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 tradition...in 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