Crack Up – Crack Down

Main exhibition

7. 6.–29. 9. 2019 · Multiple venues

Curated by Slavs and Tatars

Hinko Smrekar, Slovenian Art Exhibition, ca. 1910. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Slovenia.

Comedy, irony, criticism, protest – satire has taken on various roles in the past, from the form of popular philosophy to biting critique, from relaxing entertainment to hard-hitting activism. Today, as the totalitarian mindset is on the rise in Western society, we are again witnessing the blossoming of various forms of comedy. Considering the functions of satire in the past, the Crack Up – Crack Down exhibition triggered a reflection on the forms of this genre at the present time. Is each joke, as George Orwell maintained, a tiny revolution? Or conversely, do laughter and satire deflate the pressures and tension which could otherwise lead to political upheaval?

The curators, the Slavs and Tatars art collective, considered satire through a specific prism. They were interested in the intersection between satire and printmaking, which have in the past been linked to the belief that they are the tools of democracy, that they are the genres or media through which the voice of the people enters into society. The Biennial hence tried to highlight how to understand graphic language as a tool for transmitting satirical content, or how the graphic can instigate the emergence of this highly resilient and topical form of criticism through the use of irony and ridicule. If the accessibility of printing at the beginning of the 20th century led to the unexpected expansion of the satirical press, then new aesthetic languages have emerged from the visual saturation of our time. The fertile ground of the graphic shows itself in the digital era in the form of the meme, the protest poster and similar virtual expressions, as mass communication takes place primarily through social media. This production is often marked as lacking in taste and quality, yet its consideration cannot be avoided.

Marlie Mul, Cigarette Ends Here (Smoking Pregnant Woman, Baby, and Friend), 2012; digital print on silk; 220×130 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Croy Nielsen.
Honza Zamojski, Untitled (The Gathering), 2019; drawing (made using carbon copy paper); dry pastels on paper, mounted on MDF; 40×60 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Drei, Cologne.
Anna Uddenberg, Fingers, 2018; acrylic resin on fiberglass, spray filler, acrylic paint, UV nail gel; stainless steel horse bits; 104×20×20 cm (each). Courtesy of the artist and Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, Berlin.

In line with its global orientation, the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts presented a cross-section of artists from the region (Slovenia, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and Bulgaria) as well as further afield (China, Iran, Great Britain and the United States), who use graphic languages as part of their diverse practices. In addition to a historical section, the exhibition also presented works by contemporary artists, publishers, theoreticians, activists, new media personalities, stand-up comedians and others.


“In unstable times, as we observe the phenomena of authoritarian nationalism, hypocrisy and the re-closing of physical and mental borders ever more closely, Slavs and Tatars challenge the established canons of taste, morals, social norms and art through carefully selected and numerous newly commissioned works.”
(Nevenka Šivavec, Director of MGLC)

“With the rise of populism across the globe (not to mention reductive and revanchist forms of identity politics), there has been vigorous debate over who constitutes ‘the people.’ For more than a millennium, satire has been a particularly contested genre to explore such questions, via varying degrees of serious invective or jocular teasing. Is each joke, as George Orwell maintained, a tiny revolution? Or does laughter and satire deflate the pressures and tension which could otherwise lead to political upheaval?”
(Slavs and Tatars)


Hamja Ahsan, United Kingdom
Pablo Bronstein, United Kingdom
Dragoș Cristian, Germany
Cevdet Erek, Turkey
Arthur Fournier with Raphael Koenig, USA
Boštjan Gorenc (aka Pižama), Slovenia
Martine Gutierrez, USA
Flaka Haliti, Germany
Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Lebanon
Stane Jagodič, Slovenia
Zhanna Kadyrova, Ukraine
Dozie Kanu, Portugal
Sachiko Kazama, Japan
KRIWET (Ferdinand Kriwet), Germany
Ella Kruglyanskaya, USA
Tala Madani, USA
Augustin Maurs, France
Metahaven (Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden), Netherlands
Marlie Mul, Germany
Marina Orsag, Croatia
Woody de Othello, USA
Alenka Pirman with KULA, Slovenia
Amanda Ross-Ho, USA
Lin May Saeed, Germany
Mohammad Salemy, Canada, Germany
Hinko Smrekar, Slovenia
Top lista nadrealista, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Endre Tot, Germany
Anna Uddenberg, Germany
Martina Vacheva, Bulgaria, France
Pavlo Voytovich, Ukraine
Nicole Wermers, United Kingdom
Anja Wutej, Slovenia, Germany
Giorgi Xaniashvili, Georgia
Honza Zamojski, Poland


MGLC – International Centre of Graphic Arts
MGLC – Švicarija
National Gallery of Slovenia
National and University Library (NUK)
Equrna Gallery
ZVKDS Gallery
ISIS Gallery
DUM Project Space

A publication Crack Up – Crack Down (Mousse Publishing and MGLC) will accompany the exhibition and serve as a compendium of the practices of satire and graphics acting both as a mediation guide and a reader on the topic with essays from leading scholars.

