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Exhibition │Skip Curators, Talk about Artists, curated by Alenka Gregorič (Ljubljana)

Skip Curators, Talk about Artists, curated by Alenka Gregorič

Selecting artists and their works on the basis of geography or politics is repeatedly subject to critiques that mostly revolve around the question of the exotic and the desire to search for the unknown. Many exhibitions by artists from various regions, above all from the Eastern part of the globe, who were generally given a very superficial characterisation – we can point out here a much discussed polemic of recent years regarding the terminology of the Balkans – were first mounted in big Western contemporary art institutions; for many of them this was their swan song. While the caravan of usually Western curators moves deeper into the heart of the Eastern Eurasia, the artists’ regions which have been used up are becoming less interesting to the international art scene. Those who managed to make something of their geographical origin are rare, although many of them with a bitter aftertaste.

The rest are condemned to getting an opportunity within the other phenomenon that arose parallel to the “projects” of regional obsession, and remained somewhat unconsidered, although not unnoticed – to be seen, recognised, presented by a curator whose name has in some way or other marked the international fine arts scene. These names are listed on the popularity scale according to the importance of the institutions for/in which they work or “rule”. The most toxic of all is the combination of both – an institution and a curator with a renowned name. This issue has also been subject to various polemics, but has not yet received such strong criticism as regionally marked art and its stakeholders. A large section of the expert public goes to contemporary art manifestations precisely because of the curator who curated or selected a certain presentation, while the artists and their works are usually secondary.  

The works presented at the exhibition Skip Curators, Talk about Artists, ironically, but above all with a good share of self-criticism and humour, examine the position of power, especially of the Western system within the art field. The works stumble over the usual international fine arts stories and seek their place within them. The concentration of capital that influences on the conditions of production and the symbolic power of the Western system are most often in the hands of individuals that artists and their existence depend on. The work by the Slovenian duo son:DA, created for the Triennial of Contemporary Slovenian Art – U3, which opened at the end of last year at the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, deals with this issue, without fudging matters. Seemingly simple statistical research shows data on the amounts of money spilling over into various channels far from the artists’ pockets. With this work, son:DA show the paradox of the curator’s fundamental concept, which is based on searching for and showing possible solutions for art production in Slovenia.

White Woman Sitting on Green Grass, a work bySislej Xhafa, is placed side by side with important works by Western artists which are hung on the walls of the world’s most important museums – canvasses on which there appears a figure of a woman sitting on a beach, on grass, dancing, etc.

In their video titled Art Now, the Art Fun Club group questions the dominant Western system within art. Before our eyes, they leaf through a whole catalogue containing a survey of the most important contemporary art creators. The more than forty-minute video has a soundtrack reminiscent of sitcoms. Every time a leaf is turned, we hear laughter, a guffaw, clapping and other expressions of joy familiar from American shows, where an imaginary audience laughs instead of us. Laughter is contagious, which the video certainly demonstrates. 

Jakup Come Home, a work by Kosovo artist Jakup Feri, shows the artist’s family, his father, mother and two sisters, in front of the camera in order to wish him luck on his leaving for an important international exhibition to which he has been invited by an important international curator. The father graciously thanks the host, while the mother, in an expected motherly address, advises the son of the dangers of the unknown world he is setting off for.

The exhibition closes with a video by Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović titled Great Show.

Art Fun Club is founded in 2002. Selected group exhibitions: Fremd bin ich eingezogen Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany (2006); 47th Oktobarski salon, Belgrade, Serbia (2006); Challenge, Sinagogue, Center for Contemporary Art, Trnava, Slovakia (2005); The Last East European Show, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Serbia (2003).

Jakup Ferri (1981) lives and works in Prishtina, Kosova. He is a graduate of the Academy of Arts in Prishtina (2004) and Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (2007). He has exhibited in venues throughout Europe and the US. Ferri had two solo shows in Artist Space in New York and Galerie Adler in Frankfurt am Main. Selected group shows: Glocal & Outsiders, Prague Biennale 3 (2007); A forest and a tree, Kunsthalle Exnergasse (2007); Interrupted Connections, Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw (2006); Art Life and Confusion, 47th Oktobarski salon, Belgrade (2006); Ethnic Marketing, Azad Gallery, Tehran (2006); This is not America, ByArt Projects Gallery, Tel Aviv (2006).

Artistic tandem son:DA (Metka Golec and Miha Horvat) that exist since 2000, belongs to the generation of artists defined by digital technology and constant technological progress. son:DA combines audio-visual experimenting and the study of sound, space, moving images and still pictures. In their work the artists focus is on different techniques and media while working with different materials and using different methods – from digital to analogue processes. They have realized many solo and group exhibitions and participated in numerous art festivals.

Mladen Stilinović, born in 1947 in Belgrade (Serbia), lives in Zagreb (Croatia). From 1969 to 1976 he works with experimental film. He was a member of a Group of Six Artists (1975-1979). In the 80-s Stelinovič run the PM Gallery in Zagreb (1982-1991). His works include collages, photographs, artist books, paintings, installations, actions, films and video. Stilinovič has been exhibiting since 1975 in numerous solo and group shows.

Sislej Xhafa, born in 1970 in Peja (Kosova), lives and works in New York (USA). He belongs to a generation of artists who made their impressive debut on the international arena in the first half of the 1990s. In his works Xhafa criticizes the political, economic and military monopoly that lies in the hands of few individuals, in a refined and ambiguous way, ironically responding to time and space in which he lives and/or works. Xhafa has been exhibiting in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally.     

The exhibition was curated by Alenka Gregorič (1976, Ljubljana) who is the artistic director of Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana where she curates four to five exhibitions a year and also runs their commercial activity, representing nine artists at international art fairs. Beyond her curatorial work in the frame of Škuc Gallery program, Gregorič also curates at least one show per year in other international exhibition venue. She has written numerous essays, reviews and articles that have been published in various art publications.