Weird Forest of Wonders

Čudna šuma čuda

A winding journey through Ivšić’s obsession – the forest – will certainly contribute to paving the way to recognition of one of the silenced Croatian giants.

So transparent he can’t be seen

nepokorena šumaA combination of a thematic exhibition and an hommage to a diversity of disciplines and techniques – that would probably be the most objective description of Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art’s The Forest Unbowed, dedicated to Radovan Ivšić and set up as a part of the Rendez-vous festival. Through the poetic-artistic concept of the exhibition’s author, Ivšić’s life companion Annie Le Brun, Ivšić is presented in the mirror of one of his most common motifs: the forest—appearing in his work sometimes as the origin of the sterling life (And then the tree grows, grows, grows) or as the last refuge of silence, which Ivšić’s character Gordogan, the embodiment of the all-consuming emptiness so familiar to us today, decides to cut down tree by tree. However, except for a few short and fragmented drama and poetry quotations which frame the whole exhibition and a couple of author’s photomontage pieces, Ivšić is only barely present in The Forest Unbowed—he is so transparent he can’t be seen without a wider previous insight into his (co)author history, essentialy inseparable from his personal history.

From confiscations to Gallimard

Our greatest surrealist seems to have been condemned to invisibility from the very beginning. His literary debut, the poetic Samizdat Narcis, was confiscated in 1942 by the fascist government due to its decadence (which is documented at the exhibition), and the systematic reserve was only sealed by the exclusion from the Croatian Society of Literates in 1961. However, maybe his exile was one of the causes of Ivšić’s collaboration with the French Surrealist movement; Miro and Benoit’s illustration of Ivšić’s poems, presented at the exhibition, give a great testimony of the relevance of his work, which is omitted in Croatian anthologies and published by Gallimard! Still, it would be wrong to estimate Ivšić’s artistic (and also, moral) magnitude just by enumerating famous names. What makes Ivšić undoubtedly one of the worthiest Croatian (and French) artists is his uncompromising quest for freedom, accomplished in verse and on scene as well as in a resolute lifelong opposition to every form of totalitarianism. Therefore, The Forest Unbowed is more than just a witty title: Ivšić’s artistic forest is a space of freedom that can be opened only by an unsparing lifelong struggle for the truth, which is inseparable from art.

Too many of her wonders

One of the possible explanations of the planting of this exhibition could go in that direction: seizing a thematic so emblematic for the author, yet still so universal, offers, at least theoretically, a fixed point which can consolidate the multiplicity of obviously disparate views, whilst still keeping a hint of the original idea. The Forest Unbowed  is forested in five circles with works of Ivšić’s collaborators and contemporaries – foreign (Masson, Ernst) and native (Skurjeni, Kopač) – as well as with works of temporally, spatially and ideally distant artists. Hence, in a diachronic walk through this forest, one can see Brueghel and Courbet not far from modern photographs by Hans Kupelwieser, and Waldinger’s drawings and an oil painting by Kršnjavi frame the works of still active Bućan and Artuković. However, the very concept of thematic circles is in places redundant and repetitive: while the first circle Devastated Forest, Endangered Imagination exqusitely consolidates Toyen’s works from the Away with the War cycle and stunning photos by Sandra Vitaljić, which seem to point to death growing out from the very life of the forest, the second and the third circle (Forest of the Unending Beginning and Place of Dislocation) differ only nominally and point to what will culminate in the fourth circle (Forest of Metamorphoses) – the burdening diversity. For instance, one can’t see the tree (which is, in this case, a collection of Toyen’s masks for King Gordogan) for the forest of etnographic and biological exhibits of forced significance, to the point that the last circle, Forest of Signs and Lightning, remains unnoticeable. To recall Ivšić again, this exhibition occasionally offers too many of her wonders – to such a deegre that it encumbers the chance to be in wonder from silence (again, Ivšić). However, even such a winding journey through Ivšić’s obsession – the forest – will certainly contribute to paving the way to recognition of one of the silenced Croatian giants and throw a bit of light on what he left for us in his forest – his work and life.

