2-Dimensional A performance by Igor Josifov Opening of the Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago

Igor Josifov’s performance 2-Dimensional ushered viewers into the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing and provided a critical transition for a new generation of artists. The inaugural opening for the Modern Wing catered to a younger generation with Young Modern, an evening reception complete with catering, dance floors, and complimentary drinks. Igor’s concept for this event was simple: to literally present the artist’s work in a space that was flat, inanimate, and disconnected.

The artist was dressed in a new tuxedo and his body lay in case. The case’s top platform was in-set with a clear plexi-glass and allowed for a full and complete view of the artist’s body, underfoot. The case was built into the doorway and led viewer’s into the Modern Wing from the museum’s original building. His head rested in the space of the newly constructed Modern Wing while his feet were, figuratively speaking, grounded in the past among more traditional works. Steps allowed viewers to walk over the artist and, in presenting such work in an unconventional and interactive context, allowed viewers to see the artist’s body in place of a material work of art. Finally a split-screen on the other end of the platform allowed viewer’s to see their reactions side-by-side with the unresponsive face of the artist.

The work literally encased the artist’s body and created energy with viewers through the potential for a direct engagement. Although the artist was visible and lucid, the case rendered the artist’s body as intangible. Rendering the artist’s body under a clear platform alluded to concepts of objectivity, mortality, and disconnection. This installation was unique for an institutional context where most works are hung on a wall, displayed on a pedestal or cordoned-off from the viewer’s touch. Constructing the artist’s work under the art viewer’s path also reinforced conventions of the artist role and function as inferior and decorative.

The energy potential for this work yielded surprising results. The artist remained perfectly still in the case and connected with the eyes of each person who passed over the platform. This was a work of art that looked back at you. The response of viewers ranged from aloof to surprised. Passing into the Modern Wing, gentleman escorted ladies quickly over the artist’s face while other women shrieked or giggled.

Later in the evening, attendees were more adjusted or perhaps, influenced by the event’s revelry and festivities. Jealousy and lust took a more concrete form as men cursed the artist or stomped on the glass. Ladies posed for pictures with the artist underfoot, laughed hysterically as they flashed their legs open in stride and one women intentionally threw her purse contents onto the case, revealing multiple openings in her dress. Despite all provocations, the artist remained fixed on the eyes of the individual.

This performance required minimal action from the artist. As a construction, the work revealed how ill-prepared an institutional audience is for art in unconventional contexts. In fact, the design of this installation also provided an energy potential that brought the behaviors and responses of the viewers directly into the light of the work of performance—raw, spontaneous, and unfettered. In a perfect example of psychoanalytic projection, the inhibitions and insecurities of a high-brow, private art class became the focus of the work. The final result is a performance where the established art community communicates frivolity, trivial reactions and an insubstantial resistance towards challenging, new work and necessitates a new era for the role of artists.

Transformacija kao životni i umjetnički imperativ

Pitanje identiteta, (ne)slobode, ideološke i religiozne omamljenosti individue/kolektiva predmet su interesovanja, problematizovanja i umjetničkog istraživanja mladog makedonskog umjetnika Igora Josifova iskazanih u radovima prezentiranim u ateljeu Dado avgusta 2010. godine. Višegodišnji rad i život u SAD umjetnika će opredijeliti za konceptualni iskaz unutar kojeg će kroz multimedijalne forme istraživati „fizička i mentalna ograničenja svog bića“ tragajući za „svojim ja“ , kako umjetničkim tako i egzistencijalnim. Multimedijalni projekat pod nazivom Manumission je realizovan kombinacijom video instalacije, fotografije, performansa, čija je osnovna intencija „pronalaženje sebe“ kroz proces purifikacije od nataloženih kolektiviteta nastalih kao rezultat raznih ideološko-religioznih uslovljenosti i „kontaminacija“ bića pojedinca/kolektiva.

