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Nadežda Kirćanski – The Upward Way of Fear

Regimes of equivalent signs

To express something that is, makes an inconceivable task. For what is scattered by a shifting eye is to be gathered, the partial views are to be linked one to another. That is the labour the expression does.

At her exhibition The Upward Way of Fear at the New Gallery of Visual Arts, the artist Nadežda Kirćanski determines these partial views and addresses the dominant force of life the money, that revanchist discharge of our work alienated from us reminding us of the basic principle of its functioning, with a demystifying simplicity.
Showing the forms that are diffused in watercolour, the artist cuts off the banknotes and products from the matrix of everyday. We see the object anew. That is the power of the suspended space. In the gallery, the objects become missiles. Reframing them makes it possible to reinterpret them. And that new possibility we can translate back to our lives.

Here we are speaking of a method of demonstrating and deconstructing the ruling systems of equivalence and representation, that are no longer orienting or determining anything. Monetary signs are dissipating. The money, that agens essential for the capitalist economy, that simultaneously requires and rejects portrayal, as noticed by Frederick Jameson.

All these crises of representation come from a deep separation between an object and its real value. There is a fundamental and terrifying gap between the two. The value of food, the value of art, of a human life, health, culture, public sphere. There only exists the promiscuity of paper money and the mass immaterial hallucination of the system of credit and loan, kept somewhere inside a vast global computer network, obsessing our lives as some kind of a digital superego.

Though today’s art corresponds with this crisis of representation leading to endless introspection, deconstruction and cynicism, Nadežda Kirćanski’s sensibility for the universal has not atrophied. Her delicacy of expression is followed by speculative accuracy and soberness. Yet, her concise expression and promptness of style are not reducing the precision of her work. The artist has found a direct way to the essence, through the retouched postcards of our reality a few symbols, banknotes and products organised in compact compositions. The dispersed gradation implies the mechanisms of such a rotten illusion.

This artistic method does not belong with the grand political statements, yet it demonstrates the authority of money above all spheres of life.

In continuity with her previous works and installations, Kirćanski positions the crucial individual situations within the wider social context with disarming clarity, directness and surgical precision, addressing the fundamental conflicts of our time. She questions those habits and points towards the crucial existential determinants. Immune to the provided matrices of activity, she realises her task to make the bare core of our living situation visible. Like dissecting a balloon, she fearlessly detects neuralgic points hospital waiting rooms or commemorative practices on the internet or by using the health insurance card and 200 dinars for a pack of Bensedine or a bread loaf at the exhibition at New Gallery of Visual Arts.

We look at the diffused forms that are awaiting an anymistic communion. Out of the gallery walls, they’ll be activated exactly at the spots where the lifeblood of the market capitalism is most visible. The billboard scenes have not adopted the typical visual language of marketing. Despite bearing multiple meanings, these images communicate precisely and clearly. A product and its price. Bread. A betting ticket. Bensedine. A transportation ticket. The muddy water from the water supply of Zrenjanin, the artist’s hometown. The water that is full of methane. The burning water.

Since long, we can trace the artistic practice that mobilises various forms of money: from Duchamp who used the hand-made banknote to pay his dentist, to Joseph Beuys, Andy Warhal, Cildo Meireles, Barbara Kruger or Cesare Piertrusti, to name but a few. The works spanned from the most frequent subversive integration of the material money notes, coins, credit cards, to the analysis of the wider body of topics of debt, economy and dynamics in the art market.

Yet, Kirćanski breaks with the rhetoric of delivered gestures and recreates the tension between life and art, using the watercolour-like diffusivenes of the sign to emphasise its mutability. She directs the eye to the arbitrariness of the sign, where the signifiers are freed from the burden of the signified. She illustrates the fragmentation of the sign related to the arbitrary dynamics of the capital.

The artist emphasises that all these values the esthetic, the use, the exchange and the exhibition-related values, are now accounted for under the exchange value of the sign. Kirćanski is making us aware of that she’s giving us tiny puzzles of the great whole that is the financial system based on the principle of equivalence, re-coding those bits and releasing them again, in a speculative game of exchange of signs.

The artist frames this exchange system with melancholic irony, not with the cynical hypocrisy. The focus is on the emotional politics of consumption. In that respect, she is less focused on the goods, and more on the regimes of the equivalence of signs. Instead of duplicating the object of consumption, she’s reflecting it in a critically ellegic and delicate way making it possible for us to grasp these regimes of sign equivalence from distance.

To untie this fundamental problem knot Kirćanski makes use of colour. Organised in a defined chromatic system, the colours before our eyes don’t dwell any longer where they are. For this reason, it is advisable that we now look at the unexpected etymology of the term money. Yanis Varoufakis (economist and politician, former Finance Minister of Greece, known for his refusal of conditions of the loan that would add to the Greek debt) reminded us in his lecture, in an unexpected and enlightening way, that words money (CHREMA), debt/liability (CHREOS), use-value (CHRESI) and colour (CHROMA) share the etymological origin in Ancient Greek.

