Exhibitions by Ivan Petrovic, Vladimir Mojsilovic and Natalija Simeonovic
Ivan Petrović's exhibition Making Off includes a documentary, printed frames taken from edited and unedited material, and a set-up of photographs.* This three-part project offers a technical comparison of different media formats, so thanks to Petrović, Walter Benjamin's remark made a hundred years ago is relevant again: The difficulties that photography gave to inherited aesthetics were children's play in comparison to the difficultiesthe inherited aesthetics had with film. Petrović's film (in addition to numerous panoramic shots and situations within the private environment) is composed of several scenes of conversation with Serbian artists. In these, the emphasis is not on dialogue but on the atmosphere and experiential importance of the presence of recorded subjects. In his photographic opus, Petrović had earlier treated his actors in a socially analytical way. Branislav Dimitrijević described his photographs not as images of events but as events of images.*
Petrović's approach, in which the recording process also represents the role of the author in the process, can spark our associations to many different artists in art history, not only within the cinema-verite movement, but also to Baroque painters who, like Rembrandt and Velasquez, enigmatically represented themselves in the social and political context of their time. The choice of portrayed characters here is as interesting as the choice of situations in which they find themselves: from group bohemian identification, through individual poetic melancholy, to collective creative exhibition, these actors possess official wit, team spontaneity and deliberate timidity, presenting themselves as sub literate persons, privately close, not only to the photographer, but also to the supposed auditorium of the exhibition. Because of this distinctiveness, what can be interpreted as the author's subjectivity in the choice of protagonists is actually an objective analysis of his audience. These characters are not determined by the degree of social authenticity, but by the degree of expertise in staging an authentic impression, thus being conceptually closer to being protagonists than social heroes, and Petrović's focus more closely matches the profile of the lyricist than the typology of the visual artist. Figuratively speaking, Petrović's characters form a kind of night watch for the entire domestic art auditorium; these portraits testify to our total affiliation with historical time and potential catalogs of the future.
Unlike the exhibited photographs, the conflict of interest between personal, public and private, as well as the dilemma of whether the author chooses actors or actors choose him, leave traces on Ivan Petrović's film work. Hence, the visual suggestions in portraying the characters act more like his desire to glorify his heroes ideologically than to establish a common relation to history through a critical distance towards them. In a way, Petrović's photographs displayed at the Making Off exhibition are historical testimonies devoid of political significance. We see exactly the opposite case when it comes to his film - here we get political testimonies of controversial historical significance.
Therefore, the photo album from the film speaks of the degree of difference between the two types of visual expression: while Petrović's film aesthetics lead us in the direction of cinematic documentation, his photo-aesthetics is closer to the world of dramatic fiction. Frames taken from the film are not in the function of propaganda material, but vice versa - Petrović's film is a behind-the-scenes program on making photo-tropes on the same subject. On the other hand, the landscapes in the film seem more realistic than the mimetic representations of nature in photographs (frames). The authorial fluctuation between documentary (visual) and fiction (dramatic) is a dilemma that has largely captured the whole of 20th-century mediology. This exhibition shows how a visual story became more intriguing and provocative category than a visual document, and how much the reading of a painting today is a more avant-garde act than viewing it. That is why Petrović's indulgence in cinematic impression simultaneously raises a twofold authorial question: is a direct film without a screenplay really more convincing than a photo of life that has a screenplay?
Published in the exhibition catalogue MAKING OFF, 2019
* A documentary, as well as frames from unedited and edited material, have the same title as this exhibition, and date from 2011 until present time. Exhibited photographs date from the early 2000s and are part of Ivan Petrović's private archive never shown in public.
