The Concept of Nature in the Work of Đorđe Stanojević
Đorđe Stanojević is not some kind of a visionary eco-artist with a master plan for saving the Earth, nor was he ever presenting himself as a shamanic healer of the split between nature and culture. Elements of incertitude, unpredictability and contingency, which were inscribed into his works in the process of their making, when they were left open to the environment, would be discrepant with such a sovereign position. The very fact that he is leaving paintings on the open, to disturb and disrupt the processes he has started, to undo habit, to break from the known, and to destabilize all those painting procedures he was already too familiar with, show that his art practice is much more inward oriented than most of the eco-art projects. For Stanojević, art is not a tool for social change, but an inherent element in his effort to get to genuine self-understanding through the complexity of experimental open-ended processes.
”We are made perfect by what happens to us rather than what we do”, were the words of John Cage in describing how his compositions are rendered in a manner to let in the sounds from the surrounding; all those random sounds that are to be neither scored nor predetermined. When leaving his paintings to be impinged by wind, rain and snow, blazed by sun and covered by dust and other accidental stuff from the environment, Stanojević follows a similar logic, and he does so in order to set in motion a wide range of interactions and processes that result in unexpected. Whatever he accomplishes in a particular painting session can, and most likely will be significantly altered until the next one, due to atmospheric and other unpredictable conditions effecting the painting in the meantime. The difference to Cage, and the Fluxus tradition is in the fact that for Stanojević these are just stages in the making of the fully integrated work.
Paintings by Stanojević have no simple indexical character, as works by Fluxus artists, standing for the environment that produced an effect on them. Their point is not to replace art as mirror of nature with art as an index of nature. Of course, since their making was directly affected by being exposed to wind, rain, snow and sun there is no way to avoid treating them as indexical – their existential, physical, even causal connection to those forces makes them indexical by definition – but since that is not obvious from their visual and physical presence, one has to rely on captions in order to get to know that. On the other hand, since these paintings had existential relations to the artist as well, they can be likewise regarded as indexes of his creative processes and his struggle to overcome approaches shaped by conscious purpose, allowing for those that usually get inhibited or filtered by consciousness to become manifest.
Therefore, we also have to deal with the nature of the artist, his negative stance towards the corporate culture, creative and cultural industries, as well as his struggle with stereotypical models of work in the fields of art and culture. “How to avoid practicing art in a manner of imposing form upon a supposedly inert and passive substance?” would, perhaps, be the main question in that regard. In order to answer it Stanojević got involved with production processes from pre-technological societies, with traditional art and craft techniques, and experimental procedures developed in contemporary visual art, with the goal to investigate relations and mutual inter-dependencies between humans, the environment and nature. That has finally led him to develop a specific heuristic explorative approach, presupposing a radical shift from the standard anthropocentric worldview, although not to a biocentric, but to a physiocentric one.
In that view the world is not a composition of clearly defined, separated and self-contained entities, it is not mindless, purposeless and mechanical, while the human subjects residing in it are neither detached nor separated from the environment they observe. On the contrary, they are all fully merged into the constantly unfolding and changing stream of events and phenomena. In that view art as considered as something which changes the way things become present and available to us, as opposed to a view of art as a means of manipulating feelings or stimulating experiences, as a form of expression, or as a business developed to market such stimuli. On the other hand, if there are any restorative intentions involved with Stanojević’s work, they do not tend to restore nature as the most valuable resource of our civilization, but as that growing into itself of living things, which was called physis buy the Greeks.
In the times in which concepts as those of creativity and innovation, of flexibility and spontaneity, which used to be historically associated with art, become ubiquitous within global capitalism that inaugurates into the dominant societal mode the one making everything become a resource, artists need to step back and reconsider their social role. Instead of frantically ‘creating’ and ‘producing ‘new works of art just to keep the system running, along with their positions within that system, they could start reflecting what their immediate surrounding can offer on another level, of affirmation of life as purposeless play , without suggesting improvements in creation. Also, since the vocabulary of environmentalism is now integral to media, governmental and corporate discussions, perhaps the environmental artists could refraining from using it, and start inhabiting their environment and experimenting with no objective.