Where (not) to go?

Exhibition | Where (not) to go? | organized by press to exit project space | curated by Jovanka Popova| Gallery MC, New York|16 February - 1 March 2015 (opening reception followed by informal talk with the curator and artists Gjorgje Jovanovik and Yane Calovski: Monday, 23 February, 7 pm).

Artists: Hristina Ivanoska, Nada Prlja, Neda Firfova, Filip Jovanovski, Daniel Serafimovski, Gjorgje Jovanovik, Tihomir Topuzovski, Aleksandar Kovachevski, Nikola Uzunovski, Vladimir Lukash and Yane Calovski.

What is the input of social and political clashes in the process of recreating of public space? Can we interpret the term ‘urbanity’ as nucleus of social solidarity or as a space of materializing various political agendas? How do we manage power and its direct affect on urban development? By deconstructing the processes of illustrating, archiving, documenting and performing, the artists in the exhibition face up to the multitude of contradictions in which we, as a society, exist in Macedonia.

Addressing subjects such as the historical and urban development of the city of Skopje, the wide-spread social inequality, political, cultural and economic oppression of marginalized groups, educational reform and redesign of traditional values, the works do not shy away from arguing the necessity to probe further into the problems and articulate their individual positions. So, where not to go, as a version of “Don’t go there”, becomes “Why wait any longer?”. The attention is turned toward the left-oriented voices, the gray-zone classification of activism, and the borderline points where discourses are contested in order to generate counter-discourses.

Artists Neda Firfova, Daniel Serafimovski and Filip Jovanovski treat the concept of the archive as a performative process and presentation and documentation of events and processes regarding the capital Skopje takes place. For Firfova, the book is a medium to clarify ideas and concepts as much through its form, as well as through the content it presents, always open in the communication with the audience.  Unique and personal, and just like an open archive, the book is interactive in the way it communicates and offers interpretation of factual content, which according to Foucault, instead of being perceived as a document subjected to historical research becomes a statement of sorts. So the open archive can be read as system of shaping and transforming points of view as shown in the work of Firfova, as well as to present signs that point at the interpretive subject in the work of Jovanovski, or to experience it as a collection of documents and a collective knowledge of one time period in the open archive of Serafimovski. In this way the three authors compliment each other in their treatment of the book as an archival space while rethinking the “monumentality“ of its form and usage.

Ownership in relation and coexistence with the community and collectivity, and urbanity as a synonym for a space of solidarity, shared collective experiences, and as an important community participation, becomes central in the works of artists Hristina Ivanoska, Nada Prlja and Velimir Zernovski. If being is being-with, then "with" is what constitutes being; (Jean-Luc Nancy), then presence of being can be manifested in the same way to address collective power: power is neither exterior to the members of the collective, nor interior to each one of them, but rather consists in the collectivity as such. Therefore, "with" is not an addition to some prior Being; instead, the "with" is at the heart of Being (Nancy). The artists critically examine the concept of the community within the urban context, taking the stimulating assumption of Nancy that existing mainly means co-existing. For example, in her photo essay Nada Prlja addresses the ongoing marginalization of the Roma community and their social, political and economic degradation. Issues of nationalism and homophobia, as well as stagnation and degradation of society are conceptually imbedded in the large scale drawings of Zernovski where young, able, and potent male figures are depicted in celebratory poses. In the work of Ivanoska, it would be reactivation of history via the concept of “selfness” and “otherness” as examined in the photo-based drawings of Ivanoska. The works build a generous sense of visual evidence of relevant psycho- analytical, political and multicultural concepts.

The drawing-based works of Yane Calovski, Gorge Jovanovik and Vladimir Lukash address the city in many of its different facets in its ongoing production as a space of narration. By covering issues such as the master plan of the city of Skopje (Calovski) or the everyday life experience of the ordinary citizen (Jovanovic and Lukash), the artists use drawing as a documentary medium in address various strategies to formally negotiate the power politics and popular culture in Skopje, the self-declared city of modern utopia. The use of drawing as a tool is particularly effective and communicates with de Certeau’s theory in regard to the differences in the strategies applied to connected with the institutions and structures of power as elements of society, such as laws and policies, constructive rules for using of objects and public spaces in the city marked via coding, precise legends and thus creating boundaries. Calovski’s work is focused on rearchiving his finds in relation to Kenzo Tange’s Master plan for Skopje following the earthquake in 1963. Jovanovic and Lukash works capture the nature of drawing as a self-justifying and opportunistic, both physically and mentally, produced from strategically powerful instances. 

Artist Tihomir Topuzovski, Nikola Uzunovski and Aleksandar Kovacevski are looking at the esthetics and the politics in using language to voice public disapproval while raising few questions in regards to the process of development and representation of public protests. Which way the protest has been articulated, what does the articulation of the protest means and what does the protest articulate with the public? If there is esthetics of the protest, do we have serial images produced at once, instead of its representation? Does the protest is being organized around short sequences of images, what Hito Steyerl would call it editing? Articulation of the protest is being held on two levels: the language of the protest or verbalization and visualization; and the same combination of concepts that are shaping the structure of the internal organization of the protest, actually two different types of combining different elements; on the level of symbols and on the level of political powers. The represented art work are questioning what is going to happen if the opposite shape of the art work, or the theory of editing, are connected towards the field of politics? What kind of political meaning can come out from such type of articulation?

