The Gods Must Be Crazy

Ana Milenković

10/4 - 3/6 2018

Ana Milenković is a Belgrade-born Serbian artist who lives and works in London. Although trained as a painter, Ana experiments and makes within a wide range of media including sculpture, photography, digital collage as well as print.

We are truly honoured to introduce Ana Milenković’s artistic oeuvre to a Serbian audience by means of this exhibition. The included paintings and objects emanate their own visual logic, having been created in a process during which the artist, quite intuitively and beyond all prediction, combines various motifs, symbols, and themes. Representations of certain ancient deities, including those of Ancient Greece, as well as symbols and motifs from other cultures, quite often from the Balkans, initiate mutual dialogue within Ana’s paintings. In order to enable dialogue between such distant and opposed ideologies it would be necessary to count on an exhaustive knowledge of culture, history, art, religion, mythology, but also geography as political space. By connecting these seemingly unrelated representations, inherent tradition, idioms and meanings are being rejected, leaving confusion and alienation as a consequence. All these representations, within a unique gallery space, seem at first glance to create a chaotic and somewhat alarming atmosphere, but also a subversion of cultural conflicts before the viewer.

Nonetheless, Ana’s paintings do not offer a precise narrative or message. They are the result of an automated process in which the artist makes collages from previously collected material. The artist collects photographs of different landscapes and ancient peoples’ cultural monuments from the internet and keeps them in her files. Sketches for the new paintings initially become digital collages of the gathered material which the artist then compiles in Photoshop and uses as drafts for future paintings.

Wanting to create an idea of distant and ancient cultures, we too, more often than not, tend to use browsers. The internet as a global cultural achievement in the contemporary context enables us to gain knowledge via fast information, simultaneously wiping out the distances of time and space. Meanings disappear with the erasure of these distances. This is why today Greek sculptures are always identified only by their gray-white appearance, as we forget they were originally statues of gods in colour. Between colourful antique statues, the gypsum white replicas of the Acropolis Museum, and photographs on electronic visual displays, the original context is lost.

This transition is no less specific in relation to certain other changes in human history over the past several decades. The lines between meanings, values and objectivity are becoming more and more blurred. Life in the post-internet era is increasingly interpreted as the era of ‘post truths’, quite certainly due to the superficial flow of information, and contributes to overall cultural stagnation and confusion. The artist, by dealing with the absurd, creates a world of inversion of the normal and expected and thus finds efficient ways of reacting to postmodern society.

The title of the exhibition “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, reminds us of and clearly refers to eponymous Jamie Uys’ movie from the 1980s, which tells an amusing story about globalism through the encounter of African Bushmen from the Kalahari Desert with a Coca-Cola bottle thrown out of an airplane by an American pilot. As the members of the tribe interpret this gesture as god’s gift, the plot of the movie evolves. Ana’s paintings in a certain sense present a subversion of irony when objects or ancient divine representations can be as strange and unfamiliar to us as the Coca-Cola bottle was to the African tribesmen in the movie. Although the parallel may seem inadequate, the director’s and artist’s intentions are comparable in that they both wish to confront viewers with their own state of mind, values, meanings and irony which come out from the usually wrong interpretations or perceptions that are still possible today despite our contemporary accomplishments of the internet era.

By its very nature, Balkan heritage and new readings and reinterpretations of histories, is evidently of interest to Ana, especially the balkanization process initiated not so long ago, in the course of which Yugoslavia, the artist’s country of birth, vanished. After more than twenty years since the disintegration of this country, accompanied by terrors, sufferings and ruthless and fierce war, ex Yugoslav republics, as newly formed nations, dig into layers of their past, in search of adequate identity symbols and emblems, as well as ideals and general ethical beliefs. In contrast to balkanization, a destructive process similarly threatening other countries and regions all over the planet, there is union or alliance followed by a certain consensus.

This visual banquet arranged by the artist opens up a unique cultural syncretism before the viewer which, after numerous wanderings, lost and found identities and destruction and reconstruction of the previous knowledge as well as reshaping of reality, can offer a new paradigm for civilisation today.

By bringing back Ana’s work to her ‘original’ surroundings, we feel great honour to present Ana Milenković’s artistic oeuvre in Serbia for the first time and, side by side with her, open and initiate exhibition season of the brand new Gallery Novembar.

Maja Kolarić

Gallery director & curator