The Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Dalibor Martinis: Data Recovery 1969-2077
December 6, 2016 – February 12, 2017
With a title that has associations with the digital age, the main theme of the exhibition Data Recovery is the recovery of lost data, a phrase well known in IT terminology for the procedure in which stored data are rescued after some software or hardware crash. However, Dalibor Martinis makes use of fragments, which he considers the only possible form in which information, events or facts can be recovered. The complete wholes that come into being thereby contain lost elements from social, political or personal histories that the artist has “renewed” precisely through the data recovery procedure. He has no claims to be recovering pure information and rejects both the ideologically charged rewriting of history and the collective act of forgetting that have characterised this region since the mid-90s.
The strategy of Data Recovery should be understood as a departure from the concept of the retrospective, for the artist resists the idea of his oeuvre being complete. This negation of finalisation is visible for example from his first exhibition N & Z Module, originally presented in the Student Centre Gallery in 1969. Now, Martinis calls this piece Work for an exhibition in 1969, treating it as work in progress, never to be finished.
The ultimate year from the title of the exhibition betokens the time at which the post-human entity DM2077 will come into being. The year is not chosen at random, for it is precisely the 99th year since the first time-dependent conversation that the Dalibor Martinis of 1978 started with the posited D. Martinis of 2010.
The exhibition negates chronological time as an unchallenged given, for the artist moves through time in circular formations, underlining thus the impossibility of fixing on a core meaning or a real and basic signification. Thus the artist turns into researcher into, media archaeologist and re-interpreter of, his own oeuvre, which he understands as non-linear creative evolution. This kind of approach is clear in the work I am addressing you man to man, an action carried out in the mid-seventies, in which the artist put leaflets with just the same text in the letterboxes in his neighbourhood. And this leaflet in turn became the starting point for an action of the same name in 2004 in which the artist “canvassed” his fictitious electoral constituents, equating his own political programme with an artistic action.
For Martinis, every time one of his works is put on, whether it is the first time or a revival, it is always a new game, always a new possibility for verification of the context and the setting in which he functions. For example, Martinis does the work Eternal Flame of Rage as a performance, then sets it up as a musealised installation, as well as a video installation on the Media Facade of the Museum.
In the exhibition a visitor is put in the situation of having to meander through space and chronology (which is actually less important) alone. But he or she will at the same time note the contradictions; although the movement always takes place in several units that have set themes, a kind of coherence is achieved only in what is called the Palace of Projections, a segment of the set-up totally dedicated to Martinis’ film and video oeuvre.
The set-up has been created by Ana Dana Beroš and the artist himself. With the help of the chief curator Nada Beroš and me as the curator of the exhibition, we have constructed units that will make orientation in space and time somewhat easier.
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