Urtica, art and media research group (c) 1999 and Beyond
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Urtica Medicamentum Est

Installation, Print, TV & Radio ad, CD-ROM, Website, Brochure

  • Photo doc
  • Ratioremedium
    TV ad
  • CD-ROM
    The Departments of Urtica
  • + more
  • Essay by Darko Drašković (eng)
  • Esej Darka Draškovića (srb)
  • Tekst Miška Šuvakovića (srb)
  • go to -> Andersen’s
    Fairy Tale:
    “The Wild Swans”
  • Art and Mass Media

    Social therapy of voluntary weaving or treading on stinging nettles

  • Keywords / Tags

    • Social therapy,
    • Yugoslav society,
    • War,
    • Disorder,
    • Mind-body interaction,
    • Arte Povera,
    • Advertising,
    • Logo,
    • TV and Radio,
    • Victim,
    • Behaviour,
    • Storytelling,
    • Ontological insecurity,
    • Unconscious,
    • Mass media
  • Art-Bio:

    Award of IV Yugoslav Biennial of the Youth, Vršac, Yugoslavia
    Award of The Contemporary Gallery - Pančevo at IV Yugoslav Biennial of the Youth Artists, Vršac, Yugoslavia
    Award of 28. Novosadskog salona, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    Solo Exhibitions
    “Urtica Medicamentum Est” / installation, Cultural Center Pančevo, Yugoslavia
    “Place for Two” / installation, “Dom omladine”, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
    Festivals and Group Exhibitions
    Belgrade, Yugoslavia, “Grifon”, Gallery “Grafički kolektiv”
    Budapest, Hungary, The MAMU Gallery
    Ljubljana, Slovenia, “Break 21” 5.International festival of young independent artist
    Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, “Video Medeja”, Video summit
    Portorož, Slovenia, “Golden Drum”, Advertising festival
    Vršac, Yugoslavia, “IV Yugoslav Biennial of the Young Artists”
    Belgrade, Yugoslavia, “IV Belgrade’s biennial of drawing and small plastic”, Yugoslavia
    Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, “28th October Salon” Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    CD-ROM “Urtica Medicamentum Est” / presentation, Video summit “Video Medeja”, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    Presentation of Urtica’s WEB site, Club “Izba”, Novi Sad, Yugoslavia
    CD-ROM “Urtica medicamentum est” / presentation, “Media Center” Belgrade, organized by independent artistic association “Remont”

This essay was written within the framework of CyberRex - Database of Young Yugoslav Artists

How to Advertise A Victim

by Darko Drašković, Belgrade, 2000

If we consider one of basic Adorno’s dictums about art stating that art has relative autonomy compared to the mass of capital and that, because of its independence, it can distance itself and be Archimedes’ point of criticism and subversion of the ruling symbolic regime, we will see that the situation today has radically changed. The present moment is marked by a mutation in the structure of capital, which certainly also implies a transformation of the field of culture. Today’s postmodern, global capital no longer assumes benign or indifferent attitude towards some pastoral, idyllic and romantic precapitalist enclaves such as the world of art. Instead, it penetrates them and, at the same time, thoroughly and systematically colonizes and exploits them. Not even psychical structures (conscious and unconscious) can escape this colonization, being wholly overwhelmed by postmodern cultural production which less and less recognizes the difference between high culture and popular culture (it is enough to take a look at advertising and see that, by producing mottos, slogans etc, it functions as a powerful rival of philosophical assumptions of modern art).

In such circumstances, it is as though the situation that implies autonomy of art, characteristic of high modern art, disappeared without trace and got lost in political conjunctures of the past that are no more regarded as transparent by contemporary subjects. It seems that such a mutation in the field of culture imposes on art a categorical imperative to change its strategy radically and to seek some other place for its subjectivisation. In the context of the general trend of culturalization, (we could rightly say globalization, since according to Jameson, this term can be explained in a plausible way if it is viewed as homologous to postmodern culture) the only thing that art has at its disposal are the media belonging to mass culture, the only domain within which it can recognize itself as a subject that thinks and acts in an important and subversively-critical way.

The works of the art team whose memebers are Violeta Vojvodić and Eduard Balaž should be considered from that angle. Their main project “Urtica medicamentum est” is an attempt at simulation of different dominant practices of defining and constituting meaning which, in an ideological context, becomes self-explanatory and unquestionable. Being aware of the fact that the possibility of maintaining a critical distance in such socio-political circumstances is lost, they are not trying to ironize or parody these discourses. On the contrary, by consistently and systematically using the postulates of construction of socially accepted and legitimate practices of defining meanings, and by constantly placing an emphasis on their myhological nature, they are intensifying and radicalizing the game of producing meanings, turning it into its opposite—semantic lack and meaninglessness. Thus, during our visit to virtual institution “Urtica” we are continually offered and given products of pseudoscientific research that raise questions related to their meaning.

But, the question: “Is it not the case with every ideological production?” is the focal point and is much more impotrant. For example, isn’t that what happens when we consider the central category of self-understanding of the citizens of Yugoslavia, i.e., the notion of being a victim, which can be said to be the cornerstone of the system of beliefs associated with “Serbian national identity”. Politically engaged work of Violeta Vojvodić and Eduard Balaž detects, and regards as important, a certain perversion of the relationship between the victim and the aggressor that clashes with common sense perception of this phenomenon. This reversal means that the victim ontologically and chronologically precedes the aggressor. Therefore, the victim, in fact, produces the aggressor and makes him (the aggressor) conceivable, thus creating a generalizable and communicative model. The victim—aggressor model is the key of communication failure and misunderstanding between Serbia and the world, and having that in mind, its meaninglessness is fully exposed. The same thing, namely, another aspect of it was dealt with in their previous work, in which the registration form, filled by those who accept to be identified as voluntary victims, paradoxically functions as a categorical imperative to be a victim. Only by such an act of ritual initiation into the symbolic order, the subjectiveness of every individual can be recognized and he can achieve the right to be a member of society.

The place and strategy chosen with the aim of presenting and exhibiting the work of art are by no means neutral. They define the work in an important way. Mutation of culture is a situation which requires art to act in a way that is contrary, but symmetrical to that of Marcel Duchamp. Given the fact that art is deprived of its autonomy, it must continually export artistic object into the world of reality, which is primarily the world of popular culture, where these objects gain a new and essentially different meaning. Art must conquer the space already colonized by capital, and think of it as a place for contemplation and action. Advertising appears as a priviledged postmodern space and the crucial moment in the work of Violeta Vojvodić and Eduard Balaž is precisely conquering and excessive identification with that space and practices inherent in it. The advertisement for "Urtica" is not a simulation of advertising, it is not any kind of pseudo-commercial, it appears in the context of real television programme and thus takes upon itself all the marks and prerogatives of advertising. Confronting the viewers, in an inverse manner, with representations that constitute their everyday life, this TV commercial tries to deconstruct all the interpelling effects of these representations.

This leads us to conclude that both the commercial and the entire “Urtica medicamentum est” project attempt to respond positively to the demands of enlightenment, progress and emancipation of society and mind. By defining itself as socially and politically engaged art, “Urtica” intends to produce an awakening effect, because it strives to get the viewers out of the situation in which they find themselves accepting things as unquestionable and indulging in self-understanding. In such a way it makes it imperative for them to think and be responsible and free.

Darko Drašković, a philosopher from Belgrade, Serbia.