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Lilijana Stepančič

Production of photocopied books by Iztok Osojnik (1)

The fact is that avant-garde photocopied books and traditional printmaking do not have much in common. There is a gap between these cultural concepts, despite the fact that both forms of art are the product of printing, which introduced significant new elements of culture into society, like dispersion, general availability and democracy of the work of art. Namely, both forms address different audiences, operate with diverse economies, and belong to various environments of theoretical reception. The presentation of the characteristics of Iztok Osojnik's photocopied books, which he did independently or with other artists, stands out from the underlying framework of this symposium. Primarily it is significant as a historical reference for the understanding of contemporary art print production.

Iztok Osojnik is a passionate creator and thinker. He is a poet, writer, essayist, translator, painter, he is, furthermore, a traveler, alpinist, historian, and philosopher. In the first years of entering the world of art, at the end of the seventies, the then-new technique of photocopying fascinated him. He considered it a convenient, accessible, and magical medium that released him from the institutional barriers to printing books and was able to create an extensive production of photocopied publications on his own or with other artists. In eight years, between 1979 and 1987, he created seventeen books, an exhibition catalog, a songbook, a comic book, and a magazine.

Vesna Črnivec and Iztok Osojnik: Vandals, edition Pest, 1979

This creation could be defined as an artist's book if we comprehend it as a work of art in the form of a book in which the artist expresses his creation alone and/or with collaborators. However, since the category of artists' books is also defined as a visual-verbal aesthetic art object, such categorization does not suit Osojnik. His publications remain in the concept of creation, distribution, and consumption, why they are culturally perceived as books, except that the technique of photocopying is used to reproduce them instead of the standard book printing. That is why the products of Iztok Osojnik cannot be defined as artists' books, nor as books, but as photocopied books.

Fascinating photocopied books were produced as part of the art movement to which Iztok Osojnik belonged, and which never was given a name. The works of art were signed by the authors with their full names, initials, pseudonyms or names of occasional groups, which were works of art in their own right. Those were pagadajpagapustime, Predrazpadom Street Theater (PGPR), Hairdressing and barbershop Novi život (FBRNŽ), Atelje 43, Ljubljana Railway Station, Papa Kinjal band, Carmina Burana, Dr. Jelka Tottenbrenner, Project Bureau, D'Pravda and Circus Seventh Future. The movement operated from the beginning of the seventies to the middle of the eighties, mainly in Ljubljana and settlements (Gradaška, Lahov graben, Žibrše, and Kambreško I and II). When Iztok Osojnik went to study in Kyoto and Osaka for two years in the fall of 1980, the movement was active there as well, in fact, most of the photocopied publications were made in Japan thanks to the artist's unlimited access to photocopiers. The movement was anarchist (not in the sense of political action), it did not self-determine itself artistically, it was not designed with intention or ever institutionalized, instead, it constantly undermined all the levers that would lead to that. It could be stated that it had its roots in the paradigm of art-life and student occupation of the Faculty of Philosophy in Ljubljana in 1971. (Iztok Osojnik was in a group of seven students who occupied the faculty, locked themselves in it, spent the night there, and then early in the morning the police arrived.). It differed from the already inactive, largely unknown within the young generation, neo-avant-garde movement in Slovenia OHO Catalogue and the simultaneous activities of the largest association West East, which in fact did not possess the characteristics of the movement, because it was being initiated by Franci Zagoricnik and Denis Poniz. The movement, moreover, did not consist of a permanent lineup. It was fluid and connected twenty to fifty individuals (in performances at the Dubrovnik Summer Festival 1980) of the younger generation with a similar artistic orientation, characterized by a turning away from the then modernist Main Stream (2) and folk art and acceptance of avant-garde artistic experimentation and resistance to civil society.


