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2005 dec  oct  sep 
Instalacija Živka Grozdanića

METEORITE RAIN, installation by Živko Grozdanić
monday, 19.september 2005.
19:00, CZKD

(Or: "Only God knows...")


La Nona Ora (1999), the sculpture/installation of Maurizio Cattelan, caused one of the most well-known scandals in the art-world when it was exhibited in Zacheta gallery in Warsaw. Cattelan laid the wax figure of Pope John Paul II on a red carpet pressed down by a large stone, i.e. "meteorite" that fell down through the gallery's glass ceiling. Halina Nowina-Konopka and Witold Tomczak, members of Polish Parliament and of Catholic National Party, decided to take resolute action against such blasphemy and to remove the infamous meteorite from the Pope's back. (The task was difficult because, according to Tomczak himself, the meteorite was not made of styrofoam as he had expected.) Beside the usual anti-Semitic comments on account of Anda Rothenberg, the gallery manager, the two members of parliament asked themselves: "What it would be like if the figure of Great Rabbi crushed by the feet of Stalin or Yasser Arafat would be exhibited in the National Gallery of Israel?"

Apart from such statement's once again indicating identification of the alliance between communists and Arabs as synonymous with "pure evil" (the possibility of the Rabbi also being crushed under the feet of, say, Hitler, is not mentioned here), the question is appropriate: really, what would happen if similar work were exhibited in some other place? The new work of Zivko Grozdanic, Meteorite Rain, was conceived exactly as realisation of this possibility or threat. It is a replica, that is, appropriation of Cattelan's work, in which the figure of the Pope was replaced by the figure of Serbian Patriarch Paul. Therefore, the project in question does not in any way hide the wish to cause a scandal - respectively to talk exactly from the infamous position which many cautious purists would call "everyday politics" - and the work that can be freely called plagiarism, mere repetition, taking over, copying of already existing artistic idea. All the worst that can be imagined in the field of "spiritless" contemporary art can be recognised in Grozdanic's work: scandal for the scandal's sake, non-originality, extremity and abusive joke. Grozdanic not only takes over Cattelan's installation, but the entire discourse that accompanies it: he evokes all that is already known in the relation between individual provocation and ideological system. All these reasons to completely ignore Grozdanic's work indicate developed system of ideological prohibition and untouchability of certain subjects, which goes without saying. There is no point in using the platitudinous statement about "the freedom of artistic expression" in defending this work, because in this case it is more the question of "forcing" the artist to do something like this, than the question of freedom. This "forcing" is carried out by the society. It is the product of necessity to finally hit the centre of paternal/patriarchal untouchability.

As is the case with other Grozdanic's works, this one also speaks in language of allegory which appears when one text is "doubled" by some other text, respectively when one text is read through some other text. "The allegoric impulse", as Craig Owens wrote, does not emphasise "the creation of images", but their "confiscation", as well as it bases the new possibilities of interpretation on confiscation of the existing ones. The concepts of allegory and appropriation are similar because they concern the manner of "usurpation" respectively adoption of somebody's ideas and their consequences for the purpose of one's own application and within the framework of new and specific situations. Because, let us just imagine how different interpretations would be if Cattelan's "original" with the Pope were exhibited in Serbia from the interpretations that can be caused by Grozdanic's "appropriation" with changed "leading character". And again, on the other hand, it is at the same time one and the same work that tells the story about "universalism" of one fictitious event.

What assumptions does/do Grozdanic's/Cattelan's work/works use and activate? What event is actually described here? For the start, let us imagine the possibility that meteorite really falls on somebody's back. Scientists give different estimates here. While for some of them the probability is quite large, 1 in 20,000, considering that about 5,800 meteorites with at least 100 grams weight fall on the Earth in one year, experience shows us that there were relatively few serious incidents in the recent time. In the past century the most well-known was the event in Tunguska in Siberia, when in the year 1908 about 2,000 square meters of wood were scorched when meteorite fell, although only two human victims were reported because of scarce population in that area. In November 1954, Mrs Anne Hodges hurt her hip when meteorite with 4 meters diameter fell down through the roof of her house in Alabama. Similar thing happened to José Martin, whose car was hit on the road near Madrid, but he, as well as Mrs Hodges, stayed alive by some miracle. There were also reports of other such events, but as far as fatal outcome is concerned, we can mention only one dog, which was hit in Egypt in 1911.

