Mass Ornament #1. Watch out for gorillas in your midst! (2014) by Marta Popivoda and Ana Vujanović investigates one of the most controversial yet little known mass performances of the late Yugoslav era—the Youth Day Celebration or slet of 1987. The slet was one of the biggest state performances in former Yugoslavia, whose function was to promote and rehearse revolutionary ideals of the socialist country. Seven years after Tito’s death, the second-to-last slet took place on the eve of the fall of the Berlin Wall, only a few years before the civil war broke out in Yugoslavia. This etiolated socialist spectacle was one of hybrid pop, folk, and revolutionary pageantry. It displayed striking signs of the country’s imminent collapse, which spectators ostensibly didn’t “see.”
Mass Ornament #1 was originally conceived as an installation involving three sets of material: one is a reedited TV broadcast of the original 1987 slet showcased on the D’EST platform; the other two elements involve a collection of media reports about the social context surrounding the slet as well as an audio recording of a popular science lecture on the perceptual phenomenon called ‘inattentional blindness.’ Popivoda and Vujanović seek to open up a dialog between the ‘blind’ spectator of the slet and the viewer of the artwork. Here, the disembodiment of the former seizes upon the latter. It pulls the viewer into the experience of us as human beings and citizens, when we find ourselves in the midst of such grandiose socio-political events. The authors disembody the original spectators who would eventually be harmed, violated, or annihilated in the wars only a few years after the slet. In so doing, they shift the focal point from the past experience of the spectator on the screen to the embodied reality of the viewer, thus alluding to their own historicity.
Text by Marta Popivoda and Ana Vujanović
Marta Popivoda is a filmmaker, video artist, and a cultural worker. Her work explores Yugoslav socialist project and power structures of the contemporary (art) world. Her first feature documentary, Yugoslavia, How Ideology Moved Our Collective Body premiered at the 63rd Berlinale. Ana Vujanović is a researcher, writer, dramaturge, and lecturer, focused on bringing together critical theory and contemporary art. She holds a Ph.D. in theater studies. She is a team member and mentor at SNDO Amsterdam. Both authors were members of TkH (Walking Theory) editorial collective. They are currently working together on the documentary film Resisting Landscapes as well as the performative installation Freedom Landscapes.