Lazar Džamić: About Recognition
Not that it’s frequently mentioned, but most agree: the hardest thing in the effort to create a career in art is inventing a unique voice, a stylistic combination that immediately leaves the viewer/listener in no doubt as to who the artist in question is. You know how it goes. Here’s a new song. Can you tell who it’s by without seeing the record cover? That’s why I still have no problem with Led Zeppelin and REM, but why I do with Tracy Emin. I don’t want first to have to know in order to be able to recognize.
Through its work, the FIA group, which originated and developed in the same environment as other participants of the Serbian artistic scene, particularly those involved in the design, succeeded in developing a unique and easily recognizable artistic voice and apply it to the Calendars of New Art project, with the wholehearted support, both in terms of hardware and logistics, of Publikum.
The environment in which the project originated during the last decade forced the creators to use a specific artistic procedure and the indisputable presence of guerrilla marketing techniques and initiatives – creatively bypassing classic advertising – the usual way of drawing the public’s attention to a project – through using clever PR ideas which brought a lot of publicity at a low cost, frequent personal discourse in creating themes for the Calendars and only recently the reintroduction of traditional advertising methods such as TV ads and billboards.
The Publikum calendars have that amazing characteristic that due to their importance they become a part of the national culture, which can be offered to the world without any feeling of shame. Or, to put it another way: they are one of the first things I show to foreigners if I want to talk to them about Yugoslav design without feeling embarrassed or having to offer excuses such as the difficult conditions in which the artists work. What we have here is a full-blooded, high-quality, and recognizable visual production that communicates with its companions in the world on an equal footing. The team that has worked on the Calendars deserves all the good that comes their way in the future, but I wouldn’t have changed places with them during the past decade. I don’t have their nerves.
A good part of that uniqueness is in the choice of the media used as the primary artistic channel. A utilitarian object, such as a calendar, is transformed into a project with a social, ideological, artistic and marketing charge – and all of this as a result of despair and stubbornness: despair at the situation in society and at the way everything cerebral was systematically turned into something senseless and the stubbornness not to give up or give in and as a result of the creative resistance to devotees of Gogol’s Sunflowers (as a lower-ranked Serbian criminal once said when describing his attitude to art and the Calendars – the poor man was obviously thinking of Van Gogh). Thanks to the wide-ranging nature of its members’ education and being completely at ease when using modern marketing techniques (which is one more thing which separated it from squeamish Serbian art, which is still cocooned in the myth of the non-commercial nature of all high art, FIA strained its work into a mixture of highly stylized events to support the Calendar, the star of the evening.
Another important side exists to the Publikum-FIA partnership that should be mentioned: the nurturing of and supporting young local talent in the fields of photography and design. The main source of photographs and illustrations for several of the Calendars was from students and graduates of local art academies. It was the perfect way to secure a high-quality presentation platform for them, accompanied by additional publicity and prestige.
This is a rare chance for people in Yugoslavia to see a traditional marketing data capture weaved in with a bona fide artistic display. Yet another thing that makes the members of FIA what they are: loathers of artistic passports and visas, willing and capable of cruising between genres and artistic categories, regardless of formal boundaries. This is also an example of the successful cooperation between the artist and commercial enterprises, following the formula that has long existed in developed countries, where investment in culture is actually planned over the long-term. Within the framework of the project, art and advertising are linked together with the conscious intention of making a brand out of a seemingly ordinary object, which for Publikum, as the publisher and printer, is above all a high-quality, well-packaged product, and for FIA a means of expressing and getting across its artistic message.