Iztok Osojnik: Manga comic book, 1982

In addition to photocopied books, the movement included performances, concert performances by music bands, installations, sound works, screenprints, photographs, photograms, photographs, paintings, and wall paintings (3). These represent works from diverse fields of artistic and creative expression in the then artistically counter-classical and fresh multimedia and intermedia contents and forms (4). In the context of the culture and art of that time in Yugoslavia, the works created an off-space. They were a counter of the scene that operated between folk art and the modernist mainstream. The off-stage was set against the mainstream and folk art (5). This off-stage (this term was not implemented at that time.) was made up of groups and individuals in Slovenia, and among them, we should mention the creators of the former Oho-Katalog, the association West East, the Celje and Kočevje avant-garde circles, as well as the music and performance/theater troupe Theater Performance, FV 112/15, Veternica, Srp, Dobra volja, Laibach, Saeta, Intermedia Bora Turela and Francija Cegnarja and a few others.


Iztok Osojnik and Iztok Saksida Jakac: Papa Kinjal Bend, 1979

The movement was associated with similarly oriented institutions and people in Yugoslavia. With the help of the Art Director of the Zagreb Music Biennale Nikša Glig, they approached Vladimir Gudec, Želimir Koščević, and the Zagreb Gallery of the Student Center, where in January 1980 they presented the fifth version of the sound work in the form of Hydrogism, which is a musical machine and also a way of life, their work, an important part of the Slovenian national history of art. In Zagreb, they also collaborated with the then-popular theater group Kugla. In the same year, they performed at the Days of Youth Theater at the 31st Dubrovnik Summer Festival. The following year, they participated in the Youth Biennale in Rijeka. In Belgrade, they were in contact with Biljana Tomić from the Student Cultural Center and Ješa Denegri, and in Novi Sad with the creators of the remnants of the then neo-avant-garde scene, created at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s.

Within the literary section of the movement, the manifesto Subrealist Manifesto was created with the subheading Po Ljubljanci pliva, a nije svinja (Not a Pig, but Swims in the Ljubljanica River), which was published in 1979 in the photocopied book Collection of Works I. It was written by Iztok Osojnik, Iztok Saksida and Jure Detela. The title of the manifesto is an obvious paraphrase of the term surrealism, where, as the authors write in the manifesto, no one questioned what it essentially refers to in relation to realism and surrealism. The text consists of twenty pages and a star map. It begins with a description of a playful and banally witty creative dispute between the authors about what the subheading of the manifesto should be and then moves on to present the purpose of the manifesto. It becomes apparent that the authors in their dispute are persistent in trying to overturn the solutions/claims/titles of the manifesto’s subheading, whenever it (the subheading) is about to be created. This tendency of maintaining instability and indefiniteness, a kind of deinstitutionalization, permeates the whole text. Given the art-historical tradition of manifestos, one might expect it to give a bold and striking stance to the movement, but that is not the case. In fact, the text is a parody of art manifestos.


Vesna Črnivec, Issa, Iztok Osojnik and Jani Osojnik: LP for Mayumi, 1981
Iztok Osojnik: How do you know you're naked, Heraclitus. Ten heart, 1981

The Sub-Realist Manifesto is, therefore, not a direct statement about the artistic definition and purpose of the movement, because the movement did not even strive for anything alike. On the contrary, it degrades definiteness. The artistic determination of the movement, therefore, arises from the works themselves and the authors’ attitude towards creation. That is why the manifesto, as a specific literary work, indirectly — with its structure and content — indicates in which field of art the movement operated. In regards to the photocopied books, they represent some kind of literary records. Their unusual structure, witty and playful content, non-standard visuality, and seemingly inadequate attention to detail.

