curator: Ivana Janković
The political and ideological division of Europe after the Second World War caused the competition of cultural policies between two blocs separated by the "iron curtain". In the countries of the Eastern Bloc, socialist realism was the only acceptable form of creativity and sought to suppress any attempt to deviate from the dominant direction.
Direct control over cultural activities restricted artistic freedom, the usual circulation of artistic ideas, and the organisation of international meetings. Most Neo-Avant-garde artists of various forms of experimental practice were banned or marginalised on the public stage, were not allowed to participate in exhibitions abroad, and in some cases were interrogated or forced to cooperate with the secret police and were prosecuted or ended up in jail at worst. Despite the imposed artistic discourse, artists and experts have found different and often subversive ways to realise their intentions and present them to others.
After Yugoslavia moved away from the influence of the USSR in 1948, the so-called third way and a more favourable time for freer artistic creation, in the new socio-political circumstances during the 1960s and 1970s, various festivals and manifestations of contemporary phenomena were held in Zagreb, such as experimental music (Music Biennale Zagreb), film (Genre Film Festival) and fine arts (New Tendencies) which presented artists on both sides of the block equally.
The exhibition Art Contact - Networking of Artistic Ideas problematises two examples of such an exhibition strategy, the former Gallery of Contemporary Art (now MSU) and the Gallery of the Student Center, as a meeting place for experts, artists and exchange of artistic ideas. The focus is on international exhibitions, projects, actions and other activities organised by these progressive Zagreb institutions with particular emphasis on the participation of Neo-Avant-garde artists from Poland, Hungary and the former Czechoslovakia and the former USSR: New Tendencies, 1961–1973, Polish Contemporary Photography, 1977, Bogdanka Poznanović. Feedback Letter-box, 1979, Xerox, 1973, Another Opportunity to Be an Artist, 1973. The exhibition Art Contact presents works of visual poetry, programmed and neo-constructivist art, conceptual series of photographs and works of other conceptual practices, examples of mail art, experimental films and photo-document of works by Central and Eastern European Neo-Avant-garde artists.
From today's perspective, the fund and the rich documentation of MSU, the Archive of Fine Arts of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts and the Marinko Sudac Collection provide an opportunity to review these historically significant events and review these historically significant events see our knowledge in a completely different light.