Polona Tratnik_2

Hair in vitro

interview with Polona Tratnik



RK> How deeply are you interested in traditions? Do you think it is still necessary to bridge the new with the old in art? Or is it just a problem of natural self-evolution?

PT> I am interested in traditions. In various traditions. In the concepts, not necessarily artistic ones. I have special passion for philosophy. In a way, you could say that I bridge traditional artistic interests with what I do within art, sometimes this is funny. For example, I began to work in the field of biotechnological art coming from the field of sculpture, working with wax and materials that resemble the appearance or structure of skin in order to perform the presence of the body, of the person. This interest could be found in photorealistic sculpture, in renaissance sculpture in the tradition of the wax statues etc. The other entrance into this was from poetry. This is perhaps a rather overlooked aspect of my work, but I think it is also important. What I know defines me, also in the sense of responding to that, even if this response is in the form of denial. For the artist, it is very important to learn all the time, getting rich with experiences, and think, question everything. Otherwise, how can you speak about something you don’t know, you cannot even see the problem. Of course you have to know the situations, the positions, and think about other perspectives.

RK> Many artists in here struggle (besides their basic social needs) to have a place to develop and express their creativity. What’s the situation like in Slovenia? Could you say that as an artist/curator  you are satisfied with your situation?

PT> Financial support is a very very big problem. I would not completely agree with those who say the support of art is not that relevant. Today we live in a world, where it is becoming increasingly impossible to survive without regular incomes. We know that there were great artists in the past who simply married a rich partner or they worked for the king or the church. Today, many artists work for the calls. It is naïve to think that the calls are not ideological, especially the calls from foundations and European Union. It is same in science – people do what the money is offered for. It is true that Michelangelo has painted a glorious ceiling, which is not only what it depicts, there is a surplus which counts. But it is also true that the support defines the production. One who gives the support knows why it is offered. And an artist has to be especially careful about this danger, of coming in service of someone’s ideology and his political goals. Therefore not any money is good. It is important what you have to do for it. People sometimes think: why should we give money to someone who will deconstruct what we have and what we enjoy, since they don’t get the problem of getting caught by and into ideologies which are supporting particular interests, which are not their interests. The problem was well presented within the project Czech Dreams, I love to show this film to my students.

RK> It is very interesting how we can change our thinking and perception when we change our geographical position, today even virtually, thanks to internet. Do you consider it in your artistic/curatorial work?

PT> Yes, getting experiences from everywhere is very important, getting familiar with other cultures and structures. And it is also important to exist in these maps. You see, here is another dimension of the financial problem, which is not that often exposed. In USA one would get a salary of 50.000 USD a year net. In Slovenia for the same kind of work you would get about 15.000 EUR. The rents are lower, but the food and other things are about the same price. In USA you would then have great expenses for medical insurance or services. So, it a sort of almost equalizes the incomes and outcomes if you would take the lifetime period of an individual. But if you consider what does a travel expense of 1.000 EUR mean for an American or for a Slovenian, you can immediately see that it is a cost of a whole salary for the Slovenian and a third of it for the American, 3x less. This is a big difference, the difference in what a particular cost, which is the same here and there, means for two different positions. Then you can understand why the Americans fly a lot, why they can be everywhere and why people from Macedonia who have such low salaries, are excluded from the map.

RK> Why do we usually tend to be influenced by the west-european or US art/artists? Why don´t we look for the similarities or differences between other european cultures?

PT> For the same reason. For the Western artists it is much easier to get the support, to travel around, to be present, to finance the production, to have good catalogues, to organize big shows in fabulous environments … If you are an artist from the East and you get a relatively good support from your national institution, meaning considering the usual support, let’s say this would be 2.000 EUR for the project, compare this with the support of someone who got a grant of 20.000 EUR or a residency program at an institution where the studio is assured, the technical assistance, the production costs, and even some fee for you. The big problem we are facing today and we are doing nothing about it, is that the European Union is opening calls offering the money gathered by all of us, but the calls have such requirements that candidates from poorer countries cannot fulfill them, while somebody else in a stronger position can. As a result you get such situation: as I’ve heard there was only one project from the Eastern Europe approved in the whole history of the ERC Starting Grant which assures 1.5 million EUR per grant and about 80% of the support has gone to the UK, 10% to France and 10% to Germany. Does is it mean that people in the Eastern Europe are just not smart enough? This is a political problem! We have no chances if we are just allowing this to happen. In the long run this means that the countries that are the strongest now will be even stronger in the future. Money makes more money and more power. And we are just sitting and waiting. It is a murder and a suicide. If you take into consideration the calls for culture, there are similar problems. They require participation of other foundations or national participation in quite high rates, which we can very hardly afford in Slovenia, but the problem is much minor if you are based in the West. This is how we are becoming the servants of the big and the rich. Oh, and I forgot to mention – of course the one in power has also all the power to write the history. This also means that who was not present at the court, does not exist. The one who does not exist also has no means to spread the voice. And we are in the circle. We know this from the past, but have still not learned enough.

? Richard Kitta
: Polona Tratnik

see more in ENTER+ / slovenia