Umjetnik ne pretenduje da definiše što to jeste naše ja ali problematizuje što ono svakako nije. Ono što iskonski ne pripada personalitetu ali je stečeno bivstvovanjem i modelovano u biću kao „lično“ raznim uslovljenostima i markirano kao ono što treba „strgnuti“ sa njega , on saopštava na metaforičan način. Put umjetnika/čovjeka ka oslobođenju iniciran je spoznajom o tjeskobi simbolizovanom konjskim oglavkom/naočnjakom, „upodobljenim“ ljudskoj glavi. U video radu umjetnik ubrzavajućim, a na kraju i paničnim batrganjem glave teži strgnuti oglavak i na metaforičan način osloboditi biće nevoljnog tereta. Konfrontacija dvaju konfesija i njihov uticaj na domicilni prostor umjetnika sugerisana je inkorporiranjem krsta i polumjeseca u strukturu oglavka/naočnjaka u zoni oka kao metafore zamagljivanja pogleda i ograničavanja vidnog, a samim tim i spoznajnog polja, „samovoljnog“ orobljavanja bića i depersonalizovanja jedinke koja tako „integrisana“ u korpus religiozno-nacionalne mase i identifikovana sa njom „pronalazi“ smisao svog postojanja. Kroz perforacije na oglavku/naočnjaku simboli vjere (krst i polumjesec) se kao svjetlosni stigmati reflektuju na licu umjetnika. Kako religiozna ikonografija nije iskazana simbolikom koju bi sama po sebi trebala nositi, oslobođena je konteksta ljubavi, milosrđa i altruističke znakovnosti. Definisana je upravo njenim antipodnim, alter ego kontekstom, kao ideološko-totalitarna simbolika netolerancije, vjerske hegemonije i ekspanzije na račun "drugačijih". Umjetnikova intencija je dijelom i zbog toga fokusirana na markiranje navedenih ideologija/vjera kao glavnih činilaca neslobode jedinke koji zamućuju percepciju „realnosti“ i ukazuje na put ličnog i kolektivnog pročišćenja tako što će se kroz psihoanalitički proces spoznaje i suočavanja sa izvorom tjeskobe i tenzije, individua/kolektiv oslobađati tereta prošlosti i egzistirati kao slobodno biće. Video rad prati niz od 10 fotografija kojim se segmentira i transformiše u statični narativ. Između foto-portretâ umjetnika na zidu su instalirana i dva oglavka/naočnjaka koji kao objekti sa navedenim ikonografskim atributima upotpunjuju znakovnost rada. Portreti hladnim, čeličnim pogledima sugerišu odlučnost, bezpogovornost i riješenost „individue“ u ostvarivanju projektovanih, najčešće nametnutih ciljeva, ali i odsustvo racionalnog kao i podređenost volji drugog. Tako depersonalizovana jedinka „identifikovaće se sa (...) silama kojima treba da služi (...) i na kraju (...) to smatrati svojim najvećim dostignućem“.

Manumission, Oslobađanje

Stavljajući znak jednakosti između artističkog i onog što jeste, umjetnik izjednačava svoje bivstvovanje sa svojim djelanjem. Na tom putu samoispoljavanja i samoidentifikacije umjetnik koristi sopstveno tijelo kao „najvažniji i primarni medijum“ , koje je prostor/predmet umjetničke intervencije. Tako umjetnik u performansu Face It (dokumentovanom sa dvije fotografije) na svojim leđima urezuje šest krvavih tragova koji su upozoravajuća evokacija na broj žrtava u međuetničkim događajima u Makedoniji dok sedmom posjekotinom iskupiteljski „nudi“ svoje tijelo/sebe kao simbol poslednje žrtve sukoba. Postupkom samopovređivanja implicira se introspektivan aspekt rada kroz neophodnost savladavanja i samokontrole nanijetog bola preko kojih umjetnik ispituje i psihofizičke limite sopstvenog bića.

