Interventions in progress 09

Weekend Art: Hallelujah the Hill. The Art of Sunday Walks. Aleksandar Battista Ilić work in progress

Aleksandar Battista Ilić, an artist from the lively Zagreb art scene which is perpetually questioning its own tradition, has consistently followed a conceptual approach with an emphasis on the needs and necessities of the nineties.

This concurs with the noticeable methods and principles of artists world wide who have renounced the ivory tower of self-referential art and engaged in a newly constructed dialogue with reality. Of the many possibilities of observing culturally or socially determined processes, mechanisms and structures, or those integrated into the private sphere, Ilić, in 'WEEKEND ART', takes as his primary starting point the private, rather than the public. Through photography Ilić reinvests the private with, not only an artistic, but also public status.

The concept is deceptively simple: two male (Tomislav Gotovac, Aleksandar Ilić) and one female artist (Ivana Keser) set off every Sunday on a walk around the hilly surroundings of their home town, the hills of Medvednica around Zagreb. Something that, depending on the weather, hundreds of other citizens of Zagreb also do. These outings, with all the accompanying events such as walking, resting, picnicking, have been regularly documented since 1996 in photographs taken using the self-timer – there are now more than 400 slides, there are another few hundred yet to follow. 

As part of the project, these slides are shown in museums and galleries or are printed as cards and sent to friends and art institutions around the world. The concept, characterised by the decision to display private documents, turns the content of the documents into an artistic form, and an everyday walk into a performance. As such, certain questions arise both from the point of view of art, and the point of view of social archives unrelated to art: on the one hand the question of differentiation, on what basis can we categorise this form of visual production (photography) and on the other hand the question of how, if at all, can we distinguish a banal iconography from an artistic one? This manner of inquiry leads inevitably to the Ready Made.

However, in Aleksandar Battista Ilić's case, bearing in mind the Ready Made's strict limits, this path could lead into a blind alley. The central issue in Ilić's case is not the conscious selection of a random object – or an object we might consider random – and its presentation in an art context, but the reconstruction of trivial activities which we soon discover are private, but also socially constituted. 

Such a constitution changes our interpretation of the artistic concept. Even if we could identify the object claiming to be an art work with the documentary material of a random walk, the inverted projection of the surface of a banal social action automatically sets into motion quite different consequences. The space around the artist is also defined as a socially, spatially and temporally determined one. 'WEEKEND ART' does not present merely the photographic production of the artist (as a man taking a walk), but projects the current view of the artist (our notion of the artist) determined – at least from the artist's point of view – by the social integration which enables him to practice in 'real life' . As part of the social body apparent even in the form of a standard Sunday walk, the artist gains legitimacy for his work. He is both taking a walk and staging a performance, conceptually formalising the walks stored in innumerable private/social archives of photographs, and presenting them artistically as the site of living space: HALLELUJAH THE HILL!