Interviewed in zagreb, June 2006 and June 2007
Matko Meštrović is one of the most prominent cultural figures in Croatia, with a long career in areas ranging from the theory and criticism of visual arts to the analysis of social developments. He is well known for his contribution to the founding and activities of the New Tendencies, and certainly for his great effort to organize design in Croatia as a critical activity that considers the formation of the human environment in all its aspects. But Meštrović is an intellectual with great energy and the particular ability of interdisciplinary thinking. His work does not stop at the visual arts, but unavoidably focuses on the understanding of the fundamental problems of contemporary society. Despite the global social situation in which the idea of humanism has been banished from value systems, Meštrović still deeply believes that social progress is possible, which makes him a precious critical thinker and a motivating speaker.
ORIS: From what we know about the basic positions and stances of your view of the contemporary world, they could be theoretically and critically more relevant today than ever before. You saw the exhibition “Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-1939” in London in 2006. We believe that your comment on the exhibition could sketch the context in which we find ourselves. Then we could probe the past.
Meštrović: The exhibition is primarily a very good and succinct presentation for the wider public; it shows excellently chosen material from around 15 countries. The development of the themes and interpretations is authorial in every sense, but it is on that level. What caught my eye, especially if you read the explanatory texts, is the new valuation of cultural and civilizing efforts and achievements in the period 1914-1939. And it is not completely disinterested. It primarily acknowledges the great potential utopian value of the phenomenon in design and modern construction. It even classifies utopia, differentiating between certain political orientations. It is clear that fascism was a utopia no less than the new world of the followers of Bauhaus in America. Still, it is not a historical/critical analysis, but a big attraction more than anything, prepared in an establishment that embodies the conservative world view. As I see it, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is such an establishment both as a museum and as a huge collection of artistic treasures from all historical periods all over the world, treated in a very old-fashioned way.