Aleksandrija Ajdukovic TIGER LADIES

by Paula Muhr

Dom omladine Gallery, Belgrade
31st August - 19th September 2004

Aleksandrija Ajdukovic in her series of photographs entitled "Tiger ladies" traces a phenomenon which crosses boundaries between social classes, age groups, differences in professions and education. She approaches women in public spaces who are dressed in clothes with wild cat patterns and lifts them out of their everyday context.
By photographing them in a matter-of-fact manner, without any romanticising, Ajdukovic questions the extent to which they show, or even parade, rather than inadvertently disclose, their individual identity in public context. Code of dressing in this case presents a formal unifying principle, an element of social identity. Individual women exist in terms of difference, rather than similarity to other figures in the series - uniformity of the chosen wildcat pattern only offsets the diversity of social and personal distinctions.
The backgrounds are carefully selected to accentuate each model – some are simple and monochrome, and others have traces of rather distinct urban atmosphere in the form of posters or graffiti. Even the wild cat patterns themselves display a surprising variety of designs and colour combinations. Yet, the most striking element of the photographs are the poses these women take when photographed.
Aleksandija, obviously engages with her models, opening them up to the camera, without either idealising or criticising them. The portraits are a document of her street encounters with women who single themselves out of the crowd by adopting certain symbols, in this case dress patterns. It is questionable what their motifs for entering the process of this "urban camouflage" are. Could it be that they are looking for a way of expressing their individualism and femininity, are they conforming to a fashion style, or maybe sending signals of seduction?
When confronted with the series of portraits of these women in the gallery, the viewer is tempted to read their dress code as a cultural phenomenon, but, at the same time, cannot resist to compare them, looking for elements (other then the obvious dress pattern) which connect them, as well as set them apart. Aleksandrija photographed them with such subtlety and immediacy, that one is spontaneously attracted to these women who proudly present themselves for being looked at, almost as if they dressed that way in order to be photographed.

October in August&September

From: manik
Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2005 03:52:48 PM

"October Art Salon" in Belgrade,most important review of recent Serbian art,dedicate to 20-th October- Belgrade's liberation day of Fascism,last year become international,moved on and exchanged in 11.September.Everything is possible and allow!Everything could be replaced and renamed.Presence of a few famous artists:Kabakov, Boltansky,Abramovic...and number of native artists were confirm this significant Idea.Open minded art photographer and freezer repair man Dragan Petrovic was confused:If October could be September,why handyman couldn't be The Artist?
Provoke by established and forced Great current topics applicable on Balkan and whole world(terrorism,democracy,guilt...)he avoid official curatorial selection and invade his new identity on opening ceremony.Dressed in workers clothing he remind careless people which standing next to dazzling Desire materialized in plentiful produced art works on terrible rest of working class.Correct expression for this resistance is plebeian individualism,not stupid populism,always pantomimic,cunning,always cautious;this is life full of amazement,without authority and subordination.This performance attract attention of public medium and encourage him to participate in "August Salon"(SKC Gallery,Belgrade,October 2004).His work there was performance-open repairing freezer

Welcome to My World!

by Jelena Spaic

"Welcome to my world!”, says this little woman, her arms folded, to Dragan Petrovic. They are both smiling. She continues: “I guess it’s a bit of a mess around here, don’t hold it against us...” Petrovic interrupts her: “Indeed, just the way I like it.” he said and snapped.

