Self-management on display: negotiating the visions of Yugoslav socialist modernity at Expo 58 and Porodica i domaćinstvo exhibitions

Rebernjak, Rujana ORCID logoORCID: Self-management on display: negotiating the visions of Yugoslav socialist modernity at Expo 58 and Porodica i domaćinstvo exhibitions. In: Exhibitions and transnational exchange: art and design, borders and boundaries from 1945. Atkinson, Harriet, Clarkson, Verity and Lichtman, Sarah, eds. Bloomsbury Academic, London. ISBN 0000000000. [Book Section] (Accepted/In press)

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In April 1958, the Yugoslav government unveiled its pavilion at the World Expo in Brussels. A tiered, light geometric structure in glass and steel, the pavilion was designed to project ideas of openness and neutrality amidst Cold War debates staged at the Expo. Inside, the visitors could explore Yugoslavia’s history, socialist politics and economic development, alongside its modern art and natural landmarks. In September that same year, the second edition of Porodica i domaćinstvo (Family and household) exhibition opened at the Zagreb Fair. Its aim was to communicate new, modern ways of life to Yugoslav workers by displaying domestic environments, goods and services available through local communes.

Though different in scope, at their core, both exhibitions were concerned with offering an interpretation of workers’ self-management, Yugoslavia’s economic, political and social system. Introduced in 1950, self-management, together with the policy of non-alignment, was the key feature of Yugoslavia’s “third way” socialism. At the Expo, the meaning of self-management was communicated to foreign audiences through abstract metaphors centered on egalitarianism, autonomy and participation. At Porodica i domaćinstvo, on the other hand, the interpretation of self-management took a material turn. Addressing domestic visitors, the exhibition indexed self-management to consumption, comfort and modern domesticity.

By examining these differing exhibition design strategies and the design discourse that informed them, I argue that, by the end of the 1950s, the meaning of self-management was contested and subject to debate. This debate did not take place solely within the confines of political theory, but spilled over into material realities of everyday life. As an analysis of the Expo pavilion and Porodica i domaćinstvo show, the meaning of self-management was negotiated through architecture and design. This process of negotiation, staged in exhibitionary form, was informed both by post-war domestic politics, but also by on-going trans-national exchanges between architects, designers and artists stemming from inter-war modernism.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
Item ID: 30985
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Rujana Rebernjak
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2020 15:45
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 03:49

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