‘Screen saver’ presented in Biennial edition of Women Cinemakers



‘Screen saver’ presented in Biennial edition of Women Cinemakers

Inspired by the sense of growing alienation felt about life chained with physical existence, Screen saver is a captivating video by Croatian mutlidisciplinary artist and video maker Vesna Mačković. We have had the exclusive chance to see her  unpremiered works in full length and we have been captured by her ability to interwine elements from perceptual reality, with elusive idea of virtual worlds. Urging the viewers to question the apparent dichotomy between the real and the imagined, Screen saver echoes Philip K. Dick’s masterpiece and invite the spectatorship to wonder about the imaginary place where beings who live only as energy clusters would wish to escape to. We are particularly pleased to introduce our readers to Mačković’s multifaceted and captivating artistic research.

1) Hello Vesna and welcome to WomenCinemakers: we would like to invite our readers to visit http://www.vesnamackovic.com in order to get a wider idea about your artistic production and we would start this interview with a couple of questions about your background. Are there any experiences that did particularly influence your evolution as an artist? Moreover, how does you cultural substratum due to your current and previous collaborative works in Croatia direct the trajectory of your artistic research?

Life in it’s complexity of stories, experiences, disappointments and happy times, but also living beings; people, animals, nature; surrounding or making my life’s stories is the source of my artistic directions and turns. As I evolve as a human being and as my life pace is going on – at similar turning points my art evolves from some topics, methods or collaborations being left behind and other becoming current and more important to focus on. This is how I recently felt that there is a lot of truth in it when I say my art can be beautiful only at it’s shallow surface, but same as life, when you look and scratch deeper levels than you realize how hard and important are those questions or methods are on which it is focused on.

My collaborations in homeland Croatia had some modest impact on what I do in my own arts. Artist with whom I collaborated in Croatia like Borut Šeparović from collective Montažstroj and Boris Bakal from Shadow casters are pure examples of collaborations through which I as a beginner at that time learned or have been inspired by different approaches they use to talk about current croatian societal issues. Let’s say in my latest works definitely can be seen a trace of influences either in methods or topics by those artists and collaborations.

2) For this special edition of WomenCinemakers we have selected Screen saver, an extremely interesting video that our readers have already started to get to know in the introductory pages of this article. As you have remarked in your director’s statement, you drew inspiration from the growing sense of alienation that you feel about life chained with physical existence: when walking us through the genesis of Screen saver would tell us how important was for you to make a personal film, about a feeling that touches you from the inside, rather than develop a conventional language in order to establish an open dialogue with the viewers?  

I always felt that crazy feeling I would be happiest if I could exist only as energy cluster that doesn’t have to worry about filing the needs of physical body. Even as a small child I tought wouldn’t it be heavenly if it could be possible only to spend life absorbing and producing arts and intellectual materials. In this video work I drew parallel asking myself a question if there somewhere in vast universe actually do exist beings only as energy clusters what are those places, spots, to which they actually wish to run away and get away from their world similarly as we humans so many times wish to escape to nature and green color. It was an easy parallel to make, but answer is left to the viewer to figure out everyone for themselves.

3) We have appreciated the way Screen saver questions the dichotomy between the physical world the virtual dimension: we dare say that in a certain sense it relates to the disconnect — as well as the possibile points of convergences — between the reality that we perceive through our sensorial experience and our inner landscape. We would like to ask you how do you consider the role of daily experience as the starting point of your creative process: how does your everyday life’s experience fuel your artistic journey?

Of course, daily life with it’s Daily routines are a huge source of artistic material almost at same amount as global worldly issues. My latest work in dance film is actually all about that, called “Extreme routine”. As for the video work “Screen saver”, yes, most of it was influenced actually by my daily need of escape to some peaceful, comfortable, easy, tranquil spot. When thinking where would I escape to if I wasn’t born with human body but in some other type of universe intrigued me into making this video that tries to bring virtual world into green earthly nature and ask question  if it can actually be connected.

