The modern history, rise and legacy of Velenje, a small city in North-Eastern Slovenia, are related to coal mining. In the 1950’s, when the region was still part of Yugoslavia, a group of people drove an initially non-official (not supported by the federal government) plan of architectural and urban development aimed to significantly improve the life of workers. Most of the applied projects, some of them very sophisticated in this context, were done through voluntary work and transformed a town of cabins and shacks into a model of “socialist miracle”, visited by some of the most important leaders of Eastern Europe. Its most conspicuous face was a series of extremely modern buildings for living and communal use such as schools, galleries and workers’ clubs, and a very specific urban design. Even more important, they produced in the people a sense of proud and belonging that still persists, while the migration of workers from other Yugoslavian republics strengthened the openness and diversity of the social landscape. Velenje was one of the eight Yugoslavian cities named after Tito (between 1981 and 1990) and still shelters, in spite of some wills, the tallest (10 m) statue of him in the world.
Francisco Tomsich was invited by Kunigunda Festival of Youth Culture to carry out in Velenje an artistic research conducted to produce an exhibition in Stara pekarna [Old Bakery], a building in the old center of the city which was used as the town industrial bakery and it’s now subject to demolition plans.
Between April and August, 2016, Tomsich visited Velenje and met local organisers and cultural and tourism workers, collecting information and images.
The proposed procedure, Theory #Velenje, integrates the on-going Theory # series of art projections dealing with the representation of complex creative processes in specific coordinates of time and space through video, photography, painting, drawing, installation, text, sound and sculpture. The applied methods include portraiture, historical research, conversation, walking and progressive occupation of an exhibition space as metaphor of the whole process and its acquired or intuited meanings. Images, themes and questions arisen from these research strategies are analysed, re elaborated and combined in order to produce a narrative which deals with the traditions of history painting, anarchitecture, realism and allegory.
In the context of this approach, the concept of theory is extended in order to surpass its contemporary use as a synonym of abstract, axiomatic or philosophical discourse (“intelligible explanation based on observation and reasoning”, definition dated in the 1630’s) and the modern meaning of “conception, mental scheme” and to embrace praxis, models of actuation related to the original Greek notion theoria, “contemplation, speculation; a looking at, viewing; a sight, show, spectacle, things looked at“, from theorein: “to consider, speculate, look at“, from theoros: “spectator”, from thea, “a view” + horan, “to see”, possibly from PIE root *wer- “to perceive”.
Theory #Velenje was produced in between 5th and 29th August, 2016. During that period, the artist lived in Velenje, meeting local people, participating in the activities of the Festival and occupying the whole Pekarna building as an open studio, spreading all around signs, images and works and permuting scale and use of the space, sometimes with the help of local artists and cultural workers (see full list of names in the last page of the exhibition guide):
Doors were covered with cardboard, corridors and closets converted into passages and cabinets, some rooms were closed to the public, and the whole space, from the entrance to the main exhibition room in the first floor was transformed through the construction of an installation made of discarded cardboard and wood, staples, nails and wire, linked to the Melusine’s Works series. This kind of tunnel, badly illuminated with low bulbs, was decorated with drawings and paintings made with coal and lime and displayed a series of “stations” (groups of printed photos, archaelogies from Melusine’s works #Lendava, drawings, installations, objects) related to local and regional recent history and poetics of space and former related research projects.
Once traversed the tunnel, the visitors came out into a slightly lighter room containing a series of paintings produced in Velenje during the work process. One of the walls displayed a big poster-like portrait of Jovanka Broz as a partisan, painted with home-made black oil directly on the tiled wall and surrounded by two paintings of Yugoslavian Honor Guards (taken from a photo of Tito’s mausoleum at the end of the 80’s) covering the side doors. This work refers to the highly symptomatic story of the dead and burial of Jovanka Broz in 2013.
Another wall displayed an tryptich of paintings made in Velenje,
while one side room, non accesible but visible through a metal sliding door, presented an installation called The horse inside the flat (Ne spadamo na balkona) which humorously points to some local urban legends about the customs of some migrant workers’ families while reflects at the same time on the effort made (1950-1960) by the local government to “educate” them in the modern life style the new architecture demanded, life style which, as seen in another piece (the projection The Velenje Diaries) is constantly subverted and defied until today.
After that, the visitor has no other option than going back into the tunnel to access the second floor of the building through the staircase. This tour also presents some stations, like a drawing made by local artists upon a diagram shown in a room of the castle’s museum which presents the statistics of miners’ accidents and the parts of the body usually affected by them, or a curtain made with an archaelogy of a painting from the series Cy, produced in Ljubljana in 2016.
The main room of the second floor exhibited the series of paintings Open Allegories #1, while one of the small ones hosted a serpent made of cardboard by local artists and volunteers which was threw through the window the day of the opening. In the exhibition guide, that room was called Nehushtan, linking it to another piece produced in Ljubljana in the frame of the association of artists Meta City Symptoms, making a link between Pekarna and Rog, an autonomous center of activities of artists and activists in Ljubljana that is also in danger of being appropriated and demolished by the city government.
