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Satan Panonski's body of resistance – auto-destructive body art in Croatian performing arts and practices


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Anđelković Džambić, Ljubica. (2019). Satan Panonski's body of resistance – auto-destructive body art in Croatian performing arts and practices. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture) [mentor Lukić, Darko and Marjanić, Suzana].

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This research gives, for the first time, an overview, analysis and classification of the genre– diverse work of the multimedia punk artist Ivica Čuljak / Satan Panonski. The emphasis is placed on his performance of self-destructive body art as the most recognizable part of artistic creation, and on the interpretation of literary works that have proved to be the thematic and theoretical basis of the work of Ivica Čuljak. Genre diversity is followed by an another and equally important feature of the inseparability of life events and the marginal social status from the poetics of artistic works. Therefore, the creative work of Ivica Čuljak cannot be observed without gaining insight into his private life marked by mental illness and hospitalization in a neuropsychiatric facility, by his status of a convict and a queer person or by belonging to the punk subculture. Therefore, the main topic here is approached in two ways: next to analysing and interpreting his artistic and creative work on genre and aesthetic levels, based on traditional methods and criteria, the issue of life events influencing artistic expression is approached by using contemporary research practices in performing arts. One of these starting points is the idea of performativity as a form of creating subject and its identity. In the case of Ivica Čuljak's art, based on personal testimonies and versatile identities, it has proved to be necessary in order to separate this analysis from the inability to determine the factual state of some of the life events that have become themes of his creative work. The field of this research has been expanded to the theoretical interest in performative practices as well, arising from the need for social engagement, opening up to marginalized groups, whose aesthetic criteria have not been indicated as the primary artistic goal. In this part, the theoretical background consists of the theory of applied theatre and accompanying cultural theory disciplines and theories focused on studying different identities (e. g. crip and queer theories). The main goal of this dissertation is to describe and theoretically elucidate the creative opus of Ivica Čuljak by using research approaches whose interdisciplinary character enables the comprehensiveness of this, in many ways specific, artistic personality. In this regard, one of the aims of this thesis is to show how to analyse marginal artistic phenomena by using multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. The research further seeks to confirm Čuljak’s status of the originator of self-destructive body art within the Croatian art of performance, from which point on it is possible to follow the development of this performative genre in Croatia. With the desire to create usable terminology for performances with activist features, another aim of this thesis is to offer a corpus of concepts that are part of the scope of the term applied performance. The paper also provides a draft of the first chronological overview of the creation of art works in the field of self-destructive body art in Croatia, perceived in the global context of this practice. Based on the assumptions of the dual approach, the thesis is divided into two main sections that contain multiple topics subdivided into chapters. In the first part, the entire creative work is sorted into literature (poetry and prose), types of performing art (self-destructive body art, music and music performance, anti-fashion performance), and other types and genres (artwork and mail art, audiodocudrama). The interpretation focuses on finding the features of the poetic of resistance, based on the aesthetic of shock, and on artistic characteristics that can prove Čuljak's conscious approach to creative work. In the second part, the research approach begins by defining the creative work of Ivica Čuljak as an art of personal trauma and communication of one’s own truth. It places the artist in the position of a socially stigmatized person, examining his artistic activity through belonging to five socially marginalized groups: mentally ill artists and creative work inside a health institution, status of a convict, belonging to a subcultural movement, the queer status, and creation during war. Final studies deal with several themes: the mythologisation of the artist, which proves to be an extremely influential factor in the interpretation and perception of his life and work, Ivica Čuljak as an inspiration to other artists, and a review of self-destructive body art performances in Croatian performance art based on the previously established definition of self-destructive body art. The presentation of literary work is divided into the analysis of poetry and prose writings. Along with the interpretation, which includes detection and exemplification of main themes and motifs, and stylistic and poetic features, based on the language of resistance and the aesthetic of shock, Čuljak’s poetry is also approached through the distinction of poetry in the narrow sense and the rock/punk poetry. Ivica Čuljak’s poetry is called performative poetry and is here interpreted as the starting point towards the performing part of his creative work. In addition, it clarifies the necessity of the narrative transfer from poetry to performance. Particular attention is given to the performativity of versatile identities, which functions as the author's way of coping with his own trauma, and the key element in the interpretation is the phrase the body of resistance. There is also the question of the presence of a ‘Šokac’ mentality and a possible comparison with a ‘bećarac’, as well as war poetry, which is due to its distinctiveness distinguished from the rest of the poetry corpus. In the analysis of prose works, a classification has been established, diving the works into stories and prose poems, autobiographical writings, manifestos, essays and programmatic texts, sententiae, letters and requests. The interpretation of stories shows that this prose is characterized by a pronounced deconstruction of form and language, as well as the associative and alogic