DRAMATISATION OF EVERYDAY LIFE ON THE PAINTINGS OF MILENA JOVICEVIC POPOVIC
“We meet neighbours only when we watch their home on fire together with them”,
“Somewhat later in the afternoon, an hour or two after the siesta or a nap, grandpa’s friends and colleagues from the town hall used to get together in the dining room. These were people with nice profiles, neat and dignified beards and largely furrowed brows. Hieratically, they were folding cigarettes with the tobacco from their cases and smoked them through their ivory cigarette holders that turned yellow. The more used and yellow the holders were, the higher was the price for them and their owners. I had never seen in one place so many striking profiles, so many furrowed brows and so many neat beards. A wonderful material for a series of Lenbeach portraits! But I seemed to have anticipated a resonant void behind those brows of character! The only good and respect-worthy characteristic in my opinion was the fact that they were tirelessly producing those bluish clouds with opalescent hues that were swaying under the ceiling the premonition of vague distances. One could say that those men had smoked their age, the way some people lose it in gambling or drinking it up. I had a feeling they were breathing the best part of themselves into their sub-product, those clouds of smoke– their aspirations, their sighs, their own souls.”
Vladan Desnica "Springs of Ivan Galeb"
Post-modern communication can be explained through the opinion that everything is a message. The information "Smoking is harmful for health", including our language, signifies the moment of getting the license for association to global flows of capitalism and a possibility to enter new trends of “semiotic empire”. Of course, order is implied. The exhibition of Milena Jovicevic Popovic and the paintings showing letter M face two stories, two spaces, two arenas, two views that show that on one hand the world is indivisible, but on the other we can notice events that try to suggest that outside the centres of power of hyper-competitive capitalism it is a really naive opinion. Controlled moving, instructions, signs, bans, dangers, uneasiness compared with freedom, intimacy, carelessness, admiration... Do you have an impression that you are perhaps on a trip, that you are crossing the border (border crossing). Banning smoking, new experience – current production of meaning within the limits of “our” space. Marlboro Man is past for everyone- design of the products of tobacco industry enters an almost inaccessible area of “fighting” Law. The first impression in front of the paintings was a rebellion, a revolt against the “warning” that the artist gives in her movements through the metropolis and transfers it on us who are still looking for order and well-arranged society. Or do we still survive in the clouds of smoke and doing away with the warnings that smoking is harmful for our health. The rebellion is also a production of paintings created in Montenegro, here and now, and rebellion is certainly a dexterous play with signs and semiotic empire that conquer us. The artist seems to play skillfully with that desire. It is actually the space of her freedom. We, the audience, are left with limitations and bans that become everyday companions of our lives. The easiness and charm of everyday life in the consumption of design produced after the pop-movement in the 70s seem to have vanished. Everything has become DANGEROUS AND HARMFUL!
Street, building, airport, pavement, park – they shyly discern their future contours of
“alienation” that we perhaps invoke – at least that is how we can label desire for Europe. The desire for action and provocation that in such an arranged space or spaces for participants of such a communicative or traffic rhythm can be in compliance with the attitude that “street is an alternative and subversive form of all mass media, because it is not, compared to them, an objective support to messages without answers or distance transit network, but a cultivated space of a symbolic exchange of words which is not maintained at the platonic media screen”. (Jean Buadrillard)
No matter how much we collect the heritage and beauty of the city that offers its construction experience “above” the ground and its works of art, “under” the city there is equally significant fascination with transport links and tunnels. Of course, there is the metro, as a proof that you are a metropolis. Paris, London, Moscow...
After the terrorist attacks in the London Tube, we have words of the author Hanif Kureishi written down: “Consumer society has already traded with its moral ideals in exchange for some other pleasures and one of the things we want to export, making it as “freedom and democracy” is exactly the consumerism, although we are silent about its consequences: addictions, alienation and fragmentation”.
We know that the trauma of order is not the same – orders on Milena's paintings are not our orders – orders of highly developed societies. “Our” orders seem to be reflected in the atmosphere of Vladan Desnica’s dining room. Such or similar atmosphere is a transition element at the very exhibition that does not only put the two stories in opposition, but questions the Law in a challenging and witty way. In the visual sphere, it puts an emphasis on clear and unharmed (undamaged) brands and design of aromatic and fragrant tobacco. Perhaps that is an additional space of freedom that can be nowadays offered only by art. Pure forms become liberated from Law, norms and rules. Seduction of the visual conquers us again – and the paintings with the letter M are seductive too. Heros on Milena's paintings seem to signify the return of Marlboro Man and it gives them a strong feeling of the erotic, seductive, hidden – smoke at one point can disappear and we can enter the space of the painting and even leave. By the underground, why not?
Do we miss that “unknown” or “unlived” experience of a highly symbolising society? Milena depicts everyday codes and information and offers the experience of a metropolis, provoking us at the same time and leading us to believe in the pleasure of smoking. The ban is obvious, but how to resist? The messages that are finally (let’s admit it) in the function of our health still need to show that the consumers are not the same as vending machines and that fortunately, if there is no one else, at least the artist can give us an emotional reaction.
Text published in the Art book FAMOUS, August, 2006, London