“The role of being an editor of an art critique show is a direct result of me being interested in art history, because, after graduation, I turned to modern art – to that which emerges here and now.”
A long-time resident of Martićeva Street, art historian, curator, art critic, and radio editor Evelina Turković is one of the most active and productive creative radio personalities dedicated to the field of modern art. She is a veteran editor of the Triptih (Triptych) show, running on Croatian Radio’s (Hrvatski Radio) Channel 3, which has been monitoring the local, regional, and sometimes international art scenes weekly for decades. She authored some dozen radio documentaries about specific artists and their projects, and is also the initiator of a show unique in the Croatian and regional air waves – Slika od zvuka (Picture out of Sound), dedicated to the production of original audio-artistic works by domestic authors. The audio-pieces made as part of Slika od zvuka have also been published as special DVD editions and aired at three group exhibitions at several locations throughout Croatia. Co-authored by her life companion – artist and curator Antun Maračić, Evelina Turković has also published a monograph of Ivan Kožarić, Atelier Kožarić (Idealmago, 1995).
We talked to Evelina on the small, cozy terrace of the Verde coffee shop, in the greenest part of Martićeva Street, focusing mostly on the diverse opus she created for Croatian Radio’s Channel 3, and some future projects. Here is our choice of the most interesting parts of an otherwise quite long interview.
Bojan Krištofić: How did you, as an art historian and an art critic, find yourself in the radio?
Evelina Turković: What do you mean? How did I come to work for Croatian Radio and Television, or what is my art-historian/critic role in their program?
BK: All of that (laughter)!
ET: Well, I began by working on Triptih, a radio show that critically follows ongoing events in art, which has been aired on Croatian Radio’s Channel 3 since sometime in the 1980s. The show’s editor was at first Snješka Knežević, followed by Nada Beroš, who, for some time, was replaced by Sandra Križić Roban, and I came after them in 1986. So, I’ve been the editor of Triptih for twenty-one years, and in that time – the show never missed a week. I see that as a success, especially since there were never favorable conditions to be writing about art – they are getting worse, even – pay has never been lower, they’re at their lowest at the moment, and so on.
Mainly, the role of being an editor of an art critique show is a direct result of me being interested in art history, because, after graduation, I turned to modern art – to that which emerges here and now. I soon began working on another show, Ogledi i rasprave (Reviews and Discussions), which publicized theoretical works and essayistic texts, and here I found a tiny niche publicizing theoretical cycles from the domain of the aesthetics of visual art and culture. After working on such shows, which composed mainly of reading out the texts (talking about art happening somewhere else), once I felt more comfortable in the medium itself, I began working on documentary shows, i.e. radio feature shows, as part of the drama program.
BK: Before we go on, can you tell me what makes a text written for radio unique, and which criteria does it have to meet when compared to the ones in other media to be interesting and accessible to the listeners?
ET: There is definitely a difference, conditioned by the medium itself. The authors have to make the text comprehensible, and when listening to the radio, the listeners have no option to go back through the text, reread a sentence, and things like that. That is how a specific form of writing emerges. I still, to an extent, suggest to my coworkers the same approach to art critique taught to me by Vera Horvat Pintarić – a good description, on which the conclusion is based – which is fit for radio, since art critique has to be understandable to everyone, including those who haven’t seen the exhibition. The text should somewhat help visualize that what it speaks of, but also, as art critique in other media, tell us about the experience of viewing the exhibited work of art.
BK: What is the reach of Triptih’s coverage of events concerning art?
ET: Unfortunately, we are limited geographically. It would be much easier to just cover the exhibitions taking place in Zagreb as the main hub, with the highest frequency of exhibitions and the highest number of people writing about art. But, the art scene is spreading and decentralizing, so I really do my best to cover the most that I can. Also, we have no means of sending an art critic to other Croatian cities, that is, pay the travel costs, but, having been in this job for a long time, I have associates in every larger city, who will cover the events in their surroundings. Furthermore, whenever I hear that one of my associates is travelling to an exhibition abroad, I try to arrange a review.
BK: How did you begin experimenting with freer radio formats?
ET: I began working on documentary shows only after I began feeling safe in radio. They were mostly author portraits – the first one I made was about Zlatan Dumanić from Split. We re-aired it recently regarding the artist’s passing. I found that very sad. On its own, the documentary is an interesting format, freer than an art critique show, it works with sound, not with text. My documentaries ran from 40 minutes to an hour… I know today that some were too long. But, getting a listener’s attention for the entire runtime is a challenge. Besides montage, which is a really exciting process, recording is interesting as well. It requires good preparation, a concept, yet luck also has a role in it – improvising a solution, good chemistry with the person you’re talking to, knowing how to go along with what is happening at the moment. And then, we never know if we will succeed at recording what we wanted, or if it will work out the way it was meant to… The story is constructed with the sounds themselves, I tended to avoid accompanying explanations and voice-over. I would do them only occasionally, while having to point out specific information, like the name of the person talking or the place where we’re recording, but still, the story was formed out of documentary material. That is the essence of the magical process of montage. I have made about ten such documentary shows altogether.
