Photo Rade Kovač
Authorship as personal happiness’ expression
Of course there is! I think nothing can be done without that feeling. Problem is in “the prefix” of the idea that something has to be sold while you’re not sure everyone needs it, but it is morally important; the question is “what are you doing it for? What are you drawing people’s money for?”. And this is money that goes to your and your clients’ pockets. This is a core issue, and this is what I do through my author work. This intrigues me. What annoys me is the fact that entire this industry has two faces: one is glamorous and it promises better life for everyone (not only those who are working for this industry) and this glamour applies also to products we advertise; but besides this glamorous-elitist aspect there is another one that is very cruel, and it is the fact that a lot of people consume what you advertise and you have to live with it, especially if you don’t trust products you advertise. What is specific for Serbia is that we don’t think about that, we don’t make philosophy of this, we just survive. Like the entire nation, employees in this industry also just survive, everyone is trying to make a living, and no one got reach here from it, except few capable agency owners.
In that context? For example, I cannot work for tobacco industry. My mother died of lung cancer, she had smoked since seventh grade three packs a day, I cannot do that…
It’s also difficult when I get some projects which are new and unknown to my life and experience, I have to try really hard to understand such project – what is it, what it offers. I look at bright side of all of that if it is possible. There is always a question: when to draw the line?
That’s right… Unfortunately.
That’s true, too. But, this is the job I’ve chosen. That’s because this was only job I could work in the 90’s while the country I was born in was falling apart and which I still grieve for. As a creative person, I was educated for this – to work in visual communications industry. It was only possibility to survive, to make a living (which was a modest one, “student’s”, but it had existed at least!).
It seems so now, but I’ve really looked on it as on a polygon for my creative maturation and progress all the time. When you look at my entire work, and I’ve been in it for 25 years, you can see I’ve had different phases in that process, of course. When a man turns 40 and more years, he starts to summarize his life every year. I had also these resumes earlier, and I noticed clear line of creative progress, it can be read off. I have made my own time-line and when I choose one representative work for each year, you can see exactly how much more mature each subsequent of those 25 works is. That is what advertising enabled me. If I hadn’t worked in this area, I would probably have had to try really hard even to present my work in the most basic form in some small design studio or as a freelancer – to get a job, and to finish it – to make five times more compromises than I do now. This way I was directed to creativity, and not just making living.
In fact, I was lucky and stubborn in persistence to progress, not only financially, but creatively at first. This enabled me recognition of owners of agency I worked for, so they invested money in my author work which we were selling to clients. When we succeed – we did, and when we didn’t, we were sending it to competitions anyway and it was gaining prizes. In real, everything I gained a prize for wasn’t created by client’s order, but thanks to my own initiative which also got client’s recognition afterwards.
And that I believed in authorship, in the fact I can create something high-quality, something that I generally cannot sell on everyday market.
This exhibition is an example that I’ve acted pretentiously, I’ve even emphasized its pretention in my internet campaign, it was an ambitious exhibition without any cause. I’ve simply added some kind of ironic presentation. Its title is also pretentious and really irritating at first sight, and at the second this “YOU ARE AN IDIOT, please act accordingly” in normal humans behavior causes that kind of thoughtful smile which I wanted to produce. Of course I had to exaggerate, to cross the line, so I could draw attention! And, that happened. Around 6000 people saw the exhibition. I certainly hope so the reason was also that someone told to someone else: “Go to see, it’s good”. But, media and audience were interested by billboards across town. I sure think the author has to draw attention decently, but pretentiously at the same time – there is no bad taste in that.
There are examples of designers who are very aggressive in their design, especially industrial, classic one, not graphic, all over the world – Karim Rashid, Philippe Starck… Designers which made design social icon. They designed tangible things, apartment and hotel design, utility design. When you make something that iconic, it is far easier if you are aggressive. Obviously, chair is one of those rare objects in the entire design world that easily defines author’s character. The crazier the chair is, the more you are in media. It sounds crazy, but – so many chairs have been made in the last 20 years, and always new and new ones…
What I believe in is that, when you draw peoples’ attention once, they have to see you have a serious opus behind you as well as potential for more, for progress. This is what excites people – expecting next one after they saw the first, like expecting new album of a musician…
An album full of hits if it’s possible! That’s the way I approach my design and my art, especially my author work. I try to have more and more hits in every succeeding exhibition.
