FRAGMENTS AND REVIEWS
ON ANDREJ TISMA'S ART
Andrej Tisma's art actions take place in the environment
of the so-called expanded, but at the same time interwoven visual art
and literary medium. Word, gesture, mathematical symbol or random
snapshot meet in the same semantic plane to transform their barely hinted
and contradictory semanticism.
(Epilogue of the Alter book, Vrsac, 1987)
The title of Andrej Tima's performance "Liberté, fraternité, égalité 1789-1989" staged at the "Diagonale" gallery in Paris on 20th January 1989, seemingly related to the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, was actually meant to stimulate contemplation of the current significance of these so frequently used terms. Have the demanded freedom, equality and brotherhood of the people been fulfilled by now, two centuries later? These were the questions Tima posed to his audience during the discourse, which was the first part of the performance.
During the interaction, Tima distributed clippings from erotic comics, bearing the motto "Liberte 1789-1989", impressed in red letters, thus asking the question of how far are we stretching the boundaries of freedom. After that, in order to "leave a mental trace" of this event, Tima stamped bodies or garments of his visitors with the message "You met Andrej Tisma".
Tima's project actually consists of "work with human psyches", through discussions and provocations by way of stating his own view of the arts and asking personal questions, in order to establish communication on a level where a person feels free to talk in public about himself, his feelings and ideas.
About fifty spectators were very much interested in the event and were
ready to participate actively. An hour long lively dialogue with the audience
evolved. There were spontaneous reactions, laughs and even singing, making
the intention of Andrej Tima to make a close encounter of an artistic
kind a full success.
"Stav" magazine no. 31-32, Novi Sad, February. 1989.)
MAIL ART AND RUBBER-STAMP ART
A multimedia artist, Andrej Tisma, started his activities in a new,
mail-art medium, in the early 70’s. Mail-art has set out
as a form of art called guerrilla, or underground art which endeavored
to establish a closer contact with the recipient.
Zivan S. Zivkovic
Novi Sad, “Videopis” program, June 1992)
PERFORMANCES - (SPI)RITUALS
Andrej Tisma is one of the few younger authors who in the current, changed circumstances in the world of art, continue to express themselves artistically in the way that was introduced in the 70’s and that could be termed - behavioral art. Namely, it is an art that does not find its expression in the production of art works: drawings, sculptures, graphics, but rather in the communication between the artist and his environment.
Certainly, what is also important are the thoughts, the ideas and endeavors the artist wishes to convey. It can be said that the ideas promoted by Tisma are very topical in the current circumstances. He is pleading for the establishment of communication among people, for cooperation and understanding.
(TV Novi Sad, “Videopis” program, June 1992)
PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO ART
Tisma uses polaroids in very different ways, but the key system of combining
them is based on the principle of Hegel’s triads. In other words,
he juxtaposes two different pictures and it is up to the viewers to draw
a conclusion from them. On the one hand, there is life, represented by
powerful erotic scenes. On the other, he takes objects from nature, which
could be called “found” objects and scenes that represent
the other, the Thanatos. In such combinations, Tisma makes us wonder about
the objective of art, about the meaning of modern life and, indeed, about
what is it that artists should be doing.
(TV Novi Sad, “Videopis”, June 1992)
NETWORKING, (SPI)RITUALS AND ANTI-EMBARGO
(From the "Cage" magazine, Odzaci, October 1993)
As the most convincing and most authoritative protagonist of immaterial
art forms on the contemporary Yugoslav scene, but also as its outstanding
theoretician, Andrej Tisma calls his art works "(spi)rituals" –
rituals of the spiritual exchange, which means immaterial art intended
to be perceived neither though senses (like beaux arts), nor through a
mental process (like conceptual art). Instead, it was made for the
human spirit, which is a great potential waiting to be awakened, and the
author thus elicits at the same time the "material" he uses in his work, the
spiritual energy. He considers it a resourceful substance that can be
shaped, directed, spread, absorbed, etc, in order to reach an ultimate
goal, which is inspiration, the pure sensation of enlightenment and purification,
and the touch with the meaning of our existence, and that is the main
target of every artwork. The artist has almost been forced to give shape
to the "material" he has chosen by processes once used by shamans, artists
of the ancient times, that is, through ritual acts which function directly,
without any object serving as media, and in that way shorten the communication
channel to a great extent.
