today’s consumer society, whose operation models only apparently change shape, like multiplying, never-ending anagrams written on ornament.
Finally, Ana Mušćet’s exhibition creates a homogenous concept rounded by the interest for her immediate surroundings as well as the society and its problems. Through her experimental works, she tries to explore, solve or simply display the ways of their functioning, giving to the observer the possibility of identifying with, but also reconstructing conventional social and mental conceptions, thus causing direct questioning of given historical or contemporary social themes.
Ana Mušćet graduated in Sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts (class of Prof. Slavomir Drinković) with Summa Cum Laude in 2016. In 2010 she graduated in Croatian and Russian language and literature from the Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb. She won several fellowships for excellence, Special Rector’s Award, two Dean’s awards and was an Essl Art Award finalist in 2015. For her work A Change of Air she received 2nd award at the 7th Passion for Freedom Festival in London by international jury led by Gerry Hill. Based on this success, Mušćet was awarded Special acknowledgment for internationally acclaimed achievement by the University. Exhibition under the same title won Rector’s Award for best individual artwork and Croatian National Radio Television produced television show Trikultura based on her work, previously. In 2016 she won Netherlands’s Woman Education Fund Grant, as well as Grand Prix at the 25th Slavonia Biennial for the work Flags, a part of the Permanent Display of the Museum of Fine Arts in Osijek.