Locations and contents


Public opening


<< back

White coloured mail boxes were placed at specific locations in Ljubljana upon which the artist wrote a statement in four world languages to alert passers-by of the social context of an artist and art as such. The statement I Need Money to Be an Artist was not meant to be mere begging for money or a trite provocation which would want to evolve from the paradigm of a poor artist who gives himself away for the benefit of others.It was meant as a gesture which launches art production in the surroundings and is, as any other production, closely attached to money.

White mail boxes were fastened onto street lights, street signs or pillars at the bus
stations at 26 different locations in Ljubljana. Specific locations were chosen with
respect to the migration of and the differences between social and user groups. Thus, a symptomatic response to the location was expected from the very beginning.

We intended to carry out this action in the summer (July - August) so as to involve tourists who would, aside from the multilingual inscriptions on the white mail boxes, ensure the potential internationality of the project. Despite the fact that the action started very late in September, the internationality did not fail to close in. Numerous messages in various languages (even the exotic ones) were found in the mail boxes, as well as almost all the European currencies, even though money was not what the artist was aiming for with his project.

The problem, which unexpectedly appeared in the urban surroundings, was in fact
money that pedestrians generously threw in the mail boxes. It became apparent that the inscription on the mail boxes exceedingly attracted people, including those who are penniless; and soon after the action had commenced, we realised that the mail boxes would need to be emptied on a regular basis. Namely, due to the money they were being repeatedly broken into and all the collected items were vanishing.

A serious dilemma arose: were we to leave the broken mail boxes as they were and venture the possibility that nobody would throw anything in them, or should we empty them regularly and thus keep the project alive?
Both decisions had advantages and disadvantages. One could be interpreted as a direct manifestation of fate due to agitation in urban surroundings; but in this case, all donators, who undoubtedly existed, would be banished from the game. We might have ended up with the impression that they never even existed, which would deprive the project of an important authenticity. The second choice dictated the daily emptying and accurate evidence of items, which would result in the loss of a final surprise when the mail boxes would be ritually emptied at the opening of the exhibition in the Kapelica gallery.

We finally decided that the surprise was more important. The amount of disharmony, or better, what was left from the project in a tense dichotomy between economic and art production, was presented after a month and a half when the mail boxes were brought to the gallery at 4 Kersnikova street and unsealed again at the opening.

Although the least expected item was money and despite the numerous thefts, over forty thousand slovene Tolars had been collected
in a month and a half, in addition to some foreign currencies. There were also many
letters and postcards - in spite of the different colour of the mail boxes and the
inscriptions in different languages - mailed by anonymous senders (the letters were sent to the original addresses after the presentation).

Random items, which constituted the majority, matched the typical groups of pedestrians in their quantity and contents (see the list of items in the catalogue).
The destiny of the mail boxes and items within has not yet been concluded through the symbolic termination of the project in the gallery. Visitors of the exhibition, of a
voyeuristic and kleptomaniac nature, browsed at random through the items, opened letters and stole money. They were never caught red-handed and only bank notes worth a thousand or five hundred tolars were stolen, which proves that they acted on intent and systematically. Only coins were left alone.

It is important to emphasise that the project is characterised as an urban action and is, in a way, the continuation of a positive experience gained in the city of Ljubljana through the project "Urbanarija" (1995) in the redaction of the Soros Institute for Contemporary Art.

Such projects are not meant to be installations of artefacts and monuments in a given surrounding, nor are they aesthetic actions or decorations of the urban surroundings. Their primary function is to draw attention to the urban space as it is, point at it and thus establish a theme in which a socio-cultural concept can evolve. Their artistic value lies in their ability to cut into the space, and where it seems that nothing else can be added, to open a discourse where the illusion that we perceive only non-dialectical facts reigns. On the whole, it widens our horizons to such an extent that our knowledge and values are greatly expanded.

(Jurij V.Krpan)