Text by Branislav Dimitrijević / What is Contemporary? project / 2008

WHAT KIND OF A QUESTION IS THAT?!?

What we highly esteem about contemporary art is that it questions. It questions aesthetical traditions, social values, political standpoints, economic logics, ethical norms; it questions our own involvement in art and the conditions in which we comprehend it. It even questions the notion of art itself, its very definition. In his seminal video performance from 1976, Rasa Todosijevic shouts violently at a seated female figure: Was ist Kunst? Ah? If conceptual art began with complex definitions such as Kosuth’s Art as an Idea as an Idea, it ended with a single tormenting question: Was ist Kunst?
If “art”, as in “contemporary art”, gets questioned endlessly, what happens with the term contemporary? Or is this too naïve or too superfluous to ask? Isidora Ficovic seems not to take care to be dismissed with a counter-question: What kind of a question is that?, replies one of her examinees. As opposed to a sadistic interrogation carried out by Todosijevic, Isidora Ficovic conducts a poll among artists, curators, and other “art professionals” who happen to be at her hand during her residency in Istanbul in 2006. She outlines a certain community based on common interest in the field of contemporary art and its social, political and aesthetic concerns. Every examinee is put in front of a camera and unvaryingly asked a persistent, repetitive, obvious and maybe even annoying question: What is contemporary?
How to respond? To dismiss this naiveté: What kind of a question is that? To ask for clarifications as if there would be any: What does the word mean or what does it signify? To be smart, self-ironic and withdrawn: Contemporary is the blankness I think now! To argue already a certain line of reasoning: Contemporary is not new but actual! To offer an intelligent paradox: Contemporary is not about time but about space! Or to be frank yet un-cooperative: Hmmm, never thought about that…
It may be quite clear that the contemporary is something perceived directly, not as a recollection or a speculation. Modern physics has not yet been able to explain what we normally understand by ‘now’. Furthermore, there is no demonstrable reason why time should move in any one particular direction. Contemporary seems illusory and does not reflect the true nature of reality. As it follows from Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. Therefore, if we define “contemporary” to be the collection of events that are simultaneous with a given event, then “contemporary” takes different meanings for different observers.
However, it may not be the intention of this “artistic opinion poll” to offer a common definition, nor to conclude that there is this multitude of definitions. The artist puts herself in position of the provisional naiveté during the “first round” of the “poll” recorded in 2006 on a video film. Yet, she has repeated her question two years later in an e-mail message distributed to all of her original examinees in order to establish the differences occurring due to the passage of time and shifts in the individual positioning in relation to the new now. Is this permanent shifting a real “essence” of the contemporary? Is “contemporary” a process which evolves but cannot be recollected? How can we think about it when we cannot recollect it? To pose the question over and over again seems to be the only way how to deal with this definitely deferred definition.

Text by Branislav Dimitrijević

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Text by Branislav Dimitrijević / Breakfast with the Head, video / 2004

Breakfast with the head
video work 11min 34sec, 2003

Having started with one of Manet’s painting, let us begin by examining the work of Isidora Ficovic, which represents a reinscenation of sorts of Manet’s Breakfast on the Grass. In this video recording, two clothed men and a naked woman realize a tableau vivant; the situation approaches the original as much as possible, only the actual items of food refer to the sort of breakfast characteristic of these parts: burek (a kind of cheese pie, translator’s note) and yogurt.
Still, the result does not boil down to striving for humorous effect through mere repetition with a difference, but by positioning, by way of mimicry, a high-culture topic in the real world of among real tensions: sexual, historical, habitual, etc. Hence the incomprehensible appearance of an object in the foreground (the “head” of the title – Breakfast with a Head), whose role here appears to be similar to that of the skull in Hans Hollbein’s Ambassadors, that is, the role of anamorphosis, which Lacan presents to us in a famous text of his as a specific dimension in the field of vision, a dimension not related to the view as such but somehow connected to the function of a lack, an appearance of a phallic ghost.

Text by Branislav Dimitrijević

From the catalogue “Strange point of Tension”, Winter Saloon in Herceg Novi, Public Museum of Montenegro 2004

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About Isidora’s artistic practice

Isidora Fićović is among the most influential and widely acclaimed artists of her generation in Serbia.

From drawing, painting, photography, performance, video art to multimedia installations in kaleidoscope of subjects, Isidora Fićović’s unique participatory works offer alluring spaces for thinking with unexpected connections exploring everyday life and occasions of different places, cities, countries, cultures as well as cartoons, movies, TV news or newspapers articles and metaphorical elements, examine the intersection of diverse subjects and controversy, and explore the boundary between the organic, actual and the artificial, virtual reality.

