I've had the great pleasure of getting to know Monika Ponjavić over the past three years. She's currently making her solo publishing debut with a book on film curation entitled Film Curation: From the Black Box to the Black Box of a White Cube. Due to the devastating floods in the Balkans this year, her project has lost funding. Please take a moment to consider providing financial assistance to this absolutely brilliant scholar and compassionate human being.
Yes. It was during one of the classes in Curatorial Studies, held by prof. Branislav Dimitrijević at the University of Arts in Belgrade, within the MA in International Performance Research program I attended. During this particular lecture I was introduced to ONCURATING series of journals dedicated to the emerging field of curation and the problematic around it. I went through all of them, however, one in particular, dedicated to the Film Curation, has caught all of my attention. I am a great film buff so this title "Film Curation" has tackled my imagination and sparked the curiosity, since before that moment I had no idea what film curation is or what does it stand for so I decided to research more about it.
What did you find the most challenging about writing the book? What did you find to be the most rewarding?
The most challenging thing was that, as it turns out, no one really knows what film curation is. Everybody I read or talked to has a different opinion as to what film curation is, what does it do and what does it stand for or what it should stand for. And the main problem lies in the fact that these words are de facto in flux. Curator. Curate. Curation. Curatorial. Curatorship. All of these words have recently become ‘buzz words’ of the contemporary art world. A great deal has been debated around the term 'curating' and terminology associated with the field of curation in general. Is it a new artistic procedure? An avant-garde? What are the subjects and objects of curating, and to whom is it addressed? Who is a curator? And what is the difference between curation and curatorial? Are there 'works' 'curated' or is 'curating a 'work'? The field itself burgeoned and turned into possibly the most debated cultural field of activity that with its lack or excess in loose terminology use carries the potential threat of falling not into wrong hands, but into all hands. And when you add the word film to an already confusing field, things take a whole new turn since no one really knows how film should be understood in this constellation either. Is film considered as any type of video, recorded in analogue or digital technique, or is film considered as a feature fiction/documentary film we are used to seeing, under specific modes of viewing, in cinema? Or is it both? So the main problem was to find your own position within this field, take a stance and tell a story, which I tried to do and hopefully succeeded.
In what ways has your background in performance studies influenced the treatment of the case studies?
As you know, I am both a performance researcher and an architect, and I like to think that when you read my analysis of the chosen case studies you are able to feel and see the background in these disciplines. So, to answer your question, it influenced it a lot. The case studies I have chosen are not typical exhibitions, on contrary; one of them (more than the other) is not only a piece of art, an artifact, but also a performative event, devised and executed by the artist himself, and not the curator, which is what I took as my point of departure and most valuable argument. The gallery in which it was shown for the first time - Tramway in Glasgow, Scotland – stayed open after closing hours, for the duration of the entire piece. Anyone could come in, at any given time. The screen was placed in the middle of the room, so one could watch, depending on the preference or curiosity, either the right or the wrong side of the screen. Hitchcock's Psycho became a storyboard. The magic of cinema was utterly exposed. Every familiar detail gained a new peculiar meaning. The artist was Douglas Gordon. The piece was 24 Hours Psycho (1993). Ambiguity of this work, over the years, turned my curiosity into fascination. Is it art? Is it film curation? A film? A remake? It is still Hitchcock's Psycho; the characters are there, the fragments of the story as well yet the slowness of the frame rendered it unknown. Who is the author? These are the questions that served as my starting point and the road I took to get there was via prominent performance theories.
What projects are in the future for Monika Ponjavić?
Four years ago I wrote several short stories that talk about the post-war transitional state of society in Bosnia and Herzegovina, my homeland. Each story has a stereotypical character at its center that, in an unorthodox way, tells you his or her story. I have a tendency to write and stock pile my ideas, which is exactly what I did here. Few weeks ago I re-discovered these stories, after four years since I wrote them, and decided to share them with a fellow artist and architect, Marko Bilbija, who suggested we create single plate comic books for start and, since I planned and devised them as screenplays for short video portraits, having them filmed - in short, the future is something to look forward to. A part from that I am currently working on organizing the 4. edition of FLASTER Graffiti Jam, which will take place in Banja Luka, RS, BiH, during September this year.
Monika took part in Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space 2011 where she: (a) exhibited Body Never Lies, video work developed from a research in performative architecture; and (b) participated in PQ’s main workshop titled Open Spatial Lab, led by Dorita Hannah, Omar Khan, Andrew Todd and Jane Rendell. That same year Monika enrolled with MAIPR (MA in International Performance Research) joint studies at the University of Arts in Belgrade, University of Amsterdam, University of Warwick and University of Helsinki. During the course of these studies together with Arne Hendriks, Dutch/German artist and curator, Monika (as part of Amsterdam Partizan Publik) re-constructed Alexei Gastev’s Studio for Alternativa 2012: Materiality, an exhibition that took place in Gdansk, Poland; she participated in series of workshops and lectures led by Ong Keng Seng, Mark Fleishman, Ana Vujanović, Elin Diamond, and so forth; she took part in 46. BITEF Festival, MIKSER Festival, 54. October Salon, World Stage Design, Short Film Festival Kratkofil Puls, Kondenz, Sarajevo Winter, Sarajevo Film Festival; she published works and attended conferences…She is the co-author and co-curator of Unlisted Performance series, which she developed together with Christina Kruise and Ana Letunic. First installment, Twice in a lifetime, took place in Belgrade, Serbia in 2012, whilst the second, The Second Steel, took place in Pittsburgh, USA in 2013. The next one is planned for Montreal, Canada. She completed her MA in Performance Research with the thesis titled Film Curation: Deconstructing Cinema (mentors: Nevena Daković and Outi Lahtinen) in January of 2013. She currently works on developing a series of short stories.