Hamja Ahsan, the recipient of the Grand Prize of the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts

The artist to receive the Grand Prize is selected by the jury of the Biennial, this year it was composed of Emily Apter, Jaroslaw Lubiak, Ištvan Išt Huzjan and Pablo Larios. The recipient is announced at the opening of the Biennial and is traditionally presented at the next Biennial of Graphic Arts with a solo exhibition.

Hamja Ahsan (b. 1981) is an artist, writer, activist and curator based in London. The founder and co-curator of the DIY Cultures festival of creative activism, zines and independent publishing, Ahsan is the author of the book Shy Radicals: Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert. His recent writing was anthologised in No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960–1990. He was shortlisted for the Liberty Human Rights Award for the Free Talha Ahsan Campaign on US extradition, prison and the War on Terror. He is currently working on a project on the role of zines in the Hillsborough Justice campaign, Britain’s largest known police cover-up. He has been a guest lecturer at various UK and US universities.

A referendum on secession asked the Biennial venues of Ljubljana to join the breakaway Aspergistan Federation: the national homeland of Shy, Introvert and Autistic spectrum peoples as constituted in the book Shy Radicals. From ballot boxes to a national anthem, to social-media hashtags, the Aspergistan Referendum continues Ahsan’s interest in what he calls a “global Introfada struggle against Extrovert-supremacy”.

Hamja Ahsan, dobitnik velike nagrade na 33. grafičnem bienalu Ljubljana
Photo: Urška Boljkovac. Archive: MGLC.

Guide to the exhibitions and events


You can view the Guide to the exhibitions and events of the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts by following this link (.pdf, 6MB).


The Biennialist

You can view the special edition of the newspaper Outsider: The Biennialist (June, 2019) by following this link ( .pdf, 3.6MB).

Biennial map for children and families

You can view the Biennial map for children and families with illustrations by David Krančan by following this link (.pdf, 6MB).

The Print Portfolio

The Print Portfolio of Artists of the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts

Curated by Slavs and Tatars

Though lauded for their powers of intellectual and critical legitimisation, many of the most esteemed biennials have also had an explicit, if less acknowledged, programme of commercial activity. At nearby Venice, until 1968, for example, the public could purchase works by artists exhibiting in the Biennale. The Print Portfolio engages the heritage of the Ljubljana Biennial as a site of production as much as one for exhibition. Participating artists were invited to spend time at the Švicarija residency – in an effort to slow down the acceleration of engagements which make up contemporary artists’ punishing schedules – and work with the extensive print facilities and expertise of the International Centre of Graphic Arts. As a result, each artist has contributed a print edition to the portfolio.

Artists: Giorgi Xaniashvili, Martina Vacheva, Marlie Mul, Nicole Wermers, Endre Tot, and Cevdet Erek



Marlie Mul, Comfy?, 2019; silkscreen, 88×63 cm.

Alejandro Paz, The Garden of Epicurus

Exhibition of the Grand Prize recipient of the 32nd Biennial of Graphic Arts

7. 6.–29. 9. 2019 · Plečnik House

Alejandro Paz, The Garden of Epicurus
Photo: Urška Boljkovac. Archive: MGLC.

The 2019 prize recipient exhibition presented Alejandro Paz, the recipient of the Grand Prize of the 32nd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts. On this occasion, the Guatemalan artist and architect entered into a dialogue with the philosophy of Epicurus and the private garden of Plečnik, where his performative intervention entitled The Garden of Epicurus came alive. In 306 BC, Epicurus founded a school in Athens, called The Garden, because it was located in one of the city’s gardens. According to testimony, an inscription above the front door read, among other things, that pleasure was the greatest good therein. Epicurus taught that a happy life must be based on the achievement of pleasure, both sensual and intellectual, which can be achieved with balance and moderation. He believed that spiritual pleasures were more important than physical ones, even though he did not accept duality as the opposite of both dynamics, but evaluated them through an interplay of balance in which they complement each other. The Epicurean garden of learning was, contrary to traditional Greek morality, open to everyone (including women and slaves), and reflected the importance of community and friendship. Plečnik’s garden was also a space of coexistence and the search for pleasure of various people, who believed that the garden is a venue where nature creates a spontaneous balance between the physical and ethical.

