lost histories and found objects
Kristina Leko is a prolific artist, working with objects, photography, text, video art, documentaries and short films. Her practice displays a firm belief in the power of art to effect change and a deep commitment to its democratisation. "Art has to have real consequences and I measure the quality of it by the intensity of the personal contacts that have been created. I apply the same intention and criteria to my social video projects", says Leko. For Leko´s artistic practice falls into two main strands: her autobiographical works and her social and documentary projects. In the latter, Leko collaborates with ordinary people, helping them to construct their own personal stories on video.
Kristina Leko´s varied educational and professional background is matched by her diverse artistic concerns. She works in various media from objects, photography and text to video art, documentaries and short films and is interested in language, social issues and new technologies. In earlier stages of her artistic career, her practice was dominated by spatial installations and revealed a preoccupation with formal concerns but her works soon evolved to incorporate her interests in language and philosophy. Recently she has oriented her work toward mass media, contemporary society and industry.
Central to Leko´s practice are her social and documentary projects. Acting as an initiator and mediator, she helps ordinary people construct their own personal stories through video. With a rare generosity of spirit, Leko dedicates herself to sharing her artistic and technological skills with others, who belong to diverse, and often socially disadvantaged, groups.
In her workshop, ´Exchanging Biographies´ held in Poland in 2000, Leko worked with 11 girls from an impoverished neighbourhood in down town Gdansk, encouraging them to write, talk about and record videos about themselves and their experiences. That year, Leko also worked with five milkmaids from northern Croatia, focusing on a traditional female profession that is now under threat from developing capitalism. In Sarajevo International, 2001, she collaborated with 12 people who had immigrated to Sarajevo from different parts of the world in and after the war-period, motivated by a variety of circumstances.
Rather than merely involving others in her projects, Leko encourages them to become active participants in the creation of works: collaboration is key. With this commitment to the democratisation of art and, in particular, of video art and technology, Leko recalls the philosophy of earlier generations of video artists and activists of the 1970s. "I believe everyone is able to express his/her personality in the video medium", she says, "my mission is to help people to express themselves in the video medium in the realm of my projects. It means that they decide themselves what to show and how to show".
Another strand of her work is autobiographical, in which Leko often uses objects, texts or videos to transmit intimate or private messages to specific person/s in order to affect her life and personal relations directly. "Art has to have real consequences and I measure the quality of it by the intensity of the personal contacts that have been created", she explains. "I apply the same intention and criteria to my social video projects", she adds.
In 1999 Leko made a cake that was officially being produced by an old socialist manufacturer and sold in the pastry shop in the centre of Zagreb, and presented it as an art piece accompanied with a video-story and a sound installation. Despite its public display, the cake was made for and dedicated to an individual, with whom Leko had fallen in love. "My love story was banal", says Leko, "I fell in love with an American but it didn´t work". In video she recounts the story in four different languages, clarifying its political and historical context and explaining why her relationship with the American could not work in the 1990s. Feeling that her "personal destiny is nothing but an outcome of big historical events", Leko included images of the Second World War in her video. The cake was a gift to encourage the American to change his mind. Apparently it worked and has now become one of Leko´s ´four magic multiples´.
Since 1992, Leko has also been collecting everyday objects as part of her ´Mes objets trouvés´ collection, which traces and gives material presence not only to the artist´s intimate thoughts and feelings but also to transitions in Croatian society over almost a decade. For, from Leko´s point of view, a found object is "a crossing point where my personal biography meets those of others and issues significant to the society".
A glass in Leko´s collection, found in 1993, "a sad year of war with death, sorrow and guilt everywhere" is one example of "how an object treasures history". One day in 1993 Leko left the glass filled with water in her studio. "When I found the glass a couple of days later", she says, "there were traces of water and a little dead spider in it."
The glass, bought in the Austrian town of Graz, an affordable shopping centre for the Croatian middle class during the recession period of the 1980s, is the subject of another series of five short texts and photos and two video installations. For Leko, the object is a symbol not only of war experience but also of the economical conditioning of eastern Europe, "its hunger for shopping" which has entailed the crossing of borders, to capitalist Italy during the 1970s and Austria in the 1980s.
As with her video archives, "by multiplying, writing and talking about, by exhibiting my objects" Leko´s artistic vocation is to "tell who I am, who we are and what has happened."
Kristina Leko was born in 1966 in Zagreb, Croatia. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1990 from the University of Zagreb, where she stayed to pursue philosophy and Indian studies until 1995. Later that year she undertook the Advanced Course in Visual Art at the Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Italy and completed further postgraduate studies in 2001 at the Institute for Art in Context, University of the Arts, Berlin. Leko has had wide experience in teaching and between 1999 and 2001, she was guest lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where she co-developed the curriculum for the media arts department. Since 1996, she has made numerous television programs and four documentary films for Croatian Public television. As well as having won many awards, Leko has undertaken numerous residencies and had several solo and group shows throughout Europe and North America. She currently lives in Zagreb but also spends much of her time in Berlin and New York.
CLOSED CIRCUIT VIDEO PROJECTS
Film / TV
SANTA MARIA TO FISH 2001 Franciscan Monastery, Zadar, Croatia
CITYSCAPE 1998 Kamenita Vrata (Old City Door), Zagreb
FLOWERS 1997 Lutheran Church and City Hall, Dunaujvaros, Hungary
THREE DAYS FOR … 1997 Chapel of Me_trovic Castello, Split, Croatia
SHORT PERCEPTION TRAINING 1997 workshop & CCV, School for Ballet and Dance, Zagreb
Film / TV
G6 - 1975-84 2002 documentary film, Croatian Public TV, 90 min
I. L. GALETA - PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST 2000 documentary film, Croatian Public TV, 65 min.
