One of the pioneers of video art in Croatia, Dalibor Martinis (born 1947) represents an important link between the cocky conceptualists of the 1970s and the technology-savvy multimedia artists of today. He also belongs to the generation that responded to Yugoslav socialism with wry ridicule, only to discover that the wild capitalism that followed it was if anything even more deserving of satire.
Eloquently representative of the Martinis’s more recent oeuvre is Variable Risk Landscape (2004), in which the artist undertook weekend hiking trips which involved walking up or down mountains in proportion to how much his shares had risen or fallen that week.
In the 2009 performance Simultaneous Speech, Martinis delivered a communist-era congress report while a booth full of simultaneous translators – rather than translating what Martinis had actually said – read out artistic and political manifestos in a variety of languages, creating a Babel of ideologies.
The video Egyptian Odessa Stairs (2011), in which the sound of demonstrators on Cairo’s Tahrir Square is dubbed onto the original footage of Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (in which protesters are shot by Tsarist troops) left no doubt about Martinis’s enduring radical sympathies.
One of the artist’s finest moments was Dalibor Martinis Talks With Dalibor Martinis (2010), in which the he appeared on Croatian TV to answer a set of questions recorded by himself some 32 years earlier. (“What do you think of me?” asks the 31-year-old artist. “Judging by your questions so far you are overambitious and pompous, but then who am I to criticize?” answers his 63-year-old self.)
His latest set of questions came in 2016, in the form of Request_reply.DM/2077 - an audio-visual project designed specifically for Zagreb's Art Pavilion. The project comprised 15 short films, created over the last fews years across international locations. Though there's no obvious common thread, each film poses its own question. Just as his 1978 questions were to be answered in 2010, these also have an answer date. Martini set that date to 2077.
Breakthroughs in cryogenics aside, its unlikely Martinis will be producing audio-visual responses in the two-thousand-and-seventies. Instead, the exhibition encouraged answers from the observer.