Still, the threat exists and it seems that there is little we can do about it. Meteorite is thus either the product of pure chance or within the domain of "God's will" and its path is either the proof of cosmic chaos in which we found ourselves by accident, or one of those "strange ways of God". Therefore both the Western and the Eastern Church approach the phenomenon of meteorites with great caution and awe. The meteorite that fell in Alsace town of Ensisheim in 1492 was preserved in the local church after the official decision was made that this was a "good omen", after all. Similar thing happened a little earlier, in 1421, in Veliki Novgorod in Russia, where the stone was preserved within the monastery walls. This event still served as the warning, noted in the monastery with words: "Through fear of such terrible stories we will learn to do good and to abide by the God's commandments and then we will be blessed". The God has his reasons. After all, did not the God by falling of that terrible meteorite on Yucatan once already realised the project of the "end of the world", erasing the world of dinosaurs (as obviously being a large obstacle to the future development of human civilisation) and commence the creation of life from scratch? Today, too, the concept of the end of the world can be best visualised as the strike of a cosmic body on the planet Earth.

Thus, is the meteor rain which for now hit the Pope and the Patriarch (and who knows to whom else this may still happen) the result of the God's will or pure chance? Do Grozdanic and Cattelan speak from the position of Christian creationism and in this way communicate to us that the fall of the meteor is some kind of the God's punishment or do they speak from the opposing materialistic/evolutionist position and communicate to us that the Pope and the Patriarch are only accidental victims of the general chaos that occurs in the space over our heads? To take the first position as determinant, would exactly mean terrible condemnation of the God's representatives on Earth, while taking the other position gives evidence about having no special plan, about pure coincidence. Is it not interesting that both the Pope and the Patriarch seem to succeed in bearing the heavy burden on their backs, to defy the force of mere substance, holding feverishly to their church insignia, by which their faith overcomes all the trials of nature and space? Can this work be interpreted as affirmation of persistence of faith and the institution of church itself, even in the critical moment of facing the meaninglessness of accidental event, respectively as one trial more, martyrdom to which those who believe are exposed in this materialistic world of today contaminated with evolutionism? Well, it can certainly not.

However, the reason for which this work cannot be interpreted in this way does not lie in the appearance of the work itself and its interpretative potentials, but in the very society in this work originates or is exhibited. It is the society in which the role of clergy is increasingly important, in which many heritages of modernity and secular emancipation are brought into question, in which orthodox Christianity more and more acquires the status of state religion, in which the clergymen have a special kind of immunity, in which the church plays the special part as obstructionist of social reforms, in which still nothing is officially said about the relation of clergy and inflaming the hatred towards other nations and of wars, in which the church glorifies those of its ideologists that openly took fascist positions, in which only the church continues the conflicts between the nations by not recognising the right to independence to its sister churches, in which the priests throw anathema on sausage manufacturers and young theology students join soccer fans in beating homosexuals, in which the church is the symptom of passivity, fatalism and irresponsibility which took the firm hold of the entire community. Only from there can this work be interpreted as a violent gesture over the symbolic authority of the head of the church, as the expression of radical inability to overcome traditional taboos and cause reaction. Will there be the reaction as in the Polish case, or the church and concerned parliament members will choose the "wise" strategy of ignoring, remains an open question. Talking about this work is still imminent and only God knows if the artist and his company will burn in hell. If Grozdanic's work is the replica of Cattelan's, will the reactions here be the replica of those in Poland? The originality of this non-original work lies exactly in this uncertainty.

Branislav Dimitrijević


Centar za kulturnu dekontaminaciju, Paviljon Veljković, Birčaninova 21, 11000 Beograd
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