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2.10.2014
MILIJA PAVIĆEVIĆ | EXIT STRATEGIES OF THE SELF
Curated by Walter Seidl
2nd October – 8th November 2014
Exhibition opening: Thursday, 2nd October 2014, 6 pm
WHERE: Galerie Michaela Stock, Schleifmühlgasse 18, 1040 Vienna

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galerie michaela stock Pavicevic A-portret 450px galerie michaela stock Pavicevic Exit 450px

Opening speech: Walter Seidl, 7 pm
Afterwards Prince Nikola Petrović Njegoš will play the flute solo of Debussy's Syrinx.
At the same time the catalogue Milija Pavićević – Exit Strategies of the Self with an essay by Walter Seidl will be presented.


WALTER SEIDL | EXIT STRATEGIES OF THE SELF


Milija Pavićević is part of a generation of artists that developed a conceptual artistic language in the 1970s and later pursued this idea in various forms and ways in the context of neo-avant-guarde tendencies. Pavićević's principal themes include the artistic analysis of the Self as well as a formalistic orientation in terms of the Neo-Geo movement arising in the 1980s and recurring to a modernistic language of form. The current exhibition primarily deals with the Self as an ephemeral something, bereft of all religious formation oscillating between a creation of meaning and nihilism, assuming a place in a metaphysical yet fathomless universe. The impossibility of choice as regards the individual's existence brings up questions that Pavićević deals with in his oeuvre by reflecting on life and death in terms of his own image and, thereby, challenging the ephemeral character of being.

The oldest work on display in the exhibition stems from 1976 and is, significantly, entitled "Exit". This collage presents Pavićević's birth certificate, on which - in a diagonal way - he drew the word "exit" with a pencil. The typography correlates with that of American exit signs, which can be seen in every US-building, glowing in a bright orange. The work, however, is not about extinguishing Pavićević's life, but should rather symbolise a new beginning as an artist after he had failed to be accepted at the academy of arts several times. The first step into a new direction was his stay in Paris, where he did some research in the history of art at the city's museums. As for its theme, "Exit" marks a sort of dichotomy between life and death and various levels of being, the fate of which may drift into one or the other direction. For Pavićević, this meant a re-orientation within his artistic oeuvre, representing the beginning of a conceptual artistic phase.

A real way of dealing with the phenomenon of death, which resulted in a collage again, is the picture of El Greco's funeral in 1586 as well as a photo of the funeral of Pavićević's grandfather in 1963, in which the artist himself can be seen as a child. By taking advantage of this contrast, "Self-Portrait 1586-1963" intends to balance out the phenomenon of mourning. The artist refers to memories flashing in the process of funeral rites and, by linking the death of a well-known artist with that of a close family member, raises the question of one's own death - in this case that of the artist Pavićević - as an image-medial event that is mentally anticipated but cannot yet be imagined.

References to the history of art also determine Pavićević's work in the 1980s. His tendency to contrast different formations of existence and the way they influence the artist's different layers of consciousness continue to be present. An untitled emblematic collage created in 1980 shows two mathematical signs for plus (+), linked by the symbol for equals (=). This tautological generalisation symbolises Pavićević's oeuvre in that period almost like a manifest, as he continues to relate the referentiality of artistic existence to his own person. There is also a special reference to Vincent van Gogh. In his work "Ruke" (hands) from 1981, Pavićević drew the contours of his own hands in a publication on van Gogh, with a list of his works on display on the left page. His finger nails are painted in yellow, which - again - can be seen as a reference to van Gogh's typical use of this colour. By numerating each finger, Pavićević creates artistic attributions and, by cutting off the hands in a deep red, refers to van Gogh cutting off his ear, all of which results in questioning the models of physical health. Hands are considered to be central body motifs of several artists, as they represent the original tool of creation, used for experiencing one's surroundings. This also became evident in the photographic work of Croatian artist Tomislav Gotovac "Ruke" from 1964, in which he himself was experiencing his urban surroundings - an artistic strategy which is no longer exclusively executed by hands, but gradually assumed by medial deployments such as photography, film and video.

Van Gogh as art historical reference and exemplary artistic figure, characterised by mental and physical pains, also serves as an initial point for some of Pavićević's collages entitled "Vincent" (1981). We can see several teeth, painted in van Gogh's typical yellow, which in this case also refers to Pavićević's own dental problems and tooth ache at that time. The motif of pain as a constant of life, which may even lead to our extinction, forms the red thread of the artist's oeuvre. Extinction and nihilism as a challenge of all being, but also as spiritual entity of a metaphysical perspective, in which the visible may not be replaced by experience - later on, this led Pavićević to intensively deal with the oeuvre of Kazimir Malevich, resulting in the adaption of significant works of the history of art. In the exhibition, this period is represented by a revised version of a Velasquez reproduction. By putting Malevich as one of the founders of Modernism in art in the focus, an important discussion on the essence of avant-guarde, which internationally at that time followed the traditions of neo-avant-guarde, was triggered in former Yugoslavia of the 1980s. Later on, in former Yugoslavia, this discussion resulted in the work of the Slovenian artists' group IRWIN as well as in the specific term retro-avant-guarde, coined by the two theorists Marina Gržinić and Peter Weibel.

Pavićević also tries to examine the Self as a continuous image of vulnerability and mortality in other works (1995, 2005). The assemblage "Self-Portrait" (1995) shows a photo of the artist placed in an icon-like black frame with a circle-shaped saw blade on his forehead. In dealing again with the themes of death, suicide and immortality, fathomless moments of life are presented in an artistic auto-destructive gesture, which shall however accentuate the affirmation of life. The other "Self-Portrait" (2005) shows the naked artist assuming the pose of an odalisque with hidden penis and stitched-up abdomen. After all, this cross-gender image not only questions the determination of being, but also specific characterisations associated therewith as regards gender stereotypes, models of sexuality and the phenomenon of giving birth, which are - as shown in his work from the year 1976 - always linked with some sort of end or different exit strategies.

Milija Pavićević | press release EXIT STRATEGIES OF THE SELF
Milija Pavićević | Press photo 1 | A-portret, 1995, mixed media, 40 x 30 x 20 cm
Milija Pavićević | Press photo 2 | Exit, 1976, pencil on paper, 29,5 x 21 cm
Milija Pavićević

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