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Museo Arte Contemporáneo, Ciudad de México, México
September 5, 2015 – January 3, 2016




Mladen Stilinović was born in 1947 in Belgrade when it was the capital of the recently independent Yugoslavia. Active since the 1970s, he currently lives and works in Zagreb, Croatia. Over his career Stilinović has established himself as one of the leading figures in the world of conceptual art, not only in Croatia but internationally. This solo show comprising work dating from the 1970s up to the first decade of the 21st century includes video, painting, collage, documentation of actions and installations, and aims to demonstrate how Stilinović has questioned the aesthetic and social legacy of the avant-garde. His works deploy the way in which the artist constructs his practice around an apparently simple grammar: money-time-power-pain-white-work-food-language-red-pink. In reality it is a strategic selection of concepts that has enabled him to string together the battles he wages against the systems of power in a constant exercise of resistance, from a perspective of absurdity and irony.

One of the most interesting characteristics of Stilinović is his capacity to abstract the intrinsic mechanisms of power independently of their political and economic context. The political changes undergone by Eastern Europe, where he lives and work, and the way in which these were integrated into his work have served to demonstrate this ability. His real interest is not the ideological content of a specific type of power, whether socialist or capitalist, but the neutralization of the mechanisms of the reproduction of power per se, and its effect on the individual. In this sense, with his conception of power in terms of pain and sadness he may be read as a follower of Spinoza. He understands it above all as an obstacle to the realization of the power of each subject. This capacity makes him immune to the temptation to replace the mechanisms of power he criticizes and converts him into a real agent of anarchy, whose critical network extends from his local urban everyday world and global political analysis to institutional critique and dominant tendencies in art. As a result, he has diversified access to his work over the course of his career, from street interventions, exhibitions in both small independent spaces and large international institutions—or in his own apartment.

His work comprises exercises that are frequently tautological, with citations that range from the aesthetic of the street to that of the Russian avant-garde, but always based on a dual axis that combines the formal simplicity with the deconstructive power of the absurd. The practice of this Croatian artist is governed by a specific question: how to manipulate that which manipulates you. [1] Though he is considered a conceptual artist, the work of Stilinović is never cold nor rational, but moves in a register of humor and irony whose simple gestures appeal to the emotions and produce experiences that insist on personal responsibility. All his artistic strategies, starting with his auctioning off the color red, exchanging the definition of all the words in the dictionary for the word pain, or selling self-censorship, are connected—in the artist’s own words—with respecting the anarchy in himself [2] and proposes the absurd as an antidote to ideology—whichever ideology is waiting for us around the next corner.

[1] Mladen Stilinović, “Footwriting” in Texts, Mladen Stilinović, Zagreb, 2011.
[2] Mladen Stilinović, “On the texts” in Texts, Mladen Stilinović, Zagreb, 2011.

Courtesy of MUAC, Mexico City


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