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Misko Suvakovic
ZERO SYSTEM

MYTHOLOGY AND CONSUMPTION, ENTROPY AND EMPTINESS POLICY IN ARTISTIC DEEDS OF MILAN ATANASKOVIC

We live in an epoch in which an artist does not have any invariant support, value, belief, ideology, policy, poetry. There are no firm boundaries between art and culture. We cannot say with certainty whether culture has become a mimesis of art or, loosing its extraordinariness, it has become just one more of powerful production machine of exchange and culture consumption. Destroying the Berlin Wall, bombarding Sarajevo, massacres in Rwanda or WTC destroying in New York seem like a film scenes or TV stories which seem as if they had been seen before they happened in our reality. There is no safe foothold and therefore, the artist resolutely passes from a mark strategy (trust in world where he performs) to determination tactics (zero world position where there is no trust, safety and certainty). Artist simulates (imitates, models, re-create, repeats, takes over) consumption, entropy and emptiness processes as important and recognisable traces-codes of reality with which he directly and literally works here in Belgrade at the end of XX and beginning of XXI century. That exceptional situation Milan Atanaskovic calls POSITION ZERO and establishes his own ZERO SYSTEM.

ZERO SYSTEM Atanaskovic constructs paradoxically as consumption, entropy and emptiness “remnant”, but also as a products supply that should be packed and presented in the market system of art and culture. ZERO SYSTEM is simultaneously a drastic, subversive remnant of remnant in the world without foothold and addressing the very same world through conceived, marketing and accelerated design of seduction. POSITION ZERO is a real position of the epoch of confrontation between late capitalism with transitional postsocialism and vice verse, transitional postsocialism with late capitalism. It is about art where the resistance of critical and promiscuosuty of seductive are being connected in the net of products supply (artistic part for consumption – creepy enjoyment, pervert enjoyment in its own horror). Milan Atanskovic is a”street dealer” of hell’s fruits which we lived in our postsocialsm everyday life in 80s and 90s of XX century and the first years of XXI century.

Art of ZERO SYSTEM is tactics not a creation. His realisations (works: objects, installations, situations) deal with consumption, entropy and emptiness through communication channels that disturb, resist and annul sense of communication and art possesion. The artist shows that he passes from poetics-creation to dramatic strategy-tactics of behaving, acting and destroying of found reality. He acts in a tradition of Duchamp ready-mades, although his ready mades are not anaesthesia, neutrality, indifferences – they are personificated scenography or media designing of every day’s hell. Artist becomes a sort of labourer in culture which brings culture into such shapes that society hides, represses, condenses, covers and makes normal, everyday, usual.

POSITION ZERO is a position of pervert machines spreading of everyday normality. The most horrible perversity is not the other one, strange or forbidden but something ours, normal, legislative and natural that hides real nature of insane determinations. Behind an offered sense, he (Atanaskovic) shows fundamental absurdity nets. All the attention, imagination, artist’s eros or designer, editor or artist-capitalist’s shrewdness is directed towards opening of absurdity abyss that manages every gesture, every moment, every grimace and situation of “everyday sanity” of the world (art, culture, society).

Techniques in which ZERO SYSTEM is set up are:
– collage of rough semantic reality traces of everyday society and production culture, exchange and consumption in a crevise between social basis and superstructure.
– picture editing of (mass culture, media culture, intimate life, industrial production sphere or information production) semantic and mediated pictures of everyday society and culture reality in a crevise between social basis and superstructure, that is public and private (as public and private),
– pre-scientific, scientific, post and para-scientific indexing, classifying and archiving reality traces in extraordinary places (archives, asylum, sounds) of everyday life.

As a matter of fact, Atanaskovic develops and applies characteristic hybrid and heterogeneous strategy, which is that:
1. tactics sciences (popular, false, real and high) produce the truth (to him the truth has a fiction structure),
2. tactics of media public regulation and deregulation (doxe) produce mass everyday politics (produce everyday reality), and
3. artistic elitism tactics, and that means coding absurdity as a sanity symptom, they live as leeches/parasites on the society’s body.

