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  • Pop art tendencies in self-managed socialism: pop reactions and counter-cultural pop in Yugoslavia in 1960s and 1970s

Dzuverovic, Lina, 2017, Thesis, Pop art tendencies in self-managed socialism: pop reactions and counter-cultural pop in Yugoslavia in 1960s and 1970s PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This thesis explores forms of Pop Art on the territory of the former Yugoslavia in the 1960s and 1970s, seeking to identify its local variants. Yugoslavia, a
single party state, built on the legacy of the anti-fascist Partisan struggle, principles of solidarity, egalitarianism, self-management and a strong sense of internationalism due to its founding role in the Non-Aligned Movement, was,
at the same time, a country immersed in what has been termed 'utopian consumerism'. The thesis examines how Yugoslav artists during this period dealt with the burgeoning consumer society and media boom, kitsch and the
Westernization of Yugoslav culture, phenomena which were ideologically at odds with the country’s own socialist principles.
Starting from an analysis of the role of the artist in post-war Yugoslav system of self-management, the thesis proposes that Pop in Yugoslavia can be read as a critical site of articulation and negotiation of that role. Yugoslavia’s founding principles, formed as a legacy of the People’s Liberation Struggle (1941 – 1945), were based upon self-management and the introduction of social
property, with art being a democratizing force with a central emancipatory role in the building of the new socialist state. But socialist modernism gradually
relegated culture to a more illustrative role, as a form of ‘soft power’ for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The thesis proposes a reading of
artists’ diverse engagements with popular culture and materials as varied expressions of resistance to the severing of links with Yugoslavia’s founding
principles. My original contribution to knowledge lies in the identification of two strands of Pop in the country–‘Yugoslav Pop Reactions’ and ‘Yugoslav
Countercultural Pop’ which each turned to popular culture and cheap everyday materials as an alternative channel through which to respond to socialist modernism. My claim is that the two positions represent two diametrically
opposed responses to the disenchantment with socialist modernism and artists’ roles in society – both using the language of Pop Art but representing two different conceptual positions.

The thesis is structured around three core questions. Firstly it asks whether it is possible to retrospectively apply the category of Pop Art to artworks which
never originally claimed this term. Secondly it examines ways in which Pop tendencies altered the position of Yugoslav female artists, who, marginalised in
a heavily male-dominated environment, looked to Pop as an enabling force, allowing new working methods and‘giving licence’ to new types of practices.
The third question is concerned with the relationship between power, politics and Pop Art in Yugoslavia, asking to what extent Yugoslav Pop was a form ofpolitical practice, and to what extent is it was a local adaptation of international currents and themes.
This thesis is associated with Tate’s multiannual research into ‘global pop’, which culminated in the exhibition ‘The World Goes Pop’ (September 2015 –
January 2016, Tate Modern) through a Collaborative Doctoral Award (AHRC). This involved an advisory role in the exhibition research on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, identifying artists and artworks for potential inclusion in the exhibition. The methodology of the thesis was in part shaped by this context, beginning with close studies of artworks, their critical reception, and
the study of their context–the sites of production and exhibition in the country at the time. Whilst both local and international literature on Yugoslav art history, global Pop Art as well as Yugoslav material culture and political
context has been important, the core research involved oral histories, and visits to artists’ studios, museum collections, depots and archives in search of
original artworks. The thesis draws on approximately twenty interviews with artists, curators, art historians and other art workers who were active in 1960s
and 1970s, combined with the above-mentioned scholarship.

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W190 Fine Art not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2017 16:05
Last Modified: 27 Jul 2017 16:05
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/2850

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