Pet portreta (iz segmenta: Indoctrination) realizovanih nagorijevanjem papira sugerišu neempatičnu i dehumanizovanu manipulativnost čednosti kao i čestu bespomoćnost njenih nosilaca pred raznim vidovima indoktrinacija i instrumentalizacija. Portreti mladića referiraju na najosjetljiviji period života, kada je najlakše „utisnuti“ željenu ideologiju u svijest jedinke, markirajući grupu podesnu za razne procese indoktrinacija kao i efekte koje takav proces ostavlja na ličnost. Portreti se sukcesivno ređaju tako da se stepen nagorjelosti pojačava u zavisnosti od sugerisanog nivoa uticaja „ideološkog tretmana“. Lik se dezintegriše, a samim tim i, u metaforičkom smislu, depersonalizuje individua; gube se identitetske atribucije i portretisani pretvara u bezobličnu masu čiji je fizikum projekcija „cjelovitosti“ bića jedinke.

Depersonalizovana i „nagorela“ jedinka se javlja kao posledica potrebe za kontrolom drugih. (Kako su)Mehanizmi manipulacije i podređivanja drugih sebi, kao istorijska uobičajenost(datost -), danas sofisticiraniji i u mnogome manifestovani kao prividna slobodna volja i izbor jedinke,( - ) dovedeni su do granice neprepoznatljivosti, odnosno nemogućnosti identifikovanja kao takvih(od strane jedinke/individue time se u njenoj svijesti sopstvena "upotrijebljenost" manifestuje kao prividno slobodna volja i izbor jedinke) pa samim tim i neposjedovanja svijesti jedinke o sopstvenoj „upotrijebljenosti“.

Umjetnikova intencija je polarizovana: ka društvu, odnosno njegovoj kritici i ka samom sebi. Angažovani karakter rada, iskazan kritikom društvenih pojava kontrole , podstaknut je kako ličnim (često i traumatičnim) iskustvima tako i percepcijom stvarnosti. Unutar projekta, kroz tri segmenta, problematizovanim temama slobode, otuđenosti i „ostvarivanja“ jedinke kroz kolektivizaciju, umjetnik afirmiše individualizaciju kao kontrapunkt nametnutim ideološko-totalitarnim težnjama sistema koji „žrtvuje ‘djelove’ radi ‘cjeline’“. Individualizacija je sugerisana kroz proces pounutrenja, okrenutosti samom sebi čiji je krajnji cilj oslobođenje i ocjelovljenje individue. Kako je za ovakav, prije svega, duhovni put velikim dijelom potaknut učenjima Dalekog Istoka i ličnim iskustvima stečenim tokom boravka u navedenom ambijentu, umjetnik kroz introspekciju strijemi pomjeranju sopstvenih emocionalnih granica kako bi procesom transformacije došao do pročišćenja bića. Proces pročišćenja, po umjetniku, implicira oslobođanje bića od stega sopstvenog ega i nadilaženje njegovih granica tako što će pasivizacijom/„ubijanjem“ ega i sadržaja svijesti koje taj proces sam po sebi podrazumijeva, ogoliti biće i spoznati „sebe“ u jednoj „novoj realnosti“. Ubijanjem ega tijelo postaje nosilac i eksponent akcije, međutim, njegova transformacija u „samo tijelo i energiju u određenom vremenu, prostoru i kontekstu“ je sekundarnog karaktera u odnosu na transformaciju duha, koja nužno vodi i preoblikovanju umjetničkog iskaza i na kraju, oslobođenijoj individui. Upravo to umjetnik i smatra prevashodnim zadatkom umjetnosti.

