Provocation is a speciality of mine
‘Provocation is a speciality of mine’, says Tanja Ostojić at the start of a text about her actions, which often enough begin with a drum roll. She is a mistress of the plain and provocative statement on the principle that the message is the medium. Medial attention and affront are always planned into her projects, and the actions of this ‘independent artist and culture-activist’ highlight situations currently problematic but clear from her own point of view.
One of the nearer sites of Ostojić’s skirmishes is the European Union, involving inclusion and exclusion, as Europeans are split up into first and second class residents. She is especially attentive to the situation of women from lands outside the EU. In the ‘integration project’ linked to her action ‘Looking for a Husband with an EU Passport’ (2000), this Serbian artist draws attention to the situation of southeast European women in search of marriages of convenience for the sake of roving freely throughout Europe, be it at the cost of domestic freedom. A photo of the artist naked and smooth-shaven was placed in the Internet, enabling EU pass-holding bachelors to get in touch with her via her email address email@example.com, drawing them like flies into the Venus flytrap of her project about capital and sex. 500 emails were exchanged before she finally wed the German artist Klemens Golf. What began as an art project became a fact of life, as Ostojić conveniently got married, got used to the German Federal Republic and then held a divorce party in a Berlin gallery. In this, as in other actions, the artist was involved, body and soul, as has often been the case in action art, especially since the 1960s.
In 2001 Ostojić became known through an action at the 49th biennale in Venice. In the project ‘I’ll be your angel’ the elegantly dressed and attractive artist never left the side of the curator Harald Szeemann, be it a blessing or curse, the treat of an angel or escort service, art or anti-art. The situation became ambiguous, encompassing the polarities man and woman, curator and artist, director and sleeping partner, and only Harald Szeemann was finally allowed to view Ostojić’s personal contribution to the biennale, the ‘Black Square on White’ emulated from the suprematist Malevitch in terms of her pruned pubic hair – an action in the tradition of the Slovenian group of artists IRWIN, whose members had already worn the black square as a Hitler moustache. The work drew attention to the commercial and personal ties common between a curator and an artist – a relationship often marked by flattery, subjection and even intimacy.
Even outside the framework of art, Ostojić has been active and has recently appeared in the poster known popularly as the ‘EU panties’ shown in Austria in 2005 and received with the complaint that EU tax money is being used to promote pornography, though the work merely alludes somewhat scandalously to a French romantic painting by Gustave Courbet called ‘Origine du Monde / Origin of the World’, showing the artist’s abdomen clad in star-spangled EU-blue panties in a warmly welcoming pose in a storm-tossed bed. The work can be understood on various levels, be it as showing the EU’s dominance and allure within Europe or as showing a woman in search of an EU husband, as in Ostojić’s earlier work ‘Looking for a Husband with an EU Passport“.
Ostojić is not an easy colleague for a curator. One of her present ‘research projects’ investigates the relationship between art and capital. Whoever invites her to hold an exhibition or to give a lecture is asked to fill in a detailed questionnaire calling for all financial details of the project, the institution, the director’s salary, the curator’s salary and the fee planned for the artist. The curator thus becomes the object of investigation and must decide whether to toe Ostojić’s line or to cite data-protection and personal rights at the risk of being turned down. Will the filled in questionnaires or the creative evasions really become a project? We shall find out.
In any case these actions raise the question of the relationship of art to public actions. Ostojić uses the framework of art to draw attention to the topography whose inclines are directing the flow of her life. This can be wearying and even vexing for many consumption-oriented viewers of art but it raises important and relevant questions.
Author: House of World Cultures
Born in Yugoslavia in 1972, the performance artist Tanja Ostojic mostly lives in Belgrade. For years she has been concerned with exclusion, especially with the exclusion of Southeast Europeans by the European Union. A typical performance of hers is “Looking for a Husband with an EU Passport”.
Selected Group Exhibitions
Production / Performance
"Videozone 3", Videozone - International Video-Art Biennial, Tel-Aviv, Israel
"Sexy Mythos", Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig, Germany
"Normalization", Rooseum Center for Contemporary Art, Malmö, Sweden
"Privatisierungen - Zeitgenössische Kunst aus Osteuropa", Kunst-Werke Berlin e.V. - KW Institutes for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany
2nd Biennial Tirana 2003, Tirana, Albania
"The Jezevo Motel Project", Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia
"In Search of Balkania", Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, Austria
"Uncertain Signs True Stories", Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany
49th International Art Exhibition Venice (La Biennale di Venezia), Venice, Italy
"Skin", Deste Foundation, Centre for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece
"Manifesta 2 - Luxembourg", Manifesta - European Biennial of Contemporary Art, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(01 August 06 - 31 July 07)