In 1982 Sanja Iveković presented Personal Cuts on prime-time Yugoslavian national television, on TV Zagreb’s 3, 2, 1 – Action! This video is now on view in MoMA’s retrospective Sanja Iveković: Sweet Violence, and I am most grateful to Sanja for giving us the opportunity to present this work on our blog.
In the video she confronts the camera wearing a translucent black stocking mask pulled over her head, terrorist-style. Using scissors, she cuts one hole after another into the mask, revealing one section of her face at a time. Each cut is followed by a short sequence of archival footage culled from a television program on the history of Yugoslavia, produced by the state shortly after Marshal Tito’s death, in 1980, and chronicling 20 years of the socialist republic. Cut by cut, in sequential shots, Iveković exposes her face and suggests the insidiousness of national propaganda—mass rallies, a public address by Tito, and monuments, all promoting the socialist way of living—thus demonstrating that historical events are inextricable from human ones, and ending with the artist’s face fully uncovered.
Personal Cuts is modeled on a television documentary, but formally and conceptually it undercuts the totalizing, unified picture of official history; history is presented as broken inscription rather than linear narrative. Iveković infiltrates media space and disrupts the official narrative, reshuffling it, using the cut as a leitmotif and a reference to the editing and montage strategies that have informed her photocollages and video works.