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OHO Group Members' Newly Translated 1969 text: "An Interview with Milenko Matanović and Tomaž Šalamun"

Translated from Serbo-Croatian into English here for the first time by Aleksandar Bošković and Jennifer Zoble, "An Interview with Milenko Matanović and Tomaž Šalamun" was published in the 1969 catalog of the exhibition Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Andraž Šalamun, Tomaž Šalamun that took place at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. The exhibition featured works by Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Andraž Šalamun, and Tomaž Šalamun. Having studied the catalog in the MoMA Archives, scholar Ksenya Gurshtein offers introductory commentary on the interview and exhibition. This primary document appears in conjunction with the multi-part essay “The OHO Group, "Information," and Global Conceptualism avant la lettre".

Permission to republish this interview has been generously granted by Milenko Matanović and Metka Krašovec.

Author

Milenko matanovic 206x300

Milenko Matanović

Artist Milenko Matanović is an artist, poet, and community organizer associated with the group OHO from its inception in 1965 until 1971, when he left Yugoslavia for Scotland and... Read more »
Tomaz salamun

Tomaž Šalamun

Artist and poet Tomaž Šalamun was an internationally acclaimed Slovenian poet, who was active in neo-avant-garde circles in the 1960s and ‘70s. He became associated, through his brother... Read more »
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OHO Group Members' Newly Translated 1969 text: "An Interview with Milenko Matanović and Tomaž Šalamun"

Translated from Serbo-Croatian into English here for the first time by Aleksandar Bošković and Jennifer Zoble, "An Interview with Milenko Matanović and Tomaž Šalamun" was published in the 1969 catalog of the exhibition Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Andraž Šalamun, Tomaž Šalamun that took place at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. The exhibition featured works by Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Andraž Šalamun, and Tomaž Šalamun. Having studied the catalog in the MoMA Archives, scholar Ksenya Gurshtein offers introductory commentary on the interview and exhibition. This primary document appears in conjunction with the multi-part essay “The OHO Group, "Information," and Global Conceptualism avant la lettre".

Permission to republish this interview has been generously granted by Milenko Matanović and Metka Krašovec.

Show More

Translated from Serbo-Croatian into English here for the first time by Aleksandar Bošković and Jennifer Zoble, "An Interview with Milenko Matanović and Tomaž Šalamun" was published in the 1969 catalog of the exhibition Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Andraž Šalamun, Tomaž Šalamun that took place at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. The exhibition featured works by Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Andraž Šalamun, and Tomaž Šalamun. Having studied the catalog in the MoMA Archives, scholar Ksenya Gurshtein offers introductory commentary on the interview and exhibition. This primary document appears in conjunction with the multi-part essay “The OHO Group, "Information," and Global Conceptualism avant la lettre".

Permission to republish this interview has been generously granted by Milenko Matanović and Metka Krašovec.

Though his engagement with OHO was short-lived, Tomaž Šalamun played an important role in shaping the group’s artistic trajectory. A poet who had traveled extensively through Western Europe, spent time in Rome with the artists of the Italian Arte Povera, and was working as a curator at Ljubljana’s Moderna Galerija, Šalamun encouraged OHO to congeal by 1969 into a more tightly knit collective of four members (Milenko Matanović, David Nez, Tomaž Šalamun, and Tomaž’s brother, Andraž).1 The Pradedje exhibition in Zagreb marked this moment of transition; the catalog of this exhibition was one of the first things that Taja Vidmar sent Kynaston McShine.2 The installations captured in it (made of bricks, hay, plastic, and an entire salvaged roof) reflect the influence of Arte Povera, combined with a desire to affront and scandalize the museum-going audience. As David Nez has put it, “There was lots of fun and positive energy, that's what kept us going. There was also the adrenaline rush of pushing the boundaries and being outrageous.3

This “interview” captures the outrageousness particularly well. Tomaž Šalamun’s litanies of insults and self-aggrandizing epithets reveal his insistence on having the freedom to say whatever he wanted, which got him in trouble in 1964 when he was briefly imprisoned following the publication of his first poem. According to Matthew Rohrer, “Šalamun …single-handedly ushered in a postmodern exuberance into Slovenian and…Yugoslavian poetry,” combining the “classic seriousness” of the European Modernist tradition with “thumbing his nose at everything, including himself.”4

One sees such tension between deference and irreverence towards Art and Culture in the professionally produced Zagreb catalog, where Šalamun and Matanović’s transcribed conversation followed jargon-heavy essays – the critical apparatus necessary to legitimize an artistic practice. One also sees this tension in the unorthodox dialogue itself, which oscillates widely between visions of grandeur on the one hand and “impostor syndrome” anxiety on the other. It also moves between the poles of playfulness and genuine concern with the purpose of one’s activity, as when Šalamun declares, “inside me lies the entire european tradition, i exhibit brick and hay.” Matanović is the more earnest of the two speakers, and his allusion to the Triglav performance (discussed in Part 2 of “The OHO Group, "Information," and Global Conceptualism avant la lettre”) points to concern with the social impact of OHO’s work: “i’ll exhibit outside, my work has a social dimension…the social dimension is that triglav mountain is in a park.”

