The Foundation of Endeavour

Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana
01 September 2020 – 08 February 2021

First preview of the exhibition is on Tuesday, 1 September 2020 between 8 and 10 p.m.

Due to the COVID-19 safety measures, the number of viewers is limited to 15 at a time. The artist will have a guided tour on Thursday, 3 September at 5 p.m. We’ve reached the guided tour capacity. For those who are unable to attain, we will publish a video recording of her guided tour. The exhibition runs until 29 November 2020.

The exhibition centres on the artist’s ongoing investigation into the idea of political gifts of culture, exploring their role within national and political structures during moments of European crisis in the 20th century.

The historical case studies the artist draws on speak directly to the present moment, in which culture has become a battleground for the forces of populism in their systematic attack on critical thought, bringing once again to the fore the complex relationship between culture and the state.

Cibic is well known for her work examining the mechanisms of “soft power” and the strategies through which national culture is constructed and weaponised. Her projects, realised through films and theatrical installations, are the result of a meticulous process of archival research and collaborative production, conducted with the goal of exposing moments, patterns and effects that would otherwise remain invisible. For the artist, this is a form of performative practice: a critical exercise in the dissection of statecraft.

The protagonists in this exhibition are a series of what Cibic calls “historical ready-mades”: cultural forms that were used as political devices during key post-traumatic moments in 20th-century European history. Rather than commissions, each of these examples was a gift – an offering made by the power-brokers right at the top of the political food chain, with the aim of preventing conflict and nurturing intra- and international cohesion.

The exhibition begins with the first chapter of Cibic’s film The Gift. The film’s locations are themselves examples of political gifts: the buildings of the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Oscar Niemeyer’s French Communist Party Headquarters in Paris and Mount Buzludzha in Bulgaria. The narrative of the film follows three characters, the allegorical Gifts of Art, Music and Dance, during the final round of a competition that seeks to identify the perfect gift to unite a divided nation. The scripted dialogue is drawn from archival records of discussions about soft power and the role of cultural diplomacy that led to the creation of iconic architectural and artistic manifestations of political gifts within European space.

The film’s themes spill out into a theatrical mise-en-scène occupying the adjacent spaces of the museum. In the first is a performative installation drawn from unrealised musical compositions donated to the Palais des Nations. Here, on the occasion of the exhibition’s opening, they will be performed for the first time, by a pair of percussionists in a looped rhythm exchange of anthems and marches: two forms of music that are integral to the nation state: to its formation and its dissolution. The snare drums are adorned with paintings of proposed designs for the League of Nations’ flag, another series of donations by international professional and amateur artists. No official flag was ever adopted, due to fears that a single emblem would stir nationalist sentiment within this major transnational project.

In the second room, a salon-style installation presents two series of photographic still lifes of objects similarly infused with the symbolic power of the political gift, presented against curtained walls. The first set are images of batons used in the Relay of Youth, a popular annual event held in former Yugoslavia to celebrate the birthday of the federation’s president Tito. Young people from all six republics would come together to participate in this powerful effort to promote cohesion and anti-nationalist sentiment. From 1957 to 1987 the batons were crafted by artists and ceremonially presented to the president as gifts. The second set of images depict roses bred and named after founding fathers of the European project, including Sandro Pertini, Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. Dramatically lit and shot against a dark backdrop, these loaded objects now carry an additional layer of meaning. Moths and other insects crawl across their surfaces – a nod to the tradition of still life or vanitas paintings, serving similarly as a reminder of the inevitable mutations of ideology and socio-political memory.

The exhibition culminates with one final image: a photographic portrait of one of Slovenia’s most hotly contested national emblems: the Lipizzaner horse, the only horse breed developed in Slovenia. In 2009 the Lipizzaner 508 Neapolitano Thais XL was presented as an official state gift to Muammar Gaddafi, just two years before his death. This literal embodiment of the Trojan horse – a gift given with less-than-pure motives, in this case as a form of cultural diplomacy – reminds us how easily culture can become not only a pawn in soft power strategies, but also complicit in the production of ideology.

Long after the demise of the beliefs and projects in the name of which these political gifts were given, these archival traces of a kind of socio-political “glue” may still be adapted and repurposed by new political agents – reminding us of what is at stake if the bond between culture and society is lost.


Jasmina Cibic: The Foundation of Endeavour, 2020

Curator: Igor Španjol
Production: Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana
Coproduction: Zavod Projekt Atol

The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia, the Museum of Yugoslavia, United Nations Geneva, Phi Foundation Montreal, Kunstmuseen Krefeld and City of Ljubljana.

The Gift, Act I (2019) is co-commissioned by Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network, steirischer herbst ’19 and macLYON.
Co-produced by FLAMIN Productions through Film London Artists’ Moving Image Network with funding from Arts Council England, steirischer herbst ’19, macLYON and Waddington Studios London.

Supported by Cooper Gallery – Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design – University of Dundee, Northern Film School – Leeds Beckett University, UGM Maribor Art Gallery, Museum of Yugoslavia, United Nations Geneva, Espace Niemeyer


Born 1979 in Ljubljana (Slovenia), Jasmina Cibic lives and works in London. She is a graduate of the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice, and Goldsmiths’ College, London.
She represented Slovenia during 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, with the project For Our Economy and Culture.
In the last two years several solo exhibitions were dedicated to Jasmina Cibic at venues including the Museum of Contemporary Art Ljubljana, Phi Foundation Montreal, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, CCA Glasgow and others. Cibic was awarded the Ben Award for Best Immersive and Time Based Art (2020), MAC International Ulster Bank Award (2016) and Best International Artist Award Charlottenborg Fonden Copenhagen (2016). She has been shortlisted for the renowned Film London Jarman Award (2021).

Solos shows (selection)
Most Favoured Nations, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg

21.05 – 29.08 : The Palace, Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz

The Foundation of Endeavour, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana

An atmosphere of Joyful Contemplation, CCA Glasgow
The Pleasure of Expense, Cooper Gallery, DJCAD Dundee
Spielraum, Tobačna 001, Ljubljana

Everything We Do Today will Look Heroic in the Future, The Significant Other, Vienna
Everything that You Desire and Nothing that You Fear, Phi Foundation, Montreal
This Machine Builds Nations, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Newcastle

NADA, National Gallery of Macedonia, Skopje
The Spirit of Our Needs, Kunstmuseen Krefeld House Esters
Topical Devices, Northampton Contemporary, Northampton
Firm Foundations, Gallery Zak Branicka, Berlin
The Nation Loves It, Crawfrod Gallery, Cork
A Shining City on a Hill, Space O, Aarhus 2017, Aarhus

Tear Down and Rebuild, Esker Foundation, Calgary
Building Desire, Apoteka, Vodnjan
NADA: Act I, Vjenceslav Richter Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb

Spielraum, Onomatopee, Eindhoven
Building Desire, Museum of Contemporary Art, Vojvodina
Tear Down and Rebuild, Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade
Spielraum: Give Expression to Common Desires, MGLC, Ljubljana
Spielraum: The Nation Loves It, Ludwig Museum, Budapest

Fruits of Our Land, Saw Gallery, Ottawa and LMAK Projects, New York

For Our Economy and Culture, Slovenian pavilion, Venice Biennale, Venice

Jasmina Cibic