Introspektivni put nije bijeg od stvarnosti nego reakcija na nju kroz okrenutost samom sebi, odnosno sopstvenoj „unutrašnjoj realnosti“. Kao reakcija, otklon, bunt i nepristajanje na kolektivizaciju, jednoumlje i unifikaciju i kao put u unutrašnjost bića koji vodi ka drugim aspektima i prostorima sopstvenog bića, njegov rad je poziv „zagubljenoj“ jedinki na emancipaciju i reindividualizaciju, odnosno put ka „pronalaženju sebe“ kroz individualizaciju kao neophodnog stepenika u procesu individuacije ličnosti. Slobodan Vušurović Istoričar umjetnosti

Manumission review

Manumission, a performance by Igor Josifov, executed in computer-simulated space, can be regarded as a miniature video essay on the inexorable human alienation in the immenseness of this world.

The action takes place in a single fixed scene: right from the beginning two identical masks/faces are shown in a frozen frontal fashion. This presentation associated with the body as a “form of identity” takes its time, putting us in a somewhat uneasy state of expectation. Soon, however, the masks/faces are set in motion, each gradually moving in different directions. Little by little the silence is disturbed by soft noises, which portend a face-to-face encounter, but the masks/faces never meet each other, as there is a dark line between them, dividing the scene into two sections. Movements are sped up in a somewhat mechanical manner, accompanied by stronger sounds of motion, which give the space of action an intimate quality. The “final act” acquires a grim intonation with the masks’ dramatic removal. The act of transformation/metamorphosis is brought to a close by the expressive unmasking with an uncertain ending and outcome. The central motif is the act of transformation and liberation of the human “captive mind” and soul. The leather belts of the mask, which itself brings numerous primaeval and modern associations, show simplified symbols of the two major religions – Christian and Moslem – giving the performance individual features (“Macedonian lifestyle”) as well as universal qualities of a metaphor of human efforts to overcome internal inhibitions that encumber or prevent dialogue.

The performance, which is carefully thought out and has a message to convey – “to raise the awareness of the people” – also contains a less comprehensible side with the penetration of irrational elements. The ending has a cathartic and liberating effect, but it also leaves you with a feeling of new-found distress. The simple visual form involves more complex stimulations; the mask that “functions” in a contemporary type of society is reminiscent of an animated modern Janus and can be associated with the comment that “the tardy face of Homo Ludens needs transformation in order to discover himself” (Oto Bihalji Merin, 1970).

The artist makes use of the mask presenting it as the oldest form of alienation, as the basis of the modern representation of Man as a creature that has lost all immediacy. The “heads,” shrouded in intimidating mystery, suggest a specific relationship between the mask and the face, and also between the individual and this nightmarish world. In this way the work of art establishes a dialogue with the viewer (Bruce Nauman), pointing to its relation to several models ranging from primitive to contemporary art (for example, the mechanical head of Raoul Hausmann, the Dadaist; the surrealist and expressionist art of Bacon, Lüpertz, Reiner and Paolozzi; the action Purging from Sin (1973) by the Dvizhenie (Movement) group, or some of Beuys’s performances). The work of this young artist is perhaps the closest in its sensibility and has been influenced the most by Marina Abramović and her unique explorations into the “borderline states” of the spirit and body.

Igor Josifov’s performance offers elements of transformation and liberation that can get through to the individual’s conscious, but it gives no answers nor does it take definite points of view. We are left with the feelings of both “having freed ourselves from a burden” and of psychological tension (whose roots can be traced back to Freud’s psychoanalytic school), asking ourselves the question: “What is the essence of human nature concealing behind the mask (not even Laurie Anderson’s clever analysis provides a clear answer), Man’s goodness and hope, or his Kafkaesque metamorphosis into a gigantic insect?”

Vladimir Veličkovski, Ph.D.