Look how a master uses naïveté to display the soul! This photo weighs only 21 grams. The soul pulses through the spots on the blouse so powerfully that the little woman had to clench her fists to prevent it from coming out, leaking out from an almost surreal reality. Yellow becomes dazzling, so Petrovic had to snap; thus enframing the little woman within an idyllic landscape as if repeating the words from Brave new World: “Happiness is an absence of need for happiness”. And in the middle of all this an unrestrained, unimpaired hospitality, strong inner dynamism and an existential creativeness. “Nature is a dictionary” (Baudelaire) – and in Petrovic’s case people are the alphabet, they are the definite value and the bearers of undeniable naturalness of life. What is a man (in Petrovic’s view)? People on the photos are happy, undisturbed by all the things that can be discerned in the background as a string of problems; they measure blood pressure to a neighbour, they cuddle their loving girlfriends, they peek from behind their sisters to have their curiosity stilled by the camera. A middle-aged married couple returns from a visit to their neighbours or relatives, smiles on their faces (their content is emphasized by the light of a street lamp which, resembling the Moon, brings in a sense of romance, and by a broad smile of the man with the moustache - "A kiss without a moustache is like an egg without salt."). Other couples sit proudly and happily in their living rooms, at their dining tables; a whole family lies idle in front of TV as if there were no photographer around, while the camera assaults, invades privacy and instead of the heaviness of historically conditioned human state comes across the charm of penchant for bare spaces, filled at places with embroideries, paintings and reproductions in bulky frames (wallpapers, carpets, white and unmortared walls of new, unfinished houses...), various trinkets, kitsch, all the things rejected by the big city - "a new planetary folklore". Petrovic’s virtue lies in an unpretentious generalisation of human condition into joy and nonchalance. All these smiles are hidden behind a simple realism; this is the very essence of the “minimalistic” presence of camera. There is no intervention, this is reality the way it is, and we are happy (the way we are) – old (a grandmother in the bed as if posing as a model for “memento mori” with a juvenile portrait above on the wall) but not worried, or threatening, not solemn either, surely!; a large-moustached man with a hook instead of hand is gaping, as if he is about to say something to someone from this local committee office; he turned his back carelessly to the “red phone”, crossed his legs and extinguished his cigarette. This is what the foresight of a photographer is about, not to see, but to be there, in the midst of this benevolence. A masterful mimicry is also seen on the photograph of a pair meeting by the rose bush. The woman is looking at the camera, but with the same look she had for her partner, quiet, unchanged, as if continuing the dialogue with the young man, undisturbed by the presence of another person. A church steeple in the background enhances the impression of an amorous rendezvous, roses and the girl’s half-pensive gaze towards the camera seem to emphasise a hidden closeness, opposed by the inquisitive look of her partner who is waiting for her answer with his hands in his pockets. And for an instant, she is consulting with the camera!
The camera is now inside the dreams of a kid and a girl, it approached them silently so as not to disturb their nap. “Silence! Dreams at work!” Can you hear how Petrovic held his breath? He snapped and enframed spontaneous self-oblivion. The camera is recording another world inside this world.
What does Petrovic seek on the outskirts of the town? A mild smile of a woman wearing a flowery dress against the rules and restrictions chalked out on the tin door of the factory, their solemnity and the wish to juxtapose this woman to all the problems the photographer concealed behind the tin door, as if promising that he would prove beauty, the apotheosis of everyday life, of the world. And he is running after beauty! He is running after the young men on an MZ motorbike adorned with flowers, he has to be quick and he has to be young like them in order to enjoy their temporary importance; they are the most attractive sight at that moment, on the street lined with carefully trimmed flowers; Petrovic is not the only one watching them – there are also people (or girls rather) in the houses and outside. MZ is noisy, and so is the youth which yearns to justify its values; the photographer allows them that, it is his mission as well – to see this intense period intensely. “Why do you have such big eyes?” – “So that I can see you better.”
Three young men are smiling, their hands in the pockets of their trousers; two of them are wearing denim jackets, one of them has a packet of cigarettes sticking out of his pocket; they are a little cold, it is too early in the morning, they look a little broader and tougher with this nonchalant attitude towards the world (hands in pockets, jeans and checked shirts); three guys inside an unfinished house are smiling too, they are stripped to the waist, there are cigarettes around and an occasional beer for the workers – again the carelessness of youth in the middle of all these unfinished jobs, as if stimulated by the photographer who is smiling himself – with his exhibition called “1000 smiles” (D. Petrovic, 1993, Beograd, SKC).
What does Petrovic find? A longing for life entangled with the concept of provincialism borrowed from a folk song… Universal need for simple, yet astonishing beauty which provokes the benevolence of camera. Neatly arranged glassware in cabinets, for show and not to be used, dolls on the beds of guest rooms, embroidered table-cloths, sofa coverings, plastic table-cloths, chests of drawers filled with new bedclothes bearing the sweet smell of long years of dreams dreamt on large pillows made of feathers and pillowcases with embroidered details... Without any cynicism or pathos, he records aesthetic ideals combined, dislocated, dismounted and put together again in a peculiar fashion, characteristic of the protagonists, a wish for a more comfortable life (light sounds of a mandolin), a break, charm, complacency = folksiness. “I often slept in such rooms and I melted” - says Petrovic; this is what he sought, photographed and found.


