To subscribe to Afterall journal, starting with this issue, please click here.Alternatively, if you wish to purchase this article individually, you may do so via JSTOR. Please follow the instructions on this page.
Ivan Kožarić, Isječak rijeke (Segment of a River), 1959, plaster (coloured gold in 1971). Photograph: Darko Bavoljak. Courtesy the artist and Studio Kožarić, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb
‘To collectively make plaster casts of the interiors of the heads of all the members of Gorgona, with no exceptions. To make, discreetly, casts of the interiors of several important cars, the interiors of studio flats, trees, the interior of a park and so on — mainly, then, of all the significant cavities in our city.’
This was the answer to a questionnaire issued by the Zagreb neo-avant-garde group Gorgona in 1963.1 The questionnaire was distributed to its members to answer, and one of the questions it asked was ‘Is it possible to create a “collective work”?’ Ivan Kožarić replied with the little typewritten masterpiece, Kolektivno djelo (Collective Work), above.
The Gorgona questionnaires stemmed from those conducted by the French Surrealists, or, in the Yugoslav region, by the Serbian Surrealists of the early 1930s. The questions were concrete, and the answers short and snappy, often witty and sometimes rude. The members of the group seem to have wanted to adopt an attitude to their society that identified with the socialist, self-managed system of former Yugoslavia, while in various ways establishing a distance from it. Some of their questions prompted poetic or philosophical answers: ‘Do you think Gorgona is a result, an attempt or a failure?’, ‘Is Gorgona green, blue or some other colour?’, ‘Is Gorgona insurgent, indifferent or full of gratitude?’, ‘What are the seasons or month in which Gorgona feels good?’
Kožarić’s answer, ‘To collectively make plaster casts…’ is, as a proclamation, seemingly in the socialist and collective spirit — yes, we can all do something together — and yet it represents an eminently weird proposition, an impossible action.2 Such