The term “focus group” is described as a diverse group of people that participate in a guided discussion or provide feedback on any given idea. Two Croatian artists, Eva Kovač and Elvis Krstulović have been working together as an artistic collective, borrowing the concept of a focus group, or as they call themselves by the Croatian version, Fokus Grupa for the core of their artistic manifesto. The success of their collaboration is rooted in the fundamental belief of mainting an ongoing discussion and their continuous research on various topics.
Founded in 2012, they have been exhibiting internationally in cities like Budapest, Glasgow, Berlin, Zagreb and New York City. They have alsto established other projects that encourage a dialogue with the public. They co-founded the collective Kružok, a group for discussions and events from 2008-2015 and established Delta 5 in 2013, an artist-run space in Rijeka.
The main themes that Fokus Grupa questions is the relationship between art and the nation state, the mass market and labour. These overaching themes are essential threads throughout all of their projects, which accumulate through research and appropriation. They work with a diverse range of mediums and use elements of furniture design, ready made objects, drawing, photography, and video to create conceptual installations.
Their last solo exhibition As It Once Was — the Art of Nation Building, at Off Biennale in Budapest, transformed the gallery with an installation titled Description of a Family Apartment, made from 29 ordinary wood boxes dispersed throughout the space. The boxes were positioned in specific locations that made up the layout of the “ideal home”; a bed, counter top, table and sofa became recognizable objects as the viewer moved through the space.
The goal of the piece was to challenge the Croatian civic initiative “In the Name of the Family” that was passed in 2013, which constitutionally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The organization that sponsors this initiative uses a logo that depicts a heterosexual couple with two children. Fokus Grupa’s installation is a prototype of the ideal family apartment defined by conservative politics.
Like many of Fokus Grupa’s projects, Description of a Family Apartment was made with one of their previous ideas in mind. The collective often re-makes older works in different forms and combines them with new ideas. Each new installation becomes an archive of the collective’s projects. In this specific example, they used their previous work, Altar of the Homeland as the basis for the shape of the “furniture” in their installation of an “ideal home”.
Altar of the Homeland was originally a sculpture created by Kuzma Kovačić that was built in 1994 as a “monument to all Croatian heroes” erected near the capital. It represents the total unity of the homeland, made out of blocks collected from all regions of Croatia. Fokus Grupa’s version of the monument uses locally acquired material to create minimalist boxes, which eliminates any feeling of magnificence that was once intended for the sculpture by Kovačić.
Fokus Grupa is continuing to evolve, borrow and learn from ideas of design, architecture, curating and literature and incorporate it in their work. With each new exhibition, past ideas re-emerge and are incorporated again in a new form. Fokus Grupa has been a visual arts fellow at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen in Innsbruck, Austria since October, with an upcoming exhibition scheduled for June 6th to showcase the fruition of the fellowship.
Written by Kelly Foster