If I had to summarize Natalija Vujosevic’s work with one main idea, it
would be the infusion of life and reality into the space of the gallery. It is
a common trope of the avant-garde artist: to merge art and life. The Dada and
Futurist artists tried this by including sounds and experiences of the real
world in their art. Allan Kaprow attempted to make the line between art and
life “fluid and indistinct” by including the audience in his Happenings.
Natalija reverses the aim of art into life and brings life back into art. She
achieves this in different ways: she introduces real life elements into the
gallery space, for example wind, scent or sometimes actual human beings,
involved in their own personal worlds in the space of the exhibition.
The strength of Natalija’s work, I think, is precisely this
sensitivity to the senses. By introducing natural elements that speak to our
senses, we respond on a visceral level – a manner of responding that we are
more accustomed to. Because of its separation from life, often we might not
know how to respond to an artwork, but our response to tactile and olfactory
elements is instinctual.
One of the most overt of these “infusions” of life into art
that Natalija told me about was a performance that she created for an
exhibition at the Ars Aevi Exhibition Hall in Sarajevo. The theme of the
exhibition was “Fluid Identity,” and the performance dealt with both issues
both individually (fluidity and identity) and as a unit (fluid identity). She
invited around 50 teenagers to subtly invade the gallery space. Lost in their
own little worlds, they could be seen talking, listening to music, eating
potato chips, etc. – doing the things that teenagers do. They were all dressed
uniformly – in the uniform that could be seen to represent individuality:
jeans, a t-shirt, sunglasses and Converse All-Stars. The t-shirts read “Joy
Diversion” on them, a play on the name of British post-punk band Joy Division.
While all of these elements represent what seems to be a unique “alternative” identity,
in being alternative they have now become mainstream. The work presents this
“identity” as a pre-packaged element that one can “download from the internet,”
as Natalija says. It also demonstrates how fluid that identity can be – while
the teenagers were all dressed the same, they were all involved in different
activities that somehow made them unique. Finally, I think the work also
represented the fluidity of the space between art and life; as these bodies
were interwoven in the gallery space, among the artworks (and artworks
themselves) they brought the viewer’s attention back to the everyday world and
life outside of that artistic space.
In See You at the Line
of the Horizon, from 2011, she uses industrial fans to bring the wind into
the gallery, and shows us the effects of that wind with a video of tall field
grass blowing in that wind. It is in our mind that we connect the tactile
blowing of the fans with that which moves the grass, thus we, the viewer, are
the conduit between inside and outside, between art world and real world.
The element of time is also present in her work. In In Case I Never Meet you Again (2005) the
artist conveys the different experiences of time by showing a video of two
people, a man and a woman, staring at each other. They are virtually
motionless, and, watching them, one senses time moving slowly. Two smaller
screens present around 500 rapidly changing images from everyday life. Those,
however, are still images – moments frozen in time, or timeless – yet they
convey the sense of the rapid passing of time. Once again, these are phenomena
that we, the viewer, feel on a visceral level, because essentially time is
always the same, moves neither fast nor slow, yet depends on our perception for
this sense of speed.
Sensory perception is key in Natalija’s work, and all of
these sensory experiences presented by the artist converge within the viewer,
who digests them and brings his or her own experience of the real to the work