Schleifmühlgasse 18 - 1040 Wien
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6. - 8.11.2015
WO: Torino, Italien, Booth: LILLA 14

This year, our presentation at ARTISSIMA will concentrate on Dubrovnik-born artist Slaven Tolj. His initial steps as an artist were directly shaped by his experiences during the Yugoslav war, the collapse of the state and, in particular, the conquest of Dubrovnik by the Yugoslav army in 1991-92. In the late 1990s, Slaven Tolj gradually expanded his field of work by incorporating new motifs such as political change, multicultural existence and globalisation. He was founder of the Art Workshop Lazareti in Dubrovnik, works as curator and currently employed as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rijeka.

In his works, Slaven Tolj primarily concentrates on the torn structure of Dubrovnik's society, his native town, where he lived and worked his whole life. He calmly examines the relationships and remains of the war from his personal and reserved angle. He is an advocate of pithiness, material parsimoniousness, of the compact sign and avoids any expressive opulence, motley, garrulousness. Tolj places his work within the narrow borderline between the visible and invisible. In the spirit of the aspiration to economy of expression he often use ready-made objects and situations, and his appearances, whether as performer, creator of video works, installations or ambiences are examples of a minimal but sublime utterance. The thinking by which he is guided is far from decorative flatness or ivory tower negligence for the world that surrounds him.

With the exhibition of impeccable laconic title Achilles' Heel, Slaven Tolj contrasted two opposing situations – Tolj the collective icon and hero and Slaven the damaged man who is trying to reestablish a new life in Rijeka. The works brings element of his own body to settle the issues of identity, history, human vulnerability and loneliness.

There are several links between the past and the present and in deconstructing the idealistic construction of the hero and his final downfall in 2012. Tolj has been leading Srđ je naš! – a civic action and initiative, which loudly echoed by seeking out a referendum and which has been initiated as the opposition to the construction of the new golf course on Srđ, the mountain above Dubrovnik. For Slaven Tolj the fight against the golf course was a battle for the city and against the privatization of public space. Therefore Tolj was attacked at a concert in Dubrovnik and get injured his arm in 2012. Reporting this accident to the police, they refused to help.

In the same year a tourist tripped and fell over him, ramming his nail in Tolj's Achilles' tendon. Slaven was not killed in action, but Dubrovnik's petite bourgeoisie reduced him to crutches. 2013 he had enough and was tired of fighting. He left Dubrovnik and become director of the MMSU in Rijeka and opened a new chapter in his life. He went there alone, his beloved family stayed in Dubrovnik.

In the photo-series Ulica Branimira Markovića we locate the empty domicile in Rijeka and it's highlighted interweaving public and private dimension.

Slaven Tolj was the founder of the Lazareti in Dubrovnik. His personal relationship with this place is represented by an "iconosphere" tattooed on his left upper arm 2004. 2013 he inscribed on his left shoulder the logo of the MMSU Rijeka, just like long time ago he branded himself with the stamp of Lazareti.

The performance Don Quixote by Luigi Ontani inspired Tolj to do Hommage 1968-2008 at the Subversive film festival 2008 in Zagreb. He rides a white mechanical horse naked, throwing in coins to keep on moving and reading Don Quixote „It made me aware of my own position and my effort – not only in art. At the same time it made me clear that I need to work".

2014 the saddle is now empty. Tolj is no longer Don Quixote. Windmills can relax.


Slaven Tolj was born 1964 in Dubrovnik and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo in 1987. Since 1988, after his return to Dubrovnik, he has been active in multiple functions as an artist, curator, founder and head of Art Workshop Lazareti (ARL). He organized since 1997 independent festival of contemporary performing arts scene Karantena, numerous workshops in the field of visual art and theory; programs of public actions, debates and roundtables entitled Protuotrov and artistic residences.

1997 Documenta X in Kassel
2001 Erste Foundation Award for Social Integration for his activities within ARL
2005 51st Venice Biennale. He was curator and selector for Croatia.
2013 Director of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka (MMSU)
2016 Miranda Veljačić, Emina Višnić, Slaven Tolj, Dinko Peračić have been selected to curate the Croatian Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Biennale in Venice „REPORTING FROM THE FRONT for their proposal: we need it – we do it / to trebamo – to radimo

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