He correlates tactics sciences, media regulations/deregulations and artistic elitism in a map of representing his critical and simulating drowning into the world. His drowning into the world is simultaneously critical and apologetic. By drowning into the world he, by his gestures, faces the world with the boundaries of esthetics, politics, life, body cells organisation, body, institution. His art is being recorded and implemented in the game of absurdity enjoyment, on which every socially useful (big, essential) sense is based upon.

ARTIST IN POSTSOCIALISM TIME

Milan Atanaskovic was born in Belgrade in 1961. He graduated at Faculty for Fine Arts (1981-1986) Belgrade. During 84/85 he was in “Ecole des Beaux Arts” in Paris (V. Velickovic’s class for painting). He appeared on Belgrade artistic scene in mid 80s, in the times of eclectical and post-historical postmodernism domination. He gained solid academic painting (basic studies) and sculpturing (postgraduate studies) education. He is an artist that appeared on artistic scene in the time of late socialism, when the repression of totalitarian system was weakening and the artist faced all the possible worlds (he travelled on the West, was being informed here in Belgrade, discovered popular culture and mass consumption enjoyment). The artist of 80s, first of all, was up against with postmodernist fascinations of consumer, mass and media culture. It is also an artist that performed in a society that had been shaken with political struggle between politics of bureaucratic socialism apparatus, dissident nationalism/ nationalsocialism and promising liberal openings towards the big Western world and its consumption amenities and horrors of everyday regulations and deregulations. It is the time, the late 80s, when there also started economical crises …when inflation and poverty created the atmosphere which was going to generate ex-Yugoslav civil wars of 90s. At that time, just like today, there was no artistic market in Serbia. The artist was either a supported entity, homeless person or person that did trivial jobs to survive.

Atanaskovic was fascinated with the powers of mass culture and he directed his performance, which was parallel to artistic production, towards managing mass culture institutions such as disco clubs (1982-1992) and from 1992 he had become co-owner and editor within TV company, ART TV. His position in culture is threefold:

(i) he is an artist who is out of artistic world itself and he enters it from the outside world of mass culture as a privileged but marginal labourer;

(ii) he is a culture labourer and the owner of production resources in mass culture from which he gets out and intervenes in the world of art, and

(iii) He actually, as most of west/American neoconceptual artists of 80s and 90s, performs in duplicity of mass culture tactics implementation in high art and in performing behaviour from the worlds of mass popular culture in the world of elite high art – his performance is performance based on status inversions and artist’s behaviour.

As his performance is in high elite art and in popular media art arisen in the time of big crises, civil wars and transitional process of socialism into liberal capitalism, he works with the very same transition mechanisms (turnover of real or fictional capital in the goods of culture and turn of art phantasm in mass culture products). His work is cynical because he is identified with the roles (neoconceptual artist, night bars owner and TV station owner) and each role in its literal transparency he reveals through indexing his own introversion and extroversion. He is what he plays (performs on the set of public culture) and he is always the other one (postponed, asymmetric marginal, secret) in deviation, consumption, sliding, hiding and exhibitional demonstration of artist’s vulnerability simultaneousness and expressed capitalistic obsessions with powers and money.

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STRATEGIES AND TACTICS OF “ZERO SYSTEM”
ARTISTIC WORKS

Research and performanse in Milan Atanaskovic’s art and culture indicate the development of artistic tactics from the art of eclectical postmodern figurative painting through the art of packiging and objectiv classification of entropic art traces, to installations and systematic artistic and para-scientific (science art) work (research) on ZERO SYSTEM (consumption, entropy and emptiness).

His early works (1984-1985) were made in the manner of transavanguard and neoexpressionism, and he was also close with graffiti procedures or graffiti transfer into painting. His aptitude to the dilapidated, raw, consumable, entropical was also discovered in that period pictures: he realised them in a rough canvas (old tent flies) without frames, during which the figures were empty – marked contour lines of human body with phantasmagoric, sometimes deviant additions.Those are works for which psychedelity, transvestity, homoerotism,demonology, urban consumption of mass culture recognisable signs (for example comics, graffiti, commercials) ere important.

