and Zorica Zafirovska
Towards the end of 2014, an Open Call was announced inviting young visual artists to propose their art works for participation in a public exhibition to be held in the gallery spaces of Serious Interests Agency (SIA), in Skopje.
The main purpose of this Open Call was to enable the potential participants in the exhibition, to propose a constructive and creative response to specific aspects of the local context of our city, Skopje, in Macedonia.
The international jury commission comprised the following members: Petra Bischof of Art∡ngle; Blanca de la Torre, a curator at the ARTIUM Museum-Centre of Contemporary Art in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Basque Country, Spain; Marta Popivoda, a film /video maker and a cultural worker based in Berlin and Belgrade, who recently received the Berlin Art Prize for the Visual Arts; as well as Dr. Nebojsha Vilik, an Art historian and professor teaching at the Faculty of Visual Arts at the University St. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje.
The shortlisted artists for the proposed exhibition, selected from the numerous and wide-ranging applications sent in response to our Open Call, were Kristina Bozurska, Zorica Zafirovska, Goran Menkov, Dusan Pejcev and Zoran Sekerov.
The final selection of participants in the exhibition, reflects the jury commission’s intention for the exhibition (in keeping with the theme of the Open Call) to be concieved as a reflection of the current events and conditions in our city, rather than permitting the exhibiton to become a voice for different topics as represented by the works of several individual artists. Instead, the selected works deal with a single issue – the position of the local worker, which influenced the jury’s decision (with a different number of votes from the various members of the jury) to select Christina Bozurska and Zorica Zafirovska’s art works to be presented at this exhibition.
As suggested by Petra Bischof, the selected artworks speak both on a universal and a symbolic level (Bozurska) as well as in a local and direct manner (Zafirovska) for the position of the modern worker, while Marta Popivoda recognises positions that enable a transformative reading of gender related themes, creating thereby alternative readings in the creative spheres.
* The exhibition title was proposed by Blanca de la Torre
Jury members comments:
Blanca de la Torre
Kristina Bozurska and Zorica Zafirovska are concerned with the issue of human dignity: Zorica deals with the subject of the human body (the human being) directly, while Kristina deals with the subject through the wasted object, through the debris of discarded, man-made objects.
Kristina Bozurska speaks through the objects of human waste, through the leftovers where traces remain, producing works that speak through a forsaken humanness. She employs garbage to question today’s consumer society and issues of mass production; in this instance, the discarded items are directly represented in a series of paintings depicting workers gloves, quite worn out and eroded. Perhaps disposal objects can have more meaning than others. Waste has more life, more character than objects which haven’t yet been used, especially when it comes to items related to work.
Zorica Zafirovska’s artistic work deals with the ‘disposability’ of human beings; she objectifies the human body as a strategy with which to criticize its own process of commodification within a social system that dehumanizes the human being. At first glance, her series of drawings can appear almost too simple, but it is precisely in their simplicity that their strength resides. It is through this sense of modesty that the artist’s critical input comes to the forefront. The drawings speak for themselves, depicting men working without adequate forms of protection, the drawings make reference to the current situation of individuals employed to work on various construction sites in the city, related to the ‘Skopje 2014’ project.
Neither of the artists shows a flair for simple provocation; instead, they bring to the public debate issues related to the interplay of labor, politics and economy, revealing the injustice behind certain mechanisms of workers’ conditions within capitalist practices and economies. As a chronicle of the relationship between maintaining real-estate profits and the enforcement of human rights, the exhibition reveals the perversity of the exploitation of labor, whereby the individual is assigned to a residual plane. The work of both artists becomes the witness of this reality, taking the systematically repressive relations of labor as a critical tool, with which to develop an analysis of the alienation of manpower – a transaction whereby human life is irrevocably degraded to the status of a neglected object.
Kristina Bozurska’s three works can be seen as a triptych. All three works deal with the anonymity, or even the invisibility of workers. The pile of used and dumped gloves, used like a ‘pars pro toto’, where a part of something is taken as representative of the whole (a pair of gloves for one worker), seems to symbolize this anonymity. The invisible man, as a silhouette of words, is yet another worker, hands in pockets, with a robust, sturdy body, dressed in simple clothes.
The works made me think of the numerous workers who are without any claim to fame involved in the ‘making of ‘new Skopje’, or otherwise involved in any construction site in the city. Bozurska’s three works relate directly to the local context of the city of Skopje, depicting an issue which has already been addressed – and is now being addressed anew through an art work (be it directly linked to Skopje or to a more universal notion of the working man). Perhaps this does not represent a particularly new concept or approach, as such, but it is nevertheless convincing in its simplicity and directness.
The paintings show a clear line of the brush, and are well-composed, while the “Used and Dumped” painting, revealing aspects of photo-realism, is impressive through its dimensions and attention to detail. The paintings, together with the pencil drawing on the wall, have a poetic – or better still, an aesthetic quality – regardless of the profane object/subject matter.
Zorica Zafirovska’s work entitled ‘Behind the Red Ribbon’ is a direct response to Skopje 2014 and critically reflects the neglecting of human rights of the construction workers – namely, the right to work under safe conditions. The faster and cheaper the buildings and monuments of Skopje 2014 are built, the better (for the commissioners), while basic security measures for the workers are being seriously disregarded. Zafirovska’s work is, in this sense, the most direct reaction to the present city-context of Skopje.
The drawings of the construction workers have a playful, light touch, reminiscent of children’s drawing books or of the kind of drawing used in children’s lexicons to illustrate/explain certain words and terms. This ‘sense of lightness’ is in striking contrast to the seriousness of the themes being depicted by the artist’s works; this inherent tension in the work, is perhaps also representative of the frailness of the unprotected construction worker. Combining drawing and text into a short narrative, like an excerpt from a story-book, Zafirovska’s work is easily readable and accessible for the viewer, while conveying (without being simplistic), a clear, powerful and necessary message.
The two young artists from Macedonia, Kristina Bozurska and Zorica Zafirovska, through their artworks, are examining and engaging with the reality of workers in contemporary Macedonian society. With this gesture, they are (at least for a moment) politicizing a field of interest, which would otherwise be seen by most, as an uninteresting theme for artworks. The artists comprehend their work as a social practice, which can act and intervene, or at very least discuss the broader social reality.
As two authors who are dealing with this significant macro-political topic, they invite us to re-examine our own position, role and complicity with the system within which we remain ‘Invisible’ (Bozurska), the system which treats us as ‘Used and Dumped’ (Bozurska)… sending us to oblivion, to the debris of history, somewhere far ‘Behind the Red Tape’ (Zafirovska).