May 3rd – 20th
U10 as a new space for young artists
In the discourse concerning the production of young visual artists, in public talks, debates and researches, the question about the position and articulation of the authors of the youngest generation in the local surrounding of Belgrade is frequently posed. After completing art studies, when the time comes to publicly step out as just formed artistic personalities – through exhibitions, diverse artistic projects and be perceived in the scope of theoretical, curatorial and critical acclaims in the surrounding in which they are acting – young artists often embark on perplexing mechanisms in which the local art systems function and the inability to position themselves in them, despite the professional and dedicated approach to their artistic practice. Financial limits connected to the production of artworks, as well as the lack of a structured and sustainable art market, to the young artist only additionally create difficulties in developing continual artwork production and artistic activity. Based upon these grounds, the evermore present solution to the stated problem is recently found in self-organising through small artistic groups, collectives or affiliations, which present and develop their artistic activity through an artistic or theoretical platform which is connected to a particular exhibition space.
Making a link to the necessity of self-organisation in the local context, art space U10 was formed on the initiative of artist Nemanja Nikolić, within which the works of the following authors will be presented and affirmed, at its first exhibition titled 10+1. They are Nikola Grozdanović, Lidija Delić, Nina Ivanović, Isidora Krstić, Sava Knežević, Iva Kuzmanović, Ivan Marković, Branko Milanović, Nemanja Nikolić, Petra Sibinović and Marija Šević, who are all found in the period of just completing their art studies. In the talk with Nemanja, we discuss this new and interesting place for artistic production and public encounters.
A: As a young artist, in what way do you reflect upon your position and the position of your colleagues in the local environment and how did this question influence the decision to establish and carry out the U10 art space project?
N: The position and professional development of a young artist after graduating from art studies depends on a number of factors. I feel free to say that the situation for us is very much distressing. On the very start, there is no clear notion about what the studies imply, where the majority of “future artists” don’t have an idea what it is they want to develop within themselves. This has the consequence of a young person, that doesn’t have a clearly defined plan during the studies, constantly going through the process of trying to find and define oneself. On the other hand, the educational system often does not offer talented people, which I consider to be large in number, a well defined structure. This leads to some getting lost in the whole process. A certain illusion is dominating that one just has to work, believe in it and that everything else will just come on its own. When the moment comes to confront what comes after graduating, a young artist is often disorientated.
A: Does this mean that formal art education doesn’t offer a sufficient enough preparation for starting an independent career in the arts?
N: Definitely. Being an artist is not only about research and making works, but knowing how to present them and articulate them in ways other than those concerned with the creative process. Nevertheless, education can never be faultless and can never grant the perfect basis for what comes after. For now I wouldn’t prolong that question. A greater problem which is often pointed out by artists is the lack of an establishment which would finance the production of art works or purchase them, followed by the lack of a significant art market, the lack of the will to invest into this culture domain and even more, the lack of courage to risk supporting non-established and still widely unknown artists. The anecdote about how the difficult position of the artist contributes to creativity seems more than ironic.
A: Do you think there is an alternative way for young artists to place themselves in non-commercial art systems? How much are cultural institutions or independent organisations open for cooperation and is it possible to become established as a young artist in this way?
N: That is a very complex question which implies critical analysis. When young authors wish to promote themselves, they are obliged to adjust their poetics according to the policy of a certain institution or an organisation. This is often a tense process which entails adaptation. This is the essential reason why the U10 space was established, out of the desire to avoid this.
A: We have come to the necessity of self-organisation. Tell me more about U10, what idea lies behind this project?
N: There are a lot of ideas, we have the drive and the positive energy to work on and further develop this space. But again, we come back to the previously said, that for founding any kind of space and its subsistence, as well as any considerable art work production, money is essential. On the very start where we are, we are not sure how we are going to manage financially to sustain the space. However, we are decidedly starting an active program. What is sure is that the space is going to be mobile, we’ll be shifting places in time and the project won’t be constant, but rather periodical. In this sense, I wouldn’t define it as a classical exhibition space – but more as one location which currently serves as an exhibition space. We present ourselves as a group of people who think alike, a group of people which are connected by having studied together, and not as a defined art group or organisation. We have gathered around this project on purely practical grounds; we start from the joint need of a space in which we will present our works, without any ideological or theoretical positioning. We had the luck to meet people who would in this stage of the project support us financially and turn our desire for exhibiting into reality, but who wouldn’t in any way influence or limit the program and activities that are to take place at U10.
A: What kind of program is intended for U10? A large amount of content is planned apart from the exhibiting activity.
N: Yes, we’ve come up with a very dynamic program for U10. Apart from the group and solo shows, artists themselves will be involved with the organisation; there will also be events such as exhibition guiding, public presentations, meeting the artist/public etc. Anyone who wants to and has something to say is free to join us in the course of these activities. The U10 space attempts to be a place for presenting young people and up-and-coming authors. This is why it’s of crucial importance that we use the program to present ourselves in the best possible way to the professional and general public alike.
A: Artists have, without any side influence, come together around this project. Your call is as the author of this project, its founder and organiser, who has at the same time the role to select artists who will be active in this space. How do you reflect on the situation where an artist undertakes the function of the curator and how do you relate to this, for you, a new position?
N: The notion of me having this function came quite spontaneously, as a practical necessity for someone to take up the responsibility and select certain artistic outlooks and works for the exhibition. The artists exhibiting are artists of my generation and are more or less in the same position as I am. I personally don’t aspire to be a curator in the future. Here, since I had started the whole project and wanted to carry it out till the end, the role of the curator was inevitable.
A: What is it that connects the young artists that you have chosen to exhibit, apart from them coming from the same generation? Was there some other criterion of selection that led you?
N: What I consider to connect the artists participating in this exhibition is the local environment which they live in, as well as the same educational system they came out of, which is already a lot. In this way, a certain connection was made, which proved to be completely natural. On the other hand, a major role was my personal affinity when it comes to art. It is something that can be seen through carefully observing the works at the exhibition. I consider art to be a serious game where artists don’t attempt to illustrate certain definitions or provide answers to big questions. To me, art is an open ground where the artist can think without bounds. In this selection, I was driven by this notion as well as going for artists which are professional, innovative and in whose work one can observe the enjoyment present in the process of creating an artwork. I consider all the artists present at the exhibition to be fully responsible and serious enough to respond to the requirements in the course of pursuing a professional artistic career. In a wider context, the struggle against chaos, lethargy, and resistance in its wider sense is something that connects the works of these artists. This is all achievable in small steps that will eventually lead to greater results. And just with persisting in work. It is popular here to complain about the circumstances and criticize everything. I think one shouldn’t talk too much but act on specific matters in order to make a change.
A: Having your previous experience in mind, the ideas and plans connected to U10, as well as the forthcoming exhibitions, what would you regard as the goal of this project? To what do you aspire through the coming activities and what would you give the utmost importance when it comes to all of your expectations connected to the project?
N: For the beginning, artists presented will with their works create the identity of U10, at least for the near future. The goal is to draw attention to the significant and distinguished young artistic production in Serbia, aimed at the local surrounding, regional and international art scene alike. I’m not sure how much art has the power to change things on a more general level. Speaking of the cultural variety of the city or young artists, if we succeed to change something or bring it to a higher level – that would be great. Even if things don’t change, I believe that it is really important that we chose to deal with this problem and do something interesting and different.
Talk led by Ana Bogdanović
Translation: Isidora Krstić
Photo: Zoran Milisavljević