Milky Way: Step into the World of Conceptual Artists

Other? Europe at the European Capital of Culture dedicates the final part of its programme to the international exhibition of contemporary visual art Milky Way, which will be opened today and will be available until 30 December at three different locations in the city. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, CCNS Art Saloon, as well as in the District (Biro) will be the epicentres of neo-avant-garde artistic processes, as initiators of artistic experiment, artistic provocation and engagement. These processes will be depicted through the works of more than 50 contemporary artists, as well as art collectives from the country and the world. The multimedia exhibition Milky Way will show us the influences and reflections of the widely known Novi Sad neo-avant-garde movement, which placed Novi Sad onto the European art trend map, as well as works from artists from Europe and Japan.

In addition to the excellent names of the national avant-garde art scene, including Želimir Žilnik, Slobodan Tišma, Katalin Ladik and many others, the special attention of the Novi Sad audience will be paid to the works of influential foreign artists. For the first time, Novi Sad will present the work of contemporary artist Bill Viola, who has exhibited at the MoMA, Tate and Whitney Museums. Further, we will see the work Irritation – There is A criminal Touch to Art by the conceptual German artist Ulay, one of the pioneers of performance art, body art and Polaroid photography, which will be shown in cooperation with the Ulay Foundation from Ljubljana. We are also waiting for the works of Hermann Nitsch, Petr Pavlensky, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and others, which will make visiting this major international exhibition worth it. It is time to meet conceptual artists whose works you will see only in the European Capital of Culture.

The Originator of the Artistic Video Era

Bill Viola is one of the leading contemporary video artists, living and creating in California. His rich artistic career is based on video installations, sound environments and electronic music performances. In the early seventies, he began to explore the potential of new media and the emergence of video as a mass-accessible means of creation. To this day, he remains a great supporter of the views on video art as a powerful tool of contemporary artistic expression. He mainly bases his creativity on the universal themes of birth, death and the stream of consciousness, all related to spirituality. Now, for the first time, he will present himself in front of the ECoC audience. We believe that his work will leave a strong impression on Novi Sad.

A Condemned Barbaric Artist

An artist who will also be remembered among the most important contemporary artists is Hermann Nitsch, once characterised as barbaric. At the very beginning of his career, this Austrian attracted the attention of the public with a combination of literature, music, painting and performance. However, he later added blood, entrails and animal corpses to the colours in his paintings, which caused severe condemnation from the Austrian public. Despite the infamous act in his homeland, the ‘scandalous’ Hermann Nitsch stood out on the international scene, which widely accepted his art. He exhibited all over the world, and his biggest success was the performance Das Orgien Mysterien Theater. He will also be remembered for his iconic six-day performance Six Days play. This unique artist was recognised by his homeland in 2005 when he was awarded the Grand Austrian State Prize.

The Pioneer of Performance Is (Still) Present

The aforementioned work Irritation – There is A criminal Touch to Art, by the German conceptual artist Ulay, will inspire us to look back at the importance of the pioneer of performance and Polaroid photography, who lived and created art together with his former (life) partner, Marina Abramović. This artistic duo was one of the most notable performance couples in the world. Additionally, Ulay was undoubtedly and is still remembered as one of the best artists on the international scene. Ulay died of cancer in 2020. He was considered a free and revolutionary artist, which is rare. He connected photography and conceptual art, and his 50-year career was coloured by numerous works with Marina, which took them to the very top of performance art. One of the most significant joint projects, but at the same time the most stressful, was Rest Energy, in which they hold a tensioned bow with an arrow aimed in the direction of Marina’s heart, and the two of them, with sound, live broadcast their heartbeats that are getting louder. As Marina once said: ‘It takes a long time, maybe even a lifetime, to understand Ulay.’ Nevertheless, we will try to do that at the Milky Way exhibition.

Land Art Visionaries

Another artistic duo is the husband-and-wife couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude, known for their monumental works of packaging large buildings and sites. They are recognised on the world art scene for their art installations and land art, i.e., works that know no limits. Their canvas was the city streets. Their artistic expression was based on the use of everyday materials, starting from fabric and plastic to duct tape and the like. They were able to make things happen that seemed impossible to others. They spent fifty years together until Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009. Christo continued his independent work where they left off together.

Extreme Performance Art

The work of the eccentric artist and political activist Petr Pavlensky, who has shocked the public for years with numerous performances against the authorities in Russia, will also be shown in the European Capital of Culture. We will get to know the work of the thirty-eight-year-old artist, who became known to the public when he sewed his mouth shut during a protest in 2012. Some of the most scandalous messages against the authorities in Russia were sent when he cut off his earlobe or wrapped himself in barbed wire. In 2015 and 2016, he spent six months in prison for setting fire to the doors of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service in Moscow.

The Milky Way exhibition also includes film screenings and a conversation with the screenwriter of the Slovenian documentary film Project Cancer, Tevž Logar, who is bringing us the story of Ulay and his memories of a life dedicated to art. We can also look forward to watching the audio-visual performance SIRENS by NOVI_SAD by the Japanese artist Ryoichi Kurokawa, winner of one of the most prestigious annual awards in the field of electronics and interactive art, the Prix Ars Electronica. Together with the artists, curator Sanja Kojić Mladenov will arrange a guided tour of the exhibition on Wednesday, 14 December. The exhibition itself will last until 12 December at Biro, and until 30 December at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina and the CCNS Art Saloon.

Author: Marina Marić

Photo: Yong-Kuan Kim, MSUV

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