Interview // Marija Avramović and Sam Twidale

September 12, 2019 | Ana Simona

Marija Avramović, Pool full of liquor, 70x60cm, mixed media on canvas, 2018 ® Novembar Gallery

Marija Avramović is the multimedia artist from Belgrade that lives and works in Paris, and Sam Twidale, coming from Hereford (UK) also lives and works in Paris. And while Marija finished Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, department for painting, and did her MA on Beaux-Arts de Paris, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Nancy, Sam has more pragmatic artistic education - he collaborated with many digital artists and galleries as an audio-visual engineer and consultant. Even they have different starting points and artistic backgrounds, Marija’s openness to new media and researches in art and Sam’s delight for mixing technology, design, and arts brought them together, and their collaboration started in 2017. Their common notion is putting the narrative and profiling of characters as in movies and video games in artworks. Besides the fact that they are helping each other with their different methods, knowledge, and skills, their collaboration is enriched also by their similar approaches to art as a transdisciplinary field of research of human states and philosophical problems.


WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?

Marija: Right now we’re working on a project inspired by the ideas of Object-Oriented Ontology and object intelligence. The starting point is loosely based on the book ‘Roadside Picnic’ (Strugatsky brothers), where we have this mysterious territory, ‘The Zone’ that was briefly visited by the aliens. They left without making any contact or explanation, leaving behind an unknown number of objects and the feeling of insignificance. Humans are facing the fact that there are other things equally or more important than them. For now, we work on animation, a series of drawings, and objects...

Sam: The first result of this will be a videogame-ish work that will actually sort of playable online.


WHAT WAS THE GENESIS OF YOUR ARTISTIC CREDO OR STYLE? WHAT INFLUENCES
YOU OR DID INFLUENCE YOUR WORK IN PAST?

Sam: ... really anything can be an influence. There is an apple tree outside my parents' house and they have attached little ceramic birds to it. They matter. Now I want to make something in ceramics...
Here's a (truncated) list of things I like right now:
• The soundtracks to all the Final Fantasy games
• (those games themselves)
• The original demo of Abe's Odyssey
• SF
• Hoarders and Hyperobjects
• The Mushroom at the End of the World
• The voice of Alan Watts in Everything
• Trailers for Death Stranding
• Limmy playing Euro Truck Simulator
• BOB
• Peacebone and Fireworks (again)
• The queue system in Disneyland

Marija: Since I was a kid I was into Sci-Fi/horror books and films. Sam studied music and I studied painting, so I guess that we mix influences from our different backgrounds. We learn a lot while working, and style gets formed somewhere along the way. For our real-time animations we use an engine for making video games, and these aesthetics, for example, have influenced my paintings and drawings a lot.

Marija Avramović and Sam Twidale, Sunshowers, animation, 3:09 min, 2019. ® Sam Twidale 


HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WORK TOGETHER, DO YOU FACE ANY PROBLEMS, DO YOU
COMPROMISE A LOT?

Sam: Working together is easy. Writing responses to interview questions is harder.

Marija: It’s motivating, the way someone you fall in love with makes you inspired and superhuman. I don’t think we compromise at all, the point is that we both have fun. No ideas are denied and the worlds we create are just a mix of everything we want and like.


WHAT ARE THE SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ISSUES YOU DEAL WITHIN YOUR WORK?

Marija: This is a hard one, because, even though our art is mirroring our political stance, our thinking and our ways of life, the main goal is still making art. We often touch the themes of feminism, environmentalism, but unlike the activists, we don't target our audience.

Sam: As Marija mentioned, we don't aim to make overtly political art, however, our work is not created in a vacuum and is therefore tinged with our political sensibilities. I want to say that we try to create vibrant objects in post-anthropocentric worlds where it matters which matters matter.


DID YOU EVER FACE DISCRIMINATION IN THE ARTWORLD? WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS FOR AN EMERGING ARTIST IN THE INTERNATIONAL ART MARKET AND HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THEM?

Marija: I feel like every artist I ever met faced some sort of discrimination in the art world. Though, I don’t know if it tells more about my surroundings or the art world itself. The little I know about the art scene showed me how real and important is the question of gender, class, age, etc. It also made me aware of how cool it is to work with certain people and how important that is for productivity when you are an emerging artist.

Sam: I'm a white male so I'm obviously fine *sigh. The artworld is unfortunately riddled with issues of inequality. I think it is very important that people who are lucky enough to be born into privilege do as much as they can to fight against this.


Marija Avramović and Sam Twidale, Portraits of Ada and Milica, animation, 2018. ® Novembar Gallery


WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK IN DIFFERENT CULTURES, HOW DO YOU FEEL THESE
DIFFERENCES?

Marija: Well, I guess the size of the art market makes a big difference. Working internationally makes me aware of the privileges I have or don’t have. It is also fun to see how different cities have different vibes on the scene. It’s crazy how different Paris is from Belgrade, yet how I felt that Liverpool and Belgrade have so much in common in terms of dynamic, community... Sao Paulo is so different from anything I have ever seen, and the architecture of that city inspired some new works.

Sam: My experience with this is understandably very different from Marija's. I don't feel too much of a cultural difference between France and the UK – especially within my circles of friends. It's the small things that I notice - the good(ish) bread on every corner and the number of words to describe wine. Its been great to have a guided tour of the Belgrade art scene from an insider... I really love how vibrant it is and I'm looking forward to getting more involved.


WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE BUY YOUR WORK? WHICH ARTWORKS OF
CONTEMPORARY ART WOULD YOU BUY AND WHY?

Marija: Dinner parties look cooler with our stuff.

Sam: I mostly make art which is difficult to sell (videos/realtime works etc)... I would love to see more of these in people's houses – its good to think of someone living with your work. Why not buy it instead of a pet? If I find a bunch of money lying around tomorrow I would buy an Even Roth Red Line, a John Gerrard Solar Reserve, Theo Triantafyllidis' mixed reality theatre piece (can you buy that?), something from Ian Cheng... I would ask Joey Holder to make me some wallpaper and I would get a big garden with a site-specific sound installation from Jakob Kudst Steensen.

Marija Avramović, I can always tell when adults are about to cry, 150x100cm, acryl on canvas, 2018. ® Novembar Gallery

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