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Vladimir Unkovic

Are you now or have you ever been

The work “Are you now or have you ever been” deals with the activities of the so-called “House Un-American Activities Committee” and the persecution of alleged communists within the Hollywood film industry after the Second World War. After the end of the First World War, the US government feared an infiltration of American society by supporters of German National Socialism and European Communists. In 1937, a committee called the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was set up to investigate the suspected threat. The committee was tasked with gathering information on how foreign subversive propaganda entered the US and through whom it was disseminated. The committee cracked down on members of the civil rights movements and trade unionists who were suspected of being communists. German political refugees such as Thomas Mann and Bertolt Brecht were also summoned and interrogated by the committee about their suspected anti-American connections. At the end of the 1940s, the committee focussed its attention on suspected communist propaganda from the ranks of Hollywood studios.
Extensive research in archives and institutions as well as the examination of historical events are of great importance to my artistic approach. For the work “Are you now or have you ever been”, I went on two research trips to Los Angeles in 2018 and 2019 to local archives and institutions in California. I visited and documented places that were important in the course of the HUAC hearings. These include former locations of film production companies, government buildings or places that were directly connected to the events, such as Bertolt Brecht’s house in Santa Monica. Another part of the work consists of the arranged still lifes, which show objects that have connotations in connection with the events and happenings surrounding the interrogations. The central element of the work is a tableau showing several issues of contemporary publications from the 1940s and 1950s, giving the viewer an insight into the propagandistic media coverage of the time. The presentation of the work in January 2020 at the Villa Merkel in Esslingen am Neckar also included an audio installation that played excerpts from Bertolt Brecht’s hearing before the committee of enquiry in Schleife and thus further contextualised the exhibited photographic material. Most recently, parts of the work were presented as part of the “junger westen 21” art prize at the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen.


Vladimir Unkovic (*1988) is a visual artist working in the fields of photography and research-based art. In his work, he deals with the artistic and conceptual examination of historical, political and socially relevant events, intensive research on the individual topics on site and the development of different artistic forms of expression in the field of documentary photography. In his work, he deals with historical events that shape parts of the collective memory and scrutinises them on a visual level. The events he thematises may be in the past, but they are by no means lacking in social or political topicality. Political events in particular and the confrontation with political abuse of power in the USA have aroused his interest, which has led to several stays in Southern California in recent years. In 2020, he completed his studies as a master student of Prof. Ricarda Roggan at the Stuttgart State Academy of Fine Arts. Prior to this, he completed the Master of Arts programme “Photography Studies and Practice” at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen with distinction in 2016. He currently lives and works in Essen.