Rasa Todosijevic

Nulla dies sine linea

1976

Not on display

Artist
Rasa Todosijevic born 1945
Medium
14 works on paper, ink and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support, each: 417 × 297 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the Russia and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee 2020
Reference
T15442

Summary

Nulla dies sine linea 1976 is series of twelve drawings made by the conceptual artist Raša Todosijević with felt-tip marker pen on paper. Each drawing is signed and dated on the reverse. Each sheet represents one of the twelve months of the year and contains hand-drawn horizontal lines, corresponding to the number of days in that month. The Latin phrase ‘Nulla dies sine linea’ is handwritten upon each line, followed by the corresponding day of the month, name of the month, and year – for example, ‘Nulla dies sine linea, 16 October 1976’. Seen together, these drawings represent one handwritten line for every day of every month of the year 1976. The drawings are accompanied by a typed introductory text by the artist in Serbian, and a typed English translation by Rajka Nisavic, produced in 1977. The typed text outlines three different series of works by the artist that concern handwritten lines and their relation to the artist’s ideas about art. The twelve drawings are displayed in a horizontal line in sequence alongside either, or both, versions of the introductory text.

The Latin title of the work and the repeatedly handwritten phrases translate as ‘Not a day without a line’. In his book Naturalis Historia [The Natural History], the Roman author and philosopher Pliny the Elder (23–79 AD) attributed this saying to Apelles of Kos – an ancient Greek artist who lived in the fourth century BC – with reference to his diligence. This phrase became a well-known motto for art academies which praised art that focused on technical skills.

Todosijević did not in fact create this work by writing one line every day for one year, but rather over a short period of time. In the accompanying typed theoretical text and its translation, the artist explained his observations on ‘the meaning of the communications in art’. He put forward three major themes raised by his continuous engagement with the line-form since 1973, as a way to question ‘art by means of art’. Each theme poses a series of questions expressed through a different set of ‘line’ works and actions, as follows:

Theme one relates to the series of works titled Nulla dies sine linea which the texts note was established in 1973–4 in Belgrade. The typed text outlines some of the questions that the artist posed in relation to this work: ‘On private / personal’, ‘On work / deed’, ‘On perfection’, ‘On conception’, ‘On irony’, ‘On continuity’, ‘On criticism / self-criticism’ and ‘On repetition / tautology’.

Theme two relates to the series of works titled Lines: 1 –10,000 –1,000,000 initiated in 1974–5. The artist connected this series of work to a set of questions on the subjects: ‘On values’, ‘On work of art’, ‘On possibilities of speech’, ‘On possibilities of recording / reading’, ‘On ethics’, ‘On silence’, ‘On materials / materialness’ and ‘On spiritual’.

Theme three relates to the series of works titled On Lines initiated by the artist in 1975. Here, Todosijević took his actions into public and cultural spaces, onto the walls of galleries and museums. For example, the action A Wall Display in a Deserted House took place in a domestic setting in Follonica, Italy in 1975. For the action 200,000 Lines for the Paris Biennale at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris – Palais de Tokyo in 1977, the artist drew this large number of lines. Theme three raised questions related to: ‘On presence’, ‘On Artistic Features’ , ‘On Language / Syntax’, ‘On Original’, ‘On Identity’, ‘On Lastingness’, ‘On Devices’, ‘On Reception’, ‘On Function’, ‘On Whole’, ‘On Context’, ‘On Architectural Space’, ‘On Public / Universal’, ‘On Politics / Economics / Ideology / History / Power / Doxa / etc.’.

As indicated in Theme One above, Nulla dies sine linea 1976 forms part of a series of works of that title, initiated in 1973–4. These works had a performative aspect as the artist drew lines on walls in a variety of places, including galleries, museums and private homes. He chose to draw anything from one to 200,000 lines, depending on the perceived ‘importance’ of the space. In these works, Todosijević revealed the artistic act itself by ironically connecting it to the act of work and ‘hand exercises’. The piece can be seen as a cynical act that refers to the labour that artists are expected to put into the creation of their art. It can also be seen to refer to the valuation of an artwork in relation to the manual labour which was put into it. Todosijević explained in the text that accompanies the work: ‘My displays are not the result of a reduction of some more complicated elements, for I didn’t start from the complex to achieve the simple either, but my point of departure has been and remained the simple.’

Writer and curator Georg Schöllhammer has noted of this aspect of the artist’s practice that:

hidden within Todosijević’s actions is nothing less than the act of political catharsis: the idea of the act of artistic representation itself is politics. Politics, as an autonomy of thought, supported by some entirely individual intelligence.

As Robert Barry, Daniel Buren, Edward Krasinski, in Paris (1977), Warsaw, Florence and Follonica (all in 1976) and elsewhere, Todosijević installs lines of various formats, materiality, and power, on walls, in art and private spaces (amongst others, in the Belgrade one in which he sat backwards on a chair for Sculpture [1971]). As On Kawara, he makes note of a continuous sequence of calendar dates on graph paper or, similarly to Hanne Darboven, on old-fashioned score paper, with scholastic calligraphy, he writes down the sentence: ‘Nulla dies sine linea’ (1976–1999). Resembling some Suprematist painting he paints a straight line with a brush on paper (1981). He juxtaposes the concept of the ‘performative’ with the concept of minimalist reduction, and within the framework of various practices of contemporary art he simultaneously introduces the act of painting and the act of drawing, and thus reacts not solely to the roles taken up by different positions in the communicative network of art. (Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina 2011, p.9.).

Further reading
Georg Schöllhammer, ‘God Loves the Serbs? A Radical Interpretation of the Aesthetic Act of Raša Todosijević’, in Sanja Kojic Mladennov (ed.), Dragoljub Todosijević-Raša: Pavilion of Serbia at the 54th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, 2011, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina, Novi Sad 2011.

Juliet Bingham
June 2019

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