Spectators, Tourists and Casual Passers-By

author Jasmina Cibic
written by Simona Vidmar

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The works of Jasmina Cibic, a young artist and traveller between London and Ljubljana, are mostly performative interventions and installations – in airports, city squares, or staging in her own atelier. We, visitors of museums, are left with documentary photographs taken during her performative productions – series of highly aestheticized images of purified interventions.


Before we make an attempt to look behind the curtains of her theatrical works, let us first examine the formal events and content-related starting points of this author’s projects.


One of Jasmina’s interventions in public space, Everybody for Safari (2005), was realized in the Istrian village of Momjan. It is hybrid housing placed in the crown of a tree. In the project, she combined the architecture of a wooden house from the tropics and a hunter’s high stand. The artist realized the project in cooperation with local bed and breakfast proprietors who offered the object to travellers as a tourist room during the exhibition. The project also included a series of audio interventions in the village, and exotic sounds of the jungle prevailed. With this project, the artist draws parallels between the charm of the unknown and generalization, and indicates the central scope of her interest – the dialogue between a work of art and its observer: she balances this with a dialogue between a tourist and an attraction in a public space.



Jasmina Cibic then leaves general public space and goes into a very defined and apathetic (semi-public) space – an airport – more precisely, the airport hall, runways and waiting rooms of Ljubljana airport become spaces of various artistic staging. In her first intervention, the artist emptied different airlines’ aircraft and inhabited them with hunting trophies, motifs which she also used later as symbols (JC01/Lufthansa, 2006, site-specific intervention). With her subsequent action, she entered the airport interior, the airport hall, where she made additions to the announcements on the arrivals and departures display with fictional places from the encyclopaedia Dictionary of Imaginary Places in cooperation with the airport’s engineers. The intervention took place without previous warning in the evening hours, while passengers were waiting for the last flight for Istanbul. The artist looked for new destinations on a precisely chosen page in the encyclopaedia of fantasy places (by authors A. Manguela and G. Guadalupa, who collected 1200 imaginary cities, countries and continents from world literature). Under the letter M one can find Karl May and his fantasy places in the Balkans (from the novel In den Schluchten des Balkans / Through the Gorges of the Balkans) into which he projected stereotypical folkloristics of this region, situated between the East and West. The project Dictionary of Imaginary Places manipulates factual information with the intention of revealing the existing desires shared by truth and fiction. The author’s Luddite insertion of the mythological into the sphere of the factual is a gesture which warns of fictionally-adjusted essence, contained in the act of travelling as consumption. In 2007, Jasmina started to work on a new project, Tourists Welcome, this time at the airport terminal. She brought a number of neon signs into the airport’s waiting rooms, a selection of historical, as well as contemporary tourist slogans of different countries and the Slovene Police Orchestra for a two-day performance at the terminal. Instead of a national music repertoire, she asked the orchestra to play a new orchestral arrangement which lasted seven minutes, a pop hit from the seventies ‘Feel Love’ which coincided with the chosen new slogan of the Slovene state ‘I Feel (S)love(nia)’. The project Tourists Welcome investigates the phenomenon of airport as mediator of communication between the visitor (user) and space. The terminal, which is on the brink of entering ‘super modernity’ where late capitalism defines public space in terms of information, spectacle and exchange, is therefore disclosed as a space of aspiration.



The author’s latest projects have been oriented towards new spaces, this time towards early modernist cages in zoos (as they were inaugurated by the Tecton Group[1]). Here, she continues to explore typologies of space which have already been primarily (genetically) directed to the spectator’s gaze towards a staged spectacle outside artistic institutions. For the project Ideologies of Display, Jasmina Cibic created a series of spaces in her atelier and placed trophies in these spaces with the exclusive intention of reproducing scenographies/sculptures as photographs, images. A primary audience for these installations does not exist here therefore the work of art exists merely for the purpose of its own documentation. An accompanying moment of the series of photographs is the setting of sculptures (Flock / After Pierre-Émile Legrain, 2008) that refer to haute couture original furniture from the late 1920s which resulted from inspiration found in exotic cultures of the third world. The furniture was created on the commission of French collectors of modern art. Jasmina’s newest project questions the architectural apparatus of exhibition spaces, ideological constructs of such spaces and operative mechanisms which define perception of these spaces.



In principle, the author divides her works into two categories: on the one hand, she creates ‘dramaturgy’ of experience in which a work of art falsifies the moment of experience and on the other hand, she creates ‘souvenirs’ (objects, products that announce an experience or talk about it). Within the contemporary art market where geopolitical particularities of artistic practices are still presented as desirable exoticism, the question about local, universal and their differences is pressing. It is not surprising that we are interested in artistic practices which deal with motivating uniqueness of space and authenticity of memory, history and identity as differentiation. The desired ‘other locality’ which ought to be motivated by a work of art finally serves the same mechanisms in this way, and these mechanisms characterize the external model with their marketing methods of creating desire and preserving phantasm, far away from realization. With her production, Jasmina Cibic investigates possible models of deviation from the global market strategy, its alienations and fragmentations. With her transitions to the past/future she uses artistic-historical/social phenomena for outlining a new reality and attempts to draw the spectator’s attention by means of highly aestheticized dramaturgy in a (political) struggle for recognizability. Jasmina Cibic explains: ‘In my works I use aesthetics which results in a highly articulated product which frequently carries at first sight a strict and perfectionist expression, exactly like products of the existing system of global capitalism, primarily those that offer some sort of experience to users. For me, it is a manner of creating structure, where elements (of a work of art) produce regulations which, however, at the same time create the very structure. The promise of experience which has been announced, performed or merely consistent with series of artefacts that attract the spectator (with their attractive image, they do it in the same way as capitalistic production apparatus) is at the same time the promise of pleasure. Nevertheless, I find the very nature of experiencing an aesthetic experience more important to me than the production of aesthetic pleasure.’

[1] The Tecton Group and its main protagonist Berthold Lubetkin were authors of a series of zoo pavilions in the 1930s which were no longer characterized by a naturalistic approach, but by a so-called ‘geometric’ approach, based on the analysis of animal species’ behavioural patterns (in accordance with the degree of scientific research at that time). The most popular example of their work is the ellipse of the so-called Penguin Pool in London Zoo from 1934.