Yes, but it is also possible to do it “gentle way” so you look like cute to people, as well as horrible and aggressive way. Really, there are artists and designers which are real fools privately, but they have fabulous works and at the end – everything that remain after you is what you created and left. What about your aura? The question is how much you succeeded to import it in your work.
Exactly… I’ve always been surprised by that, because I have succeeded to meet a lot of my idols and I’ve been disappointed in the most cases. But, when I was thrilled, it was so much I couldn’t believe such people exist! Seriously. That it’s possible someone is so great, normal, nice, funny and a genius in his work at the same time. There are so few such people. There are a lot more aggressive jerks which have basic talent and huge desire to prove and succeed, usually led by complexes.
I am a communicator. It is a part of my character. I like people, I like communication. The reaction is very important to me and I’m not some hermetic guy who works only what he likes and doesn’t pay attention on other peoples’ opinion. And I’ll never be able to force myself to that. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work. However, what our people and society is used to is one hermetic creativity, unfortunately, which is not communicative, which is really elitist and belongs to a small group of people which can understand, or pretend to understand and feel it. I can also understand and feel very few things myself. But the sublimity feeling which should happen in a gallery happens to me very occasionally here. As a man who works in advertising, in communication industry, I’ve tried to reconcile these two extremes and to explain to more people some painful facts about our lives and the place we are in, generally, in planet, which our problems are – individual and common. Since it affects everyone, including those who don’t have that kind of visual education, they can at least be touched by some textual part of exhibition. Whoever came in Podroom gallery has experienced something unexpected and there were many surprised people who came out saying: “Thank you for this experience”. Some of them haven’t ever been in a gallery, but the title interested them so much they came to see what it is… And, when they saw that mine “golden auto portrait” (not to say golden chrome shit), they started to understand completely different: “A-ha, so – you are kidding with yourself and you think all of us should kid with ourselves!”. My work is communicative, very simplistically speaking. It has many levels, some of them are demanding, the others are very simple to understand.
But, I’ve always had an idea to involve the observer, in advertising it’s a consumer, in authorship it’s someone who should accept it as a real message. He has to be involved. I usually involve him with some visually-textual rebuses which he should find himself in. And, these are not difficult. There are only few demanding ones. If you remember the exhibition, it is really stratified, it has more levels. Now, when a curator comes to my exhibition, he says: “From all of these you choose five and make fabulous, powerful exhibition”. You don’t burden it with so many pieces. And I had 110 works, various “communication units”. That’s because I wanted to show something for everyone.
But the directive! (Laugh)
We have a few handicaps there. One of fundamental ones is the fact the design we know today is western culture’s heritage, as a part of the industrial revolution from 200 years ago. That revolution is arriving here in waves just now, with a huge delay. And, this is a result of a cultural, not to say – religious heritage of orthodox world which doesn’t recognize design. Orthodoxy itself is turned towards truth, and not towards ornamentation. Ornamentation is some fake additional effect… Now, I’m simplifying very much what people wrote many books about. I had eight year long experience in Slovenia where design is integral part of everyday life. That’s because someone is explaining to them for hundreds of years that it is more beautiful to decorate own garden, terrace, than not to do that. Of course, it is not religion’s impact only problem here, but also heritage, other cultures’ impact, so our people got lazy in those eternal identity searches… There are individuals, whom this is very important, but those are people influenced by modern world, where design is integral personal expression part, from the clothes to all the other accessories, gadgets, apartment, car… It is primarily western culture’s heritage. And, we have resisted it, especially during the last 20 years, because we have a justified feeling that entire western world is against us, and often we deepen this sense ourselves. Victim’s role is the easiest – it is the fastest to act. It is an excuse at the same time, you deceive yourself everyone is against you, you get lazy, and you fall down to your own mud…
I have opened a shop in Cumicevo sokace, I call it “Futro” and I produce there something that can be a part of more interesting everyday life. From the simplest things – like a t-shirt, bag, sac, but it is designed – not in a seductive way that force you to spend some money, but it is some form and an idea at the same time, a part of one concept, some kind of humor which should help you survive hard times.