Which comes first? The ochre colour of the bread loaf or that of the note we use to pay for it? Kirćanski knows that to surrender to money as the real representative of value is to accept to submit to such an image. Therefore she depicts the dispersed distillates of this overused demand, as we attempt to think of the measure of value, discovering the complementarity of the colours of night transportation tickets with the colours of the last banknotes left in our wallet.

Anica Tucakov

The Upward Way of Fear

With her new concept The Upward Way of Fear Nadežda does not intend to leave us speechless. That is not her intention, for Nadežda is unusual. Most often, everyone wants an observer to remain silent, for that flatters the artist. Then it gets talked about: someone, somewhere, there, remained speechless in front of a work of art. Compliments that are not compliments to artists who are not artists. And everyone wants to help the artists because we live in a culture that treats an artist as a prematurely born infant craving for compassion, to be lied to and petted. He’s lied to with such commitment and sincerity that we, the compassionate accomplices of a culture, convince ourselves that our experience in front of his art is so powerful that nothing is left to be said. Although, most times there is indeed nothing to say, but that absence doesn’t say anything of the quality of an artwork, nor of the quality of our experience, as a matter of fact. Nadežda, though, is a different kind of artist, gathering a different kind of audience.

This audience is not more exceptional or less valuable than another audience, it’s just hers. She’s met with a lot of tut-tutting as well, as many don’t resonate with her work, those who don’t know the “anxiety of everyday” and who, simply by virtue of circumstance, were left out of the order of “hassle”: public transportation at night, “psychosomatic asthma” as a special mean of emotional communication, cabbage, heads, Canesten and those massive, always sudden and somehow acute, charges.

Anxiety, apprehension, fear: those are the elementary categories of our lives. Oftenwhen they get to us they bring a hint of a solution and their ending. There is the widespread myth of the paralyzing fear, the instinctive petrification of a hare in front of what frightens us. That myth of paralyzing fear is so common just like the smoky cuckoo is slandered and defamed. That poor bird intrudes her eggs only in extreme necessity. Up to then, she had strived to care for her offspring with all her forces. Only when left without means to care for the eggs does she put them in the nests of others. Quick to judge, we slandered her and attributed her misjudged inclination to some of us. She becomes the symbol of fraud, while the only fraudsters are we ourselves. Suffice to say that being smoky means being of gray colour.

The values of fear Nadežda wants to depict this time, represent the very spectrum of experience of various embedded and acquired fears we live with, accustomed to them. Fear of the cost of a thing, fear that something will go wrong when it can’t get worse. Yet, isn’t there so much hope in that?

Our culture abounds with consolations. For the particular historical circumstances that happened to us, we can live sincerely with a strange hope that what we are living is not the worst that can happen. Lives like that happen everywhere around us. A paradoxical optimism that it is going well because it can go worse. For Nadežda, naturally, that experience of the world has its colours palettes, shades, tones and a lot of runniness.

Fear flows down to the heels, that’s what they used to say of fear. If one knew that said way of fear he could have felt it in his body. But it all originated from someone pissing out of fear once and, all of a sudden, the urine got its way set: down the leg, pursued by fear, becoming the cause of a verbal image. The fear itself became a downflow. The images of childhood, past and that unpleasant warmth. Such metaphors mostly serve one to grapple from them and run somewhere else. In Nadežda’s work, the fear moves upward and transfigures into a rapture-like feeling. In front of this work, therefore, we are not going to remain “speechless”, we will not want to grapple out of it, to get somewhere else as soon as possible out of the gallery space, to some other spaces and ambients, to some other stories. That’s why this work is the exact metaphor for our real present, the one we chose. After experiencing this work we’ll chat. We won’t mutually pretend to be “metaphysically wordless” in front of the questions that opened, no. We’ll chat about ordinary things. We’ll be warm at the right places again. It’s like that with Nadežda, that’s the only way she can do: put things back to heart.

Vladimir Tabašević

Nadežda Kirćanski (1992, Zrenjanin), visual artist. Completed undergraduate and master studies, School of Fine Arts, Department of Sculpture, in 2017. Currently attends doctoral artistic studies at the same school. Her artistic practice includes a vast array of media including drawing, objects and site-sensitive spatial installations. One of the key focuses in her work is a clash between the social-political realities and the contemporary language of the young, whose analyses destills hidden emotional, physical and intellectual work. Nadežda had four solo shows and participated in many group shows in Serbia and abroad. In the last year she was an artist in residence at Kulturvermittlung Steiermark in Graz, Residency Unlimited in New York City, Temporary Studio in Saarbrücken, 42nd Jalovik Artist Colony, Art Island Švicarija, in Ljubljana, 39th Symposium of Watercolorists in Ečka. She won the award for young contemporary artists Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos and a distinction at the competition for the Award for Drawing by Vladimira Veličković Fondation in 2018. She is also the winner of the award Sreten Stojanović, ALU Professor awarded by School of Fine Arts for sculpture in 2017. Her works are included in Wiener Art Collection and other private collections.

behance.net/nadezdakircanski; instagram.com/kircansky