Hence, the political and social aspect of the selected works is the base that connects artists in cohesive completeness. The works show research practices that mainly focus on different issues of urbanity and culture that are produced by contemporary Macedonian society and at the same time are productive within the social, political and cultural framework. The artists focus on contradictory and conflicted processes with political character in the produced space, and at the same time, they correlate with public space as “living space, space of distortion, space where you learn and play, on the street, at the same time with informative function, space where revolutions are being born, creating new order outside of the mess”, or the space from the everyday life, as a fine line between the “illusion and truth, between power and powerless situation, fine line of the area that controls the human being and area where he/she has no control” (Henry Lefebvre)

The exhibition Where (not) to go? In Gallery MC, New York, is the latest incarnation of the curatorial research project into speculative processes of narration first presented at the Istanbul Contemporary in 2013.


Exhibited works:

Neda Firfova 

EXTRA ARTISAN TRADE WORKSHOP EXPORT COMPLETE IMPORT PROGRAMME (A book for the future), 2009. Installation, Offset and Silkscreen, metal table. Co-produced by the author and press to exit project space. Edition of book: 300; 24 pages. Courtesy the artist. 

An interactive book, designed in the attempt to preserve old shop signs from the Skopje Old Bazaar and reveal their important graphic design value for the local design community. This book is designed in a way that the content is hidden and remains a surprise until the reader decides to discover the content. How much and in which way the content is discovered depends solely on the reader; and therefore, each reader is capable of creating his their own personalized copy, at any time. The book was produced and published at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in collaboration with press to exit project space. 


Filip Jovanovski 

DON’T STARE SO ROMANTICALLY! Impressions in several phases of a city in decay (2010-2014), 2014. Original book, installation. Courtesy the artist. 

This personal archive functions as a book-in-process made of collected files and processes informed by the artist logic of how one work develops over time. The project “DON’T STARE SO ROMANTICALLY!” has been presented in different exhibition contexts, both gallery settings and public sites, and its history is chronologically traced over time, using a form of intricate methodologically developed by the artists himself. The files appear in a form of printouts, texts, collages and other documentary fragments, subsequently addressing the history of a city of Skopje and its urban trauma over the last four years. Ultimately, the work suggest that this city that is rapidly losing its modernist history, leaves space for reconstruction/archiving according to personal political views, and not via democratic decisions.


Yane Calovski 

OBSESSIVE SETTING (REARCHIVING KENZO TANGE’S MASTER PLAN FOR SKOPJE 1963/65), 2013. Video, 8:42 min. Courtesy the artist. 

The video Obsessive setting (Rearchiving Kenzo Tange’s Master Plan for Skopje 1963/65) is based on Calovski’s ongoing research and investigation of Kenzo Tange’s urban plan project for the city of Skopje and the lack of documentation of the process of its materialization. The entire research delves deep into the conflict between individual utopian dreams and those of a collective body, historiography and preservation, and ways to mend the broken narrative with non-linear and fragmentary strategies. Using drawings, collages, photo-montages and texts that have appeared in two previous works entitled: ‘Master Plan’ (2008) and ‘Obsessive Setting’ (2010), the video suggest another kind of testament to the work of Kenzo Tange and associates, as well as their Macedonian colleagues that worked on the Master Plan. Artist Samon Takahashi performs the texts originally written by Tange.


Gjorge Jovanovik 

SILENT NIGHT, 2014. Installation, drawings and objects on cardboard. Courtesy the artist. 

The installation Silent Night develops on the experience of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and his manner of narration in an attempt to translate this experience in the Macedonian context. Bruegel’s works are in fact pioneer genre paintings, embodying the social aspect and observation of the Flemish society. It is precisely this aspect and treatment that has been taken as the initial point in the effort to focus on the Macedonian social landscape and fragments from the life of marginalized groups and individuals, their daily afflictions, hatred, rejection, humiliation and derision.  In addition, Silent Night reexamines the relation between the images and the suffering as a way to solve the tensions between the individual and the world by way of a simple, yet painfully confusing gesture.


Vladimir Lukash 

KILL THE TICKETLESS PASSENGER AND OTHER DRAWINGS, 2012. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist. 

Lukash’s drawings give the impression that they are made of countless random elements. His characters are positioned somewhere at the margins, out of the centre, somewhere among the market stands of the self-defined space, the personal space in continued pre-construction. His drawings are an immense and fantastic gallery of characters, some imagined, some historic, and others fictional-historic (fragments of people, decomposed, strange, even bizarre creatures, and even more bizarre situations). Among the multitude of complex relations within the framework of chaos, one can discover fragments of Hitler, de Niro, Nietzsche, Schönberg, Händel’s wife, a skinny child with red cheeks, who is sure that when he grows up he will be a dictator, and countless others.


Hristina Ivanoska 

POOR LITTLE RICH GIRL (ERASED PAST). Drawings, mixed media. Courtesy the artist. 