writing, which draws Čuljak closer to Dadaist and Surrealist practices. Other prose writings are approached to as sources for the visualization of formed artistic poetics, where the establishment of permanent terms has been detected. The introductory analysis of self-destructive body art has established conceptual definitions and an interpretation of this type of performing as a more narrow segment of body art performance, dominated by a premeditated self-destructive act of an artist over his own body, in a performance marked by the moment of disintegration of the artist's body, aggression directed towards oneself with the aim of destruction, as well as actions that lead the artist to immediate danger of injury. Along with an overview of the history of self-destructive body art in a global context, this part of the thesis examines the relationship between radical artistic practices of the West and the East, whose lesser or greater recognisability and presentation have depended on the social context, that is,the ideology of the visible. The body, as an instrument of artistic expression, is observed through conceptual definitions and themes of the body of resistance, the performative body, the body itself, the ritual and the para-ritual body, the dualism of spirit and body, the socio-cultural perception and the concepts of physicalness, the performance of pain and the comparison of bodily performance with the tendencies and treatments of the body in the postdramatic theatre. The portrayal of Satan Panonski's self-destructive body art begins by defining his performances as centripetal lesionism, expressive body art, para-ritual, the performance of transgression and the performance of the identity of the Other, and by placing it in the global historical context of body art. The analysis of performative practice distinguishes and describes its main features: forms of types of performances, performance structure and dramaturgy, authenticity of the statement, the para-ritual character and the controlled trans, artist’s control and playing with the expectations of the audience, the performance of identities of the Other and the Otherness, theatricality and deflection from the punk subculture as the area of realization of Čuljak's performances. The presentation delivers a theatrological reconstruction of several performances by Satan Panonski based on available video recordings, and it addresses the question of Ivica Čuljak's awareness of his own body art. In analysing the genre of musical performance, the introduction delineates the concepts of avant-garde and alternative music, and it establishes the difference between a performative gesture within a musical performance and a musical performance (performative act) as a whole performance or a complete integral part within a performance. With a short overview of the Croatian alternative music scene of that period, punk music has been observed by using Jacques Attali's idea of breaking the structured sound as a reflection of an imposed culturalisation process, and a sign of a shift towards a strong bodily expression that leads to a performative gesture or act. Ivica Čuljak is compared to musicians Iggy Pop and GG Allin, whose concert performances contain elements of self-destruction as well. The portrayal of the anti-fashion performance is based on the theoretical definition of the term anti-fashion. Along with specifying the general characteristics of punk fashion, the tendencies of this style are stated as well, and as follows: the removal of sex/gender characteristics, putting emphasis on extreme sexuality through sadomasochistic iconography and the tendency of self-irony. The anti-fashion performance of Satan Panonski is here understood as an expression of autonomy versus fashion heteronomy and mental uniformisation of society. The dissertation analyses Čuljak’s individualisation of the punk style through a creative upgrade by using materials and motifs from a local context. The shift of punk clothes’ function into the one of a costume and the anti-fashion statement of Satan Panonski are compared to a linguistic system as well, and are interpreted as a language that includes taboo expressions and is the clothing equivalent to vulgar and banned words. At the end of the presentation of this theme, Čuljak's anti-fashion expression is reconstructed based on available photos and video recordings. An overview of other aspects of Čuljak’s creative work includes a shorter presentation of his artwork, which detects recognizable themes and motifs of the artist. With a brief review of the general features of fanzines, this part states the data on Čuljak’s fanzine and mail art, which are understood as means of author’s identification and identification with those like-minded, of articulation of one’s own identity and as a method of developing and spreading one’s audience. Based on preserved audio recordings, Čuljak’s creation of anti-radio show, labeled as self-ironic audio-docudrama, is presented as well. In the interpretative shift in the second part of the thesis, an analysis is approached to from the theoretical position of applied theatre, engaged performance and performative testimony of trauma, while Čuljak’s art is defined as the communication of one's own truth and the art of personal trauma. The introductory part, along with conceptual definitions of personal trauma and alternative culture, points to similarities shared with performative practices of applied theatre. After determining the basic types of performance, the analysis turns to establishing terminology for applied performance by transferring concepts from the theory of applied theatre. Terms are divided into categories (general and umbrella terms, basic intention of performance, social/artistic status of performer, context of performance creation and its collectiveness/individuality, radical characteristic of form and thematic orientation of performance). The established terminology is then applied to the performances of Ivica Čuljak/Satan Panonski. Čuljak’s artistic position is determined and represented through five socially marginalized positions, stigmas from which he has spoken artistically. The theme of the stigma of a patient portrays a part of his life and creative work that took place in hospital conditions, based on available information, and analyses a therapeutic effect of this art of pain. The identity of the mentally wounded is further discussed using Erving Goffman’s concept of a total institution, and the relations and ways of Čuljak’s drift towards the characteristics and forms of depersonalizing an