Okay, here’s the thing
First, you have to get a little background knowledge about Belgrade and it art affairs. Basically, three of the city’s biggest museums are closed for renovation; they have been closed for some time and nobody seems to know when are they going to open.
Museum of Contemporary Art begun renovating in 2002. after one phase the works paused due to lack of funds, and it has been closed ever since.
(Even though the building and its infrastructure are offline, the museum operates in some capacity on other locations.) The question ‘When is the museum finally going to open and who is responsible for this?’ is like a ball in a society pinball machine, it bounces off every person and institution. And commonly when problems cant find answers the answer arises that our society has bigger problems. This kind of relativisation has a certain appeal to those members of society that struggle with problems of their own, and that is pretty much everyone here.
Last year I was invited, together with a group of young artists to produce a piece for the opening of a new exhibition* at the Museum,
in an attempt to bring this issue back to public discourse.
*Opening was not going to be formal, because the museum is de facto closed. Therefore the exhibition was not called exhibition, but non-exhibition…
It was to be held in a construction site.
I was invited to a meeting with the curators, it was already summer and as I was approaching the Museum building for the first time in years, (it is situated in a huge park next to the river, close to the neighborhood where I grew up) I was reminiscing the times I spent there as a child when my parents took me to all the openings and I didn’t have a clue what was going on, and later as a student when it became a place of introduction to the world of contemporary art.
About 20 artist gathered inside to enjoy the chilly air and present their preliminary concepts. Together with te curators we formed a circle and were talking one by one from lef to right. I was happy to be the last one, because I didn’t have any idea of what I want to do at the time. Listening to everyone explain their concepts brought me to think about art and the way it is represented. I have never used my artwork to communicate in terms of ideas that are not somewhat abstract, my focus is on form, color and light. That is just my sensibility.
But there was a certain pattern to the pieces that others were talking about. Most of them were a metaphor. A piece of something that suggested something, a problem of a sort, and it was all nice you know, but it didn’t work for me.
The main issue here was that:
1) Nobody cares.
Nobody cares that the museums are closed, to few people do at least.
It’s no wonder.
What has been formally known as art has gone to become a spectacle. Something of a more personal expression has become democratized with digital tools and communications, so what makes you special? A blog can easily generate more visits than a gallery, so what is the role of such institutions other than to be an expensive monument.
So there we were, complaining how society should embrace us. And we were talking to no one. With a language that was not appealing any more.
But, what to do, a spectacle was out of the question. We cant even afford to have the museums open. Something more intimate, but it should not sit and wait, it should grab its audience. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking stunts, I have worked in advertising and it’s a dark spot on my soul.
back to the topic of our interest:
Nobody cared about art and we wanted to raise a discussion. We would put up something and nobody would care about that either -they already don’t care about art and its art talking. Also listening to someone complain is kinda boring, especially when you have BIGGER problems of your own.
So i didn’t want to make another metaphor to remind you of my problem, and that it should be your problem too.
Artist complaining that society doesn’t care for art is kinda like little kid blaming it on the teacher: It’s the teacher – he hates me. Grow up – change your attitude! Stop complaining, break a sweat, engage the audience – bring the discussion to them. But, in a positive manner:
Lets talk about art, and what it means to you! And maybe I (the artist) can learn something abut myself and about my art.
And poor as artist is he could drive a rickshaw, maybe bring in some new audience to the museum, but first of all go to people to find out how they feel about art.
So a ricshaw became my metaphor.
And i became a rickshaw driver.
PS. after the (non)opening and my few rides that day
i had to give back the audio and video equipment that i was to use for documenting this process -it was borrowed from a friend, as non exhibition was realized on almost no funds.
And than it took a death-wish to drive it in those crazy hot Belgrade summer days – there was no people in the streets around the museum either. So it stayed there inside the museum that was ghostly empty, a construction site stuck in time representing a form of human communication that seems to be stuck in time too.