January 1st, 2021 marks the beginning of the Initiative for Trade Aesthetics (ITA), a long-term collaboration between Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen and the oral corporation Yugoexport. ITA kicks off with a publishing campaign grounded in an economic studio.
Starting in January, ITA publishes, one by one, chapters from Irena Haiduk's anthology Studio Feelings and short story collection All Classifications Will Lose Their Grip. This fall, ITA's 2021 activities culminate in a production line at Kunst Halle St Gallen.
To read and hear the published works please go to itatransacts.space
Initiated in Spring 2008, REMASTER is an ongoing cinematic adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. Ever since, Irena Haiduk’s exhibitions double as filmmaking studios. Hosting institutions became vital infrastructures for recording video and audio sections of the film, providing space, supporting cast and equipment.
Bulgakov called it his sunset novel. Publishers wouldn’t touch it and the author would rewrite the book four times before his death in 1940. Bulgakov sealed his life into The Master and Margarita. The titular character, the Master, writes a play about the life of Pontius Pilate. Censors ban the Master’s play about cowardice and love. Cancelled and driven to insanity, the author burns his manuscript. A satanic figure, Woland, recovers the play from the fire.
He intones,“manuscripts don’t burn.”
In a surrealized reality where actions have no consequence, the difference between truth and lies is beside the point. Censorship is unnecessary. Here, hatred polarizes, and solidarity ends. The occlusion of empathy results in a wasteful loss: displacement and generalized warfare. The only way beyond this place is to not want what we want, to grow the organ of imagination, and to remake world. This requires extraordinary will.
Soviet officials banned The Master and Margarita because they knew its readers would take it to be art—an instrument to imagine another present and a means to realize it. This art demonstrates that no matter how oppressive the system, no matter how complex the problem or overwhelming the bureaucracy, ways exist to turn systems against the wills of their creators. The book embodies a model of production: how to make one infrastructure into another.
The Master and Margarita was finally published in Paris in 1967. At last, its will had guided it past its silencers. The Master’s world could fortify ours. It makes things that do not burn.
Tonight and Every Night.
Two scenes from the film were set and presented publicly for the first time at the Swiss Institute (SI) in 2020. SI became a production studio housing: Apartment 50 on the first floor and the Variety Theater on the ground floor.
The first floor of SI conjured Woland’s bedroom in Apartmet 50 where the heroine, Margarita, and Woland enter into a transaction to save the life of Master. Here, the made world became a cast of living things, full of agency and the desire to act upon their surroundings. The sound of a cat’s purr reverberated around the galleries with both comfort and threat.
The ground floor hosted the locked Variety Theater. Inside, a program rendered a film without images, recorded by five separate audiences over a period of 12 years. Entitled Lunar Interval VI (2008-20), it features Woland’s black magic act, which sets the stakes for a life without imagination. Lit by the flame that set Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris ablaze, the variety drew on Balkan cabaret tradition. On several evenings it played host to Cabaret Économique and other live programs.
In line with the conspiratorial spirit of this underground commons, 500 keys to its locked entrance will be distributed in a key issue ceremony at REMASTER’s opening reception. An economy of swapping, handing off and reserving the keys developed between those who were present at the issue and those who were not. The same key unlocks the doors to future REMASTER scenographies.
The import-export business of making history demands an equivalence, a loyalty, and a familial solidarity between people and things. Such skills are best honed in conditions of blindness, where we cannot immediately tell what is in the room with us and whether it is alive or dead.
Yugoexport is a blind, non-aligned, oral corporation modeled after the self-managed, autonomous, unofficial organizations and experimental clubs within the larger state infrastructure of the former Yugoslavia. Incorporated in the United States (where corporations are people), launched in Paris and headquartered in Belgrade, she is a copy or an avatar of Jugoeksport, a defunct Yugoslav apparel manufacturer and weapons exporter.
Since the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 2003, ‘Yug’ is a vacant space, and Yugoexport occupies it by returning to the original meaning of yug or jug which is south. The oral corporation mounts production on sur-national scale from this cardinal direction, from the Balkans and the old Roman trade and military route, the Via Militaris.
Yugoexport’s process of in-corporation continues.
Yugoexport Articles of In-Corporation are etched into two horizontal marble steles: in Serbian as filed in Belgrade, Serbia; and in English, as filed in Chicago, USA. Wherever the steles are exhibited, visitors may produce graphite rubbings for a fee. The rubbings are numbered, certified and signed. The stele, mounted on two tables, were first presented in the Transactional Area of SER at documenta 14 in Kassel.
In Athens, one storefront in Stoa tou Vivliou book arcade hosted one reproduction of the documents. Every Friday at dusk, a member of the Army of Beautiful Women would appear and read aloud from the in-corporation documents demonstrating the full use of this oral corporation’s principles.
In classical Athens, all tributes and laws were written on papyrus and filed in the Agora. Copies of these documents were inscribed into marble steles and placed throughout the city-state, orated once weekly for the citizens of Athens. For ancient Greeks, marble had the status of a copy. Yugoexport Articles In-Corporation exist only as reproductions in the form of steles, rubbings and orations.
This posture is fashioned by the Yugoform, composed of the Borosana labor shoe, providing the wearer with nine hours of comfortable standing, the ABW (Army of Beautiful Women) patterns #2 and #3 dress, a garment enhanced by strolling, and the book Seductive Exacting Realism by Marcel Proust 12.
Up to twelve participants–Sirens–wearing the Yugoform demonstrate a minimal but precise choreography, carrying books atop their heads. Spinal Discipline demonstrates freedom of movement against immobilization caused by fear, waiting and wasting to death. The Sirens, an elite force within the Army of Beautiful Women, move together with poise and comfort, making the cities into catwalks and assembly lines.