Atanaskovic then started with projects, around 1986, which were being made with element construction or deconstruction, substructures and remnents of industrial productions (machines and mechanisms). Those works are dilapidated, and at the same time modern and archaic, unexpressive, cold, alienated and in their repeatedness multiplying. He simulated metastasis of human bodies in industrial-mechanical bodies. He pointed to their dilapidation, senseless functionality. By those works he drafted a contest of research in the domain of industrial archeology.

The world of industry (products, spaces, institutions, processes) becomes the frame of his self-examination of actuality and entropy of modern and postmodern society. He performs between ” erased traces” of base and superstructure (production and consumption) of society.

Atanaskovic works with installations (from “Melancholy” dated 1986 until “Module” dated 2001) are based on two steps:
(a) finding of provocative space and/or its characteristic representative – object (emptied or consumed industrial space, public enterier which becomes a mimesis of industrial archeology space and implementation of unexpected space sample/sound/module into the context), gradual depositing of material, and
(b) setting up of characteristtic samples (industrially produced modules, undustrial tools, simulated non-functional devices or systems, laboratory or everyday dishes, which are filled with unusual contents/liquids, substances, dead organisms, litters, blood…) which demolish expected impression of space and which confuse, shock or provoke a spectator.

Space and samples build a mycro-echological ambience which offers the atmosphere of dilapidation, entropy, decaying, corrosion, cancer metastases, abandoning, alienation, non-functionality, arbitration, suggested or delayed or forgotten aggression, fear, virus, loneliness, infection, poisoning, pollution … For example, “Corrosion care” (2000) is an installation which consists of sequence of six burnt wardrobes for equipment of one of demolished factories in fire.

In those demolished and charred wardrobes he is setting up brutal pornographic pictures of women and their overturned vaginas, dishes with amputed uterus cancers, one old mink fur-coat, small things of erotic, medical or unclear origin and function. It is the matter of atheistic overmaterialistic apocalypse…where there is not “Judgement Day” any more, but only the traces “of” traces of emptied industrial world, where emptied objects in the middle replace the subject. Atanaskovic becomes a sort of artist who is searching for the icons of the apocalypse of world emptiness. He simulates the world of Mad Max postsocialism. For example, “Zero object” (2001) is an empty and unfinished concrete and steel construction of one-store building in the industrial areas of Belgrade, which has been proclaimed as artistic deed. That building is an archeological sample of unfinished and delayed work, emptiness and non-functionality. The building is brand new but already consumed, deprived from function and sense. In another word, the building had become an archeological past before it was finished and consumed. Atanaskovic is taking over the emptiness from the real life and focuses on them, as they are piece of art that indicates functions and culture events.

Such kind of radical nihilism and horror fascination is possible in big industrial cities which, after the end of industrial era start to die; it is possible in the countries of the Third world where is carried out an unplanned and colonial industrialisation or in the countries of real socialism (East block from the time of cold war) that have lost their functions and sense of existence in actuality after the Berlin Wall falling down.

This art is fatal and devastating, nihilistic and hopeless …it shows how human emotions and human mind are up against their own completion, dilapidation, baselessness, decentralisation and waste. “Module” (2001) is a wheeled container where live workers on a building site. Atanaskovic’s container is abandoned and shabby; in it the artist realises horror archive by constructing, arranging and designing the world of phantasmagoric pseudo scientific object classification and death samples, illness and decomposition. He moves the container over the town and leaves it on different places. One of locations in Belgrade was in front the National Museum, which realised a ghostly relationship of museum as “asylum” for the values of one culture and module as “asylum” for traces and horror samples of everyday life of the same culture. Value and countervalue relationship has been offered. On one corner you can unexpectedly be waited with a scene of sublimated person of global world, horror and loneliness edge of abyss in which you can easily fall down. His art is not art to enjoy but art through which you pass in a horrible spasm, pain, tension and expectation of a sudden punch directly to your face. This is the art of corrosion, liquids, viruses, dead bodies, political combinations, economics games, remnants, and certainly ZERO SYSTEM.