As I write, the show A Parallel Universe: 5 Contemporary Artists from Macedonia is beginning to take shape in duplex. This is a wide-ranging exhibition, which will give a snapshot of the current contemporary scene in that country.
One of the most significant recent developments in contemporary art in Macedonia is the formation of kooperacija , a mobile, loosely organised association of contemporary artists, including three of the exhibitors here: Obsessive Possessive Aggression (Denis Saraginovski & Slobodanka Stevceska), and Filip Jovanovski. Established in April 2012, kooperacija is based on group research and action in response to the particular problems and specific circumstances of the Macedonian scene. It is not prescriptive nor does it have a foxed membership list. Rather, it is a mobile platform which, without a fixed premises, intervenes as an when it chooses. Artists involved continue with indivdual as well as co-operative practices.
OPA are the most established of the artists on display here. Working together since 2001, these artists operate at the intersections between visual art, performance and new media, subjecting processes of late capitalism, the art world, and politics to sharply humorous scrutiny. The video work which they are exhibiting in this show is a fascinating mixture of millennium old history and the re-invented nationalist present, as a means of commenting on the practice of politics and dissent in our time.
Political engagement and the proposing of alternative realities is at the centre of Filip Jovanovski’s practice. His installation, with the bold slogan “A Dream Is the Ultimate Political Act”, provides a sociological overview of the contemporary art scene, and re-imagines the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje as part of that strategy. Failing or unrealised museums are of course a ubiquitous feature of contemporary cultural life in the Western Balkans, so this installation, previously shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje, is both timely and provocative.
Maja Kirovska’s practice has been based, until now, on sculpture, installation and performance. A member of the all-female art group MOMI, Maja’s work is a humorous and sensitive response to human physicality. Maja’s work is exhibited alongside an installation by Angel Miov, with whom she has collaborated with extensively in the past. Miov has intervened previously in sculpture, installation and photography, and he presents a humorous allegory in this exhibition.
Organising the exhibition would have been far harder, without the active support and encouragement of the curator and art historian, Bojan Ivanov. As the director of mala galerija, Ivanov, for a generation of young artists, has acted as a vital support, encouragement and sounding board, providing exhibition opportunities and opening out developing artists to new ideas. Although mala galerija is currently in abeyance, Bojan continues to provide this vital informal support and encouragement for the differing layers of the contemporary art scene in Skopje.
In his catalogue essay for the show, Ivanov identifies …“a deep unifying structure of the Macedonian contemporary cultural moment: the social isolation, the instituional decay and the pelbiscitary democracy. In brief, that other world is over here, all over the place and everywhere.” In addition to introducing the work of five linked but different Macedonian artists, this show aims to invite Bosnian visitors to compare their own expereince and situation to what is on offer here. Only through solidarity, shared experience and working together, can we transcend the limitations and problems of all our national presents.
A Parallel Universe: 5 Contemporary Artists from Macedonia opens tonight, Thursday 20 February, at duplex100m2, from 1900hrs. February’s NO(W) FUTURE event is dovetailed into tonight’s opening, with a short introductory talk. A catalogue with texts by Jon Blackwood and Bojan Ivanov is available. The show will run until 15 March.