Serbian Performance – Selection Ten
by Nenad Bogdanovic

Art scene in former Yugoslavia was well integrated in the flows of contemporary European movements and, at it’s time was an integral part of it. This ambiance couldn’t be constrained even by well known repressive communist regime of that time. By the end of 60-ties and the beginning of 70-ties certain changes were happening on the art space of so-called Yugoslavian art space, which affirmated visual performance as art practice of this part of Europe.

Contemporary performance scene in Serbia can be divided in several groups. These are: a group of artists that were pioneers of performance in Serbia and abroad, a group of artists that followed their goal and affirmated visual performance leaving the trail on contemporary art scene of Serbia and Mid-Europe, and a group of younger artists that shape projects of high quality on the legacy of earlier generations and tighten the position of performance art in Serbia and Mid-European region.

Era Milivojevic, with Marina Abramovic a pioneer of visual performance in this region, lately uses ancient game of chess for his performances. In the performance „Milky way“, as a participant of 5th IMAF (2003), in natural ambience finds a concrete plate of square shape and uses it as an intervention pad. Space was improvised in enormous chess board, and this game was changed into art form. Balint Szombathy, co-founder of legendary „Bosh + Bosh“ group during 70-ties, who lives and works in Hungary and Serbia during last few years, on the first IMAF (1998) participated with his, first time made in Odzaci, performance „Odzaci (gone with the wind)“ that was later performed on many art festivals worldwide. Using materials such as a geopolitical map of former Yugoslavia and cigaretes manufactured in former Yugoslav republics, covers dificulties of decomposition of that country.

„Voyages“ and staying in other worlds are obsession of artist Milan Grahovac. In Odzaci he made street performance „Line“, also on IMAF (2005). Milan continues to use same symbols for many years as he used in the performances before this one. With an old metal bathtub filled with water, goes to the street, fish is an archetype for water, feathers are used to create transformation and by travelling transposes to air symbol, a bird. About my performance „I Am A Rich Artist“ realised during 2005 in New York Juniper Perlis wrote: „Nenad Bogdanovic donned his rich artist suit, looking confident and suave and oversaw the production of original works on paper by the audience at his request. When they had finished, Nenad hung the pictures on the wall, and added his signature and a price. Although the response to this seemed to be primarily humorous when I saw the pictures hanging on the wall, I could tell the piece functioned as more than an ironic comment on commercial art production. In thinking about this piece I am forced to recognize the pernicious influence of ownership and money and identity, even within performance art, which struggles to dismantle traditional notions of art production. Nenad’s „ I Am A Rich Artist“ gathered it’s strength from it’s actuality. It was not a metaphorical positioning, but a concrete experience.“ Nikola Shindik, on first IMAF, made „Art as a habbit aestetics of non-exceptance“. After a presentation of his video work „An silent movie“, that covers old problematics of human destruction of animal kingdom justifying that act as moral in the purpose of human survival, Nikola realised a play as a habbit that he uses to point out his artistic stand, and that is aestetics of non-exceptance in relation to this and other misconceptions of modern civilisation.

Art Circus group is a very intersting appearance on contemporary art scene of our space. In their project/instalation „Brain trust: fakir, herdsman, magician“ they exhibit a large format photo displaying three members of this group with real human brains in their hands. Besides the photo a bucket is exhibited with those brains that can be touched by the audience in their banal explorations. Aleksandar Jovanovic is a versatile artistic personality that, in his early years, by the end of 80-ties and the beginning of 90-ties, was a very social and political engaged artist. Lately, Aleksandar gives more attention in his work to spirituality and that is a guiding line in his performance „Sin“ where he gives to the audience a text that explains his artistic and spiritual goals for thinking out such a work: „And the sin is in a man like when you knock a large nail into a wood. If you knock it a couple of times, it is easy to pull it out, if you nail it half way, it is harder, if you nail it all the way – then you have to cut the wood in half. That is the way the sin is knocked into human nature.“ *quote taken from Elder Cleopa book „Way of heaven“

Artistic couple MP begun their work in January 2003 and wilfully decided to discard personal histories, names and previous media of expression. MP is an abbreviation of their names and titles of their works are always in code, firstly outlining the media of expression, number of the work and the title. Their work „MP_per_11 Limited“ performed on IMAF 2006 confirms their strategy towards expression dominated by personal experience of intimate and private. It is emphasized by physically/meditative context, which is their drive to expressing and experience of personal privacy through universal quality of existance and vice versa.

Radoslav B. Chugaly is an artist whose origins of art expression are tightly bonded to the begining and continual advance of IMAF festival. Learning within IMAF’s „school“ and with the power of personal  intelectual abilities he creates extremely autonomous art works. In the performance „Face of thruth“ he uses the word „ÆMAETH“ which defines divine thruth or LIFE in Hebrew language. During the performance he carves, on ceramic clay plates, letters of this word on each plate separately. Breaking of the first letter gives him the word MAETH that, also in Hebrew, means DEATH. Gabriel Savic Ra sets up his performances on the experiences and practice of modern art practice, authors from the beginning of the 70-ties, where he explores boundaries of physical and mental durability. In the performance „Devoured by Rose“ Gabriel cuts  certain lines and marks on his body using a scalpel and later, covered in blood, he eats the red roses. In this manner, by his statement, he questions new technologies of corporal, chromosomes of the non-existing and levitates through cyber space of touht of hybrid human race.

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