Home

Interview with Milenko Matanovic Part 1

August 1, 2012

photo Hannah Hess

SZ  Milenko, I’ve done a lot of work in the community as a healthcare artist and workshop leader. I find that after these excursions out to the community I need to draw back into the private world of my studio and create art to refresh my inspiration so I can go out again.
Do you feel a similar need? If so what do you do to recharge your batteries?
Or is the work itself energizing enough for you?

MM  I could do better with refueling. Having a small nonprofit means hustling for grants, giving talks, doing business development, participating in the larger network of volunteers and non-profits, and, of course, doing projects.

In the last year alone we built six gathering places and, in addition, led community engagement processes in several more neighborhoods. Last year’s work created copious stress; now we are taking steps to slow down and pace ourselves a little better.

For me personally, that means spending time with family and friends. I also bicycle and walk, and I disengage my brain by playing and watching soccer. I also do watercolors and ink drawings—quick art making that can be squeezed into my tiny periods of free time.

SZ How do you see the relationship (if any) between ‘art as calling’- passionately devoted mature artists working to high standards, vs the democratization of art where everyone is an artist?

MM Both modalities are important; in my work I practice both. The goal of my community work is to create shared ownership and for that to happen I do not present myself as an artist. I do not want people to feel they are my assistants. Rather I treat them as colleagues whose artistry may be different from mine, but is equally important and valuable. I invite their input at every stage of the process and together we figure out things faster.

I define success by how much we can accomplish with the limitations of each project: budget, site, available time, volunteers, contributions, and talents. Within that larger process, my artistic skills are called forth and I engage with that process deeply and passionately just as any artist would. So I don’t see that ‘art as calling’ and ‘everybody getting to be creative’ are in conflict.
Although many artists work in solitude, I work with many people in situations that are often chaotic and require constant adjustments and flexibility. But in the end, we are all artists.

I strive for conditions where the best of each of us can coexist, where people are talented together. When I can, I gladly draw on the talents and expertise of others.

photo Hannah Hess

SZ The art academies I‘m familiar with are oriented to producing star artists, and the students have that goal too. They are learning about competing and entrepreneurship. What should art education look like in our changing times?

MM In the Seattle area, where I live and work, this isn’t the case. The design schools at which I give occasional talks are all about community and sustainability.

I think the age of egomaniac artists, just like the age of political tyrants, is winding to a close. Collaborative practices will gradually become the norm, and schools will teach collaboration.

Collaboration’s purpose is to relate to each other in such a way that typically irritating differences can be transformed into valuable gifts.

To turn differences into gifts requires strength and flexibility. It involves the confidence to express ideas and the humility to adjust them to those of others’. This requires us to stand in one’s center while falling into the unknown-a demanding circus act.

I feel the hands and bodies are getting neglected in art training. Kids in the United States spend eight or nine hours a day staring at screens – computer, phones, TV – that ultimately function as a buffer through which life is perceived. This creates a more virtual brain circuitry, and the delusion of the familiar, meaning that if I read about something I’ve done my part about the issue.

Art is not about information, it is about meaning, about taking intuitions and information and making internal sense of them.

This is hard and courageous work, and demands that our whole beings are involved. Artistic work should produce three results: a new artwork honoring a new insight, a new artist who uses the process of creation to ‘incarnate’ this new insight into her enriched being, and a community renewed by the artwork. This, in essence, is the purpose of any creative act and hands must be an integral part of the work – something different happens in the brain when the hands, heart, and brain work together.

I feel myself to be less the artist leading a project and more the chef at a community feast: the ingredients are brought to the table by many participants and someone needs to figure out the recipe, one that won’t poison people, one that will be tasty and nutritious. It comes down to synthesizing the gifts of a lot of people.

Continued in Interview part 2

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Interview with Milenko Matanovic Part 1”

  1. decorartuk Says:

    So far I have read just the first part of the interview and must admit that I like quite a few ideas, that have been expressed. First of all the question about mature artists and anyone as an artist – this is something that bugs me all the time… As you know I have no formal education, yet it is nice to at least occasionally feel that my paintings or photographs evoke some emotion, so I do like the statement “we are all artists”.

    As for the sentences – “Kids in the United States spend eight or nine hours a day staring at screens – computer, phones, TV – that ultimately function as a buffer through which life is perceived. This creates a more virtual brain circuitry, and the delusion of the familiar, meaning that if I read about something I’ve done my part about the issue.” This is so true! This is a global problem and we definitely have to do something about it. People have become slaves of the virtual reality, where you do things, so that you could share some photos on facebook or you watch total crap on TV and imagine that therefore you know what life is all about. We no longer put meaning into our words or just say something because it’s appropriate to say this and I guess this is when the macanism that “I’ve been meaning to do this or I’ve seen this being done” instead of “I’ve done this” is turned on. Yet it’s always better “to do” something for real instead of hearing about it for a 1000 times.

    And as for “the age of egomaniac artists, just like the age of political tyrants, is winding to a close” – I hope so, as artists definitely have the power to change things in the world.

    • szoutewelle Says:

      Hi decoartuk, Thanks for taking time to read the first part of the interview. Glad that there were things in it that were helpful or insightful for you.

      This TED talk ( http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/david_perry_on_videogames.html ) shows a kind of scary video at the end made by one of the generation who live a lot in virtual reality, it gave me a deeper understanding of what it is like.

      I totally agree with you when you say, ‘Yet it’s always better “to do” something for real instead of hearing about it for a 1000 times.’ Right on. I enjoyed your photos of Germany, I haven’t read the travel log yet but intend to.

      • decorartuk Says:

        Hi, Sarah,

        Thank you for that video, it provided lots of information that I didn’t know. For e.g. that 43% of so called “gamers” are women! and that the most “addicted” ones are 30 year olds… According to this statistics I’m especially prone to be drawn into that virtual reality, yet I have so much to do in my real life that I have never even considered such an occupation…

        Although thinking about it even blogging can substitute some of the real life – it definitely takes away time that could be spent in some other creative manner. I have noticed that computer, which is connected to the internet, is a trap!, as there’re so many interesting things available on the net; so I guess we all have to maintain a certain level of self-control.

        Anyway, I hope that if you play computer games you always know when to stop 🙂 Give my love to little Lu.

        K.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: