Interview with Robert Gligorov
Itís impossibile to remain indifferent in front of the works of Robert Gligorov. You may love him or hate him, be astonished or afraid of his mind, but his art would certainly reach and shake your vision of the world. He interbreed himself with vegetable, animal or mineral elements His canvas are his body, that he paints, transform, cover with other skins. His works, whatever photography, sculputers or installations, are always arresting and always reawake viewersí imagination, twisting thier point of view. Shocking and unexpected, his art explore sexuality and identity. Sarcastic, politically incorret, vegetarian, Robert is a little world itself, where thoughts, fears, dreams, nightmares, stories and experiences become visible, real. Born 51 years ago in Kriva Palanca, in Macedonia, citizen of the world, he settled down in Milan, the place that he calls home, where he lives and work.
Robert, can you tell me about your past life? You were born in Macedonia, then you moved to Italy. Why Italy? What were you aspecting from that country?
When I was a child I travelled a lot. For several reasons, I never finished a school year in the same school. I always had to restart in new places, make new friendsÖSometimes I felt like a tourist, wherever I was. I was born in the former social-communist Yugoslavia, then for family reasons I moved to Italy when I was 10, going back and forth between this country and foreign places, until I definitely settled down in Italy at the age of twenty. Iíve been always loving to draw, it was a strong presence in my life. I remember that parents and friends asked me for my signed drawing, saying: ďYou never know, one day you might become a famous artistĒ. After school I try the way of the showbusiness in Rome, to mantain myself, I shot several movies, then working for pictures stories. Then I decided to drop out and leave everything, and I moved to Milan. I was 26 years old. I dedicated myself to drawing, illustration and photography. I made many cover of albums and shot many music videos, also producing many singers.
You were born in Macedonia, at the time of Yugoslavia. In the nineties war broke out. How has the history of your land affected or influenced your art?
When I was in Yugoslavia I remember there was always a feeling of tension, we lived under big stress, we knew that a conflict was going to arrive. I remember the strong propaganda of the regime, that aimed to the heroic history of the Second World War, when partisan resisted to the Nazi. Every night, on television, there was always a war movie related to this. When war broke out I was already in Italy, but I followed with great interest all the events during those years. The war has been an atrocity, right in the heart of Europe. 250,000 deaths, maybe more. I definitely feel like home in Milan and I remember of Macedonia as something exotic, but I never lived there as an adult. But the influence of my roots and of me childhood on my art is certainly tight to the propaganda of the Yugoslavian regime, which subsidized and promoted sports, physical fitness, as every dictatorship. It was very important for the communist party to reach glory through athletes, to give the image of a winning country. Obviously, it was only appearance.
Youíre a multifaceted artist. you embrace many different aspects of expression from photography to music, from sculpture to drawing. Which one of these allows you to express yourself best?
Surely, the drawing. All the other resources are useful to the ideas. I never use painting instead. Sometimes I paint, but in private, as a hobby. I love to do it, but I think that is not able to represent our time, itís overcome.
It is hard to avoid asking you about your relationship with the body, the undisputed protagonist of your works. Robert and the body: you play with it, you transform it, you often change skin, literally. What is your relationship with your body? Why is the key element of your art? Why all these changes? And above all, why are you the protagonist so often in your works?
The human body is the most difficult thing to understand and to draw. It certainly has for me a strong evocative charm. I am more interested in the story of a person rather then the one of a stone or a tree. Itís through my eyes that I see the world, so for me art can only have persons at the center of its existence, and how they interact with others and with their psyches. I often use my body because I see myself in the stories that I tell with my works, and because itís easier. And also, like Flaubert said: "Madame Bovary, cíest moi." In the latest year my artistic research has embraced also other matters, like architecture, design, space and perception. Maybe I just ran out my curiosity for the body now. But it was an intrinsic, innate, impulse. What really matters in the end is the originality of the idea, even if, when you have a good one, you may consider that probably somebody else has already had the same before you. This is what often happens in the conceptual art: conceptual artists obtain ideas from a common dimension, that is the mind, the perception, humanity. Thatís one of the reasons why lots of works sometimes look after, even if the artists didnít copy each other. I strongly doubt that if one artist sees the idea of another would tell to himself: "Wow, I want to do exactly the sameĒ. It wouldnít have any sense.
