The Queer Salon // 2017 Belgrade // 2018 Priština

October 10, 2018 | Ana Simona

The Queer Salon is an annual exhibition held in Belgrade during the Pride Week in September every year. Every year different curators make different concept, they select different artists to exhibit one aspect of queer art in Serbia or in the region. Last year the curator of the Queer Salon in Belgrade was a Serbian art historian Ana Simona Zelenovic, whose concept was show the existing themes and map the queer art production and the problems of defining the queer art as such. This year, on the 6th of October the same exhibition was installed in Pristina (Kosovo). That was the first time they had exhibition regarding queer art issues. The exhibition was held in Termokiss, youth and cultural squat, which gave it a special charm. It was perfectly connected with the space and people around it in this spirit of anarchism, rebellion and transformation - exactly what queer art talkes about. It is important to make this connection between social groups and art, so one of the goals was to transcedent the borders made after fall of Yugoslavia and to exhibit artworks from the whole region of Western Balkans. 

The exhibition asks the question What is queer art, What is queer art on Balkans, is there a link that connects the artworks in terms of either theme or artistic form and are there any characteristics of queer art and what makes it recognizable as queer art. 

The chosen artwork speaks mostly about gender and sexual identity and can be classified into two categories by their themes: 
  • the visual identity of gender and sexuality 
  • gender and sexual identity as a social construct 
  • critical approach to opressive social norms and practices 

These groups reflect the themes shown in the artworks while the tendency to find the specific queer forms in art expressions stays in the remark of mediums, art elements, and expression artists use. The works of Damir Prljača, Kristofer Andrić, Milena Stanisavljević, Nataša Teofilović and Tonči Kranjčević Batalić tell us of a need of an artist to question their own identity analytically and critically and their position as an individual in a binary engendered society. Their work also questions the way social circumstances conditions identity, they do not analyze the conditions and causes but the consequences that social circumstances bring to the way we see our own identity. The thing that categorizes these artworks as queer art is their theme, but also the position of the I from which the artists perform mostly. Recognizing the personal experience and the experience of one’s own identity – either sexual or gender – as an important idea in art, is in the root of queer art. Queer art has both now and throughout the history been leaning on the subjective and the use of its creative potential in expressing one’s artistic thoughts. 

The other group of work – the works of Dunja Đolović, Aleksandra Branković, Saša Kvrgić, Igor Madjinca, and Iva Vejnović, are telling us a story about gender identity in the context of social norms and the way that they have been socially constructed. One should notice that all of these artists use some kind of collage as their chosen art technique – in this case the form is conditioned by the theme i.e. the problem of social constructionism which symbolically or ironically can be shown through the collages. The juxtaposition of various depictions of visual representation of gender and sexual identity analyze to which extent these identities are constructed and how a person or the society surpasses these constructs, if it surpasses them at all. The collage as a form shows the need for fragmentation and critical inquiry of identities and contrast between defining and self-defining, categorizing and identification. 

The third group consists of works by the group HAVEIT, Nini Ciniotti, and Branko Burmaz. This group represents the critic of specific social practice and phenomena. To some extent, these works are political and show a critical view of a specific political situation (HAVEIT), social praxis (Burmaz) and social change (Cinotti) which cause a change in perception of the identity. 

If we look at the exhibited artworks queer art in Serbia and its neighboring countries covers a wide range of artistic expression, mediums, themes, and forms. The thing they have in common is questioning as an artist method, whether it is questioning identity, its expressions or social problems. 

Many of the exhibited artworks use irony, sarcasm, cynicism and humor, which have been often used throughout the history of queer art. What is interesting is that these artworks speak about serious problems in a cheerful and humorous way while avoiding emotionally hard and dark narratives. 

In this way, queer art shows us in what ways queer people deal with social problems outside the art world. The common thing in terms of form for the exhibited works is the need for destabilization – of objects, structures, pictorial and other elements of artistic expression – and also fragmantion, contrast, juxtaposition. This corresponds with the nature of queer identity as such – it destabilizes, fragmantes, juxtapositiones and contrast the existing norms, structures and exprected behaviour. Queer art in Serbia and neighboring countries still shows the themes related to coming out, social rejection, problems with identity – all topics typical for early phases of queer art in the Western world. But it also introduces certain themes of contemporary queer art like overcoming stereotypical queer iconography by focusing on particular aspects of queer identity, as well as questioning one’s identity inside the community. The exhibition show the current condition of the queer art scene in Serbia, it also shows the diversity and the troubles that one comes across when trying to define and characterize queer art. Nevertheless, I have tried to give a sense of a creative community inside which one can redefine tradional artistic forms and gender and sexual identies. 


♀ 


Ana Simona, Belgrade (2018)










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