Dušan Pirih Hup, with whom Iztok Osojnik worked intensively, remembers that photocopying replaced screen printing in practically all areas of advertising for non-profit or low-profit art actions, concerts and club events. He says: "The reason is evident: because of the considerably simpler preparation, because of the possibility of printing in real-time only for direct circulation, and because of the much higher speed and ease of printing. The limitations of black-and-white photocopying were in the choice of color and print format: it could be copied merely in black (or on some photocopiers in several other colors with replacement cartridges with different toner shades) and mainly in A3, later A2, even later on rolls, width 1 m, 1.20 m. (6)"


Iztok Osojnik: An investigation into why I didn't kill Max Cankar, 1981
Iztok Osojnik and Dušan Pirih Hup: America del sur. Poemas canciones, 1987
Iztok Osojnik: True texts, 1981

Through photocopying, the book became a direct product of the artist (7). Unlike the institutionalized printing of books, photocopying gave artists absolute control over the product. In the process of formation, it eliminated all intermediaries, including censors and supervisors. The writer was capable of publishinging his/her own work. The author of the text additionally became the author of the visual appearance of the book.

Iztok Osojnik's photocopied had varied sizes, ranging from sixteen (Five Days of Dismantling) to two hundred pages (Zadovoljni Kranjec - on the back, Turning right. Are you most beautiful from the back?). Iztok Osojnik reproduced the typed text on a typewriter and photographs and drawings by photocopying. The typography of texts in books is the same as the typography of a typewriter, it was not redesigned as in a conventional book, where at that time typewriters in printing houses transferred texts from sheets of paper to printing blocks and could utilize different types of letters. Iztok Osojnik first typewrote on a Remington machine, then on an Olympia, and in Japan on a Brother. Jure Detela used a Remington machine, Iztok Saksida an Olympia.


Iztok Osojnik: Doč, 1981.
Iztok Osojnik: A story about Dušan Pirjevac and me, 1982
Iztok Osojnik: An essay on a raffle or how the title eludes the title, 1981
Iztok Osojnik: Introduction to the poetry collection. A work of art at the time of technical reproduction, 1981

The copied pages of the photocopied books were not the final (proofread and corrected) version that went into print as in traditional book publishing, but were filled with typos, "errors", ie they were just versions of the text in the creative process. According to Iztok Osojnik, the preservation of unedited texts was in the function of the subversiveness of the written, and "typos" were treated as elementary gestures or as reading the text in its fragmentation and distraction. A gesture in painting has a similar function - a trace of a hand movement produces the desired aesthetic effect.

Thus, inside almost all photocopied books, there is typewritten text. Predominantly illustrations and vignettes are inserted between the texts. As with classic books, the front and back pages are artistically designed. Iztok Osojnik filled them with his rather brutal drawings (Singing I Don't Understand, The Story of Dušan Pirjevac and Me, Introduction to the Poetry Collection. Artwork at the Time of Technical Reproduction) or drawings by his two-year-old daughter Isa (True Texts, Doc). He additionally used collages made from photographs and newspaper clippings. The combination of collaged images was mostly contradictory and unusual. For example, a combination of Buddha and the heroine of soft porn Angelika (LP for Mayumi), or a portrait of the most important Slovenian national poet Franz Prešeren and a drawing of a black-colored fist - the trademark of their edition Pest (Fist), which is a world symbol of urban struggles of the oppressed and disenfranchised (Zadovoljni Kranjec).

Han Šan: 10 songs, 1982

Iztok Osojnik: The scent of what is not a haiku, 1981

The movement's definition as subrealistic (which is nothing and everything), anarchist and non-institutional, stems from precisely the identical characteristics of its creative production. Photocopying fulfilled a substantial role in all of it. In the 1970s, photocopiers began to replace mimeographs. Part of the then young generation started utilizing them first to advertise events. Some who entered the artistic life in those years nurtured the anti-mainstream paradigm of art and did not have access to institutionalized publishing, and among them was Iztok Osojnik. Therefore, they uncovered an opportunity to accomplish their artistic creativity by photocopying. The first photocopied books were made by Iztok Osojnik in 1979, together with Vesna Črnivec – Vandale and with Iztok Saksid Jakac, Collection of Works I, Satisfied Kranjc and the songbook Papa Kinjal Band.

Visually, the richest is Manga, a comic in which Iztok Osojnik relied strongly on Japanese comic book clichés and inserted his stories into it. He filled the squares in the comics with clippings of photographs, advertisements, inscriptions, and texts taken from various magazines and newspapers. Each square is a small collage in which various images present in (then) culture are intertwined, from soft pornography, comic book heroes to three hearts - the trademark of Radenska mineral water.