Sense and Sensibility


January 31, 2005

Sense is disjointed between seeing and thinking. Our reflection and receipt of that which we might comprehend depends on the conditions of its delivery from some enlightening Other. ASCO-O takes the role of meta-informer or an indifferent, alienating Other. It is an anonymously operated, web- and email-based list and chat room. At first sight, its rapid, automatic and non-hierarchical selection of messages, images (built in ASCII) and links seems a spasmodic attack on human (biological) mechanisms of perception; ('Human perception is very superficial' - P.Virilio). But, ASCO-O gives us a consistent proposition: five seconds 'full' followed by one second 'empty' (screens). In hiatus, in the place/time between, we can feel rave-like, corporeal sense. With rigorous concept and demanding no acclaim, ASCO-O has developed an intelligent platform probing the phenomena of perception-time-language-information-sense. After turning off this site we could feel the raw taste of the! unexplored: language as time/space, performing the dramatic act of 'flash back,' became, paradoxically, meditative and innocent. - Manik

Mimesis of the Non-Mimetic


February 24, 2005

Kinetoh is an Italy-based group that produces generative artworks. These authors, following traditions of European Neo-Constructivism, Neo-Plasticism and Lyric Abstraction, make series of software that produce high-resolution images reminiscent of Modernist forms. Kinetoh dismantles the models of the last avant-garde by creating the simulacrum of such from software programs capable of imitating, nearly perfectly, those materials that belong to classic art, like pencil, charcoal, and watercolor. These images stand as the mimesis of art that is inherently non-mimetic. Or, also, the virtual reconstruction of the end of high Modernity. Instead of targeting a movement well-established and recognizable, like Abstract Expressionism or Conceptualism, Kinetoh's strategy is to examine the second line and not so well-explored spaces in Modern Art. Just because of this, they maintain subversive potential (finally, Vermeer became famous in late 19th century, after the discovery ph! otography). There's the possibility that without photography we wouldn't be able to see importance of Vermeer's work. Similarly, we anticipate perhaps Kinetoh will open new spaces in art through their technologies. - Manik

Image Worship

Image worship, parody and image destruction in Serbia in the 1990s
by Anna Schober, Austria, 2004

Parody and irony, it is repeatedly asserted, have become ineffective forms of political speech and display since the end of the 20th century, because they have become a socially dominant way of talking and representing. Parody and irony are depicted as empty forms, that can no longer have any political explosive force . This text opposes this widespread opinion with a historical study of a milieu where, at the end of the 1990s, in a time of social crisis and of political upheaval, irony and parody were taken up euphorically by diverse actors, became linked to political claims and were involved in a kind of ”image-struggle”. A re-emerging image worship in Serbia in the 1990s, and the renewed effort to use images and media for political purposes, provoked a range of aesthetic responses, which engaged with and against each other in a struggle for recognition. In this ”image-struggle”, the aesthetic vocabulary of the avant-garde presents itself as a tradition that can be taken up and be used by different sides, that can constantly be re-actualised and linked to new demands, throwing up completely unforeseeable, milieu-specific articulations and relations.