* Unexpected Stagings – On Ivan Petrovic’s Photographs, exhibition catalogue Everything is Good, Center for Photography, Belgrade, 2017
First two photos above - Making Off in Dom kulture Studentski grad: Maida Gruden, Ivan Petrovic. Photos by: Dusica Stojanovic. Instalation view, decembar 2019, photos by: Ivan Petrovic
A Surplus of Artistic Liberty
Little Civil Discussions with Boxing Gloves, an art exhibition by Vladimir Mojsilovic
This exhibition of works by Vladimir Mojsilovic has been set up in the Gallery space of the National Bank of Serbia. The connection between this exhibition and its venue is not in any way incidental. Mojsilovic had shown us on previous occasions his special interest in the relationship between economic and political current events and visual communication. This relationship, in fact, represents a type of mannerist riddle, which beckons an answer from the spectators attending the exhibition: Do these paintings represent a form of social critique, political irony or state propaganda?
This exhibition includes new works as well as previously exhibited works from public and private collections (Wiener Staditsche, Zepter, and the Shadow Museum, among many). In these paintings there are depicted numerous famous persons and characters out of history, mythology, religion and popular culture. The images and faces of Marx, Pluto, Tesla, Benjamin Franklin, and Dart Vader, are included in Mojsilovic’s associative system but at the same time they are evocations of a generational mutual experience in the reception of information from the mass media. However, this poetic naiveté possesses certain duplicity in meaning and is not as dangerous in expression as it may seem at first glance. That is why Mojsilovic’s conditional stylistic lighthearted playfulness is enriched with “more masculine” thematic combinations, extending the author’s field of showmanship with motives from the world of Epic fantastic literature and Mediterranean arche-typologies.
Mojsilovic’s poetics are placed in-between neo-primitivism, infantilism, oneiricism and eroticism, and may seem arbitrary only at first glance. When we undertake to ”read” this narrative rather than letting it confuse us with its thematic provocations, it then becomes all too clear for us. Here we are referring to the endeavor of this author, in the light of the influence of the European Avant-garde from the previous century, to reset the narrative to its historical beginnings, to its foundations – classical expressionism.
These paintings remind us nostalgically of the political satire of Otto Dix or the materialistic lucidity of Max Beckman, pointing to the origins of modernist visual art styles and tendencies on whose wings the largest part of the artistic auditorium had been maturing academically over the decades.
Mojsilovic’s retrospective focus reminds us of the global exhilaration when, at the beginning of the 20th century, the world had discovered that it could transform its own intuition into a work of art. But this moment in history soon after resulted in belligerent political reaction, trans-oceanic mobilization and global artistic migration. Thus, it was no accident that there exists a very close connection between expressionism and Americanism, and between the political left and political right. This connection is exemplified in the “transportation” of avant-garde culture in the previous century, which had carried over its atomic communicability in a chain reaction, into the expanses of larger Protestant laboratories. This, exactly, is what Mojsilovic’s irony is a reflection of, and it is directed at the symbols of consumerist liberalism, corporative capitalism, and even Chinese transitional socialism.
Mosilovic’s narrative imagination is seemingly of an affective nature. In it the artist’s inner drama had been shifted towards the reshaping of the outer realm, based on the model of expressionist structure. However, today, a century after the establishment of these narrative mechanisms, the notion of the unconscious is not a question of artistic liberty rather it is more of a problem related to social stereotypes. The danger of being late in the avant-garde was heralded by Walter Benjamin at the beginning of the previous century. This was the same Benjamin that had said that the profile of a painter engaged in modern art – is that of a perfect ignoramus. Goethe dealt with a similar problem in his novel on Wilhelm Meister – about what happens when the ideals of artistic liberty become out of fashion and when they are no longer needed by anybody.
However Mojsilovic’s symbols are not in the service of artistic liberty, rather they show his (and our) obsession with other people’s artistic liberties, media sensations that we had been adopting spontaneously during the course of our development having become greatly accustomed to arbitrary reception. This is why Mojsilovic’s figures do not belong to the future, but rather belong to the past experience of the study of the unconscious and thus they are not a part of his individual past, rather they belong to the universal memory of many generations. However, that which is truly his artistically and that which has been copyrighted in the sense of authorship, is nothing else apart from this exhibition itself with which this generation is being represented by.
