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Foundation Roza El-Hassan - Milica Tomic
2001 October,

initiated by Milica Tomic and Róza El-Hassan


Barney is running, browsing and snuffling through the corridors and rooms, and he does not even know exactly what he is looking for, but he has to make decisions, to select people. Barney is an old pitbull - a dog, and he has to choose young artists from the Academy in Ljubljana for a show in one of the most progressive young art spaces in the city.
Barney doesn't know that he generates a political model of historical characters on the stage of a society exposed to power: certain characters who take a heroic position of defense, who strike and refuse to participate and exhibit, those who just take it easy, and others who are willing to enter into alliance with anybody, even with "evil" to become visible, those who handle the question with self-irony, those who are anxious or hurt and those who are oppurtunists, corruptively feeding Barney with sausage, and those who are brave and tell us to go away.
His presence transforms the students of the sleepy acedemy into political beings.

In fact, the dog as the animal is not so important; the problem we had to face was how to separate the owner/representative of political power from the expert: the curator, the writer or creative person, or the collector who makes the decision. We had to determine a way to divide the two features of one subject into two parts, so that her/his nature as the art expert is excluded. The subject of this action should be posed outside the realm of esthetical judgments, but s/he should be able to express her/his decisions and preferences. (The dog took very definite decisions by staying with five artists for a long time.)

The decision-maker needs face to face contact with the objects of his selection and judgment. This because power does not exist without this relation to the glance; therefore it cannot be possessed by virtual intelligence, computers, technocrats, officials or documents, invoices, through "estranged" (verfremdet) instances. When the source of power is "estranged", without a glance, without eye contact, then it is not perceived as power. Her/his effects on our life are perceived rather as "bad luck" or ill fortune (just as judgments or any penalties in the form of written documents are rather perceived as "bad luck", the real power we perceive in so-called extreme situatuions when their representative is present). The glance of power must be distributed as a virtual political body, either through mass media, or printed media, or better yet, personally. In those cases, when for the masses it is foremost visible through television, the classical emperor or president has to be a real person, who is the inner core of the political body, which is distributed via media.

Barney ports an immediate political body; therefore his presence, his power for judgments on the visibility and existence of artworks generates a political model. It is built up in parallel with the larger real structures of today’s cultural political practice. What is important here is the omnivisibility of the curator - the person who selects, who is judging.
Barney's two tiring days are a critical remark to the curatorial practice.


The Local Side of the Coin:

One of the most significant and remarkable phenomena of this practice are the new, proliferating art biennials, that are designed to generate cultural-political structures of new power relations and to render these structures visible. One of these new power structures is unified Europe, which is paradoxically centralised and decentralised simultaneously.
Concerning big European art events and biennials, it is important that the strong and hardworking team of curators can reach all the corners of Europe to provide a glance at each city. If s/he is doing her best, s/he starts to travel and to perceive art and artists, hundreds or thousands of them, with the doors of all art institutions open to her/him, the curator can try to perceive more art than is healthy or possible for the human brain.
If s/he is self-reflective concerning her/his curatorial role, s/he can also perceive that it is definitively not only about the impossible extension of her/his capability of artistic perception, memorization and judgment, but it is also about the aim that all the real persons in the major art institutes perceive this person as an agent, a representative of Unified Europe or any other global power.
S/he is a puppet or a political body to be carried around like in a processsion to become visible as a form of global cultural executional power, so that the people who form the institution of art in the broadest sense have the possibility to feel the glance of European power upon them. This human presence and effective "glance of power" through agents might be so very important because the Unified Europe is a new political structure which aims for a high degree of centralised organisation without permanent central residence and is based on highly complex agreements, which in its new present form are completly featureless, and whose inner conception of politics and power has to be generated. The final show takes place often in peripherial or small places.

Europe, the state without a capital is an obvious example, but it has to emphasized, that we could analize also other geopolitical structures, whose features are even more blurred.

Exhibition Views:

But back to Ljubljana and to Barney, the 12-year-old dog, who was so knocked out after two days of curatorial practice, that he didn't make it to the opening or even to go out to the street.

The background story on which we based the invention of the dog as a curator relates to the apparently natural and unclouded connections between art and power and the selection of the artwork or artist by a beautiful fortune. In his work about the unknown artist, Braco Dimitrijevic tells us a story of a beautiful fortune from long ago about a hunting dog who went into the forest with the king. The dog ran away, the king and his company searched for him, following his path, and finally they found him in a baracks, but they also found by chance a painter working in this hidden place in the forest. The painter became through this event very famous: the king was Villiam of Orania, or the just duke of Mantova, - I can't recall it- , but the artit's name, that was Rubens.

Barney had to produce a multiple of this event.

By this artist's "multiplied fortune", we received a show which is completely captured by the Zeitgeist, by the general attitudes and tastes and materials of our time.

During these days, I received a picture and information on the Televisions show in the Kunsthalle Vienna. At the same time, the people from the SKUC Gallery in Ljubljana sent me an image file from our Foundation show.

It was remarkable to me that the surface of the display, the interior of the two shows is so similar. The question arises whether the situation of selecting more than five people for a group show generates always the same visual structure embedded into our spirit of time (Zeitgeist). If so, the second question is whether we can escape from this esthetical enclosure of our presence to create new models of representation.


Roza El-Hassan, Budapest, 2001Dec.