Having been raised partly in Yugoslavia, Isadora’s practice is influenced by various political, social and cultural manifestations of diverse nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and cultural transformations enabling her to understand necessity of change and vitality of thinking.

She recontextualises elements of everyday life such as social performance, rock an roll songs, music, history, movies and other art works, to create altogether new circumstances that shift the viewers consciousness and sense of time in contemporary space. Her work prompts an intensive engagement with the world and a fresh consideration of everyday life in ironic and experimental way.

The Work Samples spans Isidora’s diverse range of artistic production which includes installations, large scale environments, sculpture, photography, objects, painting, drawing, video and booklets, and rethinking of relations between those media.

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Ratman, FLU Gallery, Belgrade 2007

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The installation of four paintings and five hundred “mousses” on the floor of FLU Gallery of the Faculty of Fine Arts Belgrade. The “mousses” are running in determinate direction towards black curtain.
The five hundred ‘’mousses” running in determinate direction towards black curtain are represented behind the curtain in virtual space. The digital video installation behind the curtain shows pointers (computer mousses) that are going fast in different track lines, as real mousses are running in the nature. The humorous way how to perceive actual and virtual reality that we are confronting almost everyday, at home, on our jobs, on streets, clubs and restaurants; using internet, mobile phones, software programs, video games, consuming advertisements on billboards, screens , television daily. Internet cafes are full of children playing virtual basketball games using mousses as tools for playing instead of hands on real courtyards with other children. All that is motivation for making installation with computer mousses interrogating digital and actual of the real.

The paintings are representations of the transformed human being into Ratman, under influence of digital incorporation into daily life.

Colony 2001, Isidora Fićović, Aleksandar Jestrović Jamezdin, Predrag Terzić and Branisla Jakić, Remont Gallery, Belgrade 2005

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Colony 2001 was initiated during an acquaintance with Montenegro hotel-owner and investor  Nedeljko Burzanović Nedjo. Burzanovic sponsored the workshop aimed at production of artworks  intended for decoration of luxurious hotels along Montenegro Coast – hotels in Budva, Sutomore, Susanj and Bar  owned by Talas  Turs Company. Beside Isidora Fićović, leading the project in collaboration with Mr.Burzanovic, colony was attended by young Belgrade artists Pedja Terzić, Bane Jakić and Jamesdin.

A fact worth mentioning is that the whole project was  entirely produced by Talas  Tours, a company that made certain demands regarding the themes of paintings such as authentic seaside landscapes, images of Monastery of Ostrog, particular saints, etc.

Faced with such a chellenge, these Belgrade artists made quite successful works,depicting the taste of mainstream Montenegrin art public (and wider).

Open space, PLATFORM Garanti Contemporary Art Center, Istanbul 2006

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The ambient installation of daily newspapers, Alan Ginsbergs poem“Howl” written on the walls, drawing and carpet of newspapers.

Daily newspapers without articles, just few pictures left. Alan Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” on the walls. Carpet made of newspapers. Drawing. The newspapers were bases of information about actual situation in Turkey and wider during residency period on Platform Garanti Contemporary Art Center in Istanbul 2006. Unknowing Turkish language, informing was coming from pictures. The newspapers without texts with few pictures left; pictures of solders in cage also as terrorists attacks are fixed to the ground of studio, visually creating drawing with different character of lines. The work Open Space is metaphor. Actualizing political, economical, social and other aspects of everyday life. The installation is metaphor of collecting daily newspapers that was coming up in Istanbul in period September- October 2006; On the other hand writing of poem “Howl” on the walls evokes the period after WWII in USA. Allen Ginsberg is best known for his poem Howl, a long poem, attacking American values of the 1950s. The words of the poem are written on the walls in several big columns and every column with its form creates drawing. Newspapers are symbolizing actual time and space, existence in a curtain place and time, which is in this case Istanbul in autumn 2006. The words of the poem “Howl” on the walls are leading us back in time, in the period and atmosphere of fifties of 20thCentury on streets of NYC, period after Second World War. Bringing these two different periods, different places, different occasions and time in one installation, make us discover similarities and possible relations between those two contexts and specifics of the real. Representing present through rethinking past and rethinking past through actual moment.

120 pictures in 60 min, Isidora Fićović and Aleksandar Jestrović, SKC Gallery, Belgrade 2001

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The ambient represents video and two paintings on the walls. Video work is 35 min long which suits to the statics of paintings. Artists made this ambinet installation as reconstruction of their lives with ritual characteristics of sounds and interchanging of pictures . Video shows photos from artists childhood, friends and parents, the intimacy of their lives. Each photo lasts for 30 sec  and interchanging is followed by sounds of the group Kayess. It experiments with memory and its processes of time in constructed context of ambient and loud sounds.