4) Featuring a poetic use of landscape, Screen saver shows a gentle naturalism capable of evoking a dream world with deeper metaphysical concerns. How did you select the locations and how did they affect the shooting process? In particular, what were your choices regarding lighting and grading in order to achieve such brilliant results on the visual point?

Selecting location for filming “Screen saver” was easiest. At the time of planning this video it was middle spring in Croatia and my favorite meadow was blooming with dandelions and trees trunks full of leaves, warm spring blossoms carrying the smell of this fresh new life. We were just worried that we come on time before the city parks mowning squad comes and cuts it all. The sun was at the day of filming actually very strong so Ana Opalić who filmed it had some work to make it best possible, and she succeeded as you saw. Ana is the best and I know when I work with her all will be eventually excellent. So it was with “Screen saver”.

5) Salute is an interesting video performance created in June 2014 in abandoned iron factory space and it’s based on an imaginary come back to Sisak, your native city, where you lived during the tragic events that affected Croatia during the war. Reminding us of the atmospheres of Thomas Hirschhorn’s work, the images seem to speak about the dematerialization of memory that affect the place: could you tell us how important is the role of memory in your practice? In particular, what were you aesthetic choices when selecting the exact locations for your performance?

I was actually struggling and am still struggling in upcoming works if we should cherish and retell our memories of life, places of living, country, politics anything that affects how well we are in our lives or we should only use it as you say as an image to be dematerialized and made into background landscape for current and future happenings. Choosing location for video performance “Salute” had two triggers for me. Iron factory from my hometown had it’s visual weight in it’s size, flat wide shapes and colors that lack actual color. Since it is part of my memory as a place in the city which before the war was a source of income for more than half of citizens of Sisak and after the war the factory was closed down, sold through suspicious corrupted contracts and workers lives actuality brought to almost no income due to that capitalistic corruptive events and actually not due to the war itself it was a devastating memory to hold and it was the correct choice to tell it at the exact inside of one of the factory halls.

6) Another interesting work from your artistic production that we would like to introduce to our readers is entitled Extreme routine, whose trailer can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/anR9DGeab64. We have been impressed with the way you have captured the sculptural qualities of movement, highlighting the resonance between the body and its surroundings in the physical movements of everyday life. What was your preparation in term of reharsal with the performers Luka Barešić, Irena Boćkai, Ida Fucic, Michał Gostyński In particular, was important for you to achieve spontaneity or did you aim to schedule and control each step of your choreography?

It was, of course almost as our daily life’s routines, a combination of spontaneity, free improvisation and planned choreography. I wanted to have scenes  like laughing, playing, dancing to be created by the performers at the moment but scenes like going to work or going to sleep at night to be choreographed and planned in every detail.

7) Deviating from traditional videomaking, To migrate or not to migrate  touches a highly topical issue in the socio political debate, that affects our unstable contemporary societies. Do you think that contemporary Art could play a role in offering to the viewers a different perspective on the pressing themes that plague our unstable age? And what could be the role of artists, in this sense?

3d animated video “To migrate or not to migrate” runs this heavy current topic of human migrations through mathematical formula of particles moving randomly but attracted to invisible force, route or spot their movement becomes the same and most of times very routed with clear path and goal. Yes, contemporary art can spread the light on current socio-political topics in a way that usual debate or analysis might not. Generally, I believe the role of contemporary artists is to always and endlessly be the light spreaders and visionaries of new views on global and local problems or at least pointers to attract more views to what is already well known as a problem but not spoken about enough to trigger the need for social change.

8) To migrate or not to migrate  rejects any stereotyped approach to urge the viewers to elaborate personal narratives: at the same time, your video How important is for you to trigger the audience imagination to elaborate personal association?

What I try to escape is giving to the audience my view or feeling on the  topic. I like to leave as much opportunity as possible for the viewer to develop his/hers own personal association to the topic. Not only the beauty is in the eye of beholder but the point of the topic very much also.

9) Sound and visual are crucial in your practice and we have appreciated the way the sound tapestry by Denise Mei Yan Hofmann provides the footage of Extreme routine with such an enigmatic and a bit unsettling atmosphere: how would you consider the role of sound within your practice and  how do you see the relationship between sound and movement?

