Panic Book, 5'45'', animation, 2015
Drawings and Animation by Nemanja Nikolić (text from catalogue of exibition Instead of Ending/Umesto Završetka, Cultural Centar of Belgrade, 2015)
Author of the text: Miroslav Karić
The current series of works by Nemanja Nikolić, presented at the exhibition at the Cultural Centre of Belgrade Art Gallery, is based on the cross-section of the author’s previous interests in the media of drawing, animation and film. His fascination with the seventh art has turned Nemanja’s initial studies of form and expressive potentials of drawing in more complex visual thinking and linking the language of visual art and film. Film is also the author’s starting point in defining the motif space in his works and artistic approaches that are still focused on classical drawing, but conceptually expanded and rounded through the moving image properties. In animation, soon adopted as his new visual expression, Nemanja most often refers to Alfred Hitchcock’s film work, finding in the poetics of the said director some conceptual preferences and directions for further development in themes, form and style in his art practice. The author retains the method of gradual (frame by frame) deconstruction and translation of the chosen scenes from Hitchcock’s works into the medium of drawing as the initial process for what will be the essential outcome of restarting those scenes in animation: creating of completely new visual entities. Psychological tension and uncertainty, as the only narrative structure of the newly created scenes, are strongly accented by Nemanja’s characteristic drawing expression which, in now exhibited work Panic Book and in the synthesis with the textual record, further strengthens their visual effect and dramaturgical framework. Namely, this time the artist makes a series of several hundred drawings on the pages of books and magazines in the field of social and political thought in socialist Yugoslavia, which become a kind of mise-en-scène of playing Hitchcock’s cult scenes of escape, mass panic and fear. Connecting written materials on theoretical considerations, analyses of the political system of self-management, mechanisms of the organization and development of Yugoslav society with film classics – masters of suspense, Nemanja, in fact, makes deconstruction, parallel flow and confrontation of pictures of different social contexts of a time period the key events in his drawing works.Placed in series or animated, these sequences introduce the observer to discovering the many levels of meaning of their contents and to understanding, through the prism of ideology, the nature and dynamics of social relationships, mass psychology, individual-collective relations, dialectic tension between order and chaos. In further interpretations, the author’s dealing with the heritage of Yugoslav socialism is a topical and thematic initiation of his latest art production in reviewing the not so distant dramatic developments and recent social and political circumstances in the territory of the former state. In this regard, the exhibition touches and raises many questions about post-conflict and transitional reality, from the tendencies of historical revisionism, to the position of an ordinary man and his everyday existence in the aggravating economic and other crises which we, as societies and communities, face.
Author of the text: Petar Jončić
It is important to mention all this in order to clarify Nemanje Nikolić’s cinematic ideas provoked at the exhibition Instead of the Ending. On the one hand, his knowledge of the film language, through animation, proves that the artist understands the key aesthetic units underlying the frame, plot, cutting rates. The frame is a pointillist but for the audience invisible point in the puzzle during screening. If you separate it, it is a penetration into the body similar to microscopic observation of DNA or blood type of the patient. Hitchcock’s films, as templates, have been isolated from the whole, presented so that we do not know what happened before or after the sequence that the artist have chosen for his work.
The ideas of readymade and appropriation in art are recognized in the entire audio-visual concept, but we need to be careful in such definition because it is not only the Dadaist provocation that is important, but the new virtual logic of images and text. For hundreds of drawings as well as for animation, the author uses book pages as a background on which he intervenes by drawing. These are specific antique editions, found in the family’s personal legacy or subsequently acquired, which at the time of publication in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had clear ideological and dogmatic function. Here, too, Nikolić’s engagement is cinematic because, through montage, he joins Hitchcock’s suspense and Godard’s poetics of quoting Marxist philosophical slogans. Letters, words, sentences and passages, that are passing quickly before the eyes, in animation, are the abstract supplement to the composition contributing to the visual contrast as much as they provoke us to read them. So, in drawings, the meaning does not lie just in the line but also in linguistic terms, in semiotic research in the connection between two iconic signs, and especially two iconic film poetics.
But what is most recognizable in the story of the exhibition Instead of the Ending is a nostalgic concept that we all resorted to in our childhood. It is as if Nemanja Nikolić practically proves Hitchcock’s idea that it is possible to turn life, even when it is boring, into a thrilling action sequence with Cary Grant in the lead role. Marxism as a compulsory school subject in the former Yugoslavia implied learning “pointless” definitions and phrases. In flashes, in such school classes, doodling on books, desks and chairs was a commonplace of pupils’ rebellion. Elimination of boredom led to the explosion of imagination, pages of political pamphlets became the most sincere, often film and comic, creations or even conceived as fairy tale animations moved in flip books.
All these suggestive images, the new organization of the de-montaged Hitchcock’s narrative through drawings, redefining the history of cinema and establishing a connection with ideological systems associate the gallery space with the movie theatre in which Nemanja Nikolić, like a film director, gives a premiere of what film can become.