“Ocean Europe” – an exhibition by Ismar Cirkinagic at Collegium Artisticum Sarajevo

I have worked with Ismar Cirkinagic since 2008. Not only did we study together at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, he and I also share the same cultural and linguistic background, since we both arrived in Denmark as refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 90s. This connection has been one, but not the only motivation for my commitment to the curating of Ismar Cirkinagic’s first solo exhibition in his homeland, based on the series “Ocean Europe”. The other relevant conceptual and formal reasons for my involvement will be described below.

In-between-cultures reading of “Ocean Europe”

The series “Ocean Europe” was originally created in 2016 in connection with Ismar Cirkinagic‘s solo exhibition at Esbjerg Art Museum in 2016, where I was a co-curator. The exhibition has since been nominated for the AICA Art Critic Prize 2017 and chosen for MAC International in Belfast, curated by Katerina Gregos, Marta Dziewańska and Hugh Mulholland. The artwork has also been mentioned recently in Lisbeth Bonde’s publication “Danish Art in the 10’s”, (“Dansk kunst i 10’erne. 40 kunstnerportrætter”).

The series consists of 50 conceptual photographic works, based on the colours of European countries’ flags, which, through artistic processing, have become monochrome colour areas. In Photoshop, the artist has calculated the average colour of each flag, converting all recognisable colour areas and forms of the flags, as well as their socially predetermined symbolism, into monochrome void monoliths. The artworks are then produced through the traditional chemical developing process on photographic paper. We could thus say that this work technically belongs to the tradition of camera-less photography.

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To ‘clean’ the flags is an artistic removal of the structures that underpin national feeling. This transformation is inspired by a so-called ‘oceanic feeling’ – a short and intense psychological experience, where an individual feels united with the world and where the boundaries of the ego are erased, as well as a subjective perception of the world. It is a spiritually sublime moment emerging as a product of triumphal experiences of eternity, in which all existential doubts are gone.

The work thus expands the understanding of belonging by confronting the concept of constructed national feeling (symbolically binding us to a demarcated country) with an open and universal sense of belonging (which in extreme cases occurs as an ‘oceanic feeling’ with a glimpse of the absolute).

This concept reflects the artist’s negative attitudes towards the nationalistic political tendencies within European society today.

He says: In time of crisis, when stratification of society is accompanied by decadence manifested through media and consumerism, and where xenophobia and Islamophobia are not marginal phenomena, but political mainstream, the flags are nothing more than primitive objects for accumulation of national patriotic feelings and as such used by the elite for cultivation of narrow-minded and primitive points of view on a far wider and more complex world condition that surrounds us. This process of “spiritual purification” which extends in the existing political constellations, carries in its own way a seed of anarchist thought.

Questioning the nation-state concept opens up new significant topics, such as the notion of borders, ethnicity, and religion; all of which have a direct relationship with the Balkan civil war in the 90s. Therefore, it seems both meaningful and important to present this exhibition in Sarajevo to an audience whose lives have been so influenced by mechanisms governed by exactly these nationalist polarisations: a country that, unfortunately, still has no functional governmental system. The Dayton Peace Agreement, which was introduced as a solution to stop the war, has now become a permanent state of stagnation, where the two entities (Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republika Srpska) present incompatible visions and missions for the country. The ‘ethnocratic model’ imposed on Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Dayton Peace Agreement not only makes socio-political development more difficult, but ironically actually prevents the process of democratic consolidation.

As Sead Alihodzic from International IDEA (The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) explains: The priority of “ethnic principles” over “democratic principles” is not sustainable over a long time-period. It inevitably leads to renewed conflicts because it favours ethnic parties, which generate tensions and keep them high in order to remain relevant….The “ethnic principle” that takes the priority in the internal organization and functioning of the state drains the time and energy of democratic institutions while delivering little to people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Ethnocracy”, as the Bosnian system is sometimes described to , may be the settlement to end the war, but its positive effects were short living as it soon started to feed conflicts on which ethnic parties rely in their struggle for power.

Both historically and today, the complexity of Balkan identity is based on the intersection of different ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. In my view, in the future this might become an enriching angle that can give European identity a new dimension. Moreover, Bosnia and Herzegovina‘s current peripheral positioning in relation to the EU is another interesting factor which provides a basis for a significantly different reception of “Ocean Europe” in Sarajevo, compared to the one Cirkinagic received at Esbjerg Art Museum in Denmark.

Comparing the reaction of the audience in the two countries where Ismar Cirkinagic lives is of significance, since the artist’s practice often deals with the cultural and ideological translations created from his being between two cultures.

Poetic Anarchism

During the first couple of exhibitions, the concept of Ocean Europe started to expand and new references to anarchist thinking were drawn. The pivotal point for comparison with anarchism, was the artist’s elimination of national symbols from the flags, which apart from being an aesthetic gesture also alludes to a poetic critique of the notion of state. Ismar Cirkinagic’s poetic and nihilistic artistic act does not only introduce us to anti-authoritarian waters but makes us question the legitimacy of the sociopolitical structures represented by the flags – the state itself. In its subtle aesthetic way, this artwork opens a space for the discussion of the role of anarchism in modern society.