Sometimes I feel it’s like many of my works first had sound or visual idea and and that latest the actual topic i.e. content was clarified or I would say born from it. As for choreographic and contemporary dance works I am balancing actually on the thin line between dance and physical theatre so sound is not necessary for defining movement in my works but as was the case in “Extreme routine” the sound can be the landscape for movement. I don’t wanna put a line between any of the options as it always depends from where the creative process actually started.

10) It’s no doubt that collaborations, as the ones that you have established over the years with Ana Opalić are today ever growing forces in Cinema and in Contemporary Art in general. It’s important to mention that together with photographer Boris Cvjetanović, Ana Opalić  represented Croatia at the 50th edition of the prestigious Venice Biennale: would you tell us something about this proficient collaboration? In particular, can you explain how your work demonstrates communication between you and Ana?

Our first work together was video performance “Salute” filmed in abandoned iron factory in my hometown. This is actually when it was clear how well Ana with her poetic camera and light work transfers or reads the poetics of my movements in front of the camera. From that experience and excellent work she created from this performance which was later awarded we continued to collaborate on filming my theatre shows and also on video work “Screen saver”. It is simple as that; when I work with Ana there is almost no explanations needed and no requests from my side, she reads my ideas very well and builds on them perfectly. But it moved from that even further: when music video for the song “Peanuts” (Kikiriki) was being created with alternative rock band Radost! as a parody to sports anthems and nationalistic slogans at soccer matches Ana was the sole author of the video and she created  excellent video content. The video was provoking with visuals picturing all those truths about nationalisms on soccer stadiums but also paradoxes of para-olympic games and it delivered those images so boldly that none of Croatian TV channels wanted to show it so it is currently only available via youtube: https://youtu.be/Zm37JJwIFgs

11) We like the cross disciplinary nature of your artistic research: you are a versatile artist and your practice involves video art, live and video performances, contemporary dance and multimedial experimental theatre. What did address you to develop such multidisciplinary approach to art? And how do you select a particular technique in order to examine a particular topic or theme?

Oh, this is actually the hardest question. I would say that art just happens to happen to me. As I said previously, many times I feel my work is triggered by sound or visual base and than from it the topic and actual content is being born. So, I cannot say I choose technique or even theme of the work, although I know it sounds funny, but I think a technique and vision of image or sound make a pact and they choose me, they bring me to finished choice without even me having the time to ask myself what I wanna do, haha.

12) We really appreciate the originality of your multifaceted artistic practice and before leaving this conversation we want to catch this occasion to ask you to express your view on the future of women in contemporary art scene. For more than half a century women have been discouraged from producing something ‘uncommon‘, however in the last decades there are signs that something is changing. How would you describe your personal experience as an unconventional artist? And what’s your view on the future of women in this interdisciplinary field?

It actually makes me deeply sad that we are in the new millenium for almost 20 years now and it is still obvious how few women artists in the contemporary art scene actually exist and especially in film making. It is unbelievable to me how fast technology is changing the world and our lives but how terribly slowly grows general awareness that we can be anything we wanna be. I even caught myself when transferring from only writing stage works to actually performing them that due to my disability I tought my place is not on the performing side of the stage or camera. How much more wrong could I be? But this is what general society is still giving to us through last century education approaches and media support, this idea that different is special and unusual instead that different is normal and ordinary.

13) Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts, Vesna. Finally, would you like to tell us readers something about your future projects? How do you see your work evolving?

I am currently at a very huge crossroads of deciding how to continue my work in Croatia due to low funding sources. I dream about large ensemble stage works and feature films which is at the current level of institutional funding impossible. Financial support in Croatia is getting lowered year by year for contemporary arts and it is making me trying to start some new approach to finding everything by starting serious large fundraising project. So, as you say, my work can evolve on this path of my dreams. I wanna create art works in film, stage and music that openly discuss current global and local social problematics, I see works in which different artists collaborate and bring important activistic and socially engaging works to life and not only to Croatian stage or big screen but to the world as our global artistic and human home.