Jasmina Cibic: Halls of Power

16. 03. - 16. 05. 2023

New York, USA

Jasmina Cibic (b. 1979, Ljubljana, Slovenia) works in film, sculpture, performance, and installation to explore “soft power” and the ways that governments use state-sanctioned culture—dance, music, painting, and above all, architecture—to communicate certain principles and aspirations. She begins her projects in archives, researching specific moments in history through what she calls “historical readymades”: speeches, government meeting minutes, architectural plans, or even dances or songs that reflect certain government values held at that point in time. Her artworks often focus on how Modernist architecture has been used to establish various state identities, particularly during Europe’s moments of ideological and political crises and its attempts at transnationalism.

On the High Line, Cibic shares three films that showcase a continuum of her work focusing on the relation between stagecraft and statecraft—showing how government can often function like theater. In The Pavilion (2015), five dancers assemble an architectural model that merges two buildings created to house patriarchal desire: the pavilion the Kingdom of Yugoslavia built for the 1929 Barcelona EXPO, designed by Serbian architect Dragiša Brašovan, and the unrealized house of iconic performer Josephine Baker, designed by Austrian architect Adolf Loos. The film connects a building that was constructed represent a multinational state with one that was supposed to house exotic sexualised desire, pointing to how political style permeates both domestic and civic architecture.

Nada: Act II (2017), the second in Cibic’s Nada trilogy is based on the 1958 production of Béla Bartók’s pantomime ballet The Miraculous Mandarin—the work that the Yugoslav State chose to represent its new direction on Nations Day at the Brussels EXPO almost sixty years ago. In the film, the ballet is repurposed, mis-imagined, and overwritten with new purpose in collaboration with the choreographer Lea Anderson. Bartok’s original characters—the pimps, prostitute, and exotic Mandarin—are here replaced with the archetypes of politicians, the ideal of Mother Nation, and the architect. Shot in the Arne Jacobsen’s Aarhus City Hall, the work links various European models of statecraft, soft power, and its framing across time and space.

Cibic’s third film State of Illusion (2018, 19 min.) is based on the story of the last pavilion of the defunct state of Yugoslavia at an international world exposition—the Montreal EXPO 1967. Cibic rebuilds the pavilion’s structure as a model stage set where the original architectonic representation of Yugoslavia’s six republics is rebuilt as six illusionist devices, or magician’s tricks. A cast of a female illusionist and her three henchmen use the architectural replica to make the illusionist herself disappear; the Illusionist—an allegory of a nation state—disappears in a more violent manner within each of the six architectural apparatuses. Cibic’s conceptual play on nation states as illusions points toward the fragile nature of their conception and survival and pours accent to the stagecraft mechanisms of spectacle which surrounds their presentation to the international spectatorship—hungry for populism, growing nationalist tendencies and their destructive force.