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Fifty or Fifty extended (2009)


One of the many tacitly accepted assumptions of my profession is that practicing art criticism prefers complying with a given time frame rather than meeting certain methodological criteria. This means that the immediate appraisal both of the event concerning visual arts and its protagonist, in fact, treats an inexplicable segment of the present – with some scant description and an handful of attributes – generational, social, linguistic, ethnical, cultural or technical.

Such a critical review os often only a first acquaintance with the current condition of things, with grammatical forms and the unfinished condition of the action. On this occasion, the focal content of the current condition of things is the participation of the young sculptor Goce Nanevski (b. 1974 in Skopje) in the Macedonian pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennial. More specifically, the focal topic of the current critical interest is the presentation of Fifty or Fifty,

Nanevski’s latest installation before an audience which, for the most part, has not had an opportunity to meet this artist as a situation or his work as a context. Hence, the following text on Nanevski and his work does not go beyond anecdotes and analogies of knowledge not based on scholarship, evaluation without history and understanding without explanation.

First of all, it should be noted that Goce Nanevski’s creative motives, his habits and expectations, interests, intentions and aspirations are shared by a wider group of older contemporary Macedonian artists. In other words, we are speaking of a generation that is part of the modern crisis. Namely, Nanevski’s biography seems firmly linked with

the fulfillment of some kind of common destiny which is fulfilled not on common teleological horizons, but in some kind of personal, even private efforts for an appropriateness which serves daily purposes. After all, it is undoubted that

this artist grew up amidst deep changes in the culture of a permanent emancipation of the subject and was influenced by it - by a culture that was intended for everyone which then changed into culture to everyone, something which, in the last decades of the past century, in one way or another, traced the developmental routes of the contemporary

Macedonian society and, of course...of the contemporary Macedonian art.

Thus, we could say that, altought it crosses paths with practically all common places of our times, the life path of the artist passes through special and unique creative landscapes and vistas. What does this uniqueness consist of?

Above all, in the devotion that Nanevski has fully dedicated to his own, very special way and in every sense of the word. His interpretation of the permanent and unchangeable values of the world of Macedonian art, politics, tradition, etc., gives advantage to his own substance, his immediate experience and the living testimonies of

his contemporaries. It is an attitude that surpasses the imposed givens, predetermination or the essence of the artist’s everyday life.

Nanevski’s interest in the substance of the tradition probably acquired its final form in the mid-1990s, that is, with the completion of his study of sculping at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje. Those years were, among other things, marked by the sharpest generational, ideological, technical and stylistic division in the domain of the recent Macedonian fine arts; the artists of the older generation, whose work can be defined as post-war, suddenly found themselves quietly pushed aside, amidst dusty historiographic surveys and anthologies. On the other hand, those younger ones, whose legitimacy in terms of contemporariness derived from the 1980s, resolutely stepped out into the light of the proscenium of the stage of visual arts; they did so, for example, by participating from the very beginning in the individual Macedonian selections for the Venice Biennal.

It is the latter group of artists that represents the source of the traditional substance that Nanevski recycles in an active dialogue and in the relocation of the same themes from one medium to another, in an unrestrained derivative exploitation and quotation of exclusively domestic sources and authorities. After all, artists are situations in which

action is given shape and the shape becomes expression. But, for the time being, this is all that can be said about the situation called Goce Nanevski.

It seems, however, that an artist’s output could be more adequately presented as a context of factors that do not originate immediately from the practice of the visual arts - this is something that is rather difficult to explain, but

deserves to be clarified, although such a clarification can hardly be appreciated. In fact, the first significant entries in Goce Nanevski’s portfolio are grouped at the turn of the last century. This concerns two solo exhibitions (1998, Sculptures, Youth Cultural Centre, Skopje; 2002, Systems, Skopje City Museum) which, observed from the present-day

point of view, represent an artist whose enormous energy and a remarkable competence in terms of technique are in conflict with the seemingly wavering and unconvincing delving into the comprehensive discourse of object artwork.

Nevertheless, Nanevski’s early plastic art is not so much interesting because of its inclination to speak with the language of the young Macedonian art stage of the second half of the 1980s; rather, this segment of his output is significant primarily due to his role of an artist/accomplice in certain cultural and political processes that ocurred spontaneously, processes which have reshaped the contemporary Macedonian society in the past ten years. The philosophy of the Macedonian Postcolonial discourse or discourse of catachresis lies at the root of these changes, while its expression

in the domain of visual arts consists of a demand in the form of a single question – the question of the identity of the collocutor of the Macedonian artist.

The new painterly discourse in which Nanevski embodies this new social narrative was announced somewhat earlier than his first pilot production of the current large-scale series (2006, Fifty or Fifty, Museum of Modern Art,

Skopje). The core of this grammatical system is only one particle - a morpheme, i.e., the dial taken from some old device for measuring the blood pressure of a dying industrial culture. Today, the core of Nanevski’s Venetian installation is the zero segment of his series Fifty or Fifty. The symbolic centre of the installation is a monumental mobile plastic object placed in an audio environment which warns the observer of the event that is about to happen and which is repeated.