(From "Sveske" magazine, no 23, Pancevo, 1995)
The very spirit drives us to be highly creative beings when properly channeled
into what we can receive from it. The artist Andrej Tisma seems to have,
on many levels, awakened to this reality, and it's clearly on display
through his visual art, his written words, and above all, his "Spi-Rituals."
In using the very act of living as a form of artistic experiment and display,
he has helped remind us that capturing the moment from this spiritual
perspective is indeed the art of living with awareness.
Dr. Joseph Kenneth, Metaphysician and Author
Light Body Travelers Society, 2016)
A keen observer of alternative art on an international
level, it is instructive in witnessing the changes in the tone of Andrej
Tisma's writings as his country is plunged deep into war, and an economic
and cultural embargo imposed on his native Serbia by United Nations. Well
traveled (New York, Paris, Stockholm, etc.), and in touch with the international
network of postal artists, Tisma was suddenly forced to confront his peacetime
position of universal brotherhood, international cooperation, and concerted
group action, against a backdrop of increasing hostilities.
John Held, Jr.
(Bibliozine #44, San Francisco, February 1996)
The impression of an art stamp, created and used by Andrej Tisma, is not
only a carrier of artistic value. It is not even its primary character.
Many of the stamps made by this artist carry short and concentrated messages
of an engaged type, whether the engagement is of an artistic, social,
ecological or political nature.
the PECArT show catalog, Novi Sad, 1996)
MAIL ART AND RUBBER-STAMPS
At the very beginning of mail-art communication,
Andrej Tisma, a multimedia artist and critic, joined individual actions
and organized them himself. As early as 1973, he appeared for the first
time with the stamp as a method of multiplying messages in the above
mentioned form of visual communication. Since then, through numerous
actions, in the otherwise very dynamic world of mail-art, this author
has become really well- known. Not only that: some of his messages have
become cult messages (No ism! and some others). They have been reproduced
in various forms of print, from textile to badges, stickers, etc., all
over the world. He has exhibited his stamps, as multioriginal forms,
countless times all over the planet. Recently, a retrospective exhibition
of stamp prints was staged in the only gallery in the world that supports
and presents this form of art - the San Francisco Stamp Art Gallery.
(“Nezavisni” Novi Sad, May 1996)
Design of personal communication, as well as the communication itself
represents a timeless need of each person to reach out for friendship,
for love to enlarge its own world and beat loneliness and isolation. And
each and every try is deeply personal and carries the unmistakable signature
of its author.
(From the PECArT show catalog, Novi Sad, 1996)
At the outset, it can easily be said of Tisma's
stamps that they are a kind of sublimation. In other words, they reflect
the entire scope of the artist's work as a performer and networker.
He has transferred his most important performances and mail-art actions
to the stamps, thus continuing to use their agonic energy from one medium
(“Politika”, Belgrade, July 1997)
Andrej Tisma is an artist who has for a long time now employed technical achievements and means to serve the purposes of arts and artists, thus giving them a humane dimension. His most recent works have been created by the use of all the potentials offered by computers, scanners, black-and-white printers or state-of-the-art ink-jet color printers.
Following up on his previous works, but now relieved from having to cope with the limitations of the earlier technology, Tisma created a series of electro-collages and electro-graphics, which - thanks to the use of hi-tech products - became more communicable.
Promulgating his concept that art should not be exclusive, and actively working on the awakening of spirituality, Tisma endows his latest works with a recognizable mark, which is an answer to his own time and a constant protest and warning, on a local as well as global scale. It is not a visual quality one should look for in his works, but rather a message, an action which stimulates man's spirit to stir and make some constructive steps.
(Catalogue of the exhibition “Elektrografika”, Cultural center, Nis, October 1997)
Since the beginning of the seventies, Andrej Tisma has been a part of the Vojvodinian art scene in a distinct, alternative and nonexclusive way. This artist has expressed his engaged relationship towards everyday life by means that are, themselves, a product of the world and time which he lives and creates in.
Photographs are the main artifacts in his mail-art works, his Xeroxes and electro graphics, his video and computer web-art achievements. In keeping with the desired type of statement, Tisma utilizes photographs as documentary proof of a completed piece of work (actions, performances, records), as a creative gesture by which he expresses his own privacy and artistic personality (a series of Polaroids from the eighties), or he actualizes meaningful, engaging, at all times sarcastic and metaphorically rich conclusions about the current moment of humans of our time, by using found or scanned photographs.
