Kölnischer Kunstverein

Many Challenges Lie Ahead in the Near Future

23 Aug - 28 Sep 2008

Miloš Tomić, Clay Pigeon, 2005, Videostill

with Miloš Tomic, Bojan Šarcevic, Vladimir Nikolic, Lulzim Zeqiri
curated by Radmila Joksimovic

Starting point for the exhibition Many Challenges Lie Ahead in the Near Future are subconscious expectations that artists and the art coming from the Balkans encounter.

When it comes to artists from the Balkan countries, the question of origin seems very often more important than other aspects or questions that their art works deal with. During the last decade several well known exhibitions, among others In den Schluchten des Balkan, Kunsthalle Fredericianum, Kassel, 2003, Blut und Honig, Sammlung Essl, Vienna, 2003, In Search of Balkania, Graz in 2002, have presented contemporary artists from the Balkan region to a Western audience. The exhibitions gave the artists the opportunity to present their work to an international audience while at the same time encumbered the artists with the question of what it means to be an „artist from the Balkans“.

Of course, the viewers’ awareness of the origin of an artist is not without consequences. Certain expectations arise concerning the images as well as topics and questions that the art from the Balkans is supposed to show and to deal with, such as the political situation in these countries, communism, the Balkan wars of 1990s or exotic folklore and tradition that exists only in „the Gorges of the Balkans“. In such circumstances the question arises of how artists come to terms with these expectations. The four artists presented in this exhibition put the desired images at the core of their work and discuss their artistic position from there on.

Bojan Šarèeviæ (born 1974 in Belgrade, Serbia) originates from the former Yugoslavia, but received his artistic education in France and now lives in Paris and Berlin. In his artist book Kissing the back of your hand makes the sound like a wounded bird (2007) he comments ironically on the never changing reception of his works on the basis of his origin. Next to the reproduction of his sculptural works, installations and videos (all of them as abstract as the title of his book), instead of art historical interpretations of his works, Šarèeviæ offers to the reader texts about the political and economical situation in the Balkan region: The Western Balkans: moving on (Chaillot Paper No. 70, Institute for Securtity Studies, European Union, Paris).

In his video Clay Pigeon Miloš Tomiæ (born 1976 in Belgrade, Serbia) shows a love story that is at the same time a story of war. The seductive way of editing, flirting with the aesthetics of silent movies, as well as his humorous approach prevents the story from becoming overdramatic. Tomiæ uses a specific motif of the history of the Balkans in order to call attention to a universal question.

In his video Heroes Lulzim Zeqiri (born 1978 in Gjilan, Kosovo) solves a double problem of legitimation. On the one hand he deals with the question of his position as an artist within the European context, and on the other hand with the question of his position within the Kosovo society. To solve the first question, Zeqiri offers an ironic, orientalistic staging of three musicians playing a traditional melody in traditional poses. On the other hand, he is aware that one is legitimized in Zeqiris own society by gaining recognition as national hero. This is why he lets the singers in their traditional song sing about contemporary artists from Kosovo instead of national heroes.

In his video The Death Anniversary Vladimir Nikoliæ (born 1974 in Belgrade, Serbia) takes a wailer from a village in Montenegro to the tomb of Marcel Duchamp in Rouen to do her mourning in this place. In this video Nikoliæ criticises a principle often used by artists: to use the ancient customs and traditions of their countries of origin as „ready-made“ and to show it in such an unprocessed form. He refers to this kind of art not as contemporary, but „ethnic art“ or „Look How We Celebrate Religious Holidays In My Land–art“.

Tags: Radmila Joksimovic, Vladimir Nikolic, Bojan Sarcevic, Miloš Tomic, Lulzim Zeqiri