Interview with artists Hristina Ivanoska and Yane Calovski
Interviewer: Igor Pop Trajkov
Undoubtedly, Hristina Ivanoska and Yane Calovski are among the most influential art-names in the field of contemporary art in Macedonia. With their educational and exhibition experiences in some of the most relevant institutions abroad, they have acquired recognition and critical respect for their artistic practice that is exhibited internationally. In 2015 they were selected to be representatives of the Republic of Macedonia at the 56. Venice Biennial with the project “We Are all in this Alone”, an installation that addresses the concept of faith as a socio-political anomaly. Despite their international success, they remain very active in the independent arts and cultural sector in Macedonia through the work of their organization, press to exit project space, established in Skopje in 2004. Recently they curated and organized, together with their collaborator, arts historian and curator Jovanka Popova, the latest, 6th edition of the annual International Symposium ‘Curating Exchange’ this year titled, ‘Spaces, Functions, Fictions and Other Commons’.
- What gave you the idea and inspiration for the latest edition of the symposium and specifically the series of presentations and lectures dedicated to topics of public space and commons and the role, as well as the work, of the curator in the contemporary research and practice?
Тhe role and the position of the curator as a critical instigator and educator in the processes of content-negotiation and the different perceptions about the socio-political role of public space, as well as the idea of commons and public space, were our inspiration behind the newest edition of the International Symposium Curating Exchange.
The sixth edition of the symposium is titled “Spaces, Functions, Fictions and Other Commons” and includes presentations of Ludwig Kittinger, Ana de Almeida and Phelim McConigly artists and founders of <dienstag abend> art collective from Vienna, Austria; Mauro Gil-Fournier, architect and co-founder of SIC | VIC Studio, from Madrid, Spain; Sebastian Cichocki chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Poland; as well as Klelija Zivkovic, a social designer and Dorotej Neshovski, an interdisciplinary artist, both from Skopje, Macedonia.
The invited guests will contribute in a variety of discursive presentations and projects that question changing ideas about the social and cultural dimension of the ever-evolving interdisciplinary notions between art, architecture, and theory.
Ultimately we wanted to address creativity in relation to urban space where power relations are subjected to scrutiny via critical and discursive forms and practices.
We initially started the project in 2012 аs an annual multidisciplinary project addressing local, regional, and international need for an insightful and qualitative exchange of experience and knowledge in theoretical and artistic research, curatorial practice and education. It is something that we felt it was needed in context of Skopje considering its socio-political and cultural experience of its recent past.
Do you think that in Macedonia there is enough understanding about the social, cultural and even political importance of these kinds of events as well as the questions they address?
Yes and no. On one hand we do know that there are people in the wider cultural field that are interested in the questions we want to open up so year after year we try to engage and expend our programs.
On the other hand, we also know that we need to popularize our projects and programs and cultivate new audiences outside the professional field.
This is easier to be said then to be done. Considering that the independent arts and culture scene is fairy marginalized in our society and we lack spaces, infrastructure and funding to expend and grow our programs and activities.
But our recent success with the project is giving us reasons to remain optimistic that understanding the social importance of these kinds of events will grow during the time.
- The way you have developed this project is also in line with a form of a conceptual collaborative practice. What is the role of conceptual art in your practice? And what, if any, would be the input of Bachtin’s theories in the overall concept of the symposium?
Conceptual art is the cornerstone of contemporary art, so its relevance is undiminished.
What happened is that conceptual art is very much established on one hand as an art history on the other hand is the most vital component in contemporary art.
What we are doing now is embedded in the legacy of the 1960’s and the dematerialization of the object and the subsequent fusion of visual, theoretical and curatorial frames and practices.
As part of one of the lectures in the symposium, Sebastian Cichocki argues that we now live in ‘post-artistic’ times.
So in that context is interesting to readdress Bachtin, and especially the concepts of discursiveness and contextualization of art, which are of great importance in our work. , Understanding the concept of what are and how we can discuss discursive practices, as well as the concepts of community, history and place, can easily be traced back to Bachtin and his theories.
- You called your event “The 6thInternational Symposium Curating Exchange: Spaces, Functions, Fictions and Other Commons” – why did you chose the term Symposium?
Symposium as a form of academic, intellectual, creative and ultimately social gathering where a free interchange of ideas flows and converges over time perfectly suited our intention for how we wanted to see the project feel like.
We wanted to think of a social and elastic form where presentations, workshops and public actions can be delivered in formal and semi-formal settings in variety of public and private spaces.
Symposium to us is a metaphor for a system of values that over time generates a critical collection of opinions on a subject.
The idea was also to relate or tease our activities to academic discourse and point out to the fact we have to readdress the ways we look and speak about concepts related to curatorial work, art and theory in general. Ultimately, we strived via the form of the symposium to connect theoretical with practical knowledge and experience and welcome variety of guests and audiences to participate in the discussions. The concept of a symposium for us has become a metaphor for the ultimate democratization and decentralization of knowledge.
- Both of you have had educational experience abroad- what is the difference in the art education you’ve had compared to what is offered in our country?
We both have experience with education abroad in different countries and contexts, such as USA, Japan, The Netherlands, Sweden and Austria.
Regardless of the level of study or the specificity of the program, seems to us that the biggest difference is the experimentation with the curriculum, the interdisciplinary approach and the opportunity to produce independent work.
The ‘student teacher’ relationship is also something that is an understood more in terms of mentorship, or even partnership, with dialogue and constructive criticism as cornerstone of the relationship.
Furthermore, the practical knowledge as part of the studies is something that is missing here, students finish art and theory programs not having practical skills to survive in the real world of freelance work.
Art education in Macedonia is still lacking the standards and the diversification in the teaching staff so that traditional departments such as painting, sculpture and printmaking could feel updated for the world and the context of art today.
- The local, but also international art scene, functions with much solidarity as far as I can see; why do artists need so much solidarity?
Solidarity is a concept that has a particular political currency in the neoliberal system we are sucked in.
Solidarity has become our second language and a form of a resistance.
We always have to consolidate our intellectual and material resources and help each other to make things happen. It has always been like that.
We rely on each other since we live and work in a system where the non-institutional art scene is marginalized out of fear of those in power.
So we need each other to build each other up, to manifest our shared values and ideas for the society we want to build, for the changes we want to make.