The last room of the tour displayed a video installation, The Velenje diaries, a sketch:
The exhibition lasted two days more after the opening, 23rd of August. It was dismantled on Monday 29th, August, and paintings were transported to Ljubljana in order to produce a series of new Archaeologies.
Tour trough Theory #Velenje (VIDEO)
Photos of the opening
A spot about Theory #Velenje produced by EU volunteers working for Kunigunda Festival of Youth Culture Velenje
Two texts about Theory #Velenje produced by two EU volunteers working for Kunigunda Festival of Youth Culture Velenje: Mireia and Ugur
ILUMINIRANA TOVARNA | THE ILLUMINATED FACTORY
ROG, LJUBLJANA; 2.7.2016, 21:40
Kolektivna akcija in zvočna intervencija / Collective action and sound intervention
Vsa okna sprednje strani Rogove glavne stavbe so osvetljene s svečami medtem ko bo posnetek kompozicije Luigija Nona za sopran in magnetni trak La Fabbrica Illuminata (1964) predvajan s strehe in »streaman« na Radiu Študent. Proces osvetljevanja in postavljanja sveč traja vseh 16 minut kompozicije. | All windows of one side of Rog’s main building are illuminated using candles meanwhile a record of Luigi Nono’s composition for soprano and magnetic tape La Fabbrica Illuminata (1964) is broadcasted from the roof and streamed on Radio Student. The process of lightning and putting out the candles endures the 16 minutes of the composition.
Durante veinte días, un grupo de artistas de Sudáfrica, Uruguay, Argentina y Brasil trabajamos en el último piso del Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indígena de Montevideo en régimen de taller. La jornada de taller abierto al público se realizó el sábado 21 de mayo y contó con documentación del proceso. instalaciones, objetos, intervenciones, pintura, dibujo y escultura. | A group of artists from South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay worked together during 20 days at the Museum of pre-Colombian and Indigenous Art of Montevideo. The final exhibition of the residence was made on Saturday, 21st, May.
Artistas participantes | Artists: Thenji Nkosi, Pat Mautloa, Tracey Rose, Diana Hyslop, Iara Freiberg , Leopoldo Estol, Adela Casacuberta, Alejandro Cruz, Andrés Santangelo, Cecilia Mattos, Enrique Badaró, Francisco Tomsich, Manuel Rodriguez, Verónica Cordeiro.
Presenté en la muestra dos piezas pertenecientes al Tratado del Retrato Ampliado, Libro I: Retrato de Adela Casacuberta y Propuesta de Retrato de Pat Mautloa. | I exhibited two pieces made during the residence in the framework of the application (Book I) of the Treatise on Extended Portrait: Portrait of Adela Casacuberta and Proposal for a portrait of Pat Mautloa.
En 2010 fui invitado por el Museo de Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes de Montevideo a realizar una muestra basada en las ideas de extensión física y metamorfosis del archivo del artista, con cierto carácter retrospectivo. Con ello en mente, trasladé en agosto de 2010, a un taller cedido en régimen de residencia por el Espacio Arte Contemporáneo (EAC) de Montevideo todas las pinturas, esculturas, dibujos, objetos, bocetos, papeles, publicaciones, archivos digitales y físicos, documentos, partituras, grabaciones y textos producidos entre 2001 y 2010, y hasta principios de diciembre estuve trabajando en su organización, reproducción y análisis, y también produciendo nuevas obras que sustituyeran piezas faltantes o resolvieran procesos ya iniciados. Dicho proceso de trabajo fue el tema de la muestra Essai sur l’enfermement, inaugurada en el EAC el mismo día que Loess era inaugurada en el Museo Blanes. Ambas muestras, que también bajaron el mismo día de abril, establecían una relación jánica. A finales de noviembre de 2010 fui invitado por el Director del Museo Blanes, Gabriel Peluffo Linari, a trabajar en régimen de taller en la propia sala de la institución en la que se realizaría la muestra. Durante dos semanas trabajé en el montaje de Loess y en la producción de algunas obras nuevas.
I was invited in 2010 by the Museo de Bellas Artes Juan Manuel Blanes to produce an exhibition related to the ideas of physical dimensions and possibilities of metamorphosis of my personal (artistic) archive, with a certain retrospective character. With this in mind, I moved all my paintings, sculptures, drawings, objects, sketches, papers, scores, publications, recordings, texts and digital and analogical archives produced between 2001 and 2010, to a studio supplied to me in residence regime by the Espacio Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Art Space, EAC) of Montevideo. I was working there in the organization, reproduction and analysis of that corpus, and also producing some new pieces, between August and December, 2010. Some aspects of this process were displayed on the exhibition Essai sur l’enfermement, which was inaugurated at EAC the same day and at the same time as Loess in the Museo Blanes. Both exhibitions stablished then a Janus-like relationship. In December, 2010, I was invited by Gabriel Peluffo Linari, Director of Blanes Museum, to work, and even live, in the white cube where the exhibition was planned. I work there during two weeks:
El 10 de diciembre, en ocasión de la jornada Museos en la Noche, el taller estuvo abierto al público, que pudo asistir al proceso de montaje, iluminación y creación de obras para la muestra. | On 10th, December, the studio was open to the public in the context of the Open Night of Museums.