What is the key to your creative world? What inspires you, how does your artistic research develop?
I read a lot. In the past I read many books, but now I find them too slow, I need faster informations, so now I buy lots of magazines, of any kind. Furthermore, I watch lots of television, in the late night, most of all scientific and history programs. I donít watch movies anymore, they are overwhelming. Internet 's too boring, I hate the computer, it gives me a headache, thatís why I hate interactive art. I love the truth, the physical reality of the things. I think that these things I just mentioned are the basis of my potential ideas. The ideas are all, the rest is pure execution. There are three ways to get an idea. The first way is to find it in your own mind, but in the moment you find it inside of you, it is already old, as it was inherent inside of you. Even though, sometimes itís worth to give it a shape. The second way is to observe things, people, details. The third one is to develop someone elseís idea. At the bottom of everything, art is based on art, and itís unthinkable to avoid any comparisons or confrontations with the others. If this doesnít happen, art become self-referential, and who can be interested in that? At least your mom! A thing that I really donít like is when artists create as if creation was homework, making art without taking risks rather than be excluded from some ďartistic ťliteĒ, (whatís the point of being an artist then?!). There are many artists in Italy that have good credibility, but somehow their works are not able to leave a strong imprint in the collective imaginary or in art history, as if they lack that certain ďje ne se quoiĒ to create a masterpiece. I donít mean that they are not good, but at the end they hide in the mass, probably to be accepted. The truth is that in artistic world thereís only a number that counts, and itís number one.
You often change your shape or your skin in your works. Are these changes also a metaphor of the liquid identity of our time?
Iíve heard several times the word mutation, transformation, related to my works, but I have to admit that I donít recognize myself in these adjectives. I just try to describe our times in my own way. To capture the contradictory aspects of the human is my aim. I look for a formal synthesis to find a symbol.
What techniques do you use?
I donít have a technique or a particular style. I donít love photography, but itís an amazing tool to document a performance or an idea. Video gets me terribly bored, especially the so called ďvideo artĒ. The contemporary artist should magically leave everything behind and, (if they are able), to bring a great, new experience. The audience must feel really involved in front of an artwork. Thatís why I hate Biennals and collective: many strong works all together are too much, and the public canít give the right attention to everything.
Are there any artists that inspire you, or that you simply like? Do you have a favorite opera?
I love all the artists, just for the fact that they do, or they try to do, art. Even the bad ones. Basically, the most celebrated artists are appreciated also in relation with bad ones, because the latter exalt their value. I really love the paintings of the past but not the sculptures, most of them look like ornament for gravestone. Instead, I appreciate the contemporary sculpture. Iíve never had a role model, or a master to follow. Simply, I only followed an inner strength and curiosity for images, right from inside of me. And all I had to do was to follow it. At the end you can conceptualize a work, but what remain at the end is the image.
Is there nowadays an interface and a direct comparison among artists?
Are you kidding? Nowadays weíre all related but, at the same time, more and more isolated, and it's obvious that there is a prevailing individualism. The comparison is often based on gossip and controversy, and who is not aligned with a certain attitude and tendency is out. The strategy to become a successful artist, I mean to be able to survive with this job, itís a big mix of choices, made by dealing with curators. This happens with no interface, without any real debate. Even when there are round tables, only professionals of the world of art with similar ideas are invited to speak, people that have a common vision of art. The art system is made by an elitť, and it constantly needs sponsor. The system is widely based on recommendations or tips.
Do you want to shock the public with your work, or is there any message that you want to send? What are the issues you most care about?
Well, Iíve never thought of shocking people with my art. But I have to admit that itís charming and funny to seduce neophytes or occasional viewers of art with my works.
My works donít have a real message, rather my goal is to be able to reach the highest number of persons and to shake their opinions, give a different point of view. My subjects are definitely connected with animal abuses, (Iím vegetarian), human and art history.
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