Physical narratives and spatial imaginations

This year’s October Salon will be located at the building of the Geodetic Institute, built in 1905-1907 as the Belgrade Shareholders’ Society, one of the most beautiful but also one of the most neglected monumental edifices in Belgrade. This inspiring location will be used as a space of ad hoc transformation where the works will be “implanted” in its present condition and in its existing historical narrative and architectural design. This building in Belgrade becomes a trampoline, a catapult – localized and particular – but not empty or closed up, just actively connecting the dots between here and there, then and now.


Most of the artworks will be executed in situ, however, not aiming at spectacularisation or commodification of the venue, but rather at providing a situated and motivated visual and conceptual commentary on its physical, perceptual and narrative properties vis-à-vis the context of the current social, political and economic crisis. It is a crisis that we are confronted with in all parts of the world, and through all areas of our everyday experiences. It is not only a crisis in the political, economic and social spheres, but it is also a crisis of social imagination. A crisis of confidence, of where and how to address the issues of social hope and good life. Not as a cynical enterprise, but as a way of feeling for, both laughing at and laughing with.


Every exhibition, in terms of both its physical and discursive realities, is first and foremost a specific form of exchange within a specific framework and under specific social conditions. The intention of this show is to seek modes of translation and transformation of a space (both physical and social), pre-given and static, into a place, provisional and transitional. The openness of this exchange enables circumventing mere instrumentalisation or commodification of the artwork, but also the one-dimensionality of a pre-defined and pre-determined social (or political) objective, consensus, or destination of an artistic act.


The exhibition and the accompanying publication promote a practice-based exploration of space and its context, a process not determined by theoretical and methodological premeditation. It will argue for a position within a narrow and fragile slot where contemporary art neither draws upon the myth of artistic autonomy (with the commodification of art as its final outcome), nor upon the instrumentality of art in expressing and promoting pre-determined political and theoretical discourses. In place of the sanctification of the autonomy of art and the spectacularisation of politics, the exhibition provides room for the simultaneity of the physical and the discursive, as a space of instability and risk.

The relationship between spatial and social imagination, the possibility of transforming a space into a place, and a reflective narration into an active physical presence, are of central interest here. The architectural setting of the Geodetic Institute building, and the narratives making up its history, are the starting points for reflections on social visions, promises and delusions, typical primarily of the local “version” of the attempt at, gradual progress in and eventual standstill on the path of the social modernization.


The age of modernity was characterized by the capability of forging a vision of the future, which nowadays tends to be dismissed from the relativistic position of scepticism and irony. However, the basic promise of modernity, which essentially boils down to “a good life for everyone”, has remained an irreducible place of bringing together individual desires and social imagination in the process of continual circulation. This circulation is manifested as a trajectory where personal imagination (wishes, wants, needs, dreams, fears and obsessions), collective imagination (myth, utopia, commonplace ideas) and fiction (cultural and artistic constructs and representations) are assigned equal importance. If this circulation is to make itself visible, it is not enough merely to conceive a piece of art, or an exhibition, as representational and demonstrational, but also as a field for singular spatial experiences having specific transformative potentials.


Branislav Dimitrijević and Mika Hannula