The Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb

Collection in Motion

II. Art as Life

Apart from the traditional question of how a work of art comes into being, today we often ask ourselves how, when, and to where has the artwork disappeared? Has it turned into something else? Into life itself? ART AS LIFE?

This sounds unbelievable, but this question is already an entire century old! It can be dated to the beginnings of the twentieth century, when the first cubist collages and assemblages appeared which transgressed the boundaries of art and then were even more radically linked with the appearance of Dadaism and Marcel Duchamp’s invention of the readymade, the industrially manufactured object that acquires the meaning of an original work of art in a museum environment.

The disappearance of the work, the evaporation of art into aesthetic ether, has been radicalized since the sixties. In places previously occupied by artworks, only experiences remained. This is because in art production, works have been replaced by mechanisms and procedures that function as works of art and produce a pure experience of art. In other words, intentions, attitudes, and concepts have become substitutes for the works. This is, however, by no means the end of art, but just the end of its rule over the object, rightfully asserts the French theoretician Yves Michaud.

The unit ART AS LIFE presents artists and art practices that primarily see the artwork as a social fact. Using different media of expression – from photography to video and film installation – the artists primarily speak about their social mission.

This social mission is the subject of an entirely new aesthetics for which the French theoretician Nicolas Bourriaud has coined the term relational aesthetics.

The art object has vanished, but human relations as the principal subject of artistic action have remained. A series of art practices from the end of the last century that advocate so-called micro-Utopias - because they do not strive to change the world, but believe in the power of small shifts which contribute to the improvement of relations in society - have opened new chapters in the art of the twenty-first century. Identifying art with a political or marketing campaign, social and charity work, election polls, etc. — these art practices have actually equated art with life itself.

These practices, as well as the media used by artists (performance, action, agitation, happening), are characterized by one-time events, unrepeatability and impermanence. Therefore, the works of these artists can be represented in a museum only through a documentation which in the form of a museum installation re-acquires the meaning of the original.


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