His creation is made as an accumulation of fixed mechanical indicators that have already counted down the pulse of nameless years and of a reality deprived of shared and universal units of measurement.

As a rule, description is nothing more than an unfinished story in search of its real subject matter. It appears that Nanevski’s story thematizes the space between waiting, expectation and anticipation. Something must happen - again and always, either in life or in art, because of tradition or due to some historical necessity. But perhaps Goce

Nanevski’s true theme is the recognition of events as a foreseeable change of one’s own experience - something similar to that small personal history that is born in every moment of anticipation...or at least as an unquenched desire of the maturing artist and of art that is on the rise.

 53rd International Art Exhibition, Making Worlds, the Venice Biennale Exhibition, Fifty or Fifty catalogue text by Bojan Ivanov





An artist becomes great when he's able to represent through symbols the cultural situation of his time and its emotional tensions and life conditions and when this representation can be understood by the visitor of his exhibition.


Goce Nanevski lives and conveys his religious perception that emerges from Macedonian culture.

When I say 'religious perception' I mean the emotional tension that brings the artist's perception around the world. Then the artist represents his emotions by his artworks and through the emotions he constructs emotionally involving relations between what he preceives and the visitor of his exhibition.

Goce Nanevski, in Venice for the 53rd Biennale, represents the "objective situation in which his emotions move".

His artworks, presented by the Republic of Macedonia, describe the feelings of the Macedonian, but, I would rather say, of the Western people in general.

The artworks by Goce Nanevski consist in a series of mechanical odometers taken from gas pumps and fixed on a frame in parallel lines and they can't move if not wheeling on themselves or following the movement of the whole frame. The frame of the bigger work moves along a track, while the frame of the smaller one is fixed on a gyroscope's axes.

The digit on the wheels represents the unit. It represents the man, the subject, the social individual.

There is an infinite number of digits in an infinite number of wheels spinning around a pivot and moving all together with the frame that holds them.

It's the man reduced to a digit, the number reduced to a mass, which moves where the whole structure is moved by a leader. With all his will, the number, the man, can only turn around the pivot that contains its movement and imposes the direction of the movement.

We can nearly hear Grieg and his Peer Gynt: & quotTo or fro, the path ios equally long and equally short". Anyway, Nanevski sees this path always leading to the same place.

Goce Nanevski reflects on the man prisoner of social conventions and rules from which he struggles to differentiate himself. This prison exhausts the efforts for his freedom. Sometimes, when the structure begins to move, he illudes himself about an upcoming change. And so the man applauds to the new change. But suddenly the structure stops and the individual can only continue pivoting on his wheel.

The individual tries to escape massification, but the pivot, representing the manipulation of mind he underwent to since when he was a child, prevents him from understanding the sense of the whole that contains him from outside the massification.

It's the objective condition that locks the man in that dimension that was socially imposed on him.


In the artworks by Goce Nanevski we can't see any kind of rebellion. It appears nearly impossible, as if it were impossible to struggle against the mind manipulation of children that fixed the pivot around which human existence turns.

All Human Beings are prisoner of their existence and applaud and bawl when the mass moves in the anxious waiting for a change. A change that is mere illusion since the structure changed its position but the condition of the single digit on the single wheel didn't change.

We can nearly see these numbers, fighting and bawling to decide what is the most important number on that single wheel. We can also imagine the parochialism of a wheel against another wheel. Or a line of wheels preparing its bombers against another line of wheels belonging to some kind of "evil empire".


I can't go inside Goce Nanevski's head but I can read the symbol of his art related to needs and tensions that are present in the society in which I live.

Nanevski doesn't give us a solution; he describes a situation taking cognizance of his powerless ness, as if he were aware that his own condition is to be a digit on one of these wheels, unable to change the situation in which he lives.

We know all the psychological tensions of the man-number on the gas pump odometer. He lives with anxiety, ambush and rage, desperately trying to modify his own condition. He lives with involvement, pleasure and commitment, trying to fix that condition under the sign of happiness.


Everything spins around the pivot of emotional mind manipulation. The metallic pivot that has been fixed in our heads since we were children and even before, while in our mother's womb. A pivot that takes a lot of emotional pain to be removed, so that we prefer to ignore it: we can protest against our condition of numbers, massified in a collective homologation, buit we never argue about that pivot of children mind manipulation that could allow us to emerge from the mass. We don't do that for ourselves, because of the pain that implies, and we don't do that for our children, because we are not able to spin on our wheel without leading our children to become the same: just numbers on a wheel that contains their life. That pivot becomes a part of ourselves. It's a natural condition of our existence, made of all that preconceived ideas, beliefs and opinions that appears to be natural to us and that we don't allow anybody to criticize. That pivot, that constrains the man as a number on his wheel, became a natural condition. Many men are ready to fight in order to prevent anybody from removing that pivot, which is finally their real and natural condition of existence.


Goce Nanevski tells us about this human condition and allows us to reflect on our existence in the world as social individuals.

Marghera (Venice), 11th June 2009


  Claudio Simeoni

About Macedonian pavilion on 53 Venice Biennale

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