Anarchism can, in short, be described as a social doctrine based on the renouncement of the state mechanism by removing the notion of property and authority. Anarchism is also a philosophy of humanity, focusing on the preservation and development of the human being by defending complete freedom (physical, mental, religious, political, economic, etc.) These three concepts: of property, authority and freedom, can play a role in understanding Ismar Cirkinagic’s conceptual approach to “Ocean Europe”. I believe that some fragments from “The Anarchist Doctrine Accessible to All,” written in 1925 by José Oiticica, can highlight this connection:

It makes sense to start by looking at José Oiticica’s critique of private property, which is most of the time connected to land, and thus to a concrete geographical territory, belonging to a particular country and represented by a specific flag:This right to the monopoly of land obtained through purchase, heritage, donation, war, etc., seems natural and just to us, because we have been used to it for thousands of years, however, we can easily evaluate the monstrosity that this entails with three simple considerations: a) The sun, the air, the rain, and the sea are natural gifts and nobody has the right to appropriate them to exploit another person. Natural gifts are and must be free, and should not be bought or paid for with work…So, what we find so monstrous about the air, the light, the sea, and the rain does not repulse us in the same way when it comes to land. Land is also a natural gift and nobody should appropriate or dismember it in order to exploit the work of another. b) This injustice becomes extremely potent if we observe, for example, the legal institution of inheritance. An individual is born. If the father is the owner of large land extensions, the child becomes heir just because the father is a proprietor. Without any personal effort or work, without participating with any physical or intellectual contingent, the heir becomes the owner of these lands, with the ability to sell, rent, or leave them uncultivated. While the rest of people in need do not have the right to cultivate these lands without the heir’s consent. c) This fundamental injustice is so severe that it has convert¬ed the economic regime in a paradox, namely, the less you work the more you have or the more you work the less you have. In fact, the proprietor of the farm, factory, or commercial establishment, deals with the lightest of services – that is, when they actually occupy themselves with something – and obtains the bigger profits; while slaves, employees, cashiers, workers, all of those who work the hardest and the longest hours receive, in the form of a salary, a small amount of the wealth produced.

Such a capitalistic socio-political system based on property requires, of course, control and regulations, which raises the question of authority. José Oiticica says:.. José Oiticica says:.. authority has a double purpose: a – to defend proprietors against non-proprietors, b – to regulate competition amongst proprietors. Nevertheless, in a society without private property there are no proprietors, there are no owners, so there is no need for a department to defend proprietors. The double purpose of authority disappears, so authority and State also vanish. Once property disappears the economic aspect obviously also of State disappears.

A natural counterpoint to the concept of authority is that of freedom, which anarchist doctrine explains in the following way.
Freedom allows people a possibility for wakening and developing all their abilities and capacities without fear, restriction or frustration. This open society cultivates freedom as a right to defend freedom itself, just like health and the oxygen we breathe. That is why Anarchy and Order are not enemies. To the contrary, the Anarchists’ intention is to develop and improve these, using responsible freedom and human solidarity as a propelling motor! It is not true that people have to suffer from the authority of the government to perform their duties and to know how to deal with their freedom. According to political sophism, “your freedom ends where the other’s begin”, as if all human’s needs could be measured or weighted.” Anarchism understands freedom as a public heritage, that is as necessary to human development as light, or as the air we breathe. That is why there must be perfect social equality in the anarchic commune. Anarchists claim that all people are unequal. We can also reasonably say that there are no two equal brains; no two equal personalities, wishes, ideas, tendencies, intelligences, or equal abilities. Here it is referred to equality of social conditions for a free development of natural inequalities. Freedom requires mutual agreement, and agreement means limitation of will, a moral commitment to precisely meet all terms of the agreement. Freedom is the possibility to fulfill an agreement amongst all. Once an individual breaks the agreement, this person impedes others from meeting it as well, by suppressing the possibility of fulfillment. This is called oppression. “When joining a commune, all individuals accept an express or tacit agreement; they all commit to meet the agreement, but nobody forces them into it in case they do not want it anymore. Since the agreement is for their own benefit, the more perfect the freedom, that is, the harmony in meeting the agreement, the greater the benefit will be and rarer, maybe even impossible, shall be the ruptures.

Seeing “Ocean Europe” through the lens of anarchist thought threw, for me, a new light on this conceptual artwork. Suddenly Cirkinagic’s monochromes became amorphous and leaderless flags of humanity, symbolising openness and freedom. His artistic vision of belonging, based more on universal human values than on constructed nationalist ideologies, is now connected to a scepticism towards the nation-state structure, (probably provoked by the artist’s own experience of the loss of a home country and the deconstruction of Yugoslavia). Within the concept, I now see a interesting new connection between humanity and nature, where the human connection with Earth, as the source of general natural good, is contrasted with territorial thinking, which provokes wars and fights over property. The artwork grew, in my eyes, from being a conceptual socio-political artwork to also become an artwork dealing with the human condition, where the artist’s motivation shines through as a desideratum of openness (borderless-ness), and thus freedom.

Collegium Artisticum – Sarajevo as a platform

The exhibition venue for “Ocean Europe” in Sarajevo is called Collegium Artisticum Sarajevo. Historically, the venue has been very important for the Yugoslav art scene and it still functions as one of the significant places for contemporary art in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It was founded as a gallery in 1975 and named after the avant-garde artist group Collegium Artisticum, which was active in Sarajevo from 1939 to 1941 – a progressive artistic movement consisting of young intellectuals who had returned to the city from universities in other European countries. Its mission was to warn about fascism by promoting the notion of multiculturalism through exhibitions, concerts and theatre performances. The members were very dedicated and put their lives at stake for the mission.

As Dr. Mirjam Rajner explains: Faced at home with an atmosphere of despair caused by poverty and political stagnation and acutely aware of the dangers that the spread of Fascism and Nazism meant for the liberal-minded Europeans, they, soon joined by the local Jewish and non-Jewish leftist artists, opted for an avant-garde inspired action. Hoping to bring to Sarajevo some of the live, avant-garde and artistic atmosphere characteristic of Prague of the 1930s, filled with leftist émigré artists and writers, they formed a “synthetic theater” named Collegium Artisticum. It was inspired by Dorival 38, a similar Prague avant-garde theater founded and directed by the Czech poet, journalist, musician and actor, Emil František Burian (himself influenced by the post-revolutionary work of the famous Russian theater directors, Vsevolod Meyerkhold and Alexander Tairov). Sarajevo’s group that continued its activities until the early 1941 and the very outbreak of the WWII in Yugoslavia, united music, pantomime, architecture, painting, film, drama and poetry. In addition, the members organized exhibitions and held public lectures, all of which were meant to raise the awareness of the upcoming danger and offer solutions steeped in anti-Fascism, leftism and communism.

