Igor zabel Documentary

The Curator’s Room
Igor Zabel: How to Make Art Visible?

About the film
The Curator’s Room, a documentary film dedicated to the art historian and curator Igor Zabel (1958–2005), focuses on Zabel’s work in the field of visual arts from the end of the 1980s until his death. Through the film, we learn how, in that epochal time –  at the turn of the century and at the intersections of (post)modern and contemporary art, the local and international art space, socialism and capitalism, East and West, artistic and social/political –, he faced in his work not only great changes and conflicts, but also possibilities for the new.   

The film portrays not only a man who, despite the internal contradictions of the art world, persistently believed in the power of art, but also the time and space in which Igor Zabel worked and which he co-shaped.

Interviewees: Zdenka Badovinac, Jože Barši, Francesco Bonami, Barbara Borčić, Ekaterina Degot, Ješa Denegri, Charles Esche, Vadim Fiškin, Sergej Kapus, Samo Krušič, Boris Marte, Viktor Misiano, Marjetica Potrč, Igor Španjol, Borut Vogelnik, Mateja Kos Zabel, Bojan and Sonja Zabel, Božidar Zrinski, Beti Žerovc, Peter Weibel

More about the film and Igor Zabel
As an art historian and curator at the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, Zabel importantly contributed to an adequate historical placement of artistic phenomena such as historical avant-gardes (Tank!, 1998) and neo-avant-gardes (OHO: Retrospective, 1994), but also contemporary artistic practices. In Slovenia, he was one of the key art historians who defined contemporary art as a specific art practice and importantly contributed to its establishment, also in the international context (Manifesta 3). In addition, he always incisively reflected on the conditions in which contemporary art emerged.  

In his work, Igor Zabel constantly emphasised the significance of context. In turn, the film contextualises his work – from the changing geopolitical context and accelerated globalisation to the changing institutional framework of art production, including the role of curators.

The documentary tells of his concept of the curator’s role, his key exhibition projects and their backgrounds, his interventions into Slovenian art history, his literary works and the texts with which he importantly co-created the reflection on the relation between the (former) East and West as it was manifested in the field of art after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  

In his theoretical and curatorial work, he advocated an in-depth consideration of the political and social subcurrents that can contribute to a better understanding of art and, at the same time, insisted on the capability of art to tease apart the very substrata that so importantly determine it. His interest in researching the complex relations between the social and the artistic was also the basis of Individual Systems, an exhibition he prepared for the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), which inaugurated him as a referential international curator.

Author's statement:
Damjan Kozole: “When Igor Zabel died in 2005, I was abroad. I opened my computer and saw a black-and-white photo of him on a portal. His sudden and unusual death resounded among all of us who work in art. This is not merely a film about Igor Zabel, but also a film about a time that brought essential shifts in the understanding and evaluation of art in the context of great social and political changes. In addition to the reflection on Zabel’s heritage, the film includes important documents that tell us how contemporary art was born and established in Slovenia and Eastern Europe.” 

The Curator’s Room
Igor Zabel: How to Make Art Visible?

Slovenia, 2018, colour/black-white, 64 minutes

Director: Damjan Kozole
Scriptwriter: Urška Jurman
Photography: Matjaž Mrak
Editor: Jurij Moškon
Sound: Julij Zornik
Music: Laibach (Von Sonnen Untergang)
Producer: Danijel Hočevar
Production and distribution: Vertigo
Co-production: RTV Slovenia, Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory
Supported by: Slovenian Film Centre