individual, a process often occurring in such institutions. In the description of the murderer stigma and the status of a convict, the introduction presents biographical data based on available court documents and other archival sources, and analyses the convict stigma and the artistic identity resulting from it. Motives of the dramaturgy of crime, punishment and justice, which are present in Čuljak's body art, as well as functions of performances such as maintaining social links with the outside world or a brief formation of personal dignity, point to a comparison of Čuljak’s performances to the type of applied performance called the prison theatre. This section analyses a special aspect of Čuljak’s (non)artistic expressiveness on this subject as well – requests for pardon, which deviate from the expected administrative style of writing, approaching a hybrid genre at the intersection of a documentary and an artistic statement, in which Čuljak's language of resistance is realized once again. In interpreting Čuljak’s position as the one of a forerunner of contemporary spokespersons for queer persons and the voices from the margin, the creative work is linked to queer concepts and the crip theory. Performative identity creation is examined through the idea of the performativity and Judith Butler’s concept of subject undoing. The homosexual theme, which is in Čuljak's works reinforced by motifs of diseases such as AIDS or syphilis as punishment for deviance, is observed through Susan Sontag’s theoretical postulates on experiencing illness as an unnatural state, social deviance or the state of the Other. This leads to the stigmatisation of patients, where Čuljak’s use of the motif of illness is interpreted as a subversive act. The description of Čuljak’s controversial position of a performer-warrior brings forward biographical information that indicates the circumstances of his life and work after leaving the neuropsychiatric hospital and during the war period, which are more difficult to shed light on. The beginning of warfare in Croatia is perceived through the issue of the possibility of speaking about Croatian applied theatre/performances during the war, and here the paper deals with the formation of anti-war art within institutions and the non-institutional antiwar art present in the alternative (subcultural) music scene and the performance art. Čuljak’s rare performances during the war are marked by the absence of self-destruction, which is here considered as possible proof of artist's reflection on his own performance and its impact on the audience. The introduction to an overview of Čuljak’s belonging to the punk movement, observes the emergence of the regional punk scene, and connects the local context with the concept of subculturalisation. As an important feature of this subculture, the emphasis is put on the aspiration to create a different reality by reinterpreting the spaces of performance, having a different understanding of the artistic status, forming alternative social communities and affirming different gender and sex identities, which are in Čuljak’s case realized through an informal organization Punk prisna porodica. Based on the available data, the dissertation describes the ways this community functions, and states the basic elements of its organization, which are as follows: naming the organization, writing programmatic texts, establishing the philosophy of the community, taking over the role of the leader, setting up the we – they opposition as a basis for members’ self-identification, along with creating an utopian vision of the future in the idea of a punk commune. The portrayal of the artist's mythologisation points to the realization of the artistic idea of provocation using a versatile identity performative based on the production of disinformation, as well as the inscenation and spectacularisation of one’s own life, which resulted in a distinct appearance of numerous urban legends about Ivica Čuljak. This part of the thesis states the ways of their production and distribution through the creation of artist's individual mythology, media exposure and posthumous spread and upgrade of rumors in the mediosphere. Urban legends are thematically classified into legends related to the autobiography mythologisation and the formation of the identity of the Other, excessive behaviour, wartime and death. The theme of artist mythologisation is analysed through the question of interaction between the oral tradition and the media as well. The artistic appearance and life story of Ivica Čuljak have created a special aura of an authentic, uncompromising artist, which persistently intrigues the public and has also proved inspirational to authors in various fields of artistic expression. This chapter lists and briefly describes artistic and documentary works created by using the motifs or the theme of life and creativity of Ivica Čuljak / Satan Panonski, and more noteworthy commemorative projects. The end of this chapter gives an example of Satan Panonski’s influence on the entire creative work of artist Sven Fabjan Gorjanec, and establishes a division of Croatian artists of self-destructive body art into direct imitators and indirect continuators, performance artists whose artistic work is marked by self-destruction acts. The final part provides an overview of key self-destructive body art performances by Croatian artists from the beginning of the 1990s to 2018. These performances differ in the artists’ motives, the performance sites that are no longer part of the margin, and the performances’ publicity/privacy. These performances are defined as self-destructive gestures and as performances that are, in every sense of the word, called self-destructive body art, based on the idea of self-harm that becomes an essential feature of the artist's work overall. The overview presents works by the following authors and art groups: Josip Pino Ivančić, Zlatko Kopljar, Le Cheval, Robert Franciszty, VlatkoVincek, SlavenTolj, Siniša Labrović, Igor Grubić, Krešo Kovačiček, Boris Kadin, Gildo Bavčević, Marko Marković and Marijan Crtalić.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ivica Čuljak/Satan Panonski, Croatian performance art, self-destructive body art, applied performance, punk subculture
Subjects: Comparative literature
History of art
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Supervisor: Lukić, Darko and Marjanić, Suzana
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture
Date Deposited: 03 May 2019 11:01
Last Modified: 03 May 2019 11:01

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