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Leila Mehulić | Sandro Đukić: Body Scan

The friendship between Sandro Đukić (Zagreb, 1964) and Tomislav Gotovac aka Antonio Lauer (Sombor, 1937 – Zagreb, 2010) began in Zagreb in the mid 1980s, at the counter of the Museum of Contemporary Art. The two artists of different age and identical mindsets and worldviews soon became part of the same art scene and exhibited together several times. They were permanently connected by cinemas, where they used to run into each other after late screenings. The films thus ended in night walks and long conversations at Đukić's studio. Gotovac must have observed his reflection in his young colleague's ludic nature, who conveyed his intimate messages to the new media.

Starting from the idea to make "a portrait of his friend," In 2005 the agreed photo session turned into a performance of this particular art duo, resulting in 510 photographs. The cunning orchestrator of this action played the role of a collector of Gotovac's intimate associations. Together with a dynamic conversation about film, art and life, Gotovac transformed himself into a mythical gallery of characters larger than life. It seems as though the exhibition Passions in which the curator of Rijeka's Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Branko Cerovac, in the immediate proximity of Đukić's work, confronted Tom Gotovac's video portrait with Sandro Đukić's selfportraits, which lined frenetically in digital form, alongside the screening of Tomislav Gotovac's Dead man Walking served as an introduction to this dialogue.

The exhibition in Rijeka pointed to the artistic similarity between its protagonists. Although the impulse for accentuating the subject's position has not always been equally important for Đukić, one of the key chapters for understanding his work is a series of video recordings made between 1994 and 1998. Using the in camera editing technique the author made a film journal, trying to portray the reality he lived in. "I have always perceived the world of art very personally, as lifestyle, more than production or creating a product it was creating spiritual space."

"I am interested in Tom Gotovac as an idea, a view on the world, an ethic principle. His introduction into public space, what he represents as a critic of the system and a curious man questioning the boundaries of art and life, helps me position my own identity as well," said Đukić, who used new technological procedures to continue the ideas of Gorgona, early experimental film, New Tendencies, New art practice... In 1990 at the exhibition Images Objects, where for the first time he displayed self-portraits at the Gyptotheque, Đukić turned to displaying himself, the project Tomislav Gotovac dedicated his life to. Đukić's self-referential portraits, in which his model transforms into characters taken from his own cinephile cornucopia, reflect Gotovac's credo – it's all a movie. Ješa Denegri, a friend of his art, shed light on Gotovac's role in the birth of new art strategies. Sensitive and "full as a pomegranate" of audiovisual sensations gathered through the obsessive consumption of music, visual art and film, Gotovac used photography in the conceptual manner a decade before such practice blossomed, and carried out spontaneous performances in an age when such method of expression did not even have a name. Such a form of first-person address, behavior and activity in which the artist directly, without the mediation of an artwork, expresses his views and shifts the interest from a work of art to himself and a situation in which he is both the subject and the object of action in the art world1 forced Gotovac to take a stand against his own inhibition, i.e. the system with a dominant relationship towards individual freedom. His outlet was nudity, sprung from his earlier fascination with Meštrović's Fountain of Life and the primary erotic urge for his parents' naked bodies. Gotovac's continuous manipulation with his own nudity and sexuality represented giving away to the "celestial harmony which can only be called freedom... to the Other, to Wholeness".2

The continuation of the Đukić-Gotovac counterpoint displayed at Radnička Gallery, in which the exhibition author confronts uncompromising portraits of an aged male character through Hanžeković Collection's traditional nudes is the liveliest representation of Gotovac's worldview. Tomislav Gotovac, who despite his bourgeois origin always felt like a loner from the social margins, provoked aesthetic and ethical laws of the world in which "the only thing with real value is what the society rejects".
Posthumously, mediated by Đukić, Gotovac uses this occasion as well to anarchically provoke the cult of beauty and youth through self-erotic pornography and self-parody. "His opinion was the same as mine, that the changed social paradigm, after all transitional processes, resulted in body recolonisation. That today, perhaps more than ever, we are in a war for the right to our own body," explained Đukić. Seemingly paradoxical, but still in relation to Gotovac's inclination towards reconciling opposites, Đukić's curatorial and artistic procedure represents his deceased friend as a successor to the Old Masters and envoys of the Croatian Modern. Finally, Gotovac declared them his role models. The contradictory position is evident from Đukić's exhibition title – Body Double. The namesake cult thriller by Brian de Palma concerns identity change and duality. De Palma does not shun the exploitation film rhetoric and uses ready-made as a method of including the second film in his own work. Both procedures are akin to Gotovac's critical equalisation of highbrow and lowbrow genres, which he used a decade before post-modernist practices.3