In conjunction with the curating of “Ocean Europe” in Sarajevo, I find the history of the exhibition venue highly relevant, because it confirms the artistic need to think beyond constructed nationalist structures. It is also interesting that the initiative for such a movement was taken by artists who have been abroad and returned to Sarajevo with new perspectives and a multicultural view of the world: a diasporic position that also characterises Ismar Cirkinagic.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the exhibition fits very well with Collegium Artisticum’s architecture, with its more than 50 m long unbroken wall space. As mentioned earlier, the artworks were originally produced for the Esbjerg Art Museum, but it is only during the display at Collegium Artisticum’s open space, without divisions, that all 50 works from the series will be visible at once – of great importance to the exhibition, which, by the nature of its monochrome monolith-like works, is based on both a visual and a physical total experience.

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Ismar Cirkinagic, 1973

http://www.ismarc.com

Ismar Cirkinagic (BiH/DK) has lived in Denmark since 1992 and graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 2006.

He has exhibited in art institutions and museums such as the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, the HEART Contemporary Art Museum and the Kunsthal, Charlottenborg. He also participated in ARoS Trienneale, Liverpool Biennal “City States”, and Socle Du Monde Biennal. His works are part of collections in the ARoS Museum and in the National Museum of Photography in Denmark.


 

Installation views from previous exhibitions of Ocean Europe, respectively in Esbjerg Art Museum in Denmark and MAC International in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

 

 

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“Moments of clarity” – An exhibition by Thierry Geoffroy (FR/DK), Levi Orta (CU), Ismar Cirkinagic (BiH/DK), and Lester Alvarez (CU) curated by Gretel Medina (CU) and Tijana Miskovic (YU/DK)

 

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Poster designed by Abel Alazo Rangel http://www.creativemeaning.nu

A unidirectional, ascending path leads to a single vanishing point. However, contemporary societies have shown that agitation and movement can occur in many different directions.

To understand these movements, in this exhibition we shed light on the notion of “moments of clarity” as mobilizers of human experience: those instants when we glimpse a capacity for renewal, progress, and change. These are examples of the personal experience of a vision, a symbolic ‘eureka moment’, but also of a “not me in front of the others”.

No matter how differently they might be projected, interpreted and used, such moments of clarity will always be connected to light – perhaps light that flows easily and freely, creating an indefinite transparency, or light that brings precise contours and clear perception. Light, concretely or metaphorically, and on a personal, socio-political or historical level, will always be the source of visions, discoveries, or changes of perspectives we call “moments of clarity”. At the same time, bright light and clarity can result in blindness, preventing a clear guiding vision and direction.

The exhibition “Moments of clarity” invites four artists to think together, each crystallizing an aesthetic and conceptual expression based on the exhibition’s subject. This is not pure glorification of change, but rather a critical vision of its mechanisms, including reflection on how a promoted moment of clarity can create unhealthy states of euphoria and false positivity


“How to provoke a moment of clarity?” asks the artist, Thierry Geoffroy / COLONEL in one of his works. This question precisely reflects the artist’s attempt to stimulate awareness through art. As always, his work focuses on training of awareness, encouraging participants to question the world they live in. Through awareness, it might be possible to avoid the growing state of apathy.

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Tent artwork by Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL (photo Thierry Geoffroy)

Geoffroy’s mix-media artwork presented in the exhibition consists of two parts: a tent and a series of ‘cartons’, two of his most-established artistic expressions.

Tents have been used by the artist as a means of visual expression since 1991. They are used as a canvas for written statements questioning the artistic and socio-political context within which the artwork is exhibited. The imperfect style and spelling mistakes are part of his artistic intention, illustrating tension and immediacy, and connected to his instantaneous way of working. The work exhibited makes two declarations, one in Spanish: “How to provoke the Moment of Clarity” and the second in English: “The awareness muscle has to be trained every day”. The first statement is a question Geoffroy constantly asks himself about the role of the ‘artist’ within society. This question is also posed to the audience, stimulating others to consider their own role in society and the possibility of creating their own moment of clarity. The second statement is a response, introducing the term ‘muscle of consciousness’, devised by the artist. It refers to a poetic muscle rather than a physical one, representing the ability to create awareness and critical thinking. As with physical muscle memory, the awareness muscle must be trained regularly. For many years, Geoffroy has developed several art formats in order to train the awareness muscle.

The cartons are the result of an immediate artistic ‘scanning’. Simple drawings, combined with textual expressions, often including jeu de mots, provide an impression of the creative process, thoughts, terminology or ideas on a specific topic. The cartons are also ‘colored’ with personal feelings, offering us small openings onto the artist’s universe. In this series, Geoffroy has played with the word clarity, juxtaposing it with the word reality, by constructing a new word in French: “clarealité” (clareality).

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In a similar manner, he has analyzed the relationship between continuation and repetition, in the context of the moment of clarity, as the beginnings of potential change. Artworks such as “Coger la conciencia” (catching the awareness) connect the moment of clarity with the acquiring of consciousness, a concept already introduced in his tent artwork.

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Artwork by Thierry Geoffroy (photo Thierry Geoffroy)

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Artworks by Thierry Geoffroy

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Artworks by Thierry Geoffroy

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Artwork by Thierry Geoffroy (photo Thierry Geoffroy)

Known for his subtle interpretation of social realities. Levi Orta penetrates selected social frameworks, often discovered through his own participation. By changing small details, he has always made the spectator re-think social phenomena and their implications. This twisting of reality allows the viewer to see the familiar and the commonplace as something new and unknown; it gives us the opportunity to re-define and question.