ALEKSANDAR SRNEC - PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST 1999 documentary film, CPTV, 55 min.
VLADIMIR DODIG TROKUT - PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST 1999 documentary film, CPTV, 48 min.
Film / TV
2003 ZAGREB MILKMAIDS ON YOUR RIGHT-HAND SIDE, 20 min., in English
2003 ON MILK AND PEOPLE, a serial of 10 short films on 10 farmer families in Hungary and Croatia; each film is of 12-15 min. duration and features one working day on a farm; separate 54 minutes tape featuring interviews with farmer families on social, political and personal issues; in Croatian and Hungarian with English subtitles
2002 MILK 2002, 8 min., documentary video of the action and performance done in collaboration with 3 milkmaids held on 31 August 2002 at main open market in Zagreb, Croatia
2001 GEKAUFT IN GRAZ, 20 min., 2 channel-video installation; in English, French, German and Croatian
2001 SARAJEVO INTERNATIONAL, a serial of 12 short video (self-)portraits done in collaboration with people who had immigrated to Sarajevo from different parts of the world in and after the war-period for personal reasons, duration of videos 6-15 min.; in different languages with English subtitles
2000 ME JADZIA, 8 min. video created in collaboration with Jadwiga Janowska, 12 year old girl from Gdansk, Poland about her life and family
2000 MILK, 37 minutes, 2 channel-video; featuring portraits of milkmaids from the town of Slavonski Brod, Northern Croatia; in Croatian
2000 HER 25802nd DAY, 11 min. video featuring portraits of women selling flowers at the open market in the town of Slavonski Brod, Northern Croatia
2000 EXCHANGING BIOGRAPHIES – DOWN TOWN GDANSK, 56 min. video features statements and life-stories of 11 girls from the neighbourhood of Down Town Gdansk, Poland, known for difficult social problems; in Polish
1999/2000 LES NOUVELLES DE ZAGREB, 56 min. video diary covering the period from August 1999 to March 2000, which was a period of important political changes in Croatia; formally the video is juxtaposition of found footage material from the evening news of the Croatian Public TV and artist’s personal news recorded mostly in her kitchen; in Croatian with French subtitles
1999 HISTORY OF A CAKE, 21 min. sound-based video
GROUP EXHIBITIONS AND PROJECTS
Exhibition / Installation
2003, ´Breaking Away´, Ps1 Studio Program Exhibit, P.S.1, New York, USA
2003 ´Super´, Transformer Gallery, Washington D.C., USA
2003 Austrian Triennial On Photography, Graz, Austria
2002 ´Misfits´, Kunstamt Kreuzberg, Bethanien Haus Berlin
2002, ´In Search Of Balkania´, Neue Galerie, Graz, Austria
2002, ´Here Tomorrow´, Museum Of Contemporary Art, Zagreb, Croatia
2002, ´You Are Not Alone´, Pavel-Haus, Laafeld, Austria
2001, ´What, How And For Whom?´, Kunsthalle Exnergasse Wienna
TOURING AND SCREENINGS OF ´SARAJEVO INTERNATIONAL´ PROJECT
Exhibition / Installation
2003 Bibliotek Der Kulturellen Säuberung Schauspielhaus Wien Austria
2002 Art Worlds - Sarajevo International, Presentation & Screening, Moderna Museet Stockholm
2002 Sarajevo International Exhibition - Outdoor Project Of Exposeptember – Photo Biennial Stockholm
2002 Subjective Maps Umbc Baltimore USA
2002 Biennale Arte E Communicazione Rome Italy
SOLO EXHIBITIONS, PROJECTS AND PRESENTATIONS
Exhibition / Installation
2003 ´Neighbors´, communication project & exhibition, Fluss Fotoinitiative, Wolkersdorf, Austria
2003 ´On milk and people´, communication project & exhibition,ICA-Dunaujvaros, Hungary
2001, ´Sarajevo international´, video-communication, project & exhibit, SCCA, Sarajevo
2002, Milk 2002, Communication Project, Work In Progress, Urbani Festival, Zagreb
2001 ´Shopping: A Local History´, Exhibition, Rotor, Graz, Austria
2000 ´Mes Objets Trouves´, Exhibition, Temporary Shop Josip Racic Studio, Museum Of Modern Art, Zagreb
2000, ´Exchanging Biographies´, Video-Communication Project, Laznia CCA, Gdansk Poland
1999 When Exchange Tends…,Exhibition, M.Kraljevic Gallery, Zagreb
P.S.1 International Studio Program New York, 2002/3, Residency /Grant
Croatian Ministry Of Science And Technology, 2001/2, Stipendium
Cite International Des Arts Paris, 2001, Residency Grant
Culture City Network Graz Austria, 2001, Residency Grant
Goethe Institut Berlin, 2000, Residency Grant
Ekwc Den Bosch Netherlands, 1997, Residency Grant
Zagreb Salon Croatia, 1995, Award
Young Artist Salon Croatia 1992 Award
Located Work Como Italy, 1995, Honorable Mention
Slavonian Biennial Croatia, 1997, Honorable Mention
Croatian Photography, 1996, Honorable Mention