Scrapes and Life


FRIDAY, December 3, 2010

Today I read an interview with Jackson Pollock done in the 1950s. In the interview, he spoke about how the new American art was created when there was nothing left. World War II wiped out a quasi scene and in that wasteland the seed of a new, living, authentic art sprouted. He also talked about the fact that the art fighting for its own expression in the nothingness of a time is unsightly and gnarly, but still very much alive.

This reminded me of the words of great world designer Konstantin Grcic, who, during a visit to Belgrade, said that Serbian artists had a great chance to transform the existential problems they face every day into creation.

Does Serbian art not have a chance to grow the seed of a living, non-aestheticized art on the ashes of an insane time? Art that is free from the long-term inferiority complex? The pungent existentialism of this region does not allow for a single moment of conformism. That is the ideal state of man for creating a work of art. Ivo Andric used to say: “When I’m not desperate, I’m no good for anything!”


SATURDAY, December 4, 2010

This Saturday is the last day of the Nature & Art exhibition at Heritage House. It was my first project as selector. To carry out such a project in Serbia is tantamount to the endeavor of casting the bell in Tarkovsky’s film Andrei Rublev.

After the successful realization of an art camp on the Gradac river, which was attended by over 30 artists from the region, and an exhibition at the National Museum in Valjevo, this exhibition was held in Belgrade as well.

Fifteen artists of different sensibilities through their works implemented a concept that is a reaction to the world we live in. The world of hyperproduction, hyperinformation, hypersexuality… Throughout history, artists have always felt the need to react to humankind’s key problems. One of the biggest problems of today is man’s alienation from nature. It is, in fact, his alienation from himself. Art that works on connecting man to nature is simultaneously engaged and beneficial.  

The works at the exhibition are not mere copies of nature, but rather an attempt at creating synthesis with nature. As a result, we have multimedia works that emanate the energy of nature. They offer the viewer, in an articulate manner, the vibration they lack in the world we live in.

The entire project was carried out by the organization Valjevo Action, with financial assistance from the town of Valjevo. The exhibitors were: the Clear Brooks Family, son:DA, Marko Crnobrnja, Milorad Mladenovic, Radomir Knezevic, Branislav Nikolic, Milena Putnik, Vojislav Radovanovic, Snjezana Torbica, Miroslav Prvulj, Milomir Romanovic, Nikola Faller, Katarina Popovic, Dusan Petrovic, and I, personally.

This concept will continue to live on in spite of everything. We carry on. The next destination is Slovenia.


SUNDAY, December 5, 2010

An exhibition of selected works of Polish and Russian art from the period of communism, created on both the official and independent scenes, opened at the Museum of Yugoslav History. It is fascinating how much this exhibition underlines the fact that we frequently encounter similarly designed works at exhibitions in Belgrade today! Are we living in a time of new Serbian social realism?

The general impression is that politicized art is often promoted under the cliché of engaged art. The term “engagement” has become mandatory in today’s curatorial vocabulary. Is only politicized art engaged?

This practice has led to the situation where exhibitions with a certain concept are scheduled first, and only after that artists are invited to create work on a given subject. Rainer Maria Rilke provided one of the most beautiful definitions of quality of artwork. He said that art is good if it is created from the artist’s inevitable need. Where is that need here? It has been replaced with dictate. And that is the definition of social realism.

The constant imposing of a feeling of guilt and the creation of a scene that incessantly elaborates on this topic in the same manner as propaganda. Please, let us admit we are guilty and start making art! The bad is not a topic in Serbia alone. This region has a life that is equally valuable and beautiful as any other life on planet Earth.


MONDAY, December 6, 2010

I’ve gone back to the project of planning the next art festival in Valjevo. Such events provide an opportunity for close meetings with great artists. Meeting them is true wealth.

I once asked Kosta Bogdanovic what he would do if he were a young artist today. What kind of strategy would he make? He replied that he would certainly rely on tradition. And he gave me a definition of art I will never forget: Beautiful. Quiet. Sublime. Healthy. Those are the definitions of art of great cultures. The key definition in Islam is beautiful, in Buddhism – quiet, in Christianity – sublime. And all of them combined are healthy.

When I posed that same question to Ilija Soskic, who was the master of last year’s workshop, he said the position of young artists was the same here as in Rome. Fighting the system of globalization is impossible. But he proposes the forming of intellectual microenvironments that gradually expand. That is the only way for art to survive today.

It’s a real pleasure to gather such people and join them with youth. In that situation both gain meaning.


TUESDAY, December 7, 2010

Quite accidentally I found myself in the company of art theory PhDs. For me, that is always a great challenge for debating. We talked about curatorial practice today. The conclusion was that curators today deal much more with phenomenology than with the quality of artwork. I asked them, if we had a piano competition at one of the prestigious world conservatories, what would happen if the commission marked the musicians’ phenomenology? Their political positions? The way they “bang” the keys? Where’s the music in that? I didn’t get an answer.


WEDNESDAY, December 8, 2010

Goya said that one must first be a Spaniard, then a European, and only after that a world artist. Henri Michaux says in his memoirs that, although he spent his whole life running from it, he was only a Belgian after all. (But what kind of a Belgian?)

In this region, we never had the opportunity to work in classic arts. History did not allow it. The need to leave an existential mark was fulfilled on practical objects in Serbia. Each element has a brand of special individual creativity. This art is inarticulate, but alive. These are the sources from which we can draw the foundations of our art history. It is always hard. Nadezda Petrovic created her masterpiece Valjevo Hospital in conditions of death and despair. Conceptually, it is one of the strongest paintings in Serbian art history. Small in format, but endless in the vitality of its expression.

Alberto Giacometti always said that he used to go to the Louvre and admire the masterpieces of great world masters. Now those works seem completely powerless compared to the people present at the museum. He is not interested in aesthetics, he is interested in reality, in life. This region is ideal for studying that sort of art. A living art completely devoid of any kind of aesthetics. At one point, Picabia wanted to make bad paintings. It turned out those were his strongest works.

The mire and mud we live in are heavy, but they also provide a fantastic opportunity for realizing art that is not burdened by form.


THURSDAY, December 9, 2010

There is a vast difference between art and advertising. Artists today very carelessly go into self-propaganda, understandably, wishing for quick success on the scene that would enable their existence. In the late 1990s, when I was wrapping up my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, I found it very strange that many of my colleagues were, in fact, working in advertising. I consciously entered into that profession, seeking the possibility of creating art. I failed in that endeavor. I usually say that I went into advertising so that my art would not have advertising in it.

Advertising is a science that deals with communication, very complex and creative. But its creativity has the life span of a good joke. The foundation of quality of advertising lies in the great strategies that have led to great commercial or social successes. Advertising is not a priori evil. It depends on what it is used for. If it is used in a humane context, it can be highly beneficial. Of course, it is usually used for gaining profit.

Art surpasses this short moment and carries within it an eternal substance that cannot be spent. A work found in a museum or in your home is rediscovered every day. It never becomes outdated. It never goes out of fashion.

Djordje Stanojevic