My experience shows that nothing can be done without faith in the product. Certain amount of truth which consumer can identify with is necessary. The higher is amount of truth, the bigger is its success. Of course, there are bright examples here. There are also less bright, of course, much more because – everyone here is used to “everything is possible over night” and “fraudulently”, in the grey economy area. But, this is not possible in long terms – nowhere in the world it was, so it won’t be here as well.
No. My need is to have work that is accepted and that motivates me to work even better. I need to have understood work that is a springboard for new and better projects. I have always thought, while making sketches for an author work, that it will find its realization eventually and enable me new jobs. I promote myself all the time in order to work as more and better as possible. That’s why I advertised myself so much – to get bigger projects.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in Serbia which is economically established the way it is – the more prizes and promotion you have, the less you work. The reason for that is the fact that people are afraid of your work, your competence, they cannot calculate with you, your price, every other aspect, including human vanity. We live in the “animal kingdom”, all are “tigers” and “lions” here, the third species doesn’t exist. There are no birds, no fishes, just tigers and lions. It depends on someone’s daily mood. When you arrive on meeting, you immediately see he didn’t call you because of your professionalism, but to show you he is the big boss. The head of the parade. And now, you have to work what he tells you to… I can’t stand 15 minutes of such meeting; I pick up and go away. Or, I behave polite and stay till the end, but never come back – I do not work that job.
I had lot of such projects I was unlucky to work. It’s hard. You have to be thick skinned to survive it. And I, the older and more aware of my knowledge I am, the harder is to act like some servile and attentive man which I’ve never been and I cannot learn to be. I can only – when you tell me: “Master, paint!” and I paint and you don’t ask me why I painted that way. I paint the best way I can, because I don’t want to embarrass myself. I’m not crazy to embarrass myself! This is the biggest problem I have with Serbian clients. At the other side, when I’m lucky to work for clients who want me to improve their or their brand’s image then a business relation is booming for many years on mutual pleasure.
This is an ideal continuation to previous question. If a man doesn’t say honestly what he means, he falls into a serious trap, because that lie will show itself through the project and failure of the product he tried to advertise. I insist on not-offending anyone in mass communications. At the same time – I don’t like when evident truth is kept secret.
I think all of them are self-conscious people, because hardly anyone left the exhibition offended. There are not so many idiots anyway, only problem is in “head shaking”. Like juices or yoghurts, when they stay for some time – if you don’t shake them – they are not useful! Many people “became cheese”, they didn’t shake their heads for a long time. I tried to shake a little bit of brain we still have with this exhibition. All the catch is in honest platform of exhibition. I have always thought and lived this way. That’s my creative platform. My biggest winning is final finding of my creative platform. I have straggled for a long time, because this is not the only thing I do, but also client services, some kind of creative service, and that obscures my creative platform. It also disables me in chase for new jobs, new clients, new achievements.
With many unrealized projects, due to impossibility to realize my talent and creativity, I saw a lot of accumulated projects with author potential which in real weren’t for those clients they were intended for in the first place. This has increased so much I realized I have a serious author opus which only misses its context. When I called my exhibition “You are an idiot, act accordingly” everything got its creative context. Everything has “viewed” since then.
Anyway, I think advertising isn’t art. It has its lucid elements which are necessary, and high creativity elements, but it has to serve a selling product’s purpose, otherwise it crosses this limit – and goes to art domain.
I’ve been fighting that idea all this time, because I see it is not very clear to many people… It is every creative person’s urge, every design student’s: professor tells you one thing, and you persistently draw some your own – “nonsense”, in their opinion and “top achievement” in yours. With the idea that already first teacher will refuse your work, you get the feeling that will follow you through life – everything you have worked for yourself is unusable in any industrial way.
I support the idea everyone has to use his own brain. But, without an organization and some social establishment we would live really hard. I think there are people who are born to lead, who have a potential – higher intellect, greater inherited resources – genetic predispositions… We have to understand it and behave that way. I have this classic artistic liberal opinion we are all different, but all of us have to know where we are going to. If we don’t know where we are going to…
But this “where are we going to” should be conceived by some trust of serious intellectuals. If we conceive it ourselves, how we have already started – everyone has his own politics, we won’t get happy. We don’t have mechanisms here to reach our personal happiness ourselves. There aren’t our mechanisms for that either in cultural or historical meaning. Everything is discontinuity here. When you are a part of fragmented historical madness, where to find your “peace of mind”, where to go? More and more people then start to eat healthy, to walk by the river, to go out of everyday life and at the end we have a bunch of some “flower children” which aren’t integrated into society. By the way, I become this kind of man more and more and I lead my family to that – “my private Tibet” is in Belgrade.
