Siniša Ilić

Siniša Ilić (born in 1977, lives and works in Belgrade) is a visual artist who combines works on paper with installation, video, and performance. His work revolves around exploring different social tensions, whether in relation to sustainability, cultural heritage, labor conditions, or migration, as well as finding ways to nurture friendship and solidarity. He frequently approaches these topics from a historical perspective, questioning the relationship between the Global South and West, especially through culminations in violence. Ex-Yugoslavia is often at the forefront of Siniša Ilić’s works, both with regard to its historical significance as well as its connotations today. He is interested in how the past often finds ways to seep through the cracks and whether it can be reconciled with the present moment.

Siniša Ilić proposes a recontextualization of the city of Skopje in a spatial installation titled Filigran. His work connects eight abstract sculptural objects from MoCA Skopje’s collection with his own drawings, collages, and moving images, placing them on platforms of varying heights. In this scenography, the audience is granted an unusually close experience of the artworks, as the viewers are invited to engage with the space and seat themselves close by.

The irregularity of the platforms echoes the layers of Skopje’s landscape and the different vantage points from which we can think about its history and its exceptional meandering between post-earthquake ruin and modernity. This is particularly emphasized in the only figurative sculpture in the selection, Dimo Todorovski’s Mother and Child – Skopje Tragedy (1963), which shows the very literal consequences of the earthquake.

Siniša Ilić’s contemporary works echo Skopje’s wholly different present, showing choreographies of construction and demolition, as well as reuse of materials, but also contemporary conditions of labor. One of the drawings he created from memory shows a fast-food restaurant in Skopje. It invites us to look upon a combination of economic crisis and lethargy, speaking of a different, more symbolic earthquake.

Filigran – whose title refers to a technique of manipulating gold or silver wire into fine ornamental tracery – references the delicate ways in which threads connect history and the present moment, forming a carefully woven pattern of visible past trauma and its resonance today.

Interview with Siniša Ilić

1. What were your impressions of Skopje and the Solidarity Collection of MoCA Skopje? What did you find interesting about the collection?

Layers. The collection feels like a structure that is in constant reshaping as time passes. It feels like it “curates” itself, since it is based on donations and gifts, and so it has an economy and rhythm that stays public – belonging at the same time to the institutions, donors, audiences, and others. This is exciting. It’s similar to my impression of Skopje: that it is a surface with many craters, outcroppings, and threads drawing a delicate landscape.

2. How do you relate the works you chose from the collection to your own practice?

Filigran shows sculptures from the collection, going from abstract to figurative forms and back. Sculptures are complementary with my works on paper and on screens. I wanted to stage tensions between the layers and stories that the collection, the current moment, the artistic forms, and the earthquake bring. I suggest a zigzag path through Filigran and propose a coexistence with art, rather than following only one storyline or statement.

3. What is your view on solidarity in the art world today? Do you think something similar to the MoCA Skopje donations can happen?

I think it can happen and it is happening all the time. The visibility of solidarity and its impact varies depending on the scale of a social crisis. The distribution of wealth and information feels like an obstacle that reminds us that we are not in the same social, class, or personal position in any given moment, and so our reactions resonate differently, which can keep us frustrated, feeling bad or powerless. In that context, if we understand solidarity as a gesture against poverty or scarcity or misfortune, then we as artists and people active in the field of culture can try to share our knowledge, skills, or imagination.