Arts & Culture

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Serbia Reconsidered

Contemporary Artists from Serbia

Serbia, like the bodies of so many kings and saints, is a country whose heart is preserved elsewhere. It lies in the patriarchal monastery of Pec, the cradle of the nation, which is now in Kosovo, surrounded by ethnic Albanians, de facto independent thanks to the intervention of the UN and NATO at the end of the conflicts and civil wars linked to the dissolution of Yugoslavia. In an ironic twist of history, the long ordeal of the Serbs also began in Kosovo when, at the Battle of Kosovo (Plain of Blackbirds) in 1389, their army was defeated by the Ottomans. Since then, a series of struggles and invasions have succeeded one another, which in part explain, but not justify, the countless cruelties and ethnic cleansing. The Serbs feel a strong attachment to Orthodox Christian religious tradition and, more generally, to ancient customs: for example, when a foreign head of state visits the capital Belgrade, the President of the Republic, or the Prime Minister, welcomes them with an offering of bread and salt, traditional symbols of hospitality. In this complex scenario, Imago Mundi asked 136 local artists to express themselves on the small 10x12 cm canvasses.

Marko Stojanovic - Any City (2015)

“The new Serbia – notes Luciano Benetton, the creator of Imago Mundi - appears as restless as it is interesting, suspended between the horizons of multi-ethnic coexistence and a national culture that is apt to become the ideology of the nation; between turning back and longing for the future; between EU membership and a magnetic attraction towards Russia.” In this context – adds Benetton – “the Serbian contemporary art world appears to be experien¬cing a time of unrest. A new approach can be envisioned through the ideas of young people, the first generations to understand the long waves of change, and through those who believe beauty and culture are important pillars to support the healing of the fractures left by the Balkan tragedy, and to nourish cohesion and identity. The collection seems an ideal way to present to the world the vision of artists who have spent a great part of their lives in an atmosphere of crisis and conflict. With an impressive diversity of techniques (painting, photography, collage, sculpture, embroidery and stitching on canvas) the Serbian artists offer their reflection, sometimes ironic, in other cases painful, on the restless present of Serbia and on the future that is to come.”

Marko Crnobrnja - Chairity (2015)

Vladimir Peric - Stagbeetle, From The Series Digital Mutants (2015)

“The works in this collection – clarifies the curator Saša Janjić - show the heteroge¬neity of the Serbian art scene. There are artists of different generations, with different art poetics and political positions gathered in one place. Also, a variety of artistic media are represented, starting with classical painting, both figurative and abstract, drawing, photography, objects and textual interventions. The most diverse materials and techniques have been used, as well as innovative combinations of different elements. The collection reveals an amazing richness and diversity of artistic production at a time when the general impression is that nothing or almost nothing is happening in Serbia within the sphere of contemporary art. The specified format has in many ways influenced the thematic content, as well as the formal, technical and stylistic shaping of the works.”

Ana Cerovic - Flower Monster (2015)

Mihailo Vasiljevic - Vladimira Popovića Street, From The Series Belgrade Topographics (2015)

Mrđan Bajic - Untitled (2015)

“The collection – adds Katarna Mitrović, also a curator – consists of artists of both the older generations and of the post-Yugoslav generations, those who already have behind them considerable international experience, as well as those who act solely in their own local environment. Fragmented and seemingly unrela¬ted, this whole suggests a possibility of ’reading’ current Serbian art: the refusal to disappear and become completely marginalized, the return of individualism and self-reflection, but also an attempt to enter into a dialogue with the ’other’ and the different, with the contemporary and the past, and, above all, with a clear but not always optimistic vision of the future.”

Viktor ŠEkularac - Bgd (2015)

Danijel Babic - Untitled (2015)

Lana Vasiljevic - Serbia (2015)


Claudio Scorretti intervenes to highlight, among other things, how Serbia and the other former Yugoslavian countries, thanks to the diversity of Tito’s regime, were the only ones in the neighboring socialist zone, “to enjoy a real synchronicity with Western art, though obviously within the limits imposed by the regime and featuring the local peculiarities and inherent political constraints. At that time, Yugoslavia made moderni¬sm the keynote of its official cultural policy, and therefore supported contemporary art and in particular abstract art.”

Aleksandar Rafajlovic - Untitled (2015)

Les Miserables - #Money#Unhate (2015)

Bojana Lukic - Seconda Casa (2015)

Spartak Dulic - Xx-9f (2015)

But the break up of Yugoslavia was followed by the period of violent fragmentation that forced some of the positive elements of the past into the shadows. Today, Serbian artists, witnesses to a too recent past, “are beginning to define themselves – observes Scorretti - in the supra-national and global context, reconnecting with great lack of inhibition but also with irony and humour, the ties temporarily suspended for almost a decade in the ‘90s.” And it is in this context – comments Luciano Benetton – that “ the collection offers identity issues that are no longer casus belli, but which remain questions of principle in the transition from the ’ex’ world to the global world. Universal affinities and tragedies of misunderstanding, frosts and thaws. Memory and rejection of memory. Screams of the soul and voices of hope.”

Vojislav Radovanovic - Weeds Always Flourish (2015)

Credits: Exhibit

Art Direction, Photography and Production
FABRICA

Project Management
CLAUDIO SCORRETTI

Curator
SAŠA JANJIĆ

Project Coordination
IRINA UNGUREANU

Organization
VALENTINA GRANZOTTO

Editorial Coordination
ENRICO BOSSAN

Texts
LUCIANO BENETTON
SAŠA JANJIĆ
KATARINA MITROVIĆ
CLAUDIO SCORRETTI
IRINA UNGUREANU

Editing and Translation
KATARINA RADOVIĆ
JONATHAN BOULTING
FRANCESCA STOPPER

Art Direction
BIANCA OTILIA GHIUZAN

Photography
MARCO ZANIN

Production
MARCO PAVAN

Cover
ČEDOMIR VASIĆ
BELGRADE FLOATING 2015

Thanks to
DARKA RADOSAVLJEVIĆ
MIROSLAV KARIĆ
MARIJA RADOŠ
NATAŠA BLAGOJEVIC

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.