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Performance by Levi Orta, realized by his mother Niurka Mendoza, (photo Thierry Geoffroy)

In this exhibition Levi Orta invited his mother, Niurka Mendoza, to collaborate on a contemporary art project, based on the belief that her professional biography is an effective tool for investigating our understanding of the present and our projections for the future. His mother’s curriculum is sufficiently metaphorical and symptomatic that it can easily be understood as a work of art. At the opening, Niurka Mendoza read out her CV and invited attendees to participate in a guided tour of the exhibition and approached the topics dealt with from her personal point of view. Perhaps it is not such a bad idea to think about the future from the coordinates our parents give us?

 

In the work of Ismar Cirkinagic, the moment of clarity is presented as a feeling of empathy, through which a situation or a sentiment, not necessarily familiar to the viewer, becomes relevant. Using a refined aesthetic language, he is able to create an approach to distant and complex contexts.

His exhibited artwork is a sculptural installation consisting of three parts: wood, dry leaves and a video with a sea landscape. The wood is railway sleepers collected from the Central Railroad Terminal of Havana, containing holes filled with rice grains. This part is superimposed onto leaves collected in various green areas of Havana, such as the Quinta de los Molinos. The installation ends with a projection of the open sea, alluding to an infinite horizon. This aesthetic interconnection of wood, plants and sea creates a series of associations related to the notion of time and an interpretation of progress. The moment of clarity, as a historical moment with a vision towards the future, over time becomes unavoidably part of our past. Here, we are confronted with the idea of ​​transience, in contrast with the concept of ​​progress. The idea of  the moment of clarity appears in this work as a contraposition between, on the one hand, a single unique moment, and on the other, cyclic repetition throughout history. The need to throw visionary light onto the future, towards the horizon of the possible, and at the same time being confronted with the impossibility of avoiding historical events to be repeated, are presented harmoniously in the artwork, as contradictory parts of our human destiny.

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Artwork by Ismar Cirkinagic

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Artwork by Ismar Cirkinagic

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Artwork by Ismar Cirkinagic

Lester Alvarez illuminates what has been forgotten, or not yet discovered. His artistic records of architectural and mental spaces function as lamplight against oblivion. The artist’s collaborative projects with others help to create a framework within which the self is blurred and a collective project begins to shine through.

The work “The houses of abandonment” is presented in the gallery space as a multimedia installation. It includes a homonyms video made at the former Conservatory of Music of Camagüey and other works such as video animations, paintings and objects made by the artist Louis Arturo Aguirre, owner and resident at the old school. In addition to the artist Lester Alvarez, in the video we also meet Louis Arturo (resident at the house), the musician Denise Chong, the artist and DJ Abraham Muñoz and the writer Roman Gutiérrez Aragoneses, who opens the video by reading from his poem “Eterómano de pañuelo”.

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Artwork by Lester Alvarez

 


 

 

From their diverse experiences and artistic languages, these artists have shared a space for creating and thinking about clarity. The exhibition is therefore the result of collaboration, dialog, and intriguing overlaps between different visual and conceptual expressions. It is a catalyst for ideas and a vehicle for reflection on the problems of history, society and art itself.

– Tijana Miskovic and Gretel Medina

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Thierry Geoffroy, 1961

Thierry Geoffroy/COLONEL (FR/DK) develops art formats such as EMERGENCY ROOM, Biennalist and Critical Run.

Geoffroy has exhibited at P.S. 1/ MOMA, New York, ZKM Museum Karlsruhe, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and Plazzo Delle Arti Napoli. He has also participated in biennales such as Venice Biennale (the Maldives Pavilion), Liverpool Biennale, Manifesta Biennale in Murcia and Cairo Biennale. Thierry Geoffroy is Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His work is presented in museums such as the HEART Museum of Contemporary Art, the Sprengel Museum, the National Museum of Photography and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denmark.

 

Levi Orta, 1984

Levi Orta (CU) graduated from the Universidad de las Artes (ISA) in Cuba and HWP – Ashkal Alwan in Lebanon.

He has presented solo exhibitions in Cuba and Spain and group exhibitions in the USA, Spain, Lebanon and Cuba. At 12 Bienal de La Habana he participated with Entre, dentro, fuera in Pabellón Cuba. At the Biennal of the Frontiers in Mexico he presented Limites Nómadas. He also took part in the 6th and 7th editions of the Salon de Arte Cubano Contemporaneo. Orta has been invited to residencies at the FLACC workplace for Visual Artists, Genk, T.R.I.B.E, MoTA Museum in Transitory ArFonderie Darling, Montreal, Canada. He was the winner of Premio Generaciones 2017 at Casa Encendida Madrid.

 

Ismar Cirkinagic, 1973

Ismar Cirkinagic (BiH/DK) has lived in Denmark since 1992 and graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen in 2006.

He has exhibited in art institutions and museums such as the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, the HEART Contemporary Art Museum and the Kunsthal, Charlottenborg. He also participated in ARoS Trienneale, Liverpool Biennal “City States”, and Socle Du Monde Biennal. His works are part of permanent collections in the ARoS Museum and in the National Museum of Photography in Denmark.

 

Lester Alvarez, 1984

Lester Alvarez (CU) was born in Camagüey and graduated from La Universidad de las Artes (ISA). He participated in the 6th and the 7th Salon de Arte Contemporaneo Cubano, in addition to other solo and group exhibitions in Cuba, Spain, the USA and Italy.

Teatro Universal, 2014 in collaboration with Rafael Almanza Alonso presented at 6th SACC, CDV, La Maleza in collaboration with 34 Cuban writers, presented both in Cuba and internationally. Winner of Tengo Frío Artist Group grant and Premio International de Pintura at IX Biennale ISOLE in Sardinia, Italy. He was hosted by The Henry Moor Foundation and The British Arts Council in Glasgow Art School in 2012.

