Goran Trbuljak is definitely an artist, and he has the confirmation of public opinion to prove it. In 1974, he took a Referendum on the main street of Zagreb, Ilica Street, asking passersby to respond to the question: “Is Goran Trbuljak an artist or not?” They could choose from the following answers: 1. Yes 2. No. The results showed that the majority of those who responded considered him to be an artist, therefore he concluded that an “artist is the person who is given the opportunity to be one by the others.”
Much of Goran’s work engages with his public in a very direct manner, and aims to uncover the true meaning of art. His added use of humor and irony provides an “in” for the man on the street, which is often his target viewer, and who may otherwise not engage with a dialogue on art, but is more willingly drawn in by the artist’s witty work. In fact, Goran considers humor an important part of his work: “if I do something funny and you laugh, then we have communication.” The laughter is almost a confirmation that communication has occurred, and it is important to the artist, as it is a way to check whether the message has been received.
Above all, Goran says that he had always been striving for honesty in his work, as opposed to mystification, which is prevalent in a lot of artwork in general. For the artist, mystification is not real or genuine, it is simply an aura around the work that may make it interesting or captivating, but he prefers to be direct and honest. In fact, he told me that in his earlier work he aimed to explain everything as much as possible, so there would be no question or mystification as to what his work is about.
Goran’s work also often appeared on the street, which the artist considered “his space,” because he didn’t have to ask anyone for permission to use it. For example, he would leave objects on the street for passersby to consider, or attach a text to the façade of a building, such as “the tenants of this building are all intelligent and honest,” thus co-opting those tenants into the work of art. The artist mentioned that this was risky business – not because he thought he would get caught, but because he feared that the people viewing the objects or texts wouldn’t consider them as art!
One of his most interesting pieces is Sunday Painting. Seeing an easel set up in the window display of an artist supply store, Goran would come by on Sunday, when the shop was closed, and paint directly onto the window, so that the paint would appear to be part of the canvas. Every Monday, the shop owner would clean the paint off; Goran would photograph this, and consider it part of the artwork. At the time, in 1974, it was really an unknown and anonymous piece, because no one knew he was doing it, the shopkeeper didn’t know who was doing it, and each part of the piece was disjointed – from the painting of the “window canvas” to the photographing of the removal of the paint. It only became visible as a work of art later, when it was exhibited as such.
Further confirmation that Goran Trbuljak is an artist came from the moving sidewalks at the Paris Metro station Chatelet. The artist glued one strip of paper containing his name, “TRBULJAK,” to the moving handrail, and one strip of paper to the stationary metal part, on which was written “ARTIST.” The two papers only lined up at one particular moment each time the belt looped around, making TRBULJAK an ARTIST for a brief moment in time. During the rest of the time, his name floated aimlessly along the handrail, and the public was none the wiser as to who TRBULJAK was. Only some passengers saw the two words line up, and only they were privy to the knowledge that this man was an artist.
Much of Goran’s work is centered on text and interaction and intervention with the viewer and/or public space. He doesn’t like to consider his art conceptual or performance, and says that he doesn’t consider himself a “visual artist,” because he isn’t trying to create beautiful or nice objects. Perhaps it isn’t necessary to label his work in one way or the other, but one thing is for sure, it will make you smile, and make you think.