Everything I did on radio organically went from one thing to the next. That’s how, at one moment, while following some events for Triptih, I realized that sound as a medium is becoming more interesting to visual artists, even though it has been used in that context ever since the futurist movement. I had the idea to start a new show that I imagined merely as a one-time project. At that time, I made an episode of Triptih in cooperation with the artist Nicole Hewitt and some young artists from London that she brought along as part of some project to Zagreb and Dubrovnik – in this episode we demonstrated sound as art, not a widespread idea at that time. After that, I began thinking about starting a show about producing art works with sound. In 2009, we went on with the twelve initial episodes of Slika od zvuka. Our idea was to produce and air works of art on the radio, simultaneously as a workshop and as a medium of distribution, instead of merely talking about the art (of sound) that’s happening somewhere else. It seemed to me that radio is the natural habitat for this kind of art. Since then, we produced 76 audio works, which is quite a collection of audio art. At the same time, we opened a media space for artists to experiment in.
BK: Were there any initiatives to musealise the collection?
ET: Well, all the works are part of HRT’s (Croatian Radio-Television) archive, and I try to ensure that the works produced every two years be stored as special DVD editions. We have 3 editions so far. The time to collect the works for the fourth editions is coming soon. Of course, every edition is accompanied by an exhibition. The first one was put up in MKC in Split, the same exhibition was also set up in Zagreb’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s NO Gallery and in the art workshop Lazareti in Dubrovnik, and there were several smaller presentations as part of the Vizura Aperta festival in Momjan, then as part of the Sine Linea festival in Zagreb… The second exhibition was put up in Zagreb’s Pogon Jedinstvo in cooperation with Gallery 90-60-90, and the third one took place last year in the Old Military Hospital in Vlaška Street, as part of the first Design District Zagreb festival. Setting up such exhibitions with twenty or so audio-works in the same space so each can be heard well is a great challenge for the curator. Besides that, it’s also important to envision visually and in space the presentation of purely auditory content. While doing that, I try to retain the original ‘form’ of the exhibits, not adding anything to the work except the elements and technology required for comfortable listening.
BK: I think the Old Military Hospital exhibition worked quite right…
ET: I was preparing that exhibition very carefully along with Marijana Stanić, who had been working with me since the previous exhibition. Every time I try to go one step further in the presentation of the exhibits. Slika od zvuka’s exhibitions were always cheap, because we used the technology and the equipment already available on HRT, and there’s always the technical support of our great sound technicians. For example, in Pogon Jedinstvo we had to exhibit twenty audio-works in a huge space, so we started thinking about some kind of a listening-booth useable by several people at the same time (because it was a step ahead from our previous exhibition when the exhibits were listened to using headsets, one person at a time – we made up for it by linear airing in a special room, but the drawback here was that you would only hear what you ‘stumbled upon’ at that moment). However, we soon realized that any kind of booth isolated for sound that we could build would be unpresentable, and it was also questionable if it would do its job, and there was no sense in investing hundreds of thousands of kunas into building something so temporary and of dubious efficiency. That’s when we remembered that HRT already has a bunch of sound-insulated booths, with audio equipment built in, fit for sitting in and comfortable listening – cars! Still, even though the solution seemed simple, we didn’t put ten cars into Pogon and adapted them to our needs without any problems – but we succeeded.
At the last exhibition in the Old Military Hospital, I wanted every work to be available for listening in a separate room. I knew exactly how to fit the audio-works into the hospital’s space, because I knew them well, their concepts and how they were performed, and according to this I chose rooms with specific atmospheres, per some association, per the light available there, or per the feeling of dimness. In some cases I found the connection to the exhibit in the marks on the walls, just like when I linked a series of nails in a wall with the work of Bojan Mucko in which he is counting off the hours of his first three days of avoiding sleep. But this never interfered with the exhibit itself, it just needed to support the already existing content of the exhibit. HRT’s audio technicians worked with me that time as well – as they spent time at the location, they were so engaged that they recorded the interweaving of the sounds in the halls and the edges of the rooms, and then mounted their own exhibit. It was called The Sound of Slika od zvuka. I really liked how what we were doing became material for something new.
Currently, I am preparing 5 new shows for Croatian Radio’s Channel 3, coming in May and June. I try to include new, young authors. One of the invited is Tin Dožić, freshly graduated from the Department of New Media at the Academy of Fine Art in Zagreb, working mostly with sound. What is interesting is that, for the work he is preparing for Slika od zvuka, he began from the very basics of radio transmission. I love it when authors use that medium as material or as the starting point, like referencing to the medium in which it all happens. Dožić constructed a coil that is the basic element of any radio recording and transmission and easily received the sound of electromagnetic waves that we usually never hear. There were other such cases. For example, Nina Kurtela used the composition of Blagoje Bersa’s Idyll, heard on Channel 3 twice a day as an identifying sound, elongated it to twenty minutes, and thus created the Twenty Minutes of Idyll.
Besides working on the radio, I am preparing a new series of shorts 8 minutes in duration for the TV program, in cooperation with Ana Marija Habjan. Every episode will present a single work of art by contemporary artists, preferably a work just created or in the process of being made. Our aim is to show the audience what the ideas behind a work of art are, what the reasons and the inspirations for the artist are to, for example, draw a simple line, and what it means to him and us. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but our wish is to encourage the audience to try to understand and think about a modern work of art, instead of, as we can often attest, simply rejecting it.