Vlado Martek

Language as a Joy of the World | 2021 | Artist´s book, stamps, found cartographic material | Private collection

Croatian conceptual artist Vlado Martek (1951) is a poet, visual artist and a performer. He belongs to the Group of Six Artists, whose members come from different fields of culture, so it operated multidisciplinary and intermedia (Grupa šestorice autora, 1975 – 1981, Boris Demur, Željko Jerman, Mladen Stilinović, Sven Stilinović, Fedor Vučemilović, V.M.). As an artist, Martek tries to capture the artwork at the stage of “pre-poetry” – at a point just before it becomes a poem or a work of art. He explores new ways for active poetry, which he writes and draws, and performs live “with slogans and inscriptions, leaving sheets of paper on benches or on pebbles on a beach, hanging books on the lamp posts near the homes of their potential readers” (Alenka Gregorič). In the essay The Question of Engagement, Martek wrote: “Poetry is a process. This means that poem-work does not exist.” Dubravka Djurić claims that traditional literature views a poem as an artwork, but (Martek’s) radical poetic practice asserts that the process of creating a poem is inseparable from the poem itself.


In the 1990s, when his homeland plunged into civil war, his work started to feature cartography in various media, possessing the Barthesian pleasure of the text. In Ksenija Orelj’s view, in a country obsessed with geopolitics, Vlado Martek attempts to promote an imaginary cartography beyond the binary oppositions; we – they, civilization – chaos, men – women, nature – nurture.” Therefore, his territories are populated by living “toponyms” and edged by casually distributed borders. Thus, she perceives Martek’s cartography as a tool that helps us to understand the world as an ecological and spiritual system that characterizes the complex fabric of interrelated relationships. 


A small conceptual object – the book Language as the Joy of the World works with the word “time” (vrijeme) inscribed among the geographical names of the selected Croatian territory. The map, as a projection of the three-dimensional face of the Earth on the skin of the medium, bears, in addition to the names of cities, hills and rivers, the time that was invested by humans who lived in the given section of the country. Martek adds to the map the concept of the fourth dimension and the present subject, thus defining human living space as an unstable, constantly constructed quantity. This gives a positive value to Denis Cosgrove’s statement: “Mapping is always a performative act, a spatial activity incorporated into the creation and communication of individual and group identity.” At the same time, language comes to the fore as an agent of change, eagerly expecting its reader, because “writing is the science of the various blisses of language.” (Roland Barthes)