The quantitative potential of digital media enabled Đukić to record numerous fragments of Gotovac's body (body scanning), each of which depicted his model's "totality and personality". In digital hyper-production method the artist realised his idea of a contemporary portrait, a notion of character which does not rely on a single image or impression, but is made from psychological metamorphoses. The outcome of Đukić's intention of making a total portrait was the realisation of a visual archive of Gotovac's body, which in a certain sense represents an echo of Gotovac's series of photographs Heads made in 1960, a surrogate of the unavailable film form. The phenomenon of archive is a gravitational field of Đukić's work, the large part of which consists of a collection of photographs made throughout the two decades of rapid movement across the Earth. A curious and vigilant art traveller materialised the idea of an individual whose psyche is an archive of impressions acquired on a journey of life. The obsessive need to encompass the moment, to appropriate it through creative tools and thus preserve from vanishing, was embodied in the archive of two million image units, which formed Đukić's testimony of reality, a total portrait of an existence. The artist's inclination towards manipulating perception, summarised in de Palma's tagline "You can't believe everything you see," was depicted in the transfer of material into different media. The units of Gotovac's total portrait were turned in a cinematic form on the screen of a video object and in a bibliophile publication.

"I was inspired by the idea that if I transferred the material into other media I would finally get additional information and a new understanding of the event itself... Unlike the video which documents the event in real time, the book, which is a video frame collection on paper, has a different duration
due to the nature of the medium and functions introspectively," was the explanation of a peculiar methodological invention already applied in the project of meteo-photographic studies of clouds. Decades of moving in the field of digital media caused immediate weariness in Đukić and a need to
return to the tactile object, the bearer of physical energy, "the aura of the individual".

In addition to object, a wooden box and a video screen, the artist exhibited the works made by the unconventional combined technique – a photo portrait and a pencil monochrome. The said technological approach, a counterpoint between the mechanical and the manual, was first displayed at
the solo exhibition at the Gallery of Expanded Media in 1989. It was preceded by months of graphite drawing. He was taught the dense drawing technique by Julije Knifer, whose cycle of self-portraits displayed at the former Yugoslav National Army Exhibition Hall inspired him to make the project of video-photo self-portraits Around the World in 100 Days. The monochrome is performed long, through gradated movements, from harder to softer pencils. "Such a drawing requires a state of absolute focus, which is also a sort of relaxing trance, meditation," says Đukić, who considers obsession one of the basic characteristics of work approach. The reflection of Knifer's meander and the newly awoken desire towards the tangible found their place on the floor of Radnička Gallery, in the form of rectangular black pigment particles.

Such endless variation of the theme is similar to Tomislav Gotovac's technique as well. Sandro Đukić decided to display 510 variations of his nude body in the form of an artist book, alongside Bukovac's painting of dead Christ. Gotovac called Jesus "the first performer". Because of the main role in the
prohibited film Plastic Jesus, Gotovac was at that time socially marginalised. The performance I Love Zagreb culminated in kissing the dirty tarmac in front of the Church of Wounded Christ in the position of a priest being ordained. The action was later dedicated to Hawks's film Hatari, which described the
hunt for rhinoceros, "a pure and honest animal, which only goes ahead." Gotovac then pointed out that the word hatari in Swahili meant a cry for help and added: "I am a lonely rhinoceros. HATARI!"

1 M. Šuvaković, Pojmovnik suvremene umjetnosti, Horetzky, Zagreb, 2005., p. 247
2 S. De Beauvoir, Drugi spol, Beogradsko izdavačko-grafički zavod, Beograd, p. 278
3 S. Šijan, Kino Tom – Antonio G. Lauer ili Tomislav Gotovac između Zagreba i Beograda,
Muzej savremene umetnosti, Beograd, Hrvatski filmski savez, Zagreb, 2012., p. 45

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