Ana Zubak | Learning by heart is the worst way to learn

Learning by heart is the worst way to learn


intervention in public space

former military base in Koprivnica

The work Learning by heart is the worst way to learn (org. Najviše bi se griješilo kad bi se gradivo učilo napamet) was initiated during a short residency in City of Koprivnica and is a result of exploring and contemplating the space of former military base (present Kampus), local context, and dialogue with current users of Kampus.

In 1991, Yugoslavian national army (JNA) left the military base in Koprivnica. Thirty years earlier textbook “Defense of socialistic Yugoslavia” was published. It was written by group of authors from Center for andragogic-psychological and sociological research in JNA. In prefatory addressing to the reader/soldier, one of the authors suggested that it’s necessary to think over everything that’s been read and question the main idea because that kind of approach is the precondition for versatile activity of every soldier.

Two sentences from the textbook were used to draw the parallels between former and present users of this complex, replacing the socal role of a soldier with the role of an artist and a student. Objects with reassigned functions – Ateliers Koprivnica and University North have kept their educational character, but preparations for armed combat have been replaced with intellectual battle of artists and students who drill day-to-day for their active role in society.

With intervention in the very space of military complex, the author speaks to the artist and the student, using a strategy characteristic for expressing a political view – with banners which she puts on facades of University Sjever and Ateliers Koprivnica, location which represent a change that occur in this space. Each banner contains one sentence from the military notebook, and the word “soldier” is replaced with words “student/artist”. By putting the sentences out of context, new semantic level is created which leads us to contemplate about the correlation between roles of an artist, a student or a soldier, as well as the connection among some of the crucial moments in history of this complex.

With interventions in public spaces a priori comes the question about the meaning of the artwork, about the intervened space and “the goal of artist’s activity isn’t creating work of art but changing the fragments or totality of reality.” (M. Šuvaković) – thus the action of Ana Zubak doesn’t just offer many questions regarding the space of military complex and the role of an artist, but it investigates the possibilities of artistic strategies and practices in public spaces and their effects on reality.

“In order to use site properly, it is necessary to know that site” – another sentence from the textbook with which we could manipulate. Emphasizing places of power which connect past and present of the complex, accentuating the role of knowledge, playing with military phrases through word replacement, avoiding of traditional gallery space and artistic object, interaction with passers-by – all of that makes thing (more) visible, it opens up the possibility of reading and examining and it also points out that production of meanings depends on the context and the system.


Work is part of AK gallery’s multiannual project: “Complexes: (co)existence of people and spaces” which deals with former military base complex in Koprivnica, by raising the level of understanding of architecture and (or) reassigned military spaces and not to let complex with reassigned content be another monument that doesn’t correspond with community and the present. The project sets a platform for archive of memories and future researches of space that always had an important role in the life of the city. That role of this particular space changed through time and the project emphasizes the importance of every part in history of the complex for overall heritage of Koprivnica.