The Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Vlasta Delimar: This Is I
Vlasta Delimar: To sam ja (Vlasta Delimar: This Is I), the career-spanning retrospective that runs in Contemporary Art Museum (MSU) from May 15 to August 24.
Ask the average Croat about artist Vlasta Delimar and the chances are that most of them will say “isn’t she the one who's always taking her clothes off?”. It’s an understandable comment: artists who have used their own naked bodies in the course of their art will always be associated in the popular mind with the nudity itself, rather than its context. Indeed it takes a certain courage for an artist to stand out like this, and it is the courage of the performer that comes across more than anything in Vlasta Delimar: To sam ja (“Vlasta Delimar: That’s Me”), the career-spanning retrospective that runs in Zagreb’s Contemporary Art Museum (MSU) from May 15 to August 24.
First coming to prominence in the late Seventies, Delimar has helped to define Croatian multimedia and performance art over the last three or four decades. In many ways her career should be viewed in parallel with that of her lifelong friend Tomislav Gotovac (1937-2010), the pioneer of making-a-spectacle-of-oneself-in-public who famously ran naked down Zagreb’s main street in his 1981 performance Zagreb, I Love You!, periodically lying down to kiss the asphalt as he went.
Many of Delimar’s performances were personal reflections on Gotovac’s work. In Taking a Stroll as Lady Godiva (2001), she rode naked through Zagreb on a white horse. In Two Men and a Woman (2009), Delimar and her partner Milan Božić teamed up with Gotovac himself to walk naked (or at least almost naked) along the same street that Gotovac famously puckered up to 18 years earlier.
Lurking in the background of all of Delimar’s work is the rather obvious point that it’s a lot more daring for a woman to do this kind of art than it is for a man – not least in a patriarchal country like Croatia. Ultimately nudity is Delimar’s way of examining issues of femininity, male-female relations, and the key stages of the female life-cycle: from youthful lusts to love, partnership, motherhood, the realization that your are getting on a bit. Much of her work is invariably autobiographical - “My work is my diary”, she once said in an interview.
As photographs in the MSU retrospective reveal, a lot of Delimar’s most famous performances took place in the streets, unannounced, to an audience of random passers-by. One of the novelties of the show is that it will put her activities in a big-gallery context: during the exhibition Delimar will take up residence in the gallery in an improvised living and working space, and take part in a work called Poziv na druženje (“An Invitation to Socialise”), in which she will talk about art with a group of guests in a number of different locations: in the gallery, in the museum foyer, or next to the nearest bus stop.
Zagreb In Your Pocket by Jonathan Bousfield
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