 

Moments from the the opening- day:

 

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My curatorial reflections on CUB as a lens to analyse the intersection between art, life and politics

The new year just started and I took a chance to look back on my curatorial work, focusing on one of my central projects in the last years: Copenhagen Ultracontemporary Biennale (CUB). In the following text, I will share some reflections about what my curatorial approach to CUB has been, why I find it important and how I wish to proceed to develop the concept in the coming years.

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For almost three years I have been working as a curator for Copenhagen Ultracontemporary Biennale (CUB): partly a poetic art project developed with the artist Thierry Geoffroy, partly an actual proposition for a new biennale focusing on critical society-related art created in and about the now. CUB developed into both an ongoing and a biennial platform for exhibiting ultracontemporary artworks the same day as they are produced.

The preparation period and the streaming activities of CUB, have since 2015 been supported by the Danish Arts Council, City of Copenhagen as well as the Ministry of Culture and consisted i.a. of participation in relevant congresses and seminars, e.g. The World Biennial Forum No 2 in Sao Paulo, First General Assembly Of The International Biennial Association in Berlin, and documenta 1997 – 2017 in Kassel in connection with 60th anniversary of documenta, establishment of an educational agency THE ACADEMY OF EMERGENCY ART activated at Holbæk Kunsthøjskole and Borup Højskole, ultracontemporary exhibitions in Sao Paulo (Emma Thomas Gallery), Johannesburg (Museum of African Design) and Copenhagen (The Workers’ Museum) involving more than 50 international artists, different debate artformats activated in around 10 countries, public space ultracontemporary interventions in the streets of Copenhagen as well as in public venues such as the Danish Parliament and a one-year research for establishment of a new type of news-media platform for artists and journalists.

These and other CUB activities have in the last years been covered by more than 25 international TV stations, newspapers and magazines such as Kunstforum, The Art Newspaper and Artribune.

However, in relation to the established structures on the art scene, our ambitions for CUB to be a platform for presenting critical artworks about what is happening in the world at the given moment, provoked some challenging obstacles; both when it comes to what the artworks are presenting (topics related to emergencies of today) and how they are presented (instantly as an immediate artistic reactions).

In hindsight, it is interesting not only to look at why and how these obstacles happen but also how they activated my reflections on interconnection between art, life and politics.

Since the artists in CUB express about emergencies in the society, their artworks often carry controversial opinions on climate, refugees, wars, corruption etc. Their critical approach can be seen as a reaction to the prevailing social norms which lead us into a discussion about the role of art in the society and how art can stay a counterculture without being swallowed by culture industry connected to a global cultural tourism and city branding where critical art has become a high currency.

In the analysis of CUB interventions, it is thus necessary to deal with the gap between art and life. The same gap which situationists tried to reduce and which since then has grown stimulated by commercial interests in a society where art, unfortunately, becomes a commodity rather than a vision. The tension between art and life is strongest in the situations of emergency or crisis where the professional life of the artist melts with the personal one – When the artists’ personal career ambitions become insignificant, their aesthetic experimentations becomes a luxury and instead, they are confronted with a feeling of civic responsibility and a call for action. This brings us then to the field of humanism in art and to the schism between ethics and aesthetics.

When visually analysing the artworks produced during CUB, we reveal a new type of aesthetics shaped by the speed of production. (the process from the idea, concept, production and finally to the exhibiting, has namely been shrunk to one day in the ultracontemporary exhibitions) and the emotional state of outrage about alarming issues (the artistic motivation to express about dysfunctions takes a sentimental shape which shines through the aesthetic style, because the artistic gesture, in the ultracontemporary context, is initiated by the human judgment.) This aesthetics of emergency is conditioned by the notion of pertinence and the speed-time relationship which triggers the question about contemporaneity – how close can art be to the now?

Exhibiting artworks which are produced the same day is an unusual curatorial method based on unpredictability – a condition which became CUBs, perhaps, biggest obstacle in the established art world system, which is normally structured around exhibition programs pre-defined several years in advance. Instead of following their own tempo based on a necessity to react on the surrounding world and its changes, the artists are depending on institutional plannings. Apart from being an organizational and planning tool, the curatorial pre-selection process seems to be a way of controlling and maintaining the existing power structure, where the organizers of the exhibitions are superior to the artists. Furthermore, the planning process also gives the curator a chance to filtrate and file down the critical artistic expression often making it more harmless. The same depreciation of critic happens when curators and institutions, in their planning, decide to exhibit artworks about what is happening in the world today, but in delay, months or even years later, when the situation has passed and has already been communicated and interpreted by established opinion makers. With a discourse of institutional critique, it is interesting to make a closer analysis on how CUB is challenging these advanced indirect ways of censorship, by insisting on the unpredictable curating of artworks produced the same day as they are shown to the public.

Based on the above-mentioned examples, it should be clear why challenging the flexibility of established structures was initially embedded in the concept of CUB, and how my curating within a ultracontemporary framework naturally became a series of critical observations concerning the mechanisms behind the contemporary art scene.

I’m looking forward to continuing my curatorial investigation through CUB by critically analyzing the established structures in the contemporary art scene. I am, in particular, interested in the intersection between art and politics which the biennales have operated within, especially since the 90s and Catherine David’s documenta x. This includes the canonization of the new biennial model, which ties together philosophical, political and contemporary art practice with criticality (Irit Rogoff). The expansion of the aesthetic field of art to include knowledge production (Tom Holert, Simon Sheikh) and social engagement (Claire Bishop, Artificial Hells) has been the fundamental change, leading to the problematic situation we see today, where biennales navigate along with political and economic agendas which are not necessarily in the service of art (Panos Kompatsiaris, The politics of contemporary art biennales, Oliver Marchart, Hegemonie im Kunstfeld. Die documenta-Ausstellungen dX, D11, d12 und die Politik der Biennalisierung). It is becoming more and more clear that an instrumentalisation of the art and the biennales is taking place; a setup which becomes particularly difficult to decipher when biennales are profiled as platforms for critical thinking with humanistic motivations and ambitions concerning social change, while resting on structures based on the opposite: commercial and political interests (Mikkel Bolt). As a curator, I wish to explore this inconsistency between what biennales say they do, and what they actually do.