I agree. I need about 10 years, but I’ll accomplish that – little country house that I’ll draw and build myself. With a studio in it. It’s my dream.
Of course it is possible, but I cannot carry it out myself, that “slight revolution”. However, it has been happening, all the time. Our job is drastically different today from the same job of 10 years ago, especially 20. More and more people from clients’ side realize it is cheaper to engage high-quality individuals and project teams, than agencies. However, agency has still been very useful and necessary here. As a partner in a company “Designis” which does design, cooperation with agency “Communis DDB” which offers full service really suits me. So, when a client comes to me for a packaging design and visual identity, I can offer him other design services, too. The good thing is that we choose teams ourselves, we gather talented individuals into tailor made team for a client. If necessary, we often engage external associates. This is agencies’ future. Agency should be a “creative hub” which gathers right people for real projects. And not to have all the same people in the agency which work 10 projects at once, as in a hive. You cannot expect quality that way.
However, fees and salaries are very low here. It’s related to market, reciprocal, nothing is accidental. But, regarding importance and entire value of those projects, all that is extremely low. We are talking about few thousand euros per project, not a salary! Entire project is one, two or three thousand, not 10, 20, 30 thousand or 100, 200, 300 thousand like in Germany, for example. But, when you go to Slovenia, everything is also ten times higher than here. We are really on the last possible margin of European understanding of creativity importance in industry. That’s because during the last ten years creativity has been offered for free with the entire agency engagement package which brings the most money through media space payment, where agency takes some percent and it is only a small piece of cake it earns. This logic has destroyed creativity. There are more and more smart clients now who know that there has to be top creativity to improve product sales. This is really hard time, and creativity is the cheapest investment. That’s why so many big companies have been closed – no one believes in them – neither people in it, nor agency which should save it.
We don’t have any choice – you give the idea for free and you get peanuts of cookies which are left of commercials, some “crumbs”. I won’t play sad violin, we are all managing. I have had my author exhibition. I have opened my shop a year ago. Nothing of it brings money. But, these are channels which may become far logic everyday life for me some day.
Of course, I really need someone to do only that, to place my product – my brand on market.
Yes, I have exactly experienced it with my shop. When I have something to promote – new product collection, new t-shirt series, when I have something to post on Facebook people arrive immediately, they see, buy, turnover increases at once.
Every three days, absolutely! Through the cheapest electronic media.
I have 3500 Facebook friends. I cannot reach much more than that, unless I devote myself seriously to web site creating. I have put Futro Store on web only informative, I cannot deal with that intensively because of everyday responsibilities for many great clients I work for.
Physically, they are occupied more than I am, whole day in front of a computer. All twelve come at 9-9:30 in the morning and go away around eleven o’clock in the evening. It’s a disaster, but it’s necessary, this is such phase we cannot work otherwise.
The biggest challenge, which I had also confronted ten years ago, when started my author work, and what always haunts a man who desires to work what he likes and gives it to others – communicates, is: how relevant is it to others, how important is the subject you process, which haunts you? This exhibition’s success is that many people identified with the thematic, which showed me clearly it is a platform for me, for my future work. Now, there is this motivation catch, when you are young and you show your talent, there is always a need to have that talent recognized.
I want to say: freedom is very welcome, but it is necessary to know goals and motives. If this is clear, there are no problems at all.
These projects are exactly part of a group I call “System error” where I tried to create something that has kept its character with one minimum gesture, and get some craziness. And, it’s still imprinted in our mind as an entity, a lot of people pass without noticing an error; they simply recognize basic shapes and don’t register… All I’ve wanted is to see how much of it can be taken off, cleared, mistaken… On the other hand, error is a great motivation for me. I claim it’s impossible to progress without an error. And then, in that error, in ugly, I find an inspiration. I’m not the only one in this, or the first, many people…
Seriously, you cannot move forward without that. How many mistakes had made Einstein, Jordan, Tesla…? How many mistakes were there until something clever was thought, made, done…
You cannot reach success without mistakes! Simplified: I don’t know anyone could ever succeed anything continuously? I don’t understand that…
Yes, as if he learns from other peoples’ mistakes. I really don’t like to be wrong, but today I wouldn’t be here where I am without it.
