The Pavilion of Serbia at the 54th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Raša Todosijević

The Pavilion of  Serbia at the 54th International Art Exhibition la Biennale di Venezia. Interview with Dragoljub Raša Todosijević by Ilari Valbonesi.

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The theme of my presence at the 54th Venice Biennale in Serbia Pavilion could be summarized as the thought of LIGHT and DARKNESS of symbols. In this particular case, I use expressions such as ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ in the metaphorical sense. (from STATEMENT)

Dragoljub Raša Todosijević was born on 2 September 1945, in Belgrade, Serbia. He graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, in 1969. He works and lives in Belgrade, Serbia. Todosijević is one of the key protagonists of the circle of Belgrade conceptual artists. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he had made radical steps away from the ideology and practice of socialist modernism, taking part in the new movements that were emerging on the world scene. Together with his colleagues (Marina Abramović, Era Milivojević, Neša Paripović, Zoran Popović and Gergelj Urkom) gathering in the Student Cultural Center in Belgrade, he contributed to the affirmation of the so called New Artistic Practice throughout the territory of former Yugoslavia, and profoundly influenced many contemporary artists. His work is intensely imbued with political and social criticism, through constant questioning and reexamining of traditional cultural and art systems, as well as society, as a whole. The art practice of Dragoljub Raša Todosijević is directed towards research in various media and techniques, from performances, actions, video works, three-dimensional installations, to the problematizing of the medium of painting and the practice of painting, itself. Some of his most prominent works are “Decision as Art”, “Was ist Kunst?” (“What is Art?”), “Gott liebt die Serben” (“God Loves the Serbs”), “My Fuxus Pianos”, and many others. Todosijević’s performance is marked by a provocative and aggressive behavior with which he irritates the negative in a person in order to draw attention to that particular problem, as in the works “Was ist Kunst?”, “Vive la France-vive la tyrannie, “Decision as Art”, and so on. During the mid-1970s, he performed a series of drawings under the common title “No a day without a line” (“Nulla dies sine linea”). Applying consequently or dogmatically this well-known proverb in various galleries and museums, he was trying to demystify the act of art, itself, connecting it, ironically, with an act of labor and “training of the hand”, and the context of presentation of artworks. In the 1970s, he also produced numerous collages through which he examined authority and authorship in the art world. In the 1990s, Todosijević used advertising media, such as newspapers, posters, billboards and radio, starting a series of pseudo-ads and pseudo-advertisements, featuring a fictitious art academy “Todosijević”, a fictitious  Kvass corporation Todosiyevitch-Malevich, etc. Through a cycle of installations, drawings, and sculpture he entitled “Gott liebt die Serben”, which started in 1989, Todosijević ironized nationalistic kitsch, pushing it to the extreme, as he did in Belgrade and Čačak, in 1998, when he served Serbian national specialties- bean broth, bread and beer at tables set up to form the shape of a swastika. From the year 2000 he continues to undertake actions titled “A Mother For Sale” in urban environments- on billboards, buses, trams etc.

Todosijević also writes theoretical texts, fine art criticism, and stories, such as: “For Art- and Against Art” (Belgrade 1974), “The Edinburgh Statement – Who makes a profit on Art, And who gains from it honestly?” (Belgrade 1975), “What Lines Are” (Belgrade 1977), “Art As Criticism of Society”, “Art and Revolution”, which he publishes in catalogues and trade publications. He is an author of a number of books of stories on art.  Dragoljub Raša Todosijević has exhibited at numerous solo and group exhibitions, in prestigious galleries and museums throughout the world.  He is the recipient of the ArtsLink 2004 Award, IASPIS Residential Award 2001, in Stockholm, and the 2006 Emily Harvey Foundation Award in New York -Venice. He also received the 50th October Salon Award in Belgrade, as well as the 2009 “Politika” Award in Serbia.