("Archeology Of Privacy" essay from the catalog "In My Room", March 2005)
Andrej Tisma is, in many aspects, a conspicuous figure, not only in the Yugoslav photographic scene. His multimedia actions (that absorb, in the broadest sense of that word, the role of the photographic medium, which serves as a good basis for manifold creative actions), as well as, his theoretical thinking and critical work, secure him a very important role and even one of leading positions in the Serbian artistic scene.
meanings of Andrej Tisma's works reside and resound in the contrast between
the perfection of the advertising image and the reality in which
we actually live. Mr. Tisma would like us to be aware that these images
exist to convince us to alter our behaviour, i.e., to purchase something
which we might not have previously considered purchasing. Or, perhaps,
more subtly, to act as yet another in a virtually endless string
of such images that, taken in total over our lives, goes a long way toward
influencing our thought, and circumscribing the possibilities of our thinking.
Mr. Tisma reminds us that decay and decomposition is inevitable. Timeless perfection is a chimera, all we can know is transformation.
And, didn't we know this already anyway? Mr. Tisma's works are here to remind us.
("Pin in the Inflated Bubble of Expectations", Catalog essay "Mental Survival, London, 2006)
The theoretical and artistic activism of Andrej Tisma has been equally successful in finding its way among the ever-changing artistic styles and ideologies, where he was particularly perseverant in his creative endeavors to decipher the space surrounding the art scene. From the very beginning, when he imposed himself as an atypical and therefore important representative of mail art, an area of a fluid communication by way of art, his works have contained a peculiar re-directing towards a new quality of defining within a wide spectrum of manifest languages of the alternative and marginal cultural and artistic scene. Among others, the aim was to overcome the self-proclaimed authorities. In this way, his strategies carried out through the production of art works, which are following in the footsteps of the original mail art visions, mail art as the "peripheral" artistic activism, defy an institutionalized principles-free ban, deterrence, submission, oblivion, art which infringes upon the domain of information system.
(Apropos the exhibition "Transition: impossible" of Andrej Tima, New Moment Gallery, Belgrade, Radio Beograd III program, November 2006)
Ever since he wrote his first pieces of writing and ventured out of painting, Andrej Tisma has - in various media but persistently and consciously - been scratching visible faces and invisible matrixes of the world, testing the world's and his own moral rationale, poring - in an artistic way - on the reality as well as on its media prostheses in an effort to wake up his own and the Other consiousness on the level of artistic action. His are, therefore, the kinds of artistic performances which do not only count on their artistic completeness and whatever feedback may be born in the minds of the assumed audiences, but also - almost in a romantic way - count on a palpable consequential change in the order of the physical, biological, virtual and political body of the world which he touches and disolves with his incorruptible art-machinery.
In the already mentioned situation of the diversity of expression in contemporary art, Tisma decided to observe the reflections of the "physical" globalism in the "virtual" - as the ideal globalism, in which the value of an individual is verified through communication, rather than through interest. That self-assigned role of a creative commentator of the phenomena and events from the "real" world in the "virtual" space enables him to accept information and facts and to contextualize them, just as Noam Chomsky does through his books in the "real" world.
(Preface to the catalogue of Andrej Tisma's "Civilized beheading", The "Nova" gallery, Novi Sad, June 2007)
Thanks to the worldwide development of mail-art, followed by net-art, Andrej Tisma devoted himself to art as communication and his visual works, with their attitudes and ideas, are available to recipients at any place in the world. It is enough to visit one of his websites to become a participant in world happenings, through the language of Tisma's art.
"Sveske", no. 88, Pancevo, June 2008)
The works of Andrej Tisma "Food in Context" in their subject matter and various paraphrases show the world and criticize consumerism and transience with a demand: "Art must have consequences"! In art, the world becomes transparent only if a work of art - so to speak - consumes it and if it touches or even hurts both the artist and us as observers.
Andrej Tisma, one of the leading international contemporary artists, works with a variety of artistic media including video art. The main characteristic of his videos is that they are short and, when seen together, explicitly complex.
