I was unable to meet with Nesa when I was in Belgrade, but nevertheless I find his work incredibly compelling and striking, mainly owing to its seeming simplicity. Paripovic is perhaps the least prolific of the informal group of six artists working in the confines of the Student Culture Center in Belgrade in the 1970s, but that does not make his work any less effective or impressive.
Much of Paripovic’s work consists of simple gestures that test and delimit the role of the artist and the nature of art. His work is consistent with similar explorations, by the likes of fellow artists Rasa Todosijevic and Era Milivojevic, however each probe these questions with their own distinct style. For Paripovic, this style involves minimal actions or gestures that illuminate extensive issues with regard to the nature of art. For example, in the photographic performance Untitled (1975), the artist sits before a blank page/work surface that is illuminated by a lamp at the side of the table. Several frames showing the artist as he stares, gestures in thought, and appears to agonize over the empty page before him. The piece shows the artist at work, not with his hands, but with his head. He takes this exploration further in one of the four films that he made around this time, N.P. 1975 (1975), which shows the artist from the waist up, occupied with his hands, which are sometimes out of view of the lens. The film ritualizes the work done by artists, suggesting that everything that he does intentionally counts as art.
Jesa Denegri used the term “artist behavior” to refer to the action of the artist in relation to the art work, and Dejan Sretenovic has described Paripovic’s artistic strategy as “becoming art,” meaning that his artistic oeuvre includes all activity and action of the artist, regardless of whether it was created with the intention of being named and delineated as an artwork or not. We can see this quite clearly in his next film, N.P. 1977, where the artist takes on the role of flaneur, meandering through the city and encountering objects and obstacles along the way, all of which is being captured on camera. This piece not only inscribes the action of movement in the work of art, but delineates the space for creation, within the confines of the city as the artist experiences it.
Limits are also demarcated in the photographic performance Examples of Analytical Sculpture (1978), where the artist touches a female nude model with his lips, encircling her in a spiral motion, until her entire body has been outlined by the artist’s erotic touch. Instead of being subjected to the gaze, artist and model become one, and the surface of the “sculpture” is defined by movement and touch.
There is a moment, however, when the artist does acknowledge the end point of his role as artist. N. P. 1978 (1978) is a film consisting of four independent scenes: in the first, the artist’s face is painted red, and he brings a cigarette to his mouth. In the second scene, his face is painted blue, and he lights the cigarette. In the third scene, his face is painted black, and he slides his fingers through his hair. In the final scene, the artist removes the black paint from his face, signifying the end of the “performance” and the return to the world of the real, outside of the confines of art.Nesa Paripovic’s work from the 1970s participates in the global dialogue that was taking place at the time, with regard to the role of the artist and the nature of art. Bringing his own unique contribution to the discourse, he participates in it by becoming the work of art himself.