Captured State

7 October – 30 November, Sciennes Gallery, Summerhall

Opening 6 October (performance, 1830 : main opening, 1930)

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OPA (Obsessive Possessive Aggression) Keep Calm and Eat Chocolate

Captured State features the work of six contemporary artists from the Republic of Macedonia, all exhibiting in Edinburgh for the first time.

In the last decade, Macedonia has found itself under an unprecedented level of scrutiny from the international media, as a politically volatile, troubled borderland in south-eastern Europe; caught between the competing agendas of different geopolitical actors, and engulfed unwittingly in the refugee crisis that has consumed Europe from 2015 to the present, as well as negotiating a tense two years of anti-government street protest, and a recently resolved political deadlock.

In terms of visual culture, debates in Macedonia have been dominated since the beginning of this decade by the “Skopje 2014” project, a megalomaniac re-imagining of the nation’s capital through Baroque and neoclassical idioms. Intended as a scheme to overwrite the Yugoslav character of the city of Skopje, the previous government spent over €660 million on this transformation, since 2010/11- this in a country with 28% unemployment and middle class salaries of barely €400 per month.

 

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Igor Toshevski Territory Skopje, 2009

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Ephemerki Context vs. Discursor, Belgrade Oktobarski salon, 2015

Independent artists, such as the ones chosen for this exhibition, have had to fight hard to maintain a space for their independent and robust individual practices to endure. Culture in Macedonia is only just emerging from what has been a very difficult period; a newly elected government finally signalled its intention to cancel the Skopje 2014 programme, in May 2017.

This is a snapshot of contemporary cultural production, from the opposite corner of Europe; from a country enthusiastically embracing a Euro-Atlantic path just as ours seems intent on departing from it. The artists, through the new works that they have prepared for the show, have all responded creatively to the idea of a “captured state”; not literally in terms of politics, but more broadly, in terms of the difficulties non-EU cultural actors have in travelling, the agonising choices of exile and diaspora, the difficulty of facilitating idea exchange, the capture of individual subjectivities in competing and conflicting ideas of identity, gender and nationhood; cultural invisibility in broader narratives of globalisation; the relationship to the idioms and ideologies of past avant-gardes.

The chosen artists for the exhibition are Igor Toshevski (one of the representatives of Macedonia at the 2011 Venice Biennale), OPA (Obsessive Possessive Aggression- the artistic duo Denis Saraginovski and Slobodanka Stevceska), Verica Kovacevska, who did her artistic training in England and is now based in Zurich, and Ephemerki, a collaboration between Jasna Dimitrovska (Berlin) and Dragana Zarevska (Prague).

This exhibition, through installation, video and live performance, shows how a diverse cross section of critical artists active in the Macedonian context, have responded to notions of state capture, socio-political upheaval and a keenly critical response to recent histories in the country. This is the first showing of work by all of these artists, in Scotland, and continues the long tradition, begun by Richard Demarco, of Scottish engagement with the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

The exhibition has been organised and curated by Dr. Jon Blackwood of Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, in collaboration with Summerhall. The show will be accompanied by a 64 page catalogue featuring essays by Jon Blackwood and Macedonian independent cultural activist, Bojan Ivanov, illustrated in full colour.

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Vera Kovacevska Colour Caller, Bradford / Skopje, 2006

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