Alejandro Paz chose Jože Plečnik’s house and garden for the realization of the project in order to express his admiration for his architectural heritage and accentuate the importance that he attributes to nature in his own work. According to the artist, Plečnik became a silent protagonist in this project, creating an ideal venue of temporary coexistence with the help of his house, studio and garden. In the process of thinking about his engagement with Plečnik’s home, Paz let go of the idea of an architectural intervention and decided to go for a performative one, in which an orchestra played without a conductor, while the musicians were scattered throughout the garden and house.

Visitors could acquaint themselves with Paz’s art through a selection of his earlier video works, in which the artist becomes a resigned commentator on the fate of certain individuals from Guatemala in the grip of corruption, crime, exhaustion and hopelessness.

Maruša Alegro, Annemarie Glavič, Tobija Hrastnik, Aljaž Jazbinšek, Peter Kaizer, Žan Kopše, Kim Kozlevčar, Katarina Kralj, Gašper Livk, Ana Mezgec, Lucija Mikuž, Ana Mir, Martin Pinter, Anuša Plesničar, Ana Sešek, Kaja Sešek, Mirjam Šolar, Stefanija Udicui, Jerneja Vidmar, Kristjan Zupan, Neža Zupanc.


Metabolic Museum-University

26. 7.–2. 8. 2019 ·

The tongue for exchange and dialogue, the eye for visual thinking, the ear for sound and silence, the skin for feelings and temperature, the nose for scent and taste (or its absence), the lungs and diaphragm for deceleration and rhythm, the skeleton and muscles for support and traction, the stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys and spleen for reflexive synthesis, the thyroid gland, gall bladder and pancreas for converting and secreting, the genitals for friction, stimulation, and reproduction, blood, veins and arteries for non-verbal transmission, the nervous system for ergonomic reflex, the brain for relearning and inquiry, and the heart as the complex common ground created by artworks.

Based on a concept devised by Clémentine Deliss and developed with students from Karlsruhe University of the Arts and Design, the Metabolic Museum-University (MM-U) engineered a temporary and experimental infrastructure that squatted the exhibition spaces of the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, Crack Up – Crack Down. Like a benign tumour, it fostered conversations between artworks by altering the ergonomic framework encountered by the public and dislodging expectations through simple gestures that encouraged repose and reflection. Flexible furniture, designed by the MM-U team based on a home camping aesthetic, offered visitors of the Biennial the possibility to sit down, read, listen to lectures and engage in informal conversations and rehearsals. Folding chairs had their own tongue-table, retina-light and mini-beamer, enabling participants to project images and information into the void space between exhibits, effectively spamming the installation and developing their own personalised image-atlas.

Each day, the Metabolic Museum-University was based at a different venue of the Biennial. Instead of the departments of a university, there were organs; instead of an event programme, members of the guest faculty proposed a series of stimuli that responded to, and playfully elaborated upon, the existing exhibitions curated by Slavs and Tatars. Each day reflected an alternative organ. Organs of the week thus included Lungday (performance), Tongueday (speech and translation), Eyeday (visual thinking), Brainday (humour and satire), Skinday (emotions), Liverday (detox) and Heartday (trust and alliances). With the participation of local and international artists, scientists, historians, independent thinkers and students from different disciplines and backgrounds, the MM-U aimed to nurture the democratic intellect, providing the oxygen necessary for an emancipatory process to take place within the museum, transforming it from a site of controlled consumption, into a co-working space of inquiry.

The MM-U was open to all, and every visitor was a potential student. Exercises in visual adjacency initiated through the free-style educational infrastructure of the MM-U sought to identify new metaphors, environments and images that gave greater visibility to urgent questions affecting our common lives.

The Metabolic Museum-University was a production of the Department of Exhibition Design and Scenography at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in collaboration with the 33rd Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts Crack Up – Crack Down and the MGLC International Centre of Graphic Arts. It represented the collective endeavour of Francesca Romana Audretsch, Janina Capelle, Lizzy Ellbrück, Teresa Häußler, Diane Hillebrand, Cécile Kobel, Christina Scheib under the direction of Prof. Dr. Clémentine Deliss and with the supervision of Prof. Andreas Müller and Prof. Dr. Matthias Bruhn. For further information please write to