In the coming year, I plan to organize the existing material about CUB and carry out new studies focusing partly on the newest developments within biennale culture and partly on historic references from the archives. With relevant comparative studies, I will try to highlight the socio-political tendencies underpinning the transformation of the biennales while my thoughts will be theoretically supported by philosophical interpretations on humanism. (Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition). This theoric research will be gathered in a book on CUB  planned to be published in 2018.

By further developing the ultracontemporary curatorial system, parallel to the theoric investigation, I also aim to find pragmatic solutions to the transitional problems of curatorial work at the intersection between art and politics, as well as between the ethical and aesthetic parameters. In 2019, during the Venice Biennale, together with Thierry Geoffroy, I plan to develop an exhibition framework where new curatorial methods for establishing a biennale within the biennale, will be activated.

In this sketched-out working process, I’m looking forward to enriching collaborations with supportive colleagues who recognise the authenticity and complexity of my curatorial work.

All the best in The New Year

Tijana

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Initial reflections about the new book of images created by the artist Thierry Geoffroy / COLONEL

The new book by Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL contains images of his artworks. There is no contextualizing text nor captions within the pages. Yet, the book “says” a lot, not only about the artworks that are presented within but also about the way Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL works and thinks about his art. Within this relatively small A5 image book, containing around 200 images, we actually get a sense of the artist’s “l’oeuvre”. In this format, his “L’oeuvre” is not intended to be understood as a monumental body of work, but rather as a synthesis of many different artworks (d’oeuvrettes).

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From the Emergency Room DICTIONARY by Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL

The artworks reproduce themselves and for an artist to continue to create new works is to choose invention before convention. When observed in isolation, one after the other, the artworks in the book might seem like disconnected fragments with different references and from different contexts but, when going a mere one layer deeper in our “reading”, we discover an unusual sedateness connecting all the fragments, in a poetic manner which goes beyond the individual messages of each artwork. What connects the images is not one chronological narrative, but many possible narratives based on either aesthetic elements, themes, or concepts.

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LA CONSÉQUENCE DE L’OEUVRE C’EST ENCORE L’OEUVRE, 1999; traffic sign; by Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL

The book opens up in a fan-like manner, encouraging numerous inattentions that may seem like conscious dissociation. Yet, at the same time, the book functions as a framework, which manages to turn the relationship of quantity into one of intensity. As a reader, we then become an active part of creating the synthesizing intensity. The book awakens in us a desire to grasp the relationships contained within so that the “reading” of this image book becomes an expression of our own desire to create. Thus, this continues the mutation of meanings presented to us on each page and in each artwork as we are scrolling through the book. We find ourselves overcoming fragments and differences through a lateral interpretation movement whose path crosses every contradiction and every sense of the commonplace. In order to find the real artwork, “l’oeuvre”, we find ourselves looking for a logos of continuous shifts in meaning in the unending chain that follows the journey of the image through great and small adventures. Artworks are being reproduced creating a chainlike engine that powers a vehicle of meaning. We are on a highway and we look through the book horizontally without gradients.

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L’OEUVRE C’EST LA CAPACITE DE SYNTHESE; 7/2 2016; Red spray paint on tent; 2,2kg, 2m x 1,40m; by Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL

Next, there is the form and aesthetic expression of each artwork. Interestingly enough, in this book, we get a feeling of the abstract and figurative being equalized so the form and the text become one synthesized expression. The precision of the messages communicated via textual statements merges with the painter-like usage of colors (such as the blue helmet, the orange silhouette, etc.) and also with the carton-like aesthetics. These factors combine quite effectively to express the impatient speed of the production as well as the lack of possibility and will to invest in a fully-elaborated and polished finish. We discover that perhaps the artist has attenuated the form and material of the artworks, concisely and intentionally, all the while extolling the artworks’ openness. Thus the artist has enabled the capacity to create synthesis within the artworks in order to create the body of work or “l’oeuvre”.

Throughout the book, we sense the personal mood of the artist. We hear the artist’s own voice in the background; like an echo or a personal voiceover accompanying the story in the front that is told through the artworks. The flow of artwork expressions in the book is colored by these vibrations related to the artist’s individual sensibility and personal state of mind and it becomes clear that the artist’s “l’oeuvre” is inseparably connected with his view on life and the society that surrounds him. It is connected with his motivation for living and generating energy to continue on the road of life. The resulting conclusion is that “L’oeuvre” is obviously as much an artistic as an existential phenomenon.
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The book is A5 Landscape format
and consists of 200 color picture pages.
The price is 15 € + shipping. 
To order a copy, please send an email 

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ALL AT ONCE – an exhibition about the perception of time

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Exhibition views from ALL AT ONCE at Galerie Bridget Stern im Künstlerhaus FAKTOR with artworks by Anna Lena Grau (DE), Julia Frankenberg (DE), Simon Hehemann (DE), Nina Wengel (DK) and guest artists Sophie Dupont (DK) and Thierry Geoffroy (FR/DK) 
Photo: Daniel Fortmann

The exhibition is curated by Tijana Miskovic with artists from Germany and Denmark: Anna Lena Grau (DE), Julia Frankenberg (DE), Simon Hehemann (DE), Nina Wengel (DK) and guest artists Sophie Dupont (DK) and Thierry Geoffroy (FR/DK)