Translation from Macedonian by Filip Korcenski

FACE-IT: A REFLECTION ON IGOR JOSIFOV’S PERFORMANCE "MANUMISSION"

Igor’s performance of religious tension, “manumission,” was anchored in his experience as a native Macedonian and tethered to his newly-formed community in San Francisco. There was a profound connection with his self and his environment that struggled to spark an audience of sensationalist and entertainment-saturated, spectators. When Igor faced the audience, his chin was up and he made eye contact with strangers and friends, alike. Perched on an elevated pedestal and fitted with leather blinders his gaze was concentrated and deliberate. Etched in the leather straps of the adapted horse-blinders, were images of Christian iconography and Muslim motifs. Enacting the binds of Fundamentalist religion, the artist became an ambiguous personality with no indications of depth or interaction.

The artist was flanked by two large, black-and-white images of faces wearing these blinders. Taken direct and close-up, these images carried the same weight as his in-the-flesh presence in the gallery. The stage-only lighting of the gallery reduced the exhibition to an artist and his two most prominent images—making the concept and its presentation as impenetrable as the Fundamentalist practitioners of each religion. The attendance at the start of the performance was strong; it was apparently, a rare opportunity to see a performance among the dozens of art receptions on any given evening. There was a combined effect of intimidation and spectacle: art appreciateurs of all kinds—students, friends, tourists, and buyers—pushed their way in and were careful to keep a palpable 12 foot radius from the stage. Everyone found a shorter person to peer over or through, but few people ventured closer to the artist and his images.

After ten minutes, most attendants had found their way out of Toomey-Tourell, and resumed to follow their behaviors through a dependable sequence of galleries and their unique rotation of static images. Another ten minutes after that, Igor removed the first set of blinders (with Christian iconography) and fit himself with the Muslim set. During this time, there was a clear correlation between the number of observers and the level of Igor’s activity as another dozen people came into the room as he fastened the straps—intent on witnessing what would be happening in this gallery. Over the next course of twenty minutes, the artist continued his gaze with a different set of blinders and even more people left than in the first twenty-minute phase of the performance. Igor stood up and took a moment to remove this set of blinders. He turned his pedestal around so that he could sit with his back to the audience (at which point, most people left the gallery, once again.)

Igor’s back was a deceptive statement; during these first few minutes, there were the fewest people in the room, yet. Without the mysterious gaze of the artist, there was no investment to lure others into the performance or its intentions, and so, no return of attention from the audience. But the context of this performance clearly reinforced what was mistaken for an ambivalent gesture. Between the two confrontational photo images, it seemed completely out of character for an artist to turn his back on this exhibit. His head was down when he faced away but there were several subtle movements, several subtle gestures. The artist would look at something in his hands, look over his shoulder at his own back, take deep breaths, stretch his arms, and stare into the wall or the photos next to him. The artist drew a line on the back of his shoulder with his finger. He then drew another line with his finger on his other shoulder. Blood dripped down from both shoulder blades. There was a complete revolution in the energy of the performance. The subtle gestures became opportunities for the audience to witness an eternity of internal conflict.

Now, it meant something of relevance to members of the audience when the artist looked at his shoulder, looked into his hands, and stared off into the wall. The thoughts and feelings of the artist were lost in sensation. Now, audience members became participants, and people charged up to stage. Three, four, and five at a time, people were taking photos with their cell phones. Now, there were more people in the gallery than at any previous moment of the performance and they rotated to the stage, front and center, to take photos of the artist’s back. The artist continued to make cuts and for each drop of blood, it seemed another person was running up to take a photo.

At one point I counted ten people taking photos—none of these people made a sound louder than the push of a shutter button. Like any other sculpture on display, some people took shots from different angles, and of different positions. This was a living sculpture. Like another victim on display, some people took a moment to fold their hands in some attempt to make an emotional connection with this person and the uncertainty of his mental state. This was a living victim.

Every cut the artist made to his back was loaded with meaning, though it likely represented something different for everyone. Some people were captivated in watching the color of blood change to brown, and others saw the word “help” take form in the drips down his back. The cuts were remarkably symmetrical—some people saw the form of wings. The clearest message of the work was a state of presence—shifting from a position between religions, to a presence between the artist’s mental state and his community.