Absolutely. It took me a long time to understand it is OK. I was deeply unhappy whenever I made mistakes. I was very dissatisfied man. I worked a lot, I made mistakes, but I was dissatisfied for a long time! Satisfaction came over me in last few years. After I found certain stability at home, in a family, since I have a wife, a child, happiness, smile. That’s what I’ve missed in life to realize errors are integral part of a job. Not only success is important.
What is more important to me is that my name says I celebrate peace and I grew up when Balkans were everything but peace. That’s how I had wakened – that I don’t really belong here. OK, here is something funny: I was born on January 7th 1969, day of orthodox Christmas. Doctor comes and brings me to my father and grandfather and says: “Here’s little Bozidar!” And, in my mother’s family all were partisans, father’s somewhere neither here nor there, so it was impossible I get that name! This is only anecdote about my name, I got it after father’s father (usual way).
My personal concept reduces to two words only, I have put them in the exhibition as well, and they are: “complicate simply”. And this is what I’ve also used as a slogan for lifestyle brand “Futro”: “Complicate Simply”. I like form simplicity, communication simplicity, but I like it to be layered, simple in receiving, in a way you place it, simplicity through humor, through purified esthetic values and forms, but to have entire book to read inside while you see only two words.
It was easy to people to identify and to see all those works and then – when they saw deeper, they understood there are very difficult subjects. They decoded them and analyzed with an ironic delay. I think it is only cure for such confuse times. To establish a relationship with yourself and your mirror image and this self-irony wisely, to have enough distance. Not exactly to speak of yourself in third person, this is what some our politicians are in charge for. “Self-irony” is right word.
There is another word I’ve been thinking of for days now, which we have completely forgotten, and it is “nobleness”, but it is all new domain. People can certainly feel attempt to come closer to this ideal through some of my exhibits, it is something that put me back on real spiritual way, that nobleness has to return in our lives, we have become so cruel! We have forgotten to take care, to think of someone else. We have completely erased, and we are so proud of our noble heroes.
Thank you for this great question, although all of them were inspiring, I’m so grateful for your understanding of this thematic which I have rarely met, especially here… So, here is that dualism: feces is an awful thing but, on the other hand, when you paint it gold, it superficially gets some kind of aesthetic aura which doesn’t belong to it at all. Its shape is suggestive, and this oversizing also speaks a lot of what is served to us. Generally, this is also connected with my designer work – something that is basically “it”, it’s packing in some gold wafers, it’s decorating, putting in packages. At first people often accept that lie easily because – it’s beautiful because it’s gold!
If I had left it in basic color it would be disgusting, no one could look at it…
No! Only gold has that doze of glamour and kitsch that can “sell” it, convince someone. That gold is an aesthetics synonym. And, the form is very recognizable. The best part is that some kids took pictures in pose to bend down like it went directly out of them. It is circulating on the Internet now, and it looks really funny.
Because of all this madness, more and more offers and complete technology chaos where, for example, I don’t understand anything what is offered in a cellphone commercial, and there is whole new young generation which knows exactly what is offered through commercials (this package, that package), how much is it unclear to my dad with his 65? And, my daughter takes an iPod and draws everything on it! She doesn’t need me even to turn it on. She has turned four recently. She draws a rose, mum, little house, everything! She comes and opens the game herself. No one had ever showed it to her: “Look, this is the button for this, and that is for…”! Never. So – human mind has huge perspective, and I’m sure that filtration of relevant subjects will increase over time, and that only those able to adapt will succeed to enjoy and move things forward. Of course, whoever is inert – he will fall off. Not literally – physically, but spiritually. It is how has always been, and so it is now. Whoever is predicted to progress, he will progress. In that process design has facilitating role…
At the moment, design looks as it complicates everything, as it speeds up those processes, but in fact it will take the road of communication simplification. That’s how it looks to me, the most sincerely. And if it can activate peoples’ brains on that road, design has fulfilled all the reasons of its existence.