The initial project “Poor Little Rich Girl” from 2002 was presented as a series of photographs from a private photo album where an invented female character is photographed in different locations throughout the city of Skopje, alone or accompanied by family, friends and colleagues. For the new work the artist is selecting only three out of fifty photographs as enlarged prints on which she has painted an iconic representation of the lost city creating a new visual environment critiquing the excess of religious and baroque symbolism of the new city center. The atmosphere in the photographs recalls a time of history that is very difficult to locate and sensation of city that is lost forever.


Nikola Uzunovski

OUT – NOW, 2014. Video loop. Courtesy the artist. 

“Out Now” is a video banner, similar to a general advertisement standard of promoting new products on the market that is flashing, attracting and annoying the customer while trying to get your attention and imprint the message. The work also has a political interpretation reminding you less of a specific product on offer, but rather of ones individual position to try and avoid being the product.


Tihomir Topuzovski

10 MINUTES OF PROTEST, 2014. 4 protest stencils, plastic and spray paint. Courtesy the artist. 

The project ’’10 minutes of protest’’ is dedicated to protests as a way of encouraging democratic space and civil rights via artistic project and initiatives in Skopje, R. Macedonia. It considers possibilities of artistic activities being separated by the current institutional systems, in a form of political process that confronts the existing framework of perception, thought and action (Rancière). The project started on May 15, 2014 (Skopje, R. Macedonia), with a debate among activists, cultural workers and politicians. The exhibited paroles proceed to challenge the values of the current system in the Republic Macedonia, on the one hand, and to open up possibilities of resisting forms of economic, political and ideological domination on the other. 


Aleksandar Kovachevski 

THE DISCREET CHARM OF FOG SELLERS, 2015. Slide show video, 8:30 min. Courtesy the artist. 

“The discreet charm of the fog sellers” was born as an online-based project, a kind of a photo (graphic) diary, mixture between personal feelings, aesthetics of cinema, poetry and politics. Every image is a different story from an imaginary movie that is born through some sort of a visual cut-up approach. The surreal narrative is constructed from found photographs on the Internet of the members of the ruling party in Macedonia where the color is extracted and the image is formed as a movie frame from a television. The subtitles add a doze of irony indirectly targeting different aspects of the society as an entity, such as growing neoliberalism, totalitarism, conservativism, corrupted institutions in power, position of the individual confronted with power, meaning of knowledge, the possibility of love in capitalism, sexuality and normativity, folklore and tradition.


Velimir Zernovski

All BEAUTY MUST DIE!, 2013. Drawings, acrylic and permanent marker on paper. Courtesy the artist. 

Velimir Zernovski’s large-scale drawings from the series All BEAUTY MUST DIE! were developed for a billboard project curated by Slavcho Dimitrov shown on various locations throughout the city of Skopje in the spring of 2014.  The imagery of the male body in various celebratory situations functions as a reminder that our unacknowledged fear of the other, along with our contempt towards sport is an image of our fear and contempt towards the political, defines a specific kind of community and being-in-common.  By re-appropriating the already existing and dominant iconography and symbolic arsenal of the nationalistic political project “Skopje 2014”, Zernovski's project presents a basis for a multifaceted re-examination of the undemocratic and structurally totalitarian political programs of the government.


Nada Prlja

PICTURE-PERFECT CRUELTY, 2014 – ongoing. Series of 8 photographs (selection of 44 in total), digital print. Courtesy the artist. 

The series of photographs function as a self-portrait illustrating everyday cruelty in which the artist mimics the daily activities of a nomadic Roma woman in a diary-like form. The selected images represented here broadly exemplify the relation of power-submission of the Roma population of Skopje and the social and political atmosphere that surrounds the general behavior involving brutality, cruelty, and even sadism to which this ethnic minority group is subjected to on daily basis. Being an artist could likewise be described as a marginal existence, by never belonging to the established economical and societal norms of society. Prlja places herself in a position of discomfort, in order to face the troubled relationships that arise only when the socio-political and economic conditions of a particular society are deeply disturbed. In so doing, the work does not represent only a portrait of the Roma population and their undesirable and unbearable reality, but more importantly, it draws a collective portrait - a mirror image of who we all are. 


Daniel Serafimovski 

SKOPJE OPEN ARCHIVE. Installation. Printed matter and ephemera (selection). Courtesy the artist. 

SKOPJE OPEN ARCHIVE is an art-architecture archival project that started with an Open Call to the citizens of Skopje, to contribute material towards an archive whose aim is to slow down / oppose the process of the loss of collective memory regarding the City of Skopje. The archive is also an alternative platform where various research and documentation related to the city (and in particular in relation to its architectural and cultural heritage) could be gathered, archived, shared, and made available for discussion, debate and critical reflection on the current socio-cultural local conditions. The very notion of this ongoing, developing project being defined as an archive, embodies a sense of nostalgia, a certain yearning for the past and all that has been irretrievably altered or lost; at the same time, it suggests that ‘looking back’ could be important for looking forward. Exhibited here are only a tiny fraction of printed matter that comprises the archive to give a sense of its pictorial dimension.