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Miljana Niković

I am fascinated by the so-called Droste effect or "mise en abyme" (picture in picture), whose principle - sometimes unconsciously - I adopt in any discipline and subject.

Miljana Niković (Belgrade/Berlin) mostly experiments with video, photography, sound, and words. After studying architecture in France and Germany, she gained some experience in the areas of her main profession. With her doctoral-artistic project, she currently explores historical perceptions and collective memories through filmed urban space. Her poem "Le Jeu des Voyous et des Voyelles" was published as part of the competition for young French-speaking poets by Poésie-en-Liberté (2010). Her first official video collage "L'Amour Bleu" (2012) was created as the music video for the DJ duo "Piège à Filles". During the Festival des Lumières in Lyon, she contributed to a collective temporary video installation at the Instituto Cervantes, producing "Millusions" (2014). Her recent video-poems "Two Simple Letters" and "La Rive Virale", as well as her first experimental short "Seven Seven" have been screened at various international film festivals and exhibitions (Los Angeles, Mexico, Belgrade, Athens, Paris).

Two simple letters; 2’34’’

In a messy and apocalyptic world, what happens if your mind is egotistically obsessed with your love life? If you start searching for potential lovers via dating sites? If most of them do not react to your messages (although you see active status) probably insufficiently stimulated by your profile? Others might agree for a walk, if it does not rain, Saturday afternoon or next Tuesday. That does not sound promising. Almost always, communication stops for no obvious reason, even though everybody stays online. Attention and curiosity disappear. Will they all remain virtual fantasies? Was it any different before the lockdown? The Internet multiplies screens that become our new fragmented windows to the outside world. Connected with anyone, anywhere, anytime. However, isolated: alone, lonely in a cell, in a self. This vocal and visual poem is a deconstruction of short sentences that one uses to arrange a meeting with a stranger. Hesitant and polite, two simple letters imply permanent insecurity, modesty, timidity — avoiding to offend or frighten the interlocutor(s). To put a lighter tone on this self-ironic situation, there is a conscious use of playful pop-elements, both with sound and color palette. 

Interview

What is the language in common for the young people today?

I am convinced that youth has nothing to do with age or the amount of experience, but with the state of consciousness. That situation is certainly non-linear, and therefore relative to the timing: there is no guarantee that in ten years I will feel much younger than I do today, but today I certainly feel younger than I did ten years ago. Admittedly, maybe my attitude will be different after the thirtieth candle on the birthday cake! Joke aside, it is consciousness that determines that field of mutual understanding and belonging to one spirit, ideas, ideals.

What does the process of making one of your pieces look like?

I have different methods of creation. Most often I get the word, the image and / or the sound that connects me to the concept I want to develop. Sometimes this process is very spontaneous and free, done with almost one move, when inspiration comes quite unexpectedly and if I am able to postpone all current obligations for later. However, I stretch some projects for a longer period of time so that all the parameters coincide with each other and respond to a series of rules that I would determine in advance. In the latter case, I use sketches, organization charts, various versions, as well as a detailed structure for a better insight into the whole assembly. The analytical phase is also important by collecting as much material as possible so that I do not repeat or just build on previous results. I believe that this multidimensional approach and the need for control comes from the field of architecture, my primary profession.

Which challenges have you faced while making art as you know it?

The biggest challenge is personal satisfaction, or at least the feeling that some work is finished (perfect). I usually like the work to stand still for a while, so that I can come back to it later with a fresher look. And something like that is a luxury of time, which is difficult to get in the required amount.

Do you consider yourself an artist, and what does that word mean to you?

If we start from the fact that we all create, then each of us creates at least one art form. However, for the same reason, I think that the term is overestimated as much as underestimated, so I use it carefully. For now, I'm just externalizing some dilemmas, doubts, worries. That is why I personally do not dare to call myself an artist - I prefer to leave it to those who recognize the elements that associate them with art in my experiments or games. This will probably be the case until I pay the bills, that is, when I will exclusively dedicate myself to that type of demanding but necessary research.

What is your escape from reality? Do you even have a need to escape from something?

I would not call an escape that journey of the mind that is constantly flying somewhere, but an immersive imagination that moves with great speed from one point of (sub) consciousness to another. And yet, that imagination is closely connected to reality and stimulated by daily observation of the environment. I'm not sure if this is the "need" of the imagination in question. Rather, they are divergent thoughts that take place naturally as I develop a project.

What does the word innovative mean to you?

The trap is to permutate the innovative with the authentic. I think that innovation is another ticklish construct that cries out for an "innovative", as flexible as possible, definition. It is not only what is new that is innovative, because "old" things can also be presented in an original way or "re-used" (appropriated). We remember Boris Groys, who explains innovation as a "revaluation of values" and who draws our attention to the position of cultural institutions. However, I start again from the audience that interprets someone's work, subjective attitude, sensibility and (pre) knowledge. In the age of recycled information and mass reproduction of recognizable canons, one of the general impressions may be that everything has already been said, and that it has been chewed several times. I would rather refer to the innovativeness of choosing and approaching a specific topic: starting from individual (pre) feeling, to its translation into a collective field. It is honestly more important to me, moreover more urgent, to finally have fun cultivating empathy than to remain in the vicious circle of egocentric-hypocritical shallowness in the name of revolutionary patterns. To conclude: innovation lies in (re) interpretation through detection, acceptance, and sharpening of its internal uniqueness - modest, but in itself innovative.

Do you have a plan for the future? Where can your artistic practice take you?

I have a thousand plans, although I am slowly implementing them. On the contrary, since I stopped rushing, I indulge in opportunities that direct me towards imaginary goals. Some are changing, some are losing, and these newer ones are adding to the long list of dreams, because ambitions know no boundaries.

What made the biggest influence on you to become what you are today and do what you do now?

I don't know how to separate architecture from film, music, photography, and poetry. All of these fields influenced my constant maturation at the same time, and relatively early on, when I was still a child, it entered my spectrum of perceptions like a hobby. At the age of five I drew the basics of an imaginary hotel complex with templates and a compass, at the age of six I recognized cult movie scenes, at the age of six I started playing the piano, at the age of ten I used my dad's camera, and by the age of twelve I had a collection of short stories and poems . In addition, I would again highlight the immediate environment as the closest source of inspiration - friends, travel, residence. And, of course, everyday multilingual communication plays a big role.

How would you describe Serbian (Balkan or European-depends on where you live and work) contemporary cultural scene?

From what I see and hear, and taking into account the socio-political context and freedom of expression, it seems to me that the "younger" wave of contemporary Serbian artists in the last few years is developing in line with technological changes, more precisely imperatives. Whether it's through performance, theater, design in a broader sense, literature or audiovisual content - my generation is moving quite ambitiously in international currents, setting itself up as accessible and really worthy of attention.

In which way does your creative process shape you or changes you as a person, if it does at all?

I would rather say the opposite: the way I change as a person - towards myself, towards the world - or I come to new knowledge, so my ideas and creative tendencies are formed.