With this the artist asks us:
Is this visual art game that we are viewing perhaps too big a bite for bourgeois culture? Is not the aesthetic peculiarity of the previous century (the one that we know as the fundament of contemporary education) more belligerent, more vulgar and more dangerous of a category than it had seemed at first glance? Perhaps the problem of culture in the previous century and the issue of the spectators in the new century are to be found in this vivacious creative spontaneity? Has the inherent power of the artistic subject or agent taken on forms of symbolic violence, when analyzed through the lens of sociology?
The symbolic center-point of political and social revolutions, psychoanalytical theory and the phenomenology of the subjective had been seen in the avant-garde waves of the past century, in the heart of movements such as Surrealism, Cubism, Existentialism and many other ones. All these experiments had possessed a common denominator: a creative libido that does not ponder on the external consequences of its actions
Though different in their origins, these artistic styles had found their avant-garde “late coming” position and consecutive outcome in the editorial program of elitist Serbia prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. And, behold the wonder, they again had mobilization as an outcome, but this time at the close of the century, in the heart of heroic Metohija, the last active feudal center of Europe (Jurgen Habermas).
While differing from the gestalt notion of the artist-elitist and his “overwhelming” impact on the auditorium, Mojsilovic is seriously interested in the concept of social reception and the relationship of the spectators towards his own artistic authorship system. That is why the public dialogue with colleagues and critics, which had been going on over the internet while this exhibition was in preparation, was exhibited as its central exhibit, in the form of a Facebook Monograph. One can say that this exhibition is subordinate to the function of the catalog.
Artistic inspiration is here present as realistic dialogue with his immediate social environment and not as an intuitive trance that requires the spectator to take up a double role: to be theoretically analytical towards that which the author had presented concretely, but also to take sides or to be biased, i.e. to explain every perceived narrative problem as a peculiarity of the authors identity. This dominatorial principle in the relationship of the artist creator, the critics and the spectators had been engrained in the previous century, just like when in the feudal system the Landlord had always subsumed his subjects to be a part of the physical space instead of being a part of a historical process. Mojsilovic shatters this artistic myth, playing around with its creative roots. Concluding that the identity of the avant-garde should be in possession of the new artist, and not the one from the previous century, Mojsilovic does not alter his eccentric style, however, with an enigmatic storyline and the illustrated process of the development of particular interesting cultural, social and political ideas, he thus offers us a story of criticism so that we could, in a joint discussion, debunk the artist’s image of himself, so that we could, through mutual denunciation of that very same image of ourselves, finally discover the meaning -- of the exhibition.
New Moment, 2020.
An Other Circle
An Other Two, an art exhibition by Natalija Simeonovic
As in the previous exhibition A-Part-Ness, Natalija Simeonović continous to interpret the history of alchemic symbolism through visual arts. Characteristic of the alchemic procedure, the framework of the exhibition An Other Two is thematically contextualised by the synthesis of two academic fields: science and art.
Alchemic experiments characteristic of the late Middle Ages in Christian Europe where carried out at a time when concepts like rational and spiritual, linguistic and numerical, magical and technical, creative and investigative were nor treated as separate systems of human culture. Alchemic operations which were combinatory and synthetic resemble the what we today call the multimedial structure of a work of art. Thus Natalija Simeonović grading the four phases of the alchemic cycle uses the visual technique not only for aesthetic reasons but for a storytelling narrative and mathematical calculations as well. Using the grading system, from black to red, from image to text, from singular to plural, from mixture to solution, from anima to animus, Natalija Simeonović puts this exhibition together as if it was an illustrated book bound by gallery space.
The subject matter of these paintings and the techniques used are not just means for transferring expression but they depict the aim of a transcendental ritual which invokes the spirit of the times when elements of the creative act did not only operate through the meaning they conveyed but also through the physical and chemical characteristics used in a process that does not symbolize the incarnation of the divine state into the human body (From Father to Son) but the redirection of the human body into divine state (Ascension of Virgin Mary). Representing the archetypical path of the feminine creative principle, these images of fеminization want to transform the gaze of the observer from the viewer towards the reader, from the pupil to the master, from Mars to Venus, from man to woman, further in Circle.
Publihed in exhibition catalogue An Other Circle, 2013.