Born in Zagreb in 1949, Sanja Iveković first came to prominence as part of the New Art Practice, a generation of artists in Socialist Yugoslavia which emerged after the student protests of 1968. Rejecting the official modernist art paradigm, they instigated a wide social, cultural, and institutional critique through “new media” such as performance and video art.
Ever since, Iveković has been critically reflecting on the construction of gender roles, the relations between private and public, and the institutional frameworks in the cultural field. In the new nation-state of Croatia, her work scrutinized the contamination of the public sphere by reactionary nationalism, as well as collective amnesia about its anti-fascist past. Her work has also addressed violence against women and the forms of predatory capitalism to emerge in the 1990s.
Iveković’s strong feminist stance is a constant in her long career, from canonical work such as Double Life (1975), Triangle (1979), and Personal Cuts (1982) to recent large-scale public art projects in collaboration with activist organizations, such as Women’s House (1998–2003) or Poppy Field (2007) for documenta 12. Iveković’s oeuvre is characterized by political intervention into the hegemonic cultures and politics of memory. These works appear as figurative “counter-memorials,” as in Lady Rosa of Luxembourg (2001), or “living memorials,” as in the case of Rohrbach Living Memorial (2005), which commemorates Roma and Sinti victims of Nazism, and On the Barricades (2010), dedicated to the 1980 Gwangju People’s Uprising.
Iveković’s project for documenta 14 continues to interweave memory and political resistance. It borrows its form from the Monument to the November Revolution (1926) commissioned by the German Communist Party, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and destroyed by the Nazis in 1935. Iveković’s project to reconstruct the foundations of the monument questions the relationship between revolution and commemoration, catalyzing debate around the construction and deconstruction of public memory.
The monument becomes a pretext for new forms of political action, based on fidelity to historical struggles but offering a stage for the future. In our times of growing fascism, neoliberal capitalist imperialism, and financial warfare, Iveković’s Monument to Revolution is both a cautionary reminder of the past, an object to be contested, and a material invocation.