Yane Calovski & Hristina Ivanoska

In addition to their individual projects, artists Yane Calovski (born 1973, lives and works in Skopje and Berlin) and Hristina Ivanoska (born 1974, lives and works in Skopje and Berlin) have worked in tandem since 2000. Their collaborative works are characterized by a dynamic use of different media, from performance, installation, text, and theory to drawing, sculpture, and wall engraving. Their work is marked by a desire to illuminate overlooked aspects of history, whether by delving into past events or recreating imagined history in the present moment. The local environment plays a vital role for Yane Calovski and Hristina Ivanoska, who try to recontextualize their workspace and open up opportunities for new interpretations and parallel readings of set beliefs. They often structure their projects as questions instead of answers, allowing viewers to become co-creators of their works’ meanings.

For their spatial installation titled All Things Flowing, the artists propose another look at the history of Skopje’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In 1966, 89 architectural projects were submitted to the open call for building the new museum. Among them, one stood apart – the proposal by Polish architect Oskar Hansen, known for his theory of the “Open Form”.

The architect imagined a transformable exhibition space, able to fold entirely and then unfold in various combinations, with hexagonal elements lifted by hydraulic-powered rotating telescopes. Oskar Hansen imagined the gallery would rise and unfurl toward the sky whenever a new exhibition opened, and otherwise be hidden below ground.

This ambitious proposal formed the initial template for Yane Calovski’s motorized sculptural installation and Hristina Ivanoska’s large-scale mural consisting of specially devised typography. The letters reference “Open Form” and engage in dialogue with works from the MoCA Skopje collection by two Macedonian artists: the painter Dushan Perchinkov and the sculptor Aneta Svetieva.

These two artists might seem like disparate choices. Yet, both of their works pointedly describe the coexisting local practices from the museum’s inception until today: Dushan Perchinkov’s paintings invoke an early modernist tradition of abstract geometric patterns, operating outside the Western canon of modern art, while Aneta Svetieva’s unrefined and expressive terracotta sculptures speak of an almost anthropological understanding of Skopje’s history.

All elements in the installation recreate a landscape that has been destroyed and reborn repeatedly. Combining Oskar Hansen’s vision of the museum with these two Macedonian artists from the collection, Yane Calovski and Hristina Ivanoska purposefully look toward a possible retelling of the local history of art, reimagining the story of the museum, and envisioning a present bursting with potential.

Interview with Yane Calovski & Hristina Ivanoska

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

Hristina Ivanoska: Built on tectonic ground, Skopje is never stable, permanent, and peaceful. The mixture of cultures, histories, and discourses is visible on its surface in constant rivalry with each other and themselves, creating constant tension. As a student at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, the museum’s collection had little effect on my early development as an artist. At that time, MoCA Skopje still had an elitist aura around it, as a space you needed “to deserve” to have access to. Today, I experience the museum as a more democratic space. For the first time, I had the opportunity to devote myself to the collection and have the chance to visit the museum’s collection depot and experience the works with a different kind of immediacy and intimacy.

Yane Calovski: The city of Skopje, for me, represents a work in progress, often abused and misdiagnosed by those in power for political and economic gain, regardless of the needs of the citizens. Nevertheless, Skopje is resilient, continuously unfolding and reconsidering its potential to surprise. For me, the collection of MoCA Skopje has always been an active exploratory organism, unsettlingly growing and evolving since its inception following the devastating earthquake in 1963.

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

Yane Calovski: From the vastness of the collection, we selected the works of two active Macedonian artists, Aneta Svetieva and Dushan Perchinkov. Both engage in rediscovering the essential, personified meaning of modernity and tradition. I usually examine the discursive traces in concepts in my sculptural work, playing with rhizomatic overlaps and embracing the residue that embodies elusive ideas about concrete subjects. During the research period at MoCA Skopje, we studied and read the available publications, exhibition catalogues, video interviews, and written interviews and reviews.

Hristina Ivanoska: I have always been amazed by Svetieva’s and Perchinkov’s artworks, but I felt they remain “trapped” in the local context. This project is an opportunity to excavate their work out of the depot, contextualize it, and share it with audiences. Although at first glance very different – Perchinkov is geometric, strict, and analytical in his approach, and Svetieva is impulsive, fast, and unrefined – both share a poetic tenderness toward the landscape in which they grew up, and in which primitive culture and civilization cohabitate in this symbiosis of contradictions. It is precisely that duality of opposites that I recognize in my work as well.

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

Hristina Ivanoska: The 1960s, when the call for creating a collection based on solidarity took place, was a time when the tension between the two blocs declined and when it became possible to imagine a collaboration between the East and the West. However, institutions today are selective and careful and under immense pressure, and I am still determining the collection as a collective achievement that continues to resonate today.

Yane Calovski: The concept of solidarity is political and progressive. However, it has been commodified many times and used as a cover-up to real problems facing the Western-centric art world today. There has always been, and always will be, a significant power imbalance regarding representation, wealth distribution, and the manifestation of knowledge. In such a specific (post-earthquake) period of intensified sociocultural, political, and economic rebuilding of the city, one can argue that the collection was, and still is, a significant “rebuilding” tool. In that regard, its significance is historical and cultural – a case of heritage gaining political power when seen as a sign of its time. Today, while we cannot expect such an outpouring of solidarity in terms of donations of actual artworks, it is still unbelievable that we, as artists, recognize the social importance of contributing, donating, archiving, and sharing our practices through the mechanisms of institutional collections. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje continues to inspire this logic of camaraderie.