Braco Dimitrijevic

Casual Passer-by I met at 1.43 PM, Venice 1976


Not on display

Braco Dimitrijevic born 1948
Photograph, black and white, on canvas, photograph, black and white, on paper and certificate on paper
Support: 4892 × 3558 mm
Presented by Tate International Council 2007


Casual Passer-By I Met at 1.43 PM, Venice 1976 consists of three elements. The very large black and white photograph on canvas, which was made for the 1976 Venice Biennale, was originally displayed on the façade of the Ca’ Guistinian Palace on the Grand Canal (reproduced in Hegyi, p.61). The photograph features the unsmiling face of a man, taken in the style of a passport photograph. The other elements are a black and white photograph on paper, showing the canvas hanging on the building, and a handwritten certificate on paper featuring the title of the work and providing information about where and at what time Dimitrijević met the person.

T12557 is part of Dimitrijević’s Casual Passer-By series, which he began in 1971. Each work in the series features a large-scale headshot photograph of a person that the artist met at random in the street. The title of each work records the exact time and place that Dimitrijević met the person, but generally not the exact date. The photographs were placed in prominent positions on the façades of museum buildings, or in public places such as in the underground or on advertisement displays in the street. The smaller photograph and certificate are intended to be displayed in the gallery, providing information about the work that is not physically present.

The large format of the photograph and its display on the façade of a building were deliberately chosen to be misleading to a viewer, who upon seeing it would immediately assume that the person was famous or important. Within Communist Yugoslavia in the late 1960s and in the 1970s, such large-scale photographs were reserved for political leaders and the ideological elite. By putting ordinary citizens in the place of leaders, Dimitrijević aimed to reveal the implicit social and cultural codes that serve hierarchies of power. Although Dimitrijević continued to use the format of large-scale photographs after leaving Zagreb, he also evolved his strategy in response to other political and cultural contexts. The many monuments in London inspired him to make his own ‘Monument to a Casual Passer-By’: in addition to the large-scale photograph of a man named David Harper, which was displayed on the side of a London bus (T03684), Dimitrijević made a fibreglass bust of him entitled Casual Passer-By I Met at 11.28 AM, London 1972 1972 (reproduced in Kopeczky, p.163). He also made street signs featuring the names of casual passers-by, such as ‘Via Gianfranco Martina 1949’ (Gianfranco Martina, Casual Passer-By I Met at 3:28 PM, San Sicario, 1976 1976 reproduced in Cameron, p.154).

The fact that the person was chosen at random was a crucial element of the work. Dimitrivić has commented:

The intention of the work is not to make the accidentally chosen person famous; the casual passer-by only embodies the principle of chance, one choice from a broad spectrum of possibilities. This is not a pseudo-humanistic story about the glorification of the ‘little man’ (the notion ‘little man’ is already discriminating and comes from class-alienated consciousness), but the casually chosen subjects of these works represent undefined possibilities. (Quoted in Laura Hoptman and Tomáš Pospiszyl (eds.), Primary Documents, New York 2002, p.145.)

In his Tractatus Post Historicus, a manifesto essay featuring text and photographs published in 1976, Dimitrijević stresses the arbitrariness of what is considered historically significant and what is forgotten. He underlines the importance of this concept to his work by including images of large-format photographs of actual famous people. For example, on one page there is a photograph of a Chinese political celebration featuring a large-scale placard of the Chinese leader Chairman Mao, with the inscription ‘This could be a work of B.D.’ underneath (Braco Dimitrijević, Tractatus Post Historicus, Tübingen 1976, [p.21]).

Dimitrijević, whose father was a painter, had a solo exhibition at the age of ten, although he then became a junior champion skier, and studied mathematics and physics before deciding to study art at the Zagreb Academy of Fine Art from 1968 to 1971 and at Central St Martin’s College, London, from 1971 to 1973. Following the series This Could be a Place of Historical Interest (T12555) and The Casual Passer-By (T12557), Dimitrijević developed the series Triptychos Post-Historicus, in which famous paintings are re-contextualised by being juxtaposed with a non-organic object such as a bicycle or a wardrobe, and an organic object such as an orange (T04122). Dimitrijević’s statement, ‘There are no mistakes in history. The whole of history is a mistake’ (quoted in Kopeczky, p.50), encapsulates a key concern of his art.

Further reading:
Lóránd Hegyi (ed.), Braco Dimitrijević: Slow as Light, Fast as Thought, Vienna 1994.
Dan Cameron, Achille Bonito Oliva, Jean-Hubert Martin and others, Braco Dimitrijević, Milan 2006.
Róna Kopeczky (ed.), Braco Dimitrijević: ‘Louvre is my Studio, Street is my Museum’: Retrospective Exhibition of Braco Dimitrijević, exhibition catalogue, Museum Ludwig, Budapest 2008.

Elizaveta Butakova
February 2010

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

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