Three photographs: 1990 – 1980 – 1999

Serbia 1990. In a photograph, taken during an unidentifiable gathering (picture 1), we can see a threshold, a passageway occupied by a lot of bodies in a rather run-down building. Out of the crowd squirms the robust body of a young man, who moves elastically up and is on the point of kissing a poster with a portrait of Slobodan Milošević, hanging from the door-beam. The accentuated, sporty, almost ”ragged” get-up of the unshaven young man in light track-suit-trousers and a turquoise sweatshirt, as well as the dynamically upwards turning movement and the simple portrait of the politician hanging form the door gives this scene the appearance of a spontaneous image-worship. With his eyes almost closed and the two hands as well as the mouth gently brought up to the portrait, the young man is completely caught up in an devout action. But his sporty get-up, his unshaven appearance and the stained clothes are in sharp contrast to this gesture of devotion. Above all, his appearance stands out against that of Slobodan Milošević’s, who is shown on this half-length portrait carefully shaved, with neatly combed hair, in a black suit, white shirt and narrow tie. Despite this contrast in the features of both of those involved in this act of worship, they are linked to a dynamic figure, which cuts the picture horizontally: the jumping body, the hands and the absorbed face of the worshipper forming a unity together with the smiling upwards inclined face of the image being kissed. The spontaneity and casualty of the action is also enhanced by the fact that all the other people present in this passageway are paying no attention to this scene; they are passing on the side, without in any way relating to it. Only for the photographer Dragan Petrović does this scene seem to have had something important enough for him to photograph it and add it to a collection of photographs he made in Serbia in the 1990s, almost incidentally, as a kind of annex to his regular work. Because officially, in those years, he was on the road trying to earn a living at public events, Christmas festivities, huge family meetings or private gatherings of the newly emerging upper-class. And in parallel he produced images of such confessions, of the emergence of new power-structures, but also of strange identifications and performances of the self. With images like this one, Dragan Petrović mutates from a contract photographer to a documenter and ethnologist. And we as viewers can read these photographs then as evidence of forms of the mise-en-scène of the self as well as of political power. For this we can also bring them together with other information, for example the tip from an insider pointing out that in the early 1990s the young man’s sweatshirt being stuffed into the elastic waistband of his trousers would generally have been seen as a sign of support for the then president.
This photograph documents a homage to a politician, as it took place in Serbia in the 1990s. A decade earlier, another series of photographs was produced, which also documented the worship of a politician, but which also opens up a difference to the picture by Dragan Petrović. Goranka Matić’s collection Days of Grief and Pride (1980) which emerged out of the three official days of mourning, records the later so famous mourning mise-en-scènes in the shop-windows in Belgrade’s shopping streets after Tito’s death. (picture 2) In every shop-window and in some of the sales-rooms there was a portrait of the marshal in civilian clothes or in military uniform with a black mourning band over the right-hand corner. In some cases red carnations had been arranged in front of the portrait and red cloth and/or the Yugoslav flag imaginatively draped around it. This always similar mourning mise-en-scène in always different shops sometimes led to almost surreal contrasts: Tito’s portrait sparkled for example from behind piles of artistically arranged shoes or between red-and-white sports wear; from one angle it dominated a whole arsenal of boxes of jewels, it was encircled by a lot of ”dancing” brides in white veils, surrounded by tailoring accessories, typewriters, candle-sticks, cakes, southern fruit, lamp-shades, pieces of meat or cosmetic articles. And sometimes it competed with the pictures of women advertising lipstick.
In contrast to what is happening in the photo by Dragan Petrović, here we are dealing with an officially ordained homage. The portrait of the deceased ”father” of the nation appears in numerous places emphasised by pedestals, drapes and tricks of mise-en-scène, but nowhere does it seem to attract such spontaneous homage from passers-by as it can be seen in the ”kissing-photograph”. On the contrary: the passers-by visible in these photographs all go hurriedly past the windows adorned with the Tito-portrait, and it is sometimes noticeable that the shop-assistants in no way relate to the image of the person being mourned. This is not to imply that there were not other, more or less spontaneous outpourings of grief: thus one repeatedly hears the story, that some people have cried for three days after the announcement of Tito’s death. Nevertheless, these images seem to document a gap between the ordained discourse of power on the one hand, and the experiences that people make of their situations on the other.