Tako proziran da se i ne vidi

nepokorena šumaKombinacija tematske izložbe i hommagea u raznolikosti kako disciplina, tako i tehnika – to bi bio možda najobjektivniji opis koji zaslužuje Nepokorena šuma zagrebačkog MSU-a posvećena Radovanu Ivšiću, a organizirana u sklopu festivala Rendez-vous. Poetsko-likovnim konceptom autorice izložbe, Ivšićeve životne partnerice Annie Le Brun, taj je književnik i umjetnik predstavljen u zrcalu jednog od svojih najučestalijih motiva – šume koja se u njegovu opusu pojavljuje bilo kao ishodište nepatvorenog života (I onda drvo raste raste raste), bilo kao posljednje utočište tišine koje nakon svega odlučuje posjeći Ivšićev Gordogan, utjelovljenje danas nam toliko bliske sveproždiruće praznine. No, izuzev nekoliko kratkih i fragmentiranih citata iz drama i pjesama koji uokviruju cijelu izložbu te svega par autorskih fotomontaža, Ivšić je u Nepokorenoj šumi prisutan tek ovlaš – da ga parafraziramo, tako proziran da se i ne vidi bez šireg prethodnog uvida u njegovu (su)stvaralačku povijest, bitno neodvojivu od osobne.

Od zapljena do Gallimarda

Na nevidljivost naš je najveći nadrealist, čini se, osuđen od prvih trenutaka. Njegov prvijenac, poetski samizdat Narcis, ustaška je vlast zaplijenila zbog dekadentnosti 1942. (što izložba dokumentira), a sustavna prešućenost samo je zapečaćena izbacivanjem iz Društva hrvatskih književnika 1961. No, možda je upravo pozicija prognanika jedan od krivaca Ivšićeva dioništva u francuskom nadrealističkom pokretu; Miroove i Benoitove ilustracije Ivšićevih pjesama predstavljene na izložbi ponajbolje svjedoče o relevantnosti njegova djela, koje hrvatske antologije preskaču, a objavljuje – Gallimard! Ipak, bilo bi pogrešno Ivšićevu umjetničku (ali i moralnu!) veličinu procjenjivati samo supostavljanjem poznatih imena: ono što Ivšića čini nesumnjivo jednim od najzaslužnijih hrvatskih (i, ništa manje, francuskih) umjetnika 20. stoljeća upravo je njegova beskompromisna potraga za slobodom, ostvarena kako u stihu i na sceni, tako i u odlučnoj životnoj opoziciji svim totalitarizmima. Nepokorena šuma stoga je više od dosjetljiva naslova: Ivšićeva je umjetnička šuma prostor slobode koji se može otvoriti tek bespoštednom životnom borbom za istinu, neodvojivom od umjetnosti.

Previše njezinih čuda

U tom smjeru išlo bi i jedno od mogućih objašnjenja sađenja ove čudnovate izložbe: zahvaćanje za autora tako znakovite, a ipak univerzalne tematike barem u teoriji nudi čvrstu točku koja bi objedinila mnogostrukost očito disparatnih pogleda, a da se pritom očuva natruha polazišne ideje. Nepokorena šuma kroz pet je tematskih krugova pošumljena radovima cijelog niza Ivšićevih suradnika i suvremenika – stranih (Masson, Ernst) i domaćih (Skurjeni, Kopač) – ali i vremenski, prostorno i idejno udaljenih autora. Stoga se u dijakronijskoj šetnji ovom šumom nedaleko od modernih fotografija Hansa Kupelwiesera može vidjeti i Brueghela i Courbeta, a Waldingerovi crteži i jedno Kršnjavijevo ulje na platnu uokviruju radove još djelatnih Bućana i Artukovića. No, sam koncept tematskih krugova mjestimično se pokazuje izlišnim i repetitivnim: dok prvi ciklus Opustošena šuma, Ugrožena mašta izvrsno objedinjuje Toyenine radove iz ciklusa Sakrij se, rate! i zapanjujuće fotografije Sandre Vitaljić, koje kao da ukazuju na smrt koja izrasta na samom životu šume, drugi i treći krug (Šuma beskrajnog početka i Mjesto izmještenosti) tek se nominalno međusobno razlikuju i već ukazuju na ono što kulminira u četvrtom ciklusu, Šuma preobrazbi – a to je opterećujuća raznolikost. Primjerice, od šume etnografskih i prirodoslovnih izložaka forsiranog značenja iz vida se gubi drvo (u ovom slučaju, Toyenine maske za Kralja Gordogana), u toj mjeri da i posljednji krug, Šuma znakova i munja, ostaje bez ikakve zamjetljivosti. Da se ponovno prisjetimo Ivšića, ova izložba na trenutke nudi previše njezinih čuda – u tolikoj mjeri da donekle otežava priliku da se bude u (ponovno Ivšićevu) čudu od tišine. Međutim, i takvo vijugavo putovanje Ivšićevom opsesijom – šumom – svakako će doprinijeti krčenju puta do prepoznavanja jednog od prešućenih hrvatskih velikana i baciti barem malo svjetla na ljupku tamu tihu hranu koju nam je u svojoj šumi – djelu i životu – ostavio.

 

Written by Luka Tripalo