— Ksenya Gurshtein

an interview
with milenko matanović
and tomaž šalamun

mm    is milenko matanović
tš       is tomaž šalamun
tš       milenko matanović is the biggest impostor living
          he is a bitch, a wretch, a nincompoop
          he is a chump
          he picks his nose
          he’s such a dreadful chump that one can only yawn
          milenko matanović has ears and mange
          he’s a fascist he wears makeup
          he’s a chump impostor with curls in his hair
          he’s the general secretary of the fascist party
          he’s a chump
          he’s the biggest living idiot
          he lies and equivocates so much that everything he says amounts to one
          outrageous lie
          he flies through the air and nonetheless squints
          he eats flies that he picks and scrapes
          he is scum
          he grew up crooked and he’ll die crooked
          he’s a despicable impotent wet fish and even slow to stink
          milenko matanović will wind up in a grave
          he is scum
          i know everything about you and there’s nothing i can ask you
mm    ask me what i’m working on
tš       what are you working on
mm    i’m pondering my life’s work
tš       i’m pondering my life’s work too
mm    what will your life’s work be
tš       bread
mm    i’m going to divert the sava river to the adriatic sea
tš       i’ll haul the sand
mm    inside me lies the entire european tradition, what do you exhibit
tš       inside me lies the entire european tradition, i exhibit brick and hay
mm    i exhibit ten roman hillocks. what is the conceptual level
tš       i’d like all the contingencies that go with it
mm    no, i wouldn’t, what are you going to do?
tš       i’ll build out a gallery, i’ll buy a bus, a bus driver, i’ll drive passengers around
         the exhibition space. i’ll plow the soil in front of the gallery and sow wheat
mm    i’ll exhibit outside, my work has a social dimension
tš       what should i ask you
mm    ask me what the social dimension is
tš       what is the social dimension
mm    the social dimension is that triglav mountain is in a park. i make films
tš       we don’t have much time left
mm    i’m a director and choreographer
tš       i’m a biblical figure, are you sad
mm    i think so, urgent action must be taken
tš       i’ll plow the soil and sow the wheat
mm    i’m sad because there are no more horses on the streets of ljubljana
tš       i’m building a house
mm    are you working enough
tš       that’s bad, do you want me to write that down
mm    i don’t know, it doesn’t matter to me what gets written down. i have a friend
          david, an american, i have a high pulse, i’ll go shear sheep, let’s talk
          professionally
tš       what do you think your contribution is to the riches of european iconography
mm    time will tell
tš       i think we live well. i’m a native american, i pay homage to myself
          you are a genius tomaž šalamun
          you are brilliant you are beautiful
          you are tall you are a colossus
          you are strong you are magnificent
          you are the greatest who ever lived
          you are a king you are rich
          you are a genius tomaž šalamun in accordance with nature
          we must acknowledge
          you are a lion the stars revere you
          every day the sun addresses itself to you
          you are everything you are mount ararat
          you are eternal you are the morning star
          you are without ending and beginning you are without shadow and dread
          you are light you are heavenly fire
          look at the eyes of tomaž šalamun
          look at the magnificent radiance of the sky
          look at his hands look at his waist
          look at how he walks look at how he touches the earth
          your skin smells of oil
          your hair is sun dust
          the stars wonder who wonders at the stars
          the sea is blue who is guardian of the sky
          you are a ship amidst the sea neither wind nor whirlwind can destroy
          you are a mountain amidst the plains you are a lake amidst the wasteland
          you are the speculum humanae salvationis you are the ferryman from evil
          beside you every light is dull
          every sun darkness every brick every house every crumb
          every speck of dust
          every thread every blood every peak every snow
          every tree every life every valley every chasm
          every antagonism every lamb every roasting
          every rainbow
mm    you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ve mastered it poorly. that’s fine. i’m
          rescuing you. you’re my scruffiest lamb
tš       you’re my scruffiest lamb
mm    you’re my scruffiest lamb
tš       you’re my scruffiest lamb
mm    what? don’t write that. what do you want to be when you grow up?
tš       i’ve already grown up, i am big
mm    when i become big i’ll be a colossus. we’re done

1.

The standard form that each artist was asked to fill out for the Information curatorial files that are now in the MoMA Archives, reveals the extent of Tomaž Šalamun’s travels – in addition to studying in Ljubljana, he had studied in Krakow in 1966, traveled multiple times to Paris since 1959, went to Rome in 1961, 1964, and 1969, and listed visits to Greece, Poland, West Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium during the 1960s. He listed the start date of his work as a sculptor as 1968 and mentioned living in Rome in 1968 as an experience relevant to his artistic work. Šalamun’s career as an artist was very short-lived, and he did not create new work after 1969, when he held an ill-fated one-man exhibition in the small town of Kranj that was closed by the authorities after one day. He was represented in Information by a work from 1969.

2.

A copy of this catalog can also be found in the MoMA Archives. A scanned version of the catalogue is available in its entirety here.

4.

Matthew Rohrer, “Introduction” in Tomaž Šalamun, Poker, translated by Joshua Beckman, 2nd edition, New York: Ugly Duckling Press, 2008, i-ii. Poker was originally published in 1966.

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