Feminist and political activist, Sanja Iveković has from the very beginning embraced the mass media in her work, which explores gender, memory and identity.

Her early use of magazines and newspapers as a medium was prompted by a desire to comment on the portrayal of women in these media. In Double Life (1975), she juxtaposed advertisements featuring women with photographs taken from her own album which captured her, coincidentally, in similar poses. This interweaving of commercial and personal photography revealed the extent to which advertising can condition our perception of self.

Iveković has continued to work in mass media throughout her career, and while her work still explores the nature of media coverage (Works of Heart, 2001), the choice of medium also reflects a concern to extend the reach of her work and to present ideas in a form and context accessible to all. In 1997, recognising that Croatia’s ‘National Heroines’ (women killed or imprisoned for their role in the anti-fascist resistance, the artist’s mother among them) no longer formed part of the country’s collective memory, she created a series of magazine advertisements (Gen XX) which reintroduced these women into contemporary consciousness.

Sanja Iveković’s project for International 04 developed directly out of this aspect of her practice, and explored the multitude of differences often concealed or obscured by our use of the term ‘public’. Liverpoll (2004) was prompted by a text by Roger M. Buergel which considers how modern-day usage of the term ‘the public’ can embody two entirely contradictory concepts: ‘social totality’ (‘The police appealed to the public’) and ‘specific audience’ (‘the theatre-going public’). Buergel contrasts developments in art practice, ‘indisputably a public activity, oriented towards debate and confrontation with others’, with developments in the public sphere, increasingly dominated by marketing statistics, ‘where the critical and emancipating dimension of cultural experience is eliminated in favour of false participation’.

Liverpoll harnessed an essential tool for determining public opinion – the newspaper poll – to examine the true nature of ‘the public’ and ‘public participation’. The project presented ‘the public’ (that is to say the Liverpool Echo-reading public, or the internet-using public) with a series of yes/no questions, some were posed by the artist herself, some were posed by members of the Liverpool ‘public’. The results of these polls were published throughout Liverpool Biennial 2004 as a series of 2D and 3D pie charts (needless to say, displayed in the ‘public realm’).

Iveković’s questions derived very much from her own personal interests and practice, already familiar to her own loyal ‘public’. She asked us ‘Do we want gender democracy?’ or ‘Is there a future after capitalism?’ (an ironic reversal of the artist’s own experience as a native of a post- communist country). Questions posed by the Liverpool public were yet to be determined at the time of writing (July 2004), though the artist’s speculation as to what these would be (‘Do we want to pull out of Iraq?’) was in itself revealing.

Liverpoll presented us with a multitude of fractions and divisions, of segments demarcating who said yes from who said no. It revealed what the all-too-familiar construction ‘87% of people said. . .’ conceals: that there is no such thing as the public, only myriad ‘members of the public’.

Liverpoll, 2004
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial 2004
Exhibited at Church Alley



Visiting Arts
Liverpool Daily Post
Liverpool Echo