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Galerie Bridget Stern im Künstlerhaus FAKTOR

Max-Brauer-Allee 229, 22769 Hamburg

www.bridget-stern.com

www.faktor.hamburg

Opening hours for the exhibition from Nov. 18th - 25th:
Tuesday to Friday 5:00 - 7:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 3:00 – 7:00 pm (Sa, 25th. from 5:00 pm)

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Exhibition views from ALL AT ONCE at Galerie Bridget Stern im Künstlerhaus FAKTOR with artworks by Anna Lena Grau (DE), Julia Frankenberg (DE), Simon Hehemann (DE), Nina Wengel (DK) and guest artists Sophie Dupont (DK) and Thierry Geoffroy (FR/DK) 
Photo: Daniel Fortmann

The point of the departure for the exhibition All at once is the schism between the open and absolute perception of time on one side, and the structured linear one on the other. The exhibition functions thus as a platform where the invited artists can question the perception of time with their artworks.

Even though our society is built upon a logically understanding of the time as linear, often, as individuals, we have an intuitive feeling that the time can be understood differently in a more open way.

The scientific understanding of light and its speed, also influences our understanding of time by making it a relative phenomenon.

The exhibition is curated as a total installation built up as a site-specific scenography with three different spaces, simulating respectively the past, the present and the future. The theater-like art installation is created on location by the Danish artist Nina Wengel with artworks with strong references to furniture and interior design objects. Simon Hehemann participates with a cable car installation, which moves across and connects the three time-divisions in the staging of the exhibition space. Anna Lena Grau and Julia Frankenberg bring to the exhibition a sculpture focusing on the notion of process, performance and metamorphosis. The guest artists Sophie Dupont and Thierry Geoffroy each contribute with an artwork displayed as a part of Nina Wengel’s installation.

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Exhibition views from ALL AT ONCE at Galerie Bridget Stern im Künstlerhaus FAKTOR with artworks by Anna Lena Grau (DE), Julia Frankenberg (DE), Simon Hehemann (DE), Nina Wengel (DK) and guest artists Sophie Dupont (DK) and Thierry Geoffroy (FR/DK) 
Photo: Daniel FortmannEnter a caption

Press images

For more information about the exhibition and the artworks, please send an email to tijana.miskovic@gmail.com

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Heading for a land of eternal sunshine

An exhibition by

Nina Wengel (DK) and Annika Unterburg (DE)

at xpon-art Hamburg

from March 16th to 30th 2017

(opening March 16th at 8pm)

 

Heading for a land of eternal sunshine is an exhibition with Nina Wengel (DK) and Annika Unterburg (DE) at Xpon-art in Hamburg curated by Tijana Miskovic (Ex YU / DK).

The exhibition is a visual dialog between the artists and focuses on the notion of time and language, through the use of repetitions.

When used artistically repetitions stop being a practical method and become an eternal process; they become rituals. With the time these rituals do not only become an embedded part of the artistic praxis but also a grammar for the artistic language.

Nina Wengel shows a series of paintings with a repetitive sunset motif. Almost like a pattern the motif is painted in different sizes and on different materials such as wood, plastic, and cardboard. The many sunsets clearly show that her artistic production is driven by a certain kind of necessity that we cannot see an end to.

On a symbolic level the sunsets have a beautiful and romantic connotation, but looking at the almost manic quantity the sunsets get darker connotations like trauma or death. The sunset can be a symbol of a day or a life ending..

Annika Unterburg shows a series of “bildobjekte” and a sculpture. Most of the works have fishing baits mounted on a painted color surface. A fishing bait is both an attractive and deadly object. In her works, Annika Unterburg examines the relationship between the beautiful, understood as the good, and the evil. Something threatening is at stake in her works, which we can sense for instance in the color black used in her paintings. There is something menacing in the tension that develops while waiting for the fish to bite. One is waiting for the moment that will mark the fish’s transition from life to death. There are two different time perceptions at stake in this waiting: the more meditative circular sense of time, like in meditation and the more linear that belongs to the strategic thinking.

The philosopher and linguist Per Aage Brandt explains in one of his theories that the human language related to imagination was developed by fishing women

“To fish (without sailing) is especially a matter of standing in the water and waiting, and then, when conscious actions reflect themselves mimetically and readably, the focus will necessarily be intentionally on the absent object – the fish-  as the subject for the waiting.” In other words, our ability to create images of something that does not exist, rather, to relate to abstractions as a communication method, is associated with the act of waiting. In Annika Unterburg’s works, the waiting is connected to the fish while it in Nina Wengel’s relates to the sun or the new day and not least, the hope; the belief that there is a reason to go on.

During the installation of artworks, the two artists have been collaborating in order to create a single, space-related, exhibition connected to the characteristics of the exhibition venue. The raw aesthetics of the xpon-art space and the partially ghostly atmosphere, support the concept of the exhibition: Something that is absent but still communicative, something that seems threatening as much because of its beauty as its dark side; Something that builds bridges between different perceptions of time.

 

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Oh, what a beautiful eternity By Nina Wengel Paintings in various sizes on various materials, GONE, Nicolai kunst og design, Kolding, Denmark, 2016

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Oh, what a beautiful eternity By Nina Wengel Mural painting, Crepúsculo con Queso// Twilight with Cheese, Cristo Salvador, Havana, Cuba, 2016

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Oh, what a beautiful eternity By Nina Wengel Paintings in various sizes on various materials, Following Eternity, Ikast Kunstpakhus, Denmark, 2014

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Illusionist By Annika Unterburg Canvas on wood, hooks, binder, 30x24x4cm, 2015, Foto: Annika Unterburg

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But I am the Tiger (Jorge Luis Borges) By Annika Unterburg Hook, ceramic, 30x24x4cm, 2015


Practical information:

Exhibition venue: xpon-art, Respoldstraße 45, 20097 Hamburg

Opening hours: Saturday and Sunday 12-18.00, Monday-Tuesday 18-21.00

For more information about the exhibition please contact the exhibition curator Tijana Miskovic by email: tijana.miskovic@gmail.com or xpone-art curator and manager Anne Simone Krüger anne_simone_krueger@yahoo.de.

