Challenging the notion of Queer Art with Zvonimir Dobrovic

German choreographer Raimund Hoghe.

German choreographer Raimund Hoghe

Internationally acclaimed curator, Zvonimir Dobrovic is currently in Sydney as guest of Performance Space and 2015 Mardi Gras festival. On Friday 27 February, he joined me on Eastside Radio to talk about his practice and the new, extended meaning of queer art.

Zvonimir is known for his unconventional approach to curating queer. His vision of queer art widens the common association of queer with the LGBT related content and includes all art that is subversive (but never violent); all art that questions normativity and conventionality. The art, in other words, that is a disruption to business-as-usual, to normative assumptions that lead to marginalisation and discrimination of any kind.

Hear Zvonimir reflect on socio-political relevance of queer art and explain why he believes that art (and non-didactic art in particular) has a power to broaden the per-existing limiting and marginalising narratives, more effectively then some other initiatives. He also explains why it is important to keep queer art indexical rather then iconic, where iconic is seen as repetitive and formulaic while indexical points to something new and unexpected, something that we have not yet though of. The indexical art is an art of discovery. If we follow Zvonimir’s definition of queer art as disruption of status-quo then we could say that indexical art is by its very definition queer. Or, in other words, that art that is not indexical stops being queer.

“When trying to understand or determine queer art, let us remember that the beauty of queer is that there is no essential queer art object or subject. Queer art is not an objectifiable identity, domain, or dwelling, but is rather produced as a contrast against which normalcy is produced and codified. Hence, queer art never is, it never fully arrives. It is always, disrupting, refusing, and resisting the ever-shifting power of normativity and dominance, …” ~


Zvonimir Dobrovic giving a public lecture at the Carriageworks in Sydney on 23 February 2015

Zvonimir Dobrovic is founder of both Queer Zagreb and Queer New York Festivals. The festival began in Croatia in 2003 and has since become a major international event, providing a conceptual framework for an experimental program of queer works that feature artists from around the world in a range of cities including Zagreb, Chicago, Sao Paulo, Athens, Berlin and more.

Some of Zvonimir’s quotes:

“To my way of thinking, artistic expression of the type that attempts to tell everything in words is inherently artless. We tend to think of words as the highest means of communication, but in art, the use of words can actually be an obstacle to communication at times. Art must promote discourse in ways that are different from everyday means of communication. If it doesn’t, that country’s audience will gradually forget how to use their minds creatively and their powers of thought will surely weaken. The audience isn’t stupid. That is why people involved in artistic activities must trust the audience. Everything begins from that relationship of trust.” []

“I believe that the arts are irreplaceable. Even if you have all you need in the way of clothing food and a roof over your head, without the arts life lacks enrichment and fulfillment. People also lose the ability to find creative solutions to problems and the nation becomes constrained in elements large and small. In countries everywhere there is no end to the debate about why the nation should spend money on the arts in difficult economic times like these. But, from my viewpoint, the arts are the things we need most of all. What’s more, the budgets necessary for the arts are really quite small compared to things like the military budget. If you translated the cost of the budget of the Croatian National Theater into bullets, I don’t think it would be enough to keep very many machine guns supplied.” []

“Liberating the body is not only a matter of sexual liberation, it is the first step toward liberation that connects to all forms of freedom of speech and action. And, body art is a very potent form of artistic expression for recognizing and fighting against the restrictions that exist in society today.” []

Brazilian choreographer Marta Soares

Brazilian choreographer Marta Soares


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