Photocopied books were published in self-publishing. The edition was named Pest. A fictitious publishing house, the Institute for the Advancement of Plasma Science of Arrangements (IUPNA), was also founded, which just as well did not have a firm name. It was, furthermore, the Institute for the Advancement of Plasma "Stupid" Technologies, the Advancement in Plasma of Science, and the Slovenian Orientalist Society, a section for the Far East. Naturally, the publishing house was without management and financing.


Iztok Osojnik: I sing, I don't understand, 1981
Iztok Osojnik and Iztok Saksida Jakac: Satisfied Kranjec, 1979
Iztok Osojnik and Iztok Saksida Jakac: Turn right. Are you the most beautiful from behind?, 1979

Photocopying technology has, of course, primarily determined the visual appearance of the books. The formats depended on the characteristics of the photocopier. In Ljubljana, photocopied books (mostly printed in the photocopy shop of the Association of Paraplegics Bežigrad) have an A5 format, while the format of books created in Japan differs due to different paper sizes. The texts of Ferdinand Plocnik's Ignorance were reproduced on a photocopier in Klagenfurt, which printed from a roll of paper. (Klaus Detief Olof supported them there.) Poor photocopy reproduction reduced the sharpness of photographs and also reduced contrast. Additionally, the publications were bound with office staples, which, like photocopying, represent an adaptation to general office work. Everything seemed robust, non-standardized, and completely different from the books published in the institutional publishing of that time. Not unexpectedly, as Iztok Osojnik says, the books were intentionally sloppy. The rough appearance established a qualitative difference in relation to the institutional press and challenged the dominant artistic canons in culture.

The anarchist and non-institutional attitude of the movement is reflected in the various attitudes of the author towards the cultural concept of the author and authorship. In addition to individual authorship, they equally created as groups/collectives. As mentioned, many photocopied books were created in collaboration with Iztok Osojnik with Vesna Črnivec, Jurij Detel, Jani Osojnik, Dušan Pirih Hup, Iztok Saksid Jakac, and Gerda Tinglum (a graduate of Joseph Beuys and famous Norwegian "chubby" model). The photocopied magazine Nihon TImes was produced in collaboration with Osojnik's fellow students from Japan, the Polish Ignacy-Marek Kaminski, and the Dane Hans Lauritsen. In addition, the books deconstructed the author's authority, mostly by hiding his proper name and using witty pseudonyms. Iztok Osojnik was Janez Makavelj and Uhanes Makavelj (How Do You Know You Are Naked, Heraclitus and the Ten of Hearts), Iztok Ferda (I Sing I Don't Understand), Melinda Podgorni (An Attempt To Investigate Why I Didn't Kill Maks Cankar) and Vanja Lacko (Iztok Pirjevac and Me). He also adopted the nickname Sanchez (Long Play for Mayumi), used generic terms for kinship - two brothers Osojnik (Han Shan, 10 Songs) - and doubled his name Iztok Osojnik and Iztok Osojnik (Essay On The Raffle Or How The Title Escaped From The Title). The playing with the name was to re-examine the role of the authority of the author's name in culture and the art world. It introduced anonymity and "disidentification." (8) The audience had to deal with an unknown author of an unknown name and could not decide on the work in advance, taking into account the author's artistic image constructed by the public. The movement used the same name-changing game for its music bands. The band Papa Kinjal seemed to be falling apart, and from it came the Projective Bureau, and then D'Pravda. The name changes were in addition of practical use. They were the mask of the author, thus concealing their identity and avoiding possible bans on performances because they were stamped with excesses and scandals that disrupted the morals of the socialist people.