Related links:
www.ninawengel.com
www.unterburg.com
www.tijanamiskovic.com
http://www.xpon-art.de

Press images (in both low and high resolution) can be downloaded on following link:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskTTyGE9


The exhibition is realized with support from Danish Arts Council

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The necessity for questioning the structure

A TEXT ABOUT THE GLOBAL ART EVENTS SUCH AS BIENNALES AND DOCUMENTA

by Tijana Mišković

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Ideally, the artists should have an important position in our society as free and independent minds that can produce vital reflections about sociopolitical conditions of the time we live in. Unfortunately many times artists’ critical and important reflections are being used or misused for other purposes such as promotion of products, gentrification, and cultural colonialism. In that case, the unique role of the artist, as the one independently and critically reflecting our society, becomes a simplified and bounded function with a purpose and task dictated by others. The only way the artist can avoid that his/ her role becomes a function is by constantly questioning the structures his or her art is being presented within. Biennales and big-scale exhibitions like Documenta should, as the most influential contemporary art structures, be a natural object for investigation.

Documenta is considered to be a Vatican of contemporary art today, carried by a belief in the critical potential of art. Documenta promotes itself as the optimal art platform for critical thinking and political postures, which is why decision makers and intelligentsia of the art world, pilgrimage to Documenta in search of latest tendencies. Documenta and other big art events such as Venice Biennale have thus an enormous international impact and a great power to influence the public opinion. This influence should be evaluated by participating artists as well as the audience, who should not only absorb the messages communicated to them through the curatorial strategies, without being skeptical about their motivation. They should not fall asleep but be critical and constantly question the structure.

A show labeled as “critic show” can give the public a feeling of being critical, but it can, at the same time, be drawing the public attention away from big and serious issues that authorities don’t want to create critic around. There could be a diversion taking place in the curatorial choose.

A delay in contemporary art could also be seen as a diversion strategy. Even though we believe that the contemporary artists should react on the important issues and emergencies of today’s world, we are not giving the artists appropriate platforms for immediate expression and impact in time. The artists cannot show art connected with the pulsing and unpredictable present, since all the exhibited artworks have to be defined, produced, and explained in advance. Either because of the practical and curatorial planning or because of a wish to control and have a possibility to censure, most of the contemporary exhibitions are from the beginning in delay.

A “critic show” can thus be a setting for fake criticism that gives us an illusion of being critique and having the freedom of thinking when we, in reality, are directed in a certain direction controlled by external forces and often interests of economic or political nature.

This fake criticism within the contemporary art today could be the source of apathy in our society. If the lack of real concern or interest in making a change infiltrates the art community, and what we consider to be the avant-garde force in our society falls asleep, we might risk that our world takes a direction of narrow-minded and almost totalitarian thinking.

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Since 1988, Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL has been questioning big staged art events like biennales, art fairs, and Documenta, with critical art formats such as BIENNALIST – an art format that responds to and questions, through artworks the motivations of biennials and other global art events. He looks into the art events and their motivations asking questions such as: Could 860,000 visitors have been intoxicated by an apathetic gaze that keeps them away from reacting? Are global art events designed to make people cry about something in order not to make them see something else? Is there a strategy for being delayed in order to create a distraction from the present and avoid debating important topics of today? If the most important contemporary exhibitions in the world like Documenta focus solely on past- or few present related issues contextualized by curators or art historians, how can we then expect art to be avant-garde?

For decades artists have questioned the canvas, the pigment, and since the1960-70s conceptual artists like Marcel Broodthaers have questioned the structure of the museum which led to Institutional Critique in art with artists such as Daniel Buren, Andrea Fraser, and Hans Haacke. With his art format BIENNALIST, Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL questions the global art events. He takes the theme of each biennial seriously and studied in order to contribute to the debate the biennales want to generate. The artist is with this format often on-location testing the pertinence of the biennales.

In 2002 Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL did a project called “The Next Documenta should be curated by a car” and “The protest school”. In 2012 The BIENNALIST project was respectively supported by the ZKM Museum Museum of Contemporary Art for conducting operations at the Athens Biennale curated by Nicolas Bourriaud and by the Sprengel Museum for operation done at the Venice Biennale.

In dOCUMENTA 13 he realized the project “The Emergency will replace the contemporary” which got a strong attention in the media and among art critiques. With a UN blue helmet as an artistic metaphor for innocence, Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL appointed himself to be “a peace-war researcher” and discovered the enormous presence of an active weapon industry in documentaßtat Kassel. The message was communicated as text on a tent placed under the Joseph Beuys tree on the lawn in front of the Fredericianum just after the press conference June 6th, 2012.

The tent with a statement “THE EMERGENCY WILL REPLACE THE CONTEMPORARY” was removed and confiscated by the dOCUMENTA organizers. Ironically enough this kick started, the same days, a growing occupy movement dOCCUPY, that made a tent encampment in the same area and which was welcomed by dOCUMENTA 13 curator.

Now Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL is preparing the exhibition #documentasceptic, on a specially designed online platform and in the gallery SABSAY from March 30th to June 24th, 2017, which will look closer into the next Documenta 14 and Venice Biennale 2017.

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Learning from Athens, 28/2 2017

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Detail: Pretend to learn to better impose, 28/2 2017

 

For more info please visit the BIENNALIST website or send an email either to the writer of the text Tijana Miskovic or the artist Thierry Geoffroy/ COLONEL

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