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Nemanja Milenković, born in 1996 in Novi Sad. He completed his undergraduate studies in 2019 at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad, Painting department in the class of Professor Dragan Matić, and in the same year he enrolled in master studies under his mentorship, which he completed in 2021. He is employed as a teaching associate at the Department of Painting, at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. So far, he has presented his work in 11 solo exhibitions, and has participated in over 30 group exhibitions. He has won several recognitions and awards, including the Annual Award of the Department of Fine Arts for the most successful artistic work in the art discipline PAINTING (2019) and the award for winning 3rd place in the exhibition GOODBYE BALKANS? GOODBYE BALKANS! organized by the Association of Alumni of the United Kingdom in Montenegro, the British Embassy in Podgorica and the Center for Contemporary Arts of Montenegro (2018). He is currently participating in the project COMMONS - Imagining the Institution of the Future within the Goethe Institute in Belgrade. He is a member of SULUV and the Shock Cooperative (Ex Art Clinic), where he works as a gallery curator.

In the artistic practice of research and work, I focus on the complexity of the relationship between humans and animals, emphasizing the different value systems of collective and individual identities. Using visual media - drawing, painting, installation and performance, more difficult exhibition units that initiate a constructive dialogue with the observer and which lead him to re-examine his own moral and ethical attitudes. As dominant, I emphasize the process of actualization of the selected narrative in order to re-examine the content, which becomes a guideline for thinking about different cultural influences - modern exploitative industries, educational systems and personal family heritage. I try to implement my interests in stage movement, participatory practices and bioethics in the projects I am currently working on, in which I analyze the (un) success of radical activism, my personal trauma, but also trauma of others caused by direct contact with animals.

 

I haven’t done it on purpose

The installation is conceived as a relationship between two experiences of animal death. The first experience refers to a deer antler that the artist received as a donation from a friend, and which she received from her grandfather, a passionate hunter. Another is the experience of a collector who bought Milenković ’s drawing with the content of a beheaded roe deer. A year after the purchase of the work, the artist found out from the gallerist who was in communication with the buyer, that he accidentally hit a roe deer with his car, and that he experienced the purchase of the work as a redemption. The difference between the intentional and accidental killing of an animal is the inspiration for creating a hybrid narrative that is realized by intervening on a deer's antler, by engraving the sentence "Nisam namerno (I haven't done it on purpose)". The car impact scene is recreated with a light setting that mimics the headlight light, and the sea salt will be set up to allude to spilled blood from the force of the impact.

Interview

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

I have a feeling that the common language of young people, if we talk about it as a communication medium, does not exist in the form that we all feel comfortable in it. I see this biennial as an opportunity to point out the direction towards a common language, because we all share the desire to find it. I imagine the common language of young people as a language that gives space and values diversity at every level, which has a clear and meaningful function of creating a new empathic environment aware of its capabilities and responsibilities.

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

The processes begin with the accumulation of different impressions in the volume of the navy blue cover. I record those impressions in the form of text and sketches. I don't open the notebook often because it reminds me of unrealized and unfinished projects, but it's always at hand. Further production of works depends on the possibilities, most often spatial and financial, so it is interesting to see how some works are realized a couple of years after their initial recording. 

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

My practice is clearly occupied with researching the relationship between humans and animals, relationships that we do not question sufficiently and honestly, and we often deliberately ignore. I come from a culture that is exploitative towards animals, and the first challenge is to prove that this subject of research is relevant and that it concerns all of us, and not individuals who have excess free time. Also, most of the works have been realized in ephemeral media in the last two years, so the challenge is to properly document and archive them, but also often present them due to difficulties in production and transport. By their very nature, they are invisible in our market, and the transfer of money is necessary in order for us to continue our practice. 

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

I consider myself a visual artist - an individual who usually responds to external stimuli in the form of visual reactions. I don't understand the deviation that is often heard, and it goes something like this: "No, I'm not an artist, I still have a lot of work to do to experience it that way." If you do your job every day, in this case art, what if you are not an artist? Time is precious today, and I don't like wasting it. That is why the word artist is a serious life definition for me.

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

I have no need to escape from reality, nor do I know how to escape. Earlier, when I tried to escape, I felt artificially isolated.

What does the word innovative mean to you?

In visual art, I see innovation in finding new ways of expression that are free from many trends present in contemporary art.

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

I am in a great author crisis. I used to be able to visualize, but today I don't know where I want to live / work, in which direction my practice should go or from which sources to direct it further. I believe that this is another characteristic of the common language of young people. I do not have the strength to glorify myself by constantly exhibiting in conditions that do not respect basic artistic investments. However, it is clear to me that in my practice I want to be responsible and engaged regarding the values I believe in, and I hope that my artistic practice will lead me to experiments and new collaborations that I am very much looking forward to!

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

Opportunity to present my position on different things in different contexts and to different media, which I believe should be part of everyday dialogues. I saw the possibility in visual art to ask questions to which I myself have no answer, and any other way to do that is not attractive to me or I do not have enough talent for it. I have never been influenced by a great artist to such an extent that I decided to pursue artistic practice because of him / her.

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

I would describe it as dynamic, tense, dependent and centralized. Dynamic because its actors manage to rediscover new ways and places to present their work; tense because collectivism and association are not trends, and everyone is in a rush for the greatest possible visibility of their own name; dependent because decision-makers and demonstrators of power manipulate it and centralized because there is no point in working outside of Belgrade. 

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

The privilege of artistic practice is the opportunity to re-examine ourselves, acquire new knowledge and improve. By explicating my work, I learned to accept criticism and be healthy self-critical, which I consider to be the most precious skill that can improve. I see the creative process as an opportunity to convince myself that I can realize hard-to-achieve ideas, to examine my own possibilities and talents, and to gain valuable acquaintances and unforgettable experiences.