Contemporary society and changes in the modern world clearly affect his sensibility and manner of artistic expression. Political and social environments, war, social misery, the changing of social systems, disease, and total chaos of the "new order have clearly made a marked impression on his video work. The United States, as the global superpower in this new world order, has had a strong influence on Tismas videos, and he reacts through them in a spirited style. He depicts with realistic detail, the situation of individuals in the world which are induced by the will of the mightiest.
( From the essay "The Satire of Media Lies", 2006
work acts as a constructive protest, a creative healing process to both
the lives of individuals and the sour relations cultivated between rulers
and the ruled.
( "Ecological Ethics: Politics and communication in A Tisma's Web.Art", August 2001)
While the conflict of the former Yugoslavia has made its presence felt on the Internet, it has also led to some creative artistic endeavors. During the threat of NATO bombing, for instance, artist Andrej Tisma organized an Internet contest for the "humanitarian bombing of Serbia" ("Humanitarian NATO Bomb for Serbia!") in which contestants contributed bomb designs. The winner was awarded with a set of Monica Lewinsky's lips.
("Beating Breasts", Heise, Germany, November 7, 1998)
( "Short Notices about web sites and some useful stuff", NY Arts Magazine, New York, USA, March 2000)
in the Eye of the Storm War / Art / New Technologies: KOSOV@
Censored Pics, or the Censorship as a Weapon"
Stop NATO list, April 15, 2000)
The United States may not realize up to what extent its image as an imperial power has developed around the world. One of the most alarming pieces inspired by Anti-Americanism that I have experienced online is Andrej Tisma's "American Art School", which consists of a series of photo-stills presenting U.S. American soldiers destroying images of Saddam Hussein. The net project appropriates the photos in order to present U.S. soldiers as conquerors rather than saviors of Iraq.The war with Iraq is obviously a very delicate matter, which consists of so many variables that it would be impossible for me to write a just analysis in this short review. But, one thing that can be sensed in many net projects that spurred around the web as the war with Iraq developed is a sense of anger combined with fear of what a super-power could do around the world. This is the image that the U.S. now has to demistify, and this may prove to be a bigger battle than any other fought up to this point. Andrej Tisma's "American Art School" exposes the ideological global crisis the U.S. faces. Tisma's piece does demonize the United States; and while such extremism exhausts any criticism from Tisma's work, what should be noted is its alarming message: that the U.S. is dealing with a much bigger problem than finding weapons of mass destruction.
(Netartreview, June 19, 2003)
DIGITAL AND INTERNET ART
ANDREJ TISMA'S SOUND WORKS
Tisma utilizes instant sounds from the rich computer audio-palette, sound base of popular video games, rhythm machine, recordings (from Bach to turbo-folk, techno music and Esma Redzepova), blending them into an integral whole, with good measure and taste.
The author focuses on "short forms", therefore he is more up-to-date and closer to the sensibility of the contemporary listener. In these works, like in Tisma's other creations, one cannot fail but notice his engagement before all against war, against globalization, violent behaviour, militarization, trash, kitsch and self-advertising. Sound collages are socially engaged and just for this purpose stripped, unadorned - advertising sounds, military orders from video games or rhythm machine have an even more forceful, violent and aggressive impact.
("Polja", 9-10. Novi Sad, September 2007)
The sound works of Andrej Tisma have been positioned as an elaborated auditive image of the author's idea that engagement in the arts can be embodied, not as art value as such, but rather as a clearly directed effect of perlocutional performance. This, in turn, according to Austin's analysis, would mean that his artistic act in fact does not only strive towards some change in the otherwise variable pattern of the art system, but that it most seriously counts on the consequences which are equally both beyond aesthetics, but also effectual in an all-encompassing planetary ambiance.
The first association of a relatively well-educated listener to Tisma's sound work most frequently leads to an exorcist reminder of a paradigmatic album of the 1980's - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by David Byrne and Brian Eno, a cultic example of extatic sampling, of which some people thought that it was a small technical revolution in production, whilst the album, according to subsequent testimony of Brian Eno, was supposed to express the contemporary world in minimalist terms through newly recomposed, polyrhythmic unatainable "dark heart of Africa" freed from casual singleminded ethno melodies. That chaotic internal component of the old sound is a clear derivative of this new, Tisma's sound, particularly in its semantically legible, linguistic component, which expresses and ironically exposes the forceful shadows of the current aggressive wing of the civilization which exhausts itself in attempting to found a globalistic monoculture and economic exploitation-based mega machinery which effuses and imposes only a weakening rhythm