IMAGES Journal for Visual Studies


Image and Anti-image. Julije Knifer and the Problem of Representation

This project aims at a critical evaluation of the work of Julije Knifer – one of the most important Croatian artists of last decades. He is unanimously believed to be the most intriguing representative of the Croatian Neo-avantgarde with significant presence on the whole territory of the former Yugoslavia. However, serious critical evaluation is still missing. Why is Knifer's motif of “meander” so important? Why is his art decisive for the understanding of the society of spectacle? How can it be interpreted in terms of art-historical discourse and how in relation to other disciplines? Is there any political charge in Knifer's work, despite his alleged lack of interest for politically engaged art?

Although his work is non-referential, Julije Knifer himself makes many references in his writings and interviews to film directors, writers and composers that influenced his work. All these intermedia connections completely lack from the surveys that have been undertaken so far. Therefore, this project will engage experts from fields as diverse as literary theory, film studies, philosophy, visual studies, psychology of perception and others to deal with manifold aspects of Knifer's work and help us all to learn to look. The project will consist of an introductory conference in Zagreb (winter 2015), public presentations across Croatia and by taking part in various TV and radio shows (throughout 2016), publication of the critical volume and its extensive presentations across Croatia (spring 2017).

This project wishes to show that, properly evaluated, contemporary abstract art can tell us a lot about the society we live in. It can tell us that non-figurative art is not just pure form to be contemplated but can be a container of various meanings. On the other hand, abstract art can teach us how to become attentive spectators of all images that we encounter every day. In order to be able to understand and evaluate images, let's start from where there is apparently no meaning at all: from the abstract paintings of Julije Knifer. Only then we will gradually become more sensitive and more critical in front of all images that we happen to see (or are forced to see) in our ordinary lives. Starting from the “degree zero of meaning” we will sharpen our senses for images of the spectacle we live in.

This project has two main goals: the first is short-term and deals with critical interdisciplinary evaluation of the work of Julije Knifer - one of the most important Croatian artists. This goal is to be achieved through scholarly analysis of Knifer's work done by experts in humanities and then through popularisation of their newly acquired insights with all interested audiences. Public interest and understanding of images is the second aim of the project and its most important long-term goal: the problem of the proliferation and abundance of images in contemporary societies has become one of the crucial ecological issues. Therefore, the project wishes to help people understand and evaluate images, not just artistic ones but all across the visual field. Project's aim is also to encourage people to look more attentively and to think about what they see; to encourage them to make value judgments based on intellectual operations instead on mere spectacle and pure visual attraction.

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