One of the common threads I see amongst the many goals a piece of art can have, is the intention to show the viewer something they didn’t see before. It might just be showing them something beautiful that they didn’t know existed, or it might be enlightening them to a new idea or perspective. The way this is accomplished has changed a lot over the years, especially in the last hundred years or so. Art has taken on a much broader agenda. Recently I came across a piece of art that challenged the understanding of a word, and did so in a very interesting way.
The word was “victory” and the artist was Sanja Ivekovic. She questioned Luxembourg’s understanding of this word and how they represented it through a statue. In Luxembourg they had a statue of the Gëlle Fra above a war memorial to honor those who served in WWII. The statue was supposed to represent the goddess Nike, who historically represents “victory.” Sanja Ivekovic disagreed with this symbolism. She thought the place to represent victory was not in conjoining with war, no matter how honorable the efforts and sacrifices might have been. She wanted to move the statue to be above a women’s shelter, located nearby. She made efforts to have this done, but in the end had to find another route, and she did. She created a replica of the statue, made her pregnant, and named her Rosa Luxemburg, after the Marxist philosopher who fought against socialist movements in Poland and Germany. This work was controversial but brought a lot of ideas and information to people who might not have thought twice about it otherwise. I can envision perhaps a family member of a soldier that died in WWII being offended by the work at first, but once they look more into the meaning of it and who Rosa Luxemburg was, I would like to think they see the need for understanding more than one kind of victory.
Sanja Ivekovic has gained a reputation for questioning preconceived notions in contemporary culture. She also has a large library of work questioning concepts of celebrity, vanity, and sexuality. She often juxtaposes concepts from advertisements with more serious issues like the mistreatment of women across the planet. She grew up in the region of the former Yugoslavia which is reflected in much of her work, speaking out against socialism and the way her country was run under Josip Broz Tito.
To learn more about Ivekovic you can see the current retrospective of her work at the MoMA, or at least check out the website they have created with nice descriptions of each of her series of works: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/sanjaivekovic/