Balkan Art Scene
Mateas Pares - How Do We Move Forward As Protagonists In Our own Narratives, With No Absolute Truth
Sculptor and graphic designer from Stockholm found his way to Balkans, to be more precise to Sarajevo. How did your art journey develop in this geographical direction? A few years back I was writing extensively about my art in order to create a more organized understanding of what I was doing, and I wrote a lot about the idea of conflict as an essential part of life. At the same time I stumbled across the Instagram account of KUMA, a Sarajevo based organisation which is working in the intersection of art and journalism, specifically dealing with the subject of conflict. The coincidence was just too good to ignore so I contacted them and one thing led to another. All of a sudden I found myself on a plane to Sarajevo to attend a week of speeches and excursions, which they organized. I knew I wanted to do a project around conflict, and even if it didn’t pan out as I planned, it eventually turned out to be a project. I contacted National Gallery about it and they liked what I wanted to do, and almost two years later I have an exhibition there. It sounds so straightforward and easy when condensing it to this short amount of text, but it all feels quite surreal actually.
Your work is often settled as a depiction between collective narrative and personal narrative. How do you define, or maybe contradict, each in your works? When I changed my creative trajectory towards art, I knew that one thing I wanted was to move away from conceptual work. I had worked with conceptual creativity all my career and couldn’t stand one more smart concept. I was more interested in letting the works be instruments for expressing something, rather than communicating something. Having said that, when I do projects I tend to have a theme that informs the work, and which usually end with me posing an open question. In that sense I frame the interpretation of the artworks for the viewer. But the theme is still only a layer on top of the artwork; the artwork is not dependent on the theme to be experienced. What I’m trying to say is that it is more the themes that evolves around the idea of the collective narrative and personal narrative. The works themselves just exist in the room, as bodies that you get affected by in one way or another.
National Gallery in Sarajevo will host your latest exhibition "The Sevdah Tone". Could you tell us the background story of this installation and sound production? The Sevdah Tone is the result of the failed attempt to go to Sarajevo for a week in 2020 and gain enough knowledge of the war in former Yugoslavia to understand what effects a conflict can have on identity — on an individual level as well as on a societal level — after it has been overcome, in order to create an art project. Since conflicts seem to be interweaved with our history, I was curious to understand if, why, and how, we need the conflict in order to move forward, just like the protagonist in works of narratives, such as books and films, needs it in order to move forward. Although, what soon became apparent was that contrary to my belief the conflict was not over, it had merely changed appearance. The war had simply been replaced by a combination of a suppressing of the past, and individuals and groups arguing over the war’s historiography. The paths to create their post-war identities were corrupted by truths and lies seamlessly intertwined by ignorance, self-deception, and dishonesty. I noticed that as a consequence of the approaching failure, I started to force my preconceived beliefs into the reality I faced. To create and maintain my identity as a certain artist, I corrupted my own path with truths and lies seamlessly intertwined by my very own ignorance, self-deception, and dishonesty. A question, forming a new project, emerged: If our identity is built on a set of beliefs, and these beliefs are built on what we think are facts about reality, but what they really are, are products of inevitable conscious or unconscious distortions of reality, how do we move forward as protagonists in our own narratives, when we realize that we will never reach an absolute truth, ultimately being forced to live with identities built on our own made up reality? The title is inspired by Shepard Tone, which is an auditory illusion of a tone that either ascends or descends in pitch, and due to its unique construction, never reaches a crescendo, resulting in being stuck ascending or descending forever. The sound installation consists of a choir trying to sing Sevdah but is as if stuck forever not capable to move past the first syllable. The ten wall-works work as physical manifestations of the sound installation. Consisting of the same twelve fragmented sculptures — a total of 120 sculptures — rearranged differently in each work, the sculptures seem as if floating around, inevitably only capable of reaching incomplete and unfinished narratives, making them susceptible for personal interpretations, or truths.
You run the exhibition project "StudyForArtPlatform". What motivated you to create it, and how did the public react?
For me it was a combination of creating another type of energy in my professional life, which normally is quite lonesome, and the identified need for artists to have another platform to exhibit and explore their art practise. When I got the chance to take over the space I immediately saw the potential to create this exhibition platform. And it was quite a success from day one. As you probably know as well, the art world can be quite closed, so it was a very welcomed initiative.
Any plans for the future you'd like to share with the readers? Well, if you are in Venice in July I have a duo exhibition together with the Norwegian artist Tim Høibjerg, and if you are in Stockholm in Autumn, you can both come and check out my exhibition at Taverna Brillo, or come by StudyForArtPlatform, where there are three great exhibitions planned.
Author: Hana Tiro