A 13-volume set of Marcel Proust’s collected works was published in Yugoslavia in 1967. This edition, in the Latin alphabet, was highly valued by Yugoslav intelligentsia for its elegant translation from French by the poet Tin Ujević. During the Bosnian civil war, these Proust sets fetched up to the equivalent of a full year’s salary in the Belgrade black markets. They were frequently looted together with other valuables from Bosnian homes.
The set exhibited in Seductive Exacting Realism (SER) at the Renaissance Society was seized by local police from Belgrade Kalenić Market in 1995. It was acquired at a public auction in 2014. The set was missing volume number 12. The missing volume was reproduced as the monograph for SER.
Means and Ends contains the looted set. At documenta 14 in Kassel, Means and Ends was placed in the Waiting Room of SER and used in the practice of Spinal Discipline.
After a long conquest, an emperor and his army reach the edge of the world. Not a barrier, but the border of an encompassing darkness. They enter the Dark Land. Once inside the void, the horses panic and the soldiers scatter. They wander hopelessly for days. Suddenly a voice sounds in the dark, ageless, clear, and light:
“If you take anything from this land, you will regret it! If you take nothing from this land, you will regret it!”
There is nothing in the Dark Land but pebbles under the soldiers’ feet. Some think: “If I take any, will I regret it?” Others think: “Maybe, maybe I should take just one.” The agony exhausts them, and they sleep. The next day, they awake on the fields by their home city. The soldiers who were holding pebbles are now holding diamonds. They regret taking only one or two. The rest regret not taking any.
T.V. (Tamni Vilajet) is an adaptation of Raoul Goldoni’s 1963 mural depicting “the life, suffering and struggle of the people in the region where President Josip Broz Tito was born, from the Middle Ages, until the liberation” at the Museum of Yugoslavia, Belgrade.
T.V.’s 17 panels measure 12.5m—the width of the production line of Rheinmetall, one of the largest weapons manufacturers in Europe. The individual panels measure 1.4 m—the width of Yugoexport’s production line. Initially presented at the threshold between the Waiting Room and the Blind Room at documenta 14 in Kassel, T.V. is an oral image of armies lost and people wandering the dark.
Special Thanks to Museum of Yugoslavia, Belgrade and Daniel Bauer.
This sound program based on an interview Irena Haiduk conducted on January 14, 2015 at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center with Srdja Popovic, co-founder of the OTPOR! student group and the consultancy CANVAS (Center for Applied Non-violent Action and Strategy). SER consists of a Waiting Room and a Blind Room. The edited conversation, re-recorded by Jennifer Estlin and Lin Qian, forms a 28 minute program commencing every hour, on the hour, like a clock in the total dark of the Blind Room.
In the dark, the effects of blindness can be felt and the advantages of orality emerge. We cannot immediately tell what is in the room with us and whether it is alive or dead. We come into contact with the features of a thing by testing it before seeing it. The dark establishes an equivalence, a loyalty, and a familial solidarity between people and things. At documenta 14 in Kassel, a Transactional Area preceded the Waiting Room. This economy continues to demonstrate the ongoing incorporation of Yugoexport.
Apple Inc. IVR Voice
Design and Art Direction
Commissioned by the Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago. Initially co-presented by the 14th Istanbul Biennial and the Renaissance Society.
The Borosana shoe was first developed over a nine-year period (1960-69) at Borovo Rubber Industry Headquarters in Vukovar, Yugoslavia. After being designed and tested by the Borovo female workforce and an orthopedic surgeon, the shoe was mandatory for Yugoslav women working in the public sector. Borosana was launched in 1969, in white and navy colors, featuring an ergonomic platform, calculated as ideal for nine hours of standing without hurting the wearer’s spine. In the declining years of Yugoslav communism the model was withdrawn from mass production. Fabrication was abandoned when Vukovar became a war zone in 1991.
Each time Nine Hour Delay is exhibited, Borosana becomes the official work shoe of the host institution advancing the constructivist maxim of great utilitarian design in service of the working woman. All those, regardless of gender, seduced by the prospect of wearing ergonomic women’s footwear and employed by the host institution are eligible to receive a pair of Borosana Shoes within the rubric of Nine Hour Delay. The shoe is a clock providing a distinction between labor time and leisure time; by signing form B-02, workers commit themselves to using the shoe in the context of its original making. When the shoes are on, work commences; when the shoes are off, work ends.
In 2009, the Dark Departments assembled the Gesture Guild, an occult bureau for the recovery and acquisition of voluntary gestures. Afflicted with recession-based involuntary movement the public joined programs celebrating the moment when wages equalize in the First and Third Worlds.
The Gesture Guild was inaugurated by Sailors Sing Suicide Songs, a shipwreck anthem dedicated to the SS Patria II, carrying the international Congress of Modern Architecture from Marseille to Athens and back in the summer of 1933. During the last night of the sea voyage a terrible storm made the vessel lose control. The sea swamped the deck. To avoid capsizing, the ship gave up and let the gale decide its course. If it had sunk Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Le Corbusier, Fernand Leger, Kurt Seligmann, Christian Zervos, and Cornelis van Eesteren could have drowned. Perhaps next time.
The Guild's Department of Applause published Decapitation Index, a Swiss Weltformat-size weekly pamphlet, re-telling the deaths of white dudes of Minimalism and Conceptual art in the guise of ongoing Serbian narco-mafia assassinations and retaliations. The texts create a tabloid killing spree/gang war, unfolding before and shortly after the artists’ arrival in Switzerland for the opening of the first major international survey of Conceptual art, “Live In Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form,” curated by Harald Szeemann for Kunsthalle Bern in 1969.