This Could be a Place of Historical Importance is a marble plaque with the words of the title engraved upon it in capital letters. The marble is white with grey veining, and the letters have been painted with gold paint, so that the plaque resembles an expensive historical memorial.
First exhibited in Documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977, this work is part of a series of plaques that Dimitrijevic photographed in various public locations. The first one was installed on Greek Street in Soho, London, in 1971, when Dimitrijevic was enrolled on the Advanced Sculpture course at St. Martin’s College of Art, London (reproduced in Kopeczky, p.177).
Dimitrijevic produced works for the series in a number of different formats, including plaques such as T12556 and photographs of mundane places with the slogan ‘THIS COULD BE A PLACE OF HISTORICAL INTEREST’ printed beneath (see T12555). The artist’s project as a whole aimed to both reveal and challenge the underlying power structures that determine what sites, people and dates are deemed historically and culturally significant. For Dimitrijevic chance played a defining role in history (‘There are no mistakes in history. The whole of history is a mistake’, quoted in Kopeczky, p.50). With the series This Could be a Place of Historical Importance he aimed to make viewer more aware of the generally unspoken assumptions he or she makes about what is historically, artistically or culturally important. In this context the critic Magda Cârneci has observed that Dimitrijevic sought ‘to defunctionalise our cultural habits, induced by education, politics, or the media’ (quoted in Hegyi, p.9).
In 1976 Dimitrijevic commented on the role of commemorative plaques in Tractatus Post Historicus, a manifesto accompanied by photographs of his work:
Take, for instance, the already mentioned example of the marble plaque on Berlioz’s house on which the sentence ‘Berlioz lived here’ is written. The basic system is linguistic, but substituting the linguistic code for the message of its presentation gives us the statement ‘Genius lived here’. It means that the implied message of all places without a memorial plaque is ‘A genius never lived here’.
(Braco Dimitrijevic, Tractatus Post Historicus, Tübingen 1976, [p.31].)
Dimitrijevic’s critique of history focuses here on the artist-genius as a locus for cultural and historical value. In addition to making use of the formal markers of historical significance such as plaques, statues (T03686) and street names, Dimitrijevic drew attention in these years to the role played by chance in determining what is deemed to be art and which artists are recognised as historically significant. In 1969, when part of a generation of artists in Zagreb later associated with the term ‘New Art Practice’ (see ‘Scenes from Zagreb: Artists’ Publications of the New Art Practice’, http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1229), Dimitrijevic staged the creation of a sculpture: he placed a sheet of clay behind a door so that the first person who opened the door would impress the door handle on the back of the door into the clay. As documented in a series of photographs, the person was a pensioner called Tihomir Simcic, who agreed to sign the piece. Thereafter Dimitrijevic promoted Simcic’s name within the art world and art press, even forming a fictitious group, Grupa Penzioner Tihomir Simcic. In a statement that year about the Group he commented that with such works the line that had formerly existed between artist and non-artist had been removed. Another key work in this respect was the action Kresimir Klika’s Painting 1969, again documented in a series of photographs. Dimitrijevic placed a carton of milk on the road and a passing motorist ran over it in his car. When stopped and asked by Dimitrijevic whether he thought the resulting milk spill qualified as a work of art, the motorist Kresimir Klika said that he agreed that it did and was willing to sign his name on the tarmac around the spillage as the author of the work.
Dimitrijevic’s repositioning of ordinary people as artists in the late 1960s led to the Casual Passer-By series, begun in 1971, in which he placed massively enlarged photographs of ordinary people, whom he had encountered by chance, on buildings, public amenities and even buses (see T03684, T12557), unpicking the convention that dictated that only leaders, heroes, celebrities or models could be presented in this way. The series This Could be a Place of Historical Importance extended this allocation of importance through commemorative public documents or records of people to everyday locations.
Lóránd Hegyi (ed.), Braco Dimitrijevic: Slow as Light, Fast as Thought, Vienna 1994.
Dan Cameron, Achille Bonito Oliva, Jean-Hubert Martin and others, Braco Dimitrijevic, Milan 2006.
Róna Kopeczky (ed.), Braco Dimitrijevic: ‘Louvre is my Studio, Street is my Museum’: Retrospective Exhibition of Braco Dimitrijevic, exhibition catalogue, Museum Ludwig, Budapest 2008.
Supported by the London Centre for Arts and Cultural Exchange in collaboration with the Courtauld Institute of Art.
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