Hidden histories: Tadej Pogačar and the exhibition that didn’t happen

Tadej Pogačar Lecture. December 10, 2012

“Systems work because they do not work” writes French philosopher Michel Serres. In other words, non-functioning is as important as functioning. Errors and events that never launch reveal hidden paths and histories that are as essential as those that are visible, acknowledged, known, or considered successful. The exhibition planned by the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) for the 1969 São Paulo Biennial was one of those unrealized events. Yet it provides a wealth of insight into how art and global politics intersect. Tadej Pogačar, the 2012 György Kepes research fellow at ACT, examines the 1969 non-exhibition as well as the ouevre of CAVS founder György Kepes in his research project The Next Sentence / The SP Files.

Pogačar’s research at ACT intersects the fields of history, politics, and art and reevaluates the concept of a global art history and the possibility of different and parallel stories of specific modernity. In 1969 The Smithsonian Institute asked György Kepes, the director and founder of the former CAVS, to conceive and organize the US representation at the São Paulo Biennial in 1969. CAVS artists and fellows were invited to participate in a two-part multi-media collaborative exhibit. Kepes had envisioned an environment that would deliver a synergetic experience of the “most advanced” US contemporary art of the time while preserving the individual quality and identity of the works to be exhibited. The exhibition was to include luminary artists such as Hans Hacke, Otto Piene, and Vassilakis Takis. Despite the extraordinary exhibition plans, these artists—and others around the world—joined what was to become an international boycott of the Brazilian biennial in protest of the right-wing repressive military government in Brazil and the US interests in the area.

In his recent lecture at MIT, Pogačar asks “How do we approach an event that didn’t happen? What kind of relations does that cancellation reveal to us? Does this research make any sense? […] The non-event in São Paulo opens a series of important and complex issues which are connected with the event such as the politics of the Cold War, the role of culture in the Cold War, the distribution of models of modernity, globalization, [and] political and economical relations between the First and Third World.”

Tadej Pogačar is an artist, curator, and educator born in Slovenia in 1960. He studied art history, ethnology, and fine art at the University of Ljubljana and graduated in painting from the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts, where he also completed his postgraduate studies. Soon after graduation, Pogačar adopted an interdisciplinary approach. His projects often begin with a period of intensive research and overlap the fields of ethnology, visual and cultural anthropology, history, multimedia and visual arts, and social engagement. His approach is influenced by Michel Serres’ concept of parasitism, the writings of Paul Veyne on history and patterns of language, the Europe-based Situationist International, and Suzanne Lacy’s influential book Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, among others.

As the director of the P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E Museum of Contemporary Art, a virtual museum that collaborates with and inhabits different institutions and organizations at various times, Pogačar engages in interventionist logic, institutional critique, and critical research on social and political issues as well as participatory and collaborative projects. He works in the realm of alternative or parallel economies, such as those of minorities, outsiders, social outcasts, or underprivileged social groups. The projects Kings of the Street and CODE:RED are just two of his collaborative projects that empower underprivileged groups. Pogačar is also the founding and managing director of the P.A.R.A.S.I.T.E. Institute, a non-profit cultural institution that operates the P74 Centre and Gallery and the KAPSULA bookshop and project space in Ljubljana. Most recently, his work was exhibited at the Gallery for Contemporary Art in Leipzig, the ZKM – Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, and the Vojvodina Museum of Contemporary Art in Novi Sad; his work has also been included in major exhibits and biennials such as those in São Paulo, Venice, Istanbul, Prague, Tirana, and at Manifesta 1.

At MIT, Pogačar “turned himself into a student” once more in order to conduct his intensive research for the The Next Sentence / The SP Files. In its final realization, the project will challenge the concepts of historical and cultural reconstruction and its methods of representation.

Watch the public lecture

Tadej Pogačar Biography

The György Kepes Fellowship for Advanced Studies and Transdisciplinary Research in Art, Culture and Technology is a joint initiative of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT), tranzit.org, and the ERSTE Foundation.