Summary

Hegel kritik der logik is a globe, the surface of which has been painted uniformly with gold paint. Two parallel white lines, which recall ledger lines from a notebook, have been painted around the circumference of the globe, with a slogan painted in copperplate lettering between them. The text is written entirely in lower-case, including name of the renowned philosopher Hegel (1770–1831). It is in German, and reads ‘hegel=sein=nichts=’; translated, it reads ‘hegel=being=nothing=’. Two red lines have been painted around the base of the globe, and the work’s title has been painted between them in white. On the globe’s base, there is a manufacturer’s inscription indicating that it was made in Moscow. T12465 is one of a series of similar globes that Mangelos created in the 1970s. Each was painted in one or more colours – gold, black, white, red or silver – with contrasting numbers, symbols or text painted onto the surface in acrylic paint. For example, the globe entitled Hegel globe c.1977–8 (reproduced in Stipančić, p.159) is silver, with the German text ‘sein=nichts anderssein=andernichts’ (‘being=nothing differentbeing=differentnothing’) in black and red running around the circumference. As the critic Branislav Dimitrijević has commented, Mangelos’s use of media such as blackboards, notebooks and school globes, ‘formed an imaginary classroom as a place of trauma and edification – a site where the notion of tabula rasa emerged as an artistic space’(quoted in Dimitrijević, p.287).

References to thinkers and philosophers such as Hegel, Pythagoras (c.570–c. 495 BC) and Walter Benjamin (1892–1940) are common in Mangelos’s work. Mangelos embraced Hegel’s idea that art in the modern age could not adequately express reality. This idea is central to Mangelos’s conceptual project. His principle of ‘no-art’ employed strategies of erasure, negation and denial. By covering up the detail of the globe’s surface, Mangelos has negated its capacity to communicate information, and implicitly extended this negation to the entire surface of the world. The globe’s title, Hegel kritik der logic (Hegel Critique of Logic) is a pun relating Hegel’s major opus Wissenschaft der Logik (The Science of Logic) back to its historic antecedent, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Critique of Pure Reason) by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804).

In addition to Croatian, his native language, Mangelos often used French and German in his works. Along with the many references to Western European philosophy, this suggests he wished to situate his work within an international frame of reference. His use of Glagolitic script (the oldest known Slavic alphabet) and runes also indicates his interest in sign-systems and the limits of representation. On his theory of ‘no-art’, Mangelos commented that his aim was ‘to negate the picture by writing it with words, to negate the word by painting it’ (quoted in Dimitrijević, p.287).

For his personal art experiments, Dimitrije Bašičević took on the pseudonym Mangelos. The name was taken from the name of a village near the place of his birth, Šid, west of Belgrade. Before assuming his artistic pseudonym, Bašičević studied History of Art and Philosophy in Vienna and Zagreb, and received a Ph.D. from Zagreb Faculty of Philosophy in 1957 with a thesis on the Serbian painter Sava Šumanović (1896–1942). He worked as a curator and a critic, and in the 1950s became one of the foremost champions of Yugoslav naïve art. His first art works, Paysage de la mort 1942–4 (Landscape of Death) and Paysage de la guerre 1942–4 (Landscape of War), were paintings in which found printed images were entirely covered in black paint (reproduced in in Dimitrijević, p.50 and p.52). From that point onwards, he began to create works in various media including notebooks, books, tablets, sheets and globes. The works were often made in series, and included Pythagoras, which featured geometric shapes, Négation de la peinture (see T12467), in which printed reproduction were painted over and Abecede, which featured Glagolitic and Latin letters and runes. He also wrote poems and tracts, which he titled Nostories, Theses and Manifestos. From 1959 to 1966 Mangelos was an active member of the Gorgona group in Zagreb, who, according to the curator Branka Stipančić ‘in the spirit of the late 1950s and early 1960s ... turned to neo-Dadaist trends as well as to the reductionism and philosophy of the East – Zen Buddhism’ (Stipančić, p.20). Mangelos divided his artistic activity into nine and a half periods of seven years each, based on the theory of cell-renewal (every seven years, every single cell in the human body is renewed) and correctly predicted the year of his own death in 1987.

Further reading:
Tihomir Milovac (ed.), The Misfits: Conceptualist Strategies in Croatian Contemporary Art, Zagreb 2002.
Branka Stipančić (ed.), Mangelos Nos.1 to 9 ½, Porto 2003.
Branislav Dimitrijević, ‘A Brief Narrative of Art Events in Serbia after 1948’ in Irwin (ed.), East Art Map, London 2006.

Elizaveta Butakova
January 2010

Supported by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange in collaboration with the Courtauld Institute of Art.