Ivan Kožarić (HR) Life without Frames; I.K., Happy/Overjoyed/Delighted...; Phaluses

Performances documentation, photographs, objects (2009 - 2011)

In January 2008, I returned to Kožarić’s new studio in Gotovčeva Street after a longer period and had a pleasant surprise. Fearing that the artist might not have adapted to his new space (during my previous visit, a few months earlier, Kožarić had complained about trivial technical difficulties, for example that the operation of the gas water-heater mechanism, which also heated the premises, was so complicated that it allegedly obstructed his work and life in the new studio; “well, I am old!” – he had said), to my surprise I found clear signs of renewed creative activity. The f rst were charcoal lines drawn across the entire wall, which is his well-known way of adopting a new environment. The walls were also covered with a frieze of drawings in which he, varying his Oblici prostora [Shapes of Space], picked up on notions from the 1960s, using the golden paint from the 1970s in the process. He painted a broom in gold as well. In short, after having had to abandon his old studio in Medulićeva Street, whose content had been acquired for the Muzej suvremene umjetnosti [Museum of Contemporary Art] in its entirety, with a running start from the past, Kožarić had begun a new phase in life and art in the new studio at the age of 87. The pinnacle of this renewed enthusiasm for work resulted in the statements written in pencil on three sheets of paper in A4-format: I am happy that I am happy. I am overjoyed that I am happy. I am delighted that I am happy.

This triptych struck me as Kožarić’s other thoroughbred works as an explosion of spatial qualities, as a discovery of possibilities, as an intrusion of life into a moldy mood / everyday life / environment, as a mighty stimulus to healthy laughter.

I reacted and immediately photographed him with those paper-proclamations. Soon I had the idea to convert the photographs into B2-format posters5that we would, without any accompanying explanations and utilitarian informative purpose, launch into the urban environment as something provocative, almost heretical. For frankly, it is simply indecent, if not subversive, to declare happiness in the context of the more or less general misery of our everyday life, where, on the one hand villains and murderers plunder us in their preposterous and violent demonstrations of power, while on the other hand legions of quiet explorers of city containers pursue their daily routine. Many of those are Kožarić’s retired colleagues. His own physiognomy of an older, nameless man (to the uninformed and strangers) could represent this sad part of the population. The utterance that he is happy (overjoyed and delighted) could to many indicate an intense cynicism. But on the other hand, are these statements not something that could provide insight, inspire, set in motion some thoughts about the possibility of more acceptable ways of life, and awake the spirit regardless of the direction in which this might happen?

Thus on his 87th birthday on 10th June 2008 Kožarić announced his happiness over happiness in person and in writing, through posters, to everyone. At the very moment, when everything was done and the action completed I came to see and perhaps resolve, as it seems, a possible distortion of meaning that somewhere below my consciousness softly buzzed in my head, the warning of a certain unfi nished quality of Kožarić’s utterances and their reception. Namely, that I clearly saw the lack of the basic premise in his statement.By that I mean that the initial position of basic happiness, as a departure point for further expansion and reasoning was missing. Happiness as a given, a basic state of things, is not stressed, but simply – understood.When Kožarić says: I am happy (overjoyed, delighted) that I am happy, he includes the fi rst assumption, the noting of the fact of happiness as such (still as a “rare bird,” an uncommon occurrence) as a natural presupposition, emphasizing that he handles his happiness, the state of being happy as immanent to him,very well and that he does not feel it as too heavy a burden and an unbearable obligation, but that he is, on the contrary, able to bear this gigantic gift from God. Moreover, that he is able to “use it” and make the best of it, that he is happy (not obliged or burdened) because happiness was given to him, because he is the happy one, that in relation to this gift (that ought to be justified, “paid for”) his conscience is clear. That – just so! – he deserves his happiness!

Antun Maračić, from text ” Happiness over Happiness“ published in magazine 15 dana, No. 3 2009.)

Ivan Kožarić (HR)

Ivan Kožarić was born on 10 June 1921 in Petrinja, Croatia. In 1943 he took up studies at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts, where he was taught by professors Frano Kršinić, Vanja Radauš and Antun Augustinčić. He graduated and subsequently completed a master course by professor Augustinčić in 1949. Kožarić first exhibited his works in 1953. In 1959/60 he spent a brief period in Paris. At the beginning of sixties he was member of the Zagreb cult group Gorgona. His works were presented in around 100 one-man exhibitions and some 200 group and thematic exhibitions. His most notable appearances were at the Alexandria Biennale, the exhibition La jeune sculpture in Paris in 1960, the Venice Biennale in 1976, Biennale in Sao Paulo in 1979, in the Paris Museum of Modern Art in 2002 and at the Kassel Documenta 11 in 2002. His latest major retrospective was held in the Haus der Kunst in Munich (June to September 2013). His sculptures stand in public spaces across Croatia. Among the many awards he received, the Josip Račić Prize of 1994 and the Vladimir Nazor Lifework Prize of 1997 should be mentioned. Kožarić is represented in numerous contemporary art collections in Europe and the world. The whole of his studio, comprising over 6000 works, was purchased in 2007 and is on permanent display in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb.