THE PLEASURE OF LOVE
Transient Emotion in Contemporary Art
An exhibition of 67 artists from 26 countries
The pleasure of love lasts only a moment – while – the grief of love lasts a whole life through. The opening lines of Plaisir d’Amour, a French poem and love song written in 1784, sketch out a pathetic daily paradox that reverberates in the present. It has been performed (and recorded) many times by such classical and popular artistes as Vitoria de los Angeles, Paul Robeson, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Janet Baker, Placido Domingo, Joan Baez, Brigitte Bardot, Marianne Faithfull, Nana Mouskouri and Emmylou Harris. Transposed here as the subject of the 56th Belgrade October Salon, The Pleasure of Love: Transient Emotion in Contemporary Art examines art in its social and political contexts, contrasting its humane aesthetic values with far less benevolent forces of power and control.
The idea of pleasure as being inevitably short-lived, as opposed to the more chronic human condition of disappointment or grief, seems to be ingrained within the human psyche. Recently, the unequal balance between pleasure and pain has been reduced to little more than a banal paradox: a formulaic condition of oppressed existence from which escape is virtually impossible. So, in an existential, materialist age in which public life is characterised, with relatively few exceptions, by bureaucratic obfuscations of vested interests, greed, mendaciousness, stupidity and anger, the 56th Belgrade October Salon focuses on love, the exact opposite of such hateful characteristics, as both a subject and prism through which to view the world.
Because of its uncompromisingly individual conviction and commitment to conscience and truth, art, at its best, is the perfect vehicle for such an adventure. Its relative autonomy and lack of obvious power mean that art cannot avoid being seen in contrast to politics, while politics, combative by nature and the opposite of art, can only move forward by defeating opponents, or through fudges, compromises and half-truths. This interpenetration of the ideal and the ‘real’ world in art has become a central topic of this exhibition.
Examining different means of mass communication, such as cinema, some artists reorientate a parallel world of desire to our own by examining how it reflects experience as well as feeding back into it, either as art or entertainment, or as a subliminal means of exerting conformism or control; sometimes it is an amalgam of all of them.
The idea of balance – of harmony or disharmony – ecological, social, psychological or political also appears in both concrete and abstract forms throughout the exhibition. Sometimes this is in relation to the natural world and concentrates either on its ‘spirituality’ or its despoliation, at other times balance becomes metaphor for the fragile ‘normality’ of social, political or economic life.
The body also widely figures as a transient object of identity and desire, creating a sense of fluidity and flux that challenges accepted categories and hierarchies of gender. Lastly, passionate love, the love of family, kinship and close friendship weave together a significant thread, sometimes destructively so.
As gestures, actions, images or objects, the works in this exhibition touch on, refer to, reflect, refashion, parody or critique ideas, ideologies, beliefs, stereotypes, prejudices and ‘common wisdoms’ with one inimitable imperative: that what results should be ‘good’ as art, in whatever sense this may be understood.
For some, the pleasure of love is like a weed, growing between the cracks in concrete, which has, against the odds, clung onto life. Its survival is part of its beauty. As the idealised bonds between individuals have frayed, and the poetic romanticism that sheltered them has evaporated, the world has changed immeasurably and we are faced by many choices but by few solutions.
The values of art are fundamentally human and humane and, in spite of what may appear to be the contrary, it has no rules, no orthodoxies, no formulae for success. This is its strength. The world, and all of which it is comprised, may be reassembled by the artist in elegant, horrible or beautiful ways but with no other interest than that of making good work. In this sense art has a potential for unspun wisdom, knowledge, even delight, that may give pleasure or pain through its immediacy. Only single-minded dedication, hard work, intellectual rigour, emotional openness, limitless curiosity and obsessive desire are necessary to make it.
The rest is up to us.
David Elliott, curater
Ketuta ALEXI-MESKHISHVILI, Lara BALADI, Andreas BLANK, Hilde BORGERMANS, Antonia BOŽANIĆ, Jovan ČEKIĆ, Kristina DRAŠKOVIĆ BOČKOV, Biljana ĐURĐEVIĆ, Cecilia EDEFALK, Nezaket EKICI/ Marcus SHAHAR, EPHEMERKI / Jasna DIMITROVSKA & Dragana ZAREVSKA, Bojan FAJFRIĆ, Mariana HAHN, Jenny HOLZER, Ana HUŠMAN, Leiko IKEMURA, Siniša ILIĆ, Ivana IVKOVIĆ, Tadija JANIČIĆ, Peter JOHANSSON, William KENTRIDGE, k.r.u.ž.o.k. reading group, Johanna KANDL, Gülsün KARAMUSTAFA, Franziska KLOTZ, Irena KOVAČ, David KRIPPENDORFF, Janet LAURENCE, Via LEWANDOWSKY, Sarah LÜDEMANN, Dejan MARKOVIĆ, Milovan Destil MARKOVIĆ, Natalie MAXIMOVA, Bjørn MELHUS, Anuk MILADINOVIĆ, Radenko MILAK, Olga MILISAVLJEVIĆ, Tracey MOFFATT, Nemanja NIKOLIĆ, Vladimir PERIĆ i Milica PERIĆ, Susan PHILIPSZ, Sasha PIROGOVA, Siniša RADULOVIĆ, Rena RAEDLE & Vladan JEREMIĆ, Aurora REINHARD, Anila RUBIKU, Arsen SAVADOV, Toni SCHMALE, Lina SELANDER, Asako SHIROKI, SNEŽANA Nena SKOKO, Dimitar SOLAKOV, Jovanka STANOJEVIĆ, SUN Xun, Miloš TOMIĆ, Jelena TRPKOVIĆ, Mariana VASSILEVA, Anastasia VEPREVA, Dejana VUČIĆEVIĆ, YANG Fudong