Iztok Osojnik and Dušan Pirih Hup: Five days of exhibiting/lying, 1982 (exhibition catalog)
Iztok Osojnik: Texts of Ferdinand Plocnik's ignorance, 1982

We should ask whether this subrealistic, anarchist, non-institutional, and neo-avant-garde art production was political. In regards to the photocopied books, the Bishops' Conference filed a complaint with the Prosecutor's Office in Ljubljana in 1979, following a complaint from a photocopy shop within the Association of Paraplegics, which then prosecuted some of the authors of the Collection of Works 1((Jure Detela, Borut Hlupič, Iztok Osojnik, and Iztok Saksida). The court also sentenced some of them to shorter prison terms. (9)

The fact is that the textual content of the artworks was not criticizing the communist regime and the people in power. The structure of the work was political. Deviations from social and cultural standards may be subject to political correctness. As already mentioned, the structure of the photocopied books was in the cultural position off-off. Hence, the structure of the work was in fact a critique of the social system as a whole. The creators of the movement noticed that the favorable or unfavorable functioning form of a society is a consequence of people accepting the functioning form of the regime in power, thus the authorities do not have to invest much effort for society and individuals to follow their policies. Even the vast majority of those who externally criticized the communist government intimately and mentally behaved just as the subjects of their criticism were. This provides, therefore, a substantial basis for constituting an unusual artistic practice, developed by Iztok Osojnik.

Lilijana Stepančič

Translation from Serbian: Maja Simić

1. The text was created on the basis of a conversation with Iztok Osojnik via zoom. I thank him for the information, explanations and clarifications.
2. The main stream was a label for the professional art of modernism, which in Slovenia, for example, was represented by the state and Slovenian national Modern Gallery.
3. Dušan Pirih Hup, Naši projekti, 1975–1980, August 2002 (unpublished, Iztok Osojnik archive); Iztok Osojnik, Being Hup (Introduction to the work and understanding of the art of Dušan Pirih Hup), Dušan Pirih Hup. Discovering the Hidden, Museum and Galleries of the City of Ljubljana, Mestna galerija, 2009, p. 11 –17.
4. Franci Cegnar defined the difference between the multimedia and intermedia approach in the creation of a work as follows: "The multimedia approach means that certain media are decomposed, although they are elementary recognizable, while the intermedia approach is such that something else, that is, it took over the specifics of another medium. " Lilijana Stepančič, Kuća na brdu, Likovne besede, Ljubljana 2019, p. 112.
5. The structure of culture in Yugoslavia after the dispute between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in 1948. (after the beginning of their own socialist path, as it was called by political and communist leaders) until the disintegration of the SFRY, they consisted of three systems. He was the first to build the aesthetics, art and culture of the bourgeois modernism of Western capitalist society. The implementers and advocates were often members of the Communist Party, ie the League of Communists, such as the directors of the leading republican galleries of contemporary art in Ljubljana and Belgrade - Zoran Kržišnik and Miodrag B. Protić. The second system included folk art that realized the socialist paradigms of the Enlightenment and the cultural upliftment of man. The third systems were borderline, alternative, sporadic performances, which were not part of either the first or the second system, they are characterized by artistic experimentation, the art-life paradigm and a critique of civil-socialist society. Most often, the government considered them a social obstacle to socialism.
6. Dušan Pirih Hup, ibid.
7. Iztok Osojnik, ibid., page 15.
8. Iztok Osojnik, ibid., page 11.
9. Iztok Osojnik, ibid., page 16.

Produkcija fotokopiranih knjig Iztoka Osojnika

Lilijana Stepančič (born in 1958 in Koper, Slovenia) graduated in 1981 from the Faculty of Economics at the University in Ljubljana, in 1986 from the Faculty of Letters (departments History of Art and Sociology) at University in Ljubljana. Occupations: curator : Obalne galerije (Koper), Moderna galerija (Ljubljana) (1986-1993) ; director : Soros Centre for Contemporary Arts-Ljubljana (1993-1997); executive director : Open Society Institute- Slovenia (1997-2000); she was director of International Center of Graphic Arts. Founding member of Manifesta (International Contemporary Art Biennial, Ljubljana). A member of the National Board for Culture of the Republic of Slovenia.



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