Loess estaba constituida por diversos grupos de obras y documentos | Works, series of works and documents displayed in Loess:
2) Línea. Ploteo de palabras y frases escritas y enviadas por e-mail a la curadora de la muestra, María Eugenia Grau, durante el largo proceso curatorial que precedió a la etapa de taller in situ. | Line. Excerpts of phrases and words from dialogues via e-mail with the curator of the exhibition during 2009-2010.
3) CÓDEX (también llamado Auto-Bio-Bibliografía, en proceso), libro de artista producido durante los casi seis meses de residencia en el Taller 77 del Espacio Arte Contemporáneo. | CÓDEX (also known as Auto-Bio-Bibliography, in process), artist book produced during the period of work in Atelier 77, at the Contemporary Art Space Montevideo.
4) El políptico Foto Familiar (óleo, lápiz, hojillas, pintura acrílica, 2004) iniciaba el recorrido cronológico por una serie de obras realizadas sobre tabla y fibra de madera entre 2004 y 2010 en la pared izquierda de la sala. | Family Picture (oil, rolling paper, pencil, acrylics, 2004), the first of a series of paintings and drawings on wood produced between 2004 and 2010.
reunidos en grupos temáticos y siguiendo un criterio cronológico. Dos piezas de la serie El pintor y la tabla (N° II y N° V, 2005) junto a Estudio en paisaje Suizo (2004) | forming thematical groups and in chronological order. Two pieces from the series El pintor y la tabla (Nrs. II and V, 2005) with Study on Swiss Landscape (2004):
Estudio (también llamado El Griego), que integró la instalación de 2008
Ensayo sobre la persistencia junto a Estudio (M.J.Z.) #2, de 2006 | A Study (The Greek One) which also was part of the installation from 2008 Ensayo sobre la persistencia and Study (M.J.Z.) #2 (2006):
Estudio de Onetti (tiza, pastel, óleo y pintura acrílica sobre pallet, 2006), en el piso | A piece from the series Studies of Onetti (chalk, oil, pastel and acrylics on pallet, 2006) on the floor:
y luego, la serie de retratos de artistas uruguayos iniciada en 2006: Estudio (J.M.B.), Estudio (J.M.B) #2, Estudio (C.F.S.) y Estudio (J.T.G.), éste último premiado en el 52° Premio Nacional de Artes Visuales (2007) | and some pieces from series of portraits of uruguayan artists that began in 2006: Study (J.M.B.), Study (J.M.B) #2, Study (C.F.S.) y Study (J.T.G.). This last one was awarded at 52° Premio Nacional de Artes Visuales (National Visual Arts Prize, 2007):
Dos piezas realizadas en 2008: Estudio (Sirena), vinculada a la muestra Die Berliner Sphinx y Composición (Dos Figuras) | Two pieecs from 2007, one of them related to the exhibition Die Berliner Sphinx.
Y, por fin, tres piezas recientes: Erik (2010) y Estudio de perfil, realizadas en el EAC, y Estudio (J.B.), remake, producida en las dos semanas de trabajo en la sala del Museo para sustituir el original Estudio (J.B.), de 2007, en poder en ese entonces de una galerista que no respondió a mi pedido de préstamo. | Erik and Profile Study were produced in 2010 in the Atelier 77 of EAC and Estudio (J.B.), remake, was made in the white cube of the Museum Blanes where Loess was displayed during the two weeks of open atelier there to substitute the original from 2007 Study (J.B.), then in the hands of a galerist who didn’t answer my phone calls and the e-mails in which I requested her for it.
6) Papario #1, instalación realizada específicamente para Loess utilizando tres bancos del depósito del museo como soporte de escenas protagonizadas por cabezas de papa tallada producidas entre 2008 y los días previos a la muestra. Consultar aquí para más detalles. | Papario #1. Site-spacific installation. Potatoes, materials from the Museum’s stack. Cf. HERE.
8) Estudio de Medusa (óleo, pintura acrílica, pastel, tiza y cal sobre lienzo, 110 x 79 cm, 2009), pieza que integró la instalación Casa de Medusa, de 2010. | Study of Medusa (oil, acrylics, pastel, chalk and lime on canvas, 110 x 79 cm, 2009). Painting displayed at the exhibition Casa de Medusa (2010).
10) Revistero (2010) | Magazine rack (2010).
Photos | Fotos. Henrike von Dewitz, Francisco Tomsich.