Wednesday, January 1, 2003



- Conditions somewhere between mythomania and mythophobia - 

Maja Cankulovska
Skopje, Republic of Macedonia 

Thinking what might be the substance of this text dedicated to young art/young artists, while being careful not to avoid the pointed starting positions, I decided to write a text which will not be based on a certain «scientific truth», proofs or quotations, but on presenting a personal experience, critical view on conditions and attempt to summarize all these thoughts in one place and into one «frame». I have to indicate that I»m starting from a position of a young art historian, critic and curator (freelancer) and up to now my practice is mainly consisted of collaboration with young artists. (In addition to this position and hoping that I won»t burden this text too much, I will point out that last year I participated in the group exhibition «Dossier 2002: Young Macedonian Artists» - I was curator of the part «Art as Protest», which was held in the period between 10 - 30 May 2002, in The Museum of Contemporary Art - Skopje. At the moment I»m preparing two exhibitions of several young artists. The first one «Collaging» (with three young artists/students) is going to be held in February in the «Tocka» («Point») Gallery in Skopje, and the second one is the «6th Biennial of Young Artists» which is traditionally organized by The Museum of Contemporary Art - Skopje). 

- young art = young artists

At the beginning I faced one dilemma: do I have to look upon the specifics of the young art - the phenomenon which conditionally can be named like this, and is actually consisted of pierce and presentation of new, fresh ideas by (again conditionally) any author no matter of the age; or to observe the creators / young artists - I precisely refer to the age group.
If we are discussing about the young artists, then we have to ask the question about their age in order to characterize them as «young» (carriers of the «young art») and does this category contain certain «status»? Usually, as young are considered those artists up to the age of 35, which can be seen in all competitions connected to “young” events, but that limit is often extended, especially when talking about generation comparisons in contemporary art (in my country the definition which can be translated as young middle generation - artists up to 50 years is often used). «The status» in some exhibitions means that the artist should be a student at University, graduated or post-graduation student (this is mainly for the biennial students or review exhibitions, organized by The Faculty of Fine Arts, museums, other institutions etc.)
Somehow, I decided to begin with the artists, because it seems logical that young art is produced by young artists. I start with this presumption, which in fact is introduction to the position of the myth. Also, we should not forget the definition of the term young, that in English language (and in all other languages) has a lot of synonyms and related meanings:
young - youthful, green, beardless, fresh, raw, maiden, boyish, girlish, childish, budding, unripe, callow, juvenile, puerile, virgin, immature, adolescent, untried, inexperienced, vigorous, little, infantile, new, early, undeveloped, fresh.

- about the defining of the myth 

At this point it seems very appropriate to me to mention the viewpoint of Claude Levi-Strauss, who analyses the myth thinking and considers that it is on half way between the concrete observation of the world and the concept of abstract thinking. Consequently we can say that the young art myth is based on both of this elements - the concrete observation (young artists often bring new fresh ideas - reality) and the abstract thinking (young artists always bring new ideas - which can be a presumption, stereotype, prejudice or axiom).
There is also a non-literal use of the word «myth» in the syntagma «myth about the artist» or «mythologyzation of the artist». In the late modern and postmodern, the artist uses means of mass culture or means of historysation to represent himself as an extraordinary figure (star, messiah, guru). Or, the «isolated artist» myth since the beginning of the modern can be repeated today also, but nowadays in correlation with the «young artists» myth. If we start from the position that young artists are the carriers of the new - neo, fresh, experimental, unconventional - then maybe we are not far from defining the dimensions of the today»s myth in new, more contemporary syntagma as «neo-myth about the artist» or «neo-mythologyzation of the artist». 

- positive and negative aspects of the myth

Usually, the history of art teaches us that the progress in fine arts is brought by youth with their courage for accepting news and desire for affirmation. The positive aspect of the myth is always justified in fresh, new / revolutionary / progressive ideas and ways of their realization, desire for braver experiments etc.
In order to be conscious enough and to observe this issue in a critical manner, that is to say, to present objectively the events and not to over-dimension them and not to invent greatness with «mythological proportions» for certain events; - we have to admit that the myth does not have only positive sides. There are also holes in the myth. Evidence for this is the immatureness and the pliancy of the young authors towards superficial and mechanical approach in the use of new media, (sometimes) untypical for them, which is, basically, a risky task. They also fall under the authority of various influences – as, for example, students who often easily and without critical approach come under the authority of their professors. On the V Student International Art Biennial, 2002, organized by the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje, there were very easily noticeable influences of mentors over entire classes of students and without previous knowledge one could see which authors belong to which class. 
If we consider the myth from the aspect of antagonism positive - negative, then we can conclude that the two previously presented sides of the myth perfectly complement each other. Into the frames of the strategy of a cultural politics young are the most convenient for spreading it. They are, as we already said, subjects to the perception of various influences and willing to perform any «experiments», and they can easily re-formulate (or pre-formulate) the global context into the local and vice versa.

- who is (supposed to be) afraid of (for) the myth / (who needs it)? 

With the expansion of the global cultural policy, nobody can avoid the social mechanisms that influence arts and artists and that demand the author implicitly to adopt an attitude at the beginning. The new cultural context is directed towards suspension of all previous myths, as for creating its own mythology. Consequently, the market economy stimulates the creation of the myth because of the always present need for publicity and consumers - which brings stressful situation to institutions and individuals to present themselves with, as much as possible, new, interesting events. One of the few or maybe the only factor which (rarely) loudly speaks out against the formation of this kind of relations (in which the quality is sometimes neglected), normally, is the critics, that always appears as an eternal skeptic which is allegedly «afraid» of any kind of exaggerations.
Manifestations and exhibitions which are related to young, aim to follow the creative configuration of creative staff for their disposal into local and wider context; to detect its position and capacity, with hope to establish connections with future creators. Also, this kind of manifestations and exhibitions are an opportunity for the artists themselves to self-estimate and eventually to go through a self-criticizing evaluation to see their own place within their own generation of young artists. Artworks, when put in correlation with others, at the same place at the same time, provide the real picture about the tendencies and the preoccupations of the young artists, and their «value», too.
Young artists in this case have the role of a future «working material» which provides profit. All of this is usually explained with the aim to discover, promote and stimulate young authors which are in a phase of forming their personality and skill; and perspectives for young lay in the foundations of these manifestations. That would mean that institutions/manifestations as creators of the myth of young art, consciously support and sustain only the «positive» aspect of the myth, justified with the desire to help young artists. This is, actually, a closed circle from which, after all, sometimes is very difficult to get out.

Slavica Janeslieva, A Cry, Museum of Contemporary Art - Skopje, Macedonia, 2002.

Irena Paskali, ZWISCHEN (Between), detail of the installation.

Boris Semov, Compressions, AERO Galleria, Skopje, Macedonia, 2002.

Gordana Vrencoska, Never ending story, CIX Gallery at the Contemporary Art Center, Skopje, Macedonia, 2000.

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