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If we recall earlier Nikolic’s works like Rhythm (2001), which explores the mechanisms of ritual submission to religious authority, or Death Anniversary (2004), which deals with the authority of art tradition personified in the cult of Marcel Duchamp, we will see that cynical undermining of mystical qualities of the authorities is a constant preoccupation of this artist.  …


… Likewise, the video-performance as an explicit form of the “artist’s speech in the first person” has most directly manifested this utopian will for power: by way of “repeated everyday behavior” the artist establishes his individual language thus giving a statement about art (everything an artists does is art), by which he challenges the imposed professional competence in the art world …

On the fourth channel of the installation, the voices from “above” have been replaced by the silent view of the camera from “above” that follows the artist executing performance painting for it by way of manipulating the signs of modern painting. Unlike action painting that affirms the traces of artist’s lasting presence in the painting and thus heroizing the event of its coming to life, Nikolic hides under the painting in short time intervals, acting more like a demonstrator of abstract painting in some educational TV program that an artist in his studio. Only after watching this video does Nikolic’s intention become clear: if the art system by its whole constitution aims to make the artist its clerk, then a critical artist must first auto-reflexively bring this function into question in order to define his own speaking position. It’s not about whether the artist is for or against the institution, says Andrea Fraser in a well-known essay on institutional critique, but whether he has a consciousness of his own role in the perpetuation of its positions and which values he interiorizes through the work of his “inner curator” so he wouldn’t become a court jester that is expected to say what he wants and be rewarded for it. Therefore the cutting edge of Nikolic’s cynical intervention is not turned towards the institution but towards the artist-clerk, in other words towards his “correct false consciousness” (K. Marx) that, as demonstrated by the experience of conceptual art, even in the resistance toward the authority confirms the accuracy of the illusion that this authority can be disputed. The fact that the authoritarian voice on the fourth channel is left “with no comment” doesn’t mean that the artist liberated himself from his demon and that he now knows what to do in order to be an artist, but that he began to act as if he knew, and therefore what we see on the screen is nothing else but a Potemkin village or a theater of art. The repetition of conceptual forms of expression and appropriation of modern painting in the voice-over do not put to the test only the notions of new and diversity that Groys theorizes about, but establish historical relays for actual analyzing of the ambivalent status of the artist within art as both the subject and object of the production of aesthetic contents.


An extract from the text The Artist and His Demon

The author Dejan Sretenović, 2009

Translated by Marko Mladenovic


Born in 1974 in Belgrade. He graduated at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1999. After his university studies he attended the School for History and Theory of Image at the Center for Contemporary Art Belgrade. He received his MA in 2005 and the Ph.D. in 2016 at the Faculty of Fine Arts of Belgrade. Vladimir Nikolic uses video as his primary medium and has been exhibiting since 2001 in group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad. In improving on his artistinc practice he took part in residencial programs in New York, Paris, Marseille, Rome, Guandia, Stockholm and Ljubljana.