June 23rd – July 2nd
Conceptual identity – a naïve game, a quest for utopia or artist’s fate?
To overcome one’s personal (physical) constraints in order to create the character opposite to one’s own personality, was always an alluring and enchanting idea to the human throughout his history. Despite scientific and artistic achievements, establishing the balance between the material surrounding and imaginary worlds remained in theory until the 20th century. However, progressive technological improvement and capitalistic working conditions have enabled shifting the focus entirely into the virtual space through electronic means of communication. The whole scope of human interest, appetites, needs and fantasies is accessible; especially the need to represent oneself differently has reached its climax. Even though it can be the product of different motives and aspirations, making a virtual identity has become an everyday occurrence. It possesses the aura of the intangible that gives the individual unlimited space of imagination. The structure, the form and the function of virtual identity follow the logic of flexibility, rebuilding, deconstruction, destruction and hybridity. In that fissure of a fine line between reality and illusion, it often comes to artistic practices based on creating a virtual identity in order to articulate one’s own position concerning contemporary social situations. Here, the term of identity becomes subjected to numerous different interpretations and it does not necessarily refer to interventions in the fields of electronic interactions and Internet behaviour. It is about the entity that started to communicate with public in 2013, by using a simple ad on a pink piece of paper stating the following: “Sweet conceptual artist is looking for a job”. It was printed and distributed publically (art institutions, market places, bus stations, and universities). Very quickly, the ad became viral; therefore, it produced numerous interpretations and enlarged the number of consumers, participants and associates. Following this tendency, a cooperation with other subjects came into being which deliberately agreed to exhibit their works under the pseudonym – “Sweet conceptual artist”. Her next move was a new ad, in which she asked for art works. She translated the ad into English and posted it publically in some European cities. At the beginning of 2015, she decided to write a card in which she asks for a job, art works and support in the New Year. Then, there came group exhibitions, the book about her work and a web platform. Finally, “Sweet conceptual artist” creates a cooperation with “ELLE” magazine, gathering new associates that become new “Sweet conceptual artists” and for this, they were given a certificate for their contribution. However, the question of authorship might be intriguing in this case. After all there has to be someone who manages “Sweet conceptual artist’s” career, but it is not of main importance since this is the case of a participatory project. The “Sweet conceptual artist’s” need to create active communication with the audience, to engage with them, and encourage them in the creation of new ideas, and making these ideas part of herself, is her primary agenda. Seemingly rotating around self-presentation, her practice includes the use of mass media in public space for critical actions based on the ideas of emancipation through community and self-assembly. Following the thesis of conceptual artist, Joseph Beuys, that every individual is an artist who learns to determine art’s contribution in the future society, from the position of their freedom and freedom they have experienced; the “Sweet conceptual artist” appears as someone who delegates and collects ideas, more than an author who struggles to find her own place under the sun. Therefore, by involving other subjects, being artists or not, she questions the matter of professionalism; who can make art and what the criteria of assessing someone’s artwork is. Furthermore, the creation of this virtual identity lies in making a multi-faceted strategy based on subversive gestures of presentation, mediation, and the contemplation of a work of art. Constantly erasing the meaning of authorship and originality that are immanent to the institutional system of art, the “Sweet conceptual artist” is at the same time a conceptual artist as well as an engaged participative project, and finally an advertising campaign and brand. Made of an accumulation of opposites, inconsequence, illogicality, but most of all auto-irony, she operates with humour as an important part of the work. Her name suggests a collision of terms sweet and conceptual, as understood in society. The term sweet suggests – dear, acceptable to all, while conceptual means hard to understand, serious, strict, and pretentious. Therefore, at stake is an art hybrid that develops through stages and its installation in real space suggests the constant questioning of social function and the meaning of art; the mode of presenting an artistic idea, what kind of job artists need and what kind of support they request are only some of the questions that the “Sweet conceptual artist” proposes. The mystification of her character suggests the possibility of the permanent transformation of the working process, a specially designed relation between ideas and objects as final products. Not only anyone can be the “Sweet conceptual artist”, but their ideas can be hers and vice versa. In that endless game, the hierarchy of relations is broken and the possibility of communication, as a trigger of social processes, becomes explicit as it should be. That is exactly the task of an artwork that wants to be an active element of society.
Text: Vladimir Bjeličić
Photo: Nemanja Knežević