Hristina Ivanovska and Yane Calovski

The work of Hristina Ivanovska and Yane Calovski is dynamic and engaging on many levels – they use performance, installation and various media to interact with local history, global art history, and individuals on a personal level.

While in Skopje, I met with Hristina, to speak about the NGO that she had founded together with her partner Yane, Press to Exit. Yane was giving a presentation in Tokyo, so I spoke to Hristina about their work together. In the course of the conversation, while speaking about other artists and exhibition projects, little by little it came out that Hristina is an artist herself, with a very vibrant portfolio, creating work also together with Yane as an artistic team. Hristina’s own modesty speaks to the kind of work that she creates – one that is audience-centered, where the artist steps back and lets the viewer engage and co-create.

The first project Hristina told me about was her solo performative piece Stone Soup, based on the traditional folk story known far and wide in Europe and North America. The story, she tells me, is about acceptance, and how to become accepted in a community, which is how she utilized it in her work. It is also about cooperation and collaboration, which I think is at the heart of much of both her work and hers and Yane’s. The artist recreated the story in real life, in several different venues – in Stockholm, Vienna and Ljubljana. It brought together people from various sectors of the community to collectively make one pot of soup – or one work of art.

In 2001, following the political crisis in Macedonia, Hristina, together with Yane, set out to connect with their country – literally – by traversing the land. They did so in a rather unconventional fashion, not taking the “direct route,” but traveling in a spiral, referencing Robert Smithson’s well-known 1970 Land Art work, Spiral Jetty. The two began their travels at the center of Macedonia and ended up in Skopje. The work references not only art history, but also local history, as the artists called upon their education in nature and social studies that was prevalent in the socialist period. It was even titled Nature and Social Studies: Spiral Trip. The work was exhibited as a video, with drawings and photo documentation, and a book that was interactive and not bound. So the interactive nature of the performance was carried on in the dissemination of the work, when the viewer has to physically engage with the work through the manipulation of the book documenting the trip, traversing that spiral with them.

The pair continued their exploration of that infinite form by creating a spiral swim line in Puerto Rico, using recycled material. Unlike Smithson’s work, which was stationary, Hristina and Yane made a work that was even more dynamic, as the line interacted with the current, which changed its shape and configuration constantly. It also could not remain in place for very long, because there were people swimming in the area where they had placed it.

Quite by chance, Yane and Hristina made a stunning discovery about a monument in their own city – the Museum of Modern Art. A wonderful example of modern architecture, gifted to the city of Skopje by the Polish government after the 1963 earthquake, it should come as no surprise that one of the most eminent Polish modern architects, Oskar Hansen, had submitted a proposal to the competition for the design of the museum. It should also come as no surprise that his design was not the winning one, given the unconventional nature of Hansen’s ideas, especially in the 1960s. This fact, however, was an unknown to anyone in Macedonia at the time, a lost and forgotten piece of history.

When the artists uncovered this piece of history, they decided to recreate the museum according to his specifications. Hansen’s plan was to have the museum underground, with platforms for the art. He felt that the museum should only be visible when new art is born. The artists created a hypothetical program for the museum, had it been created according to Hansen’s design. The work consisted of twelve posters illuminating a museum program according to Hansen’s idea of a “foldaway museum,” one that had to constantly be re-engaged with and could never remain stagnant.

 

Hristina and Yane use performance, conceptual and participatory art to keep history alive and yet recreate it anew, to engage with their nation and its people, and global art history. It contains an a very palpable energy and dynamism to it, one that opens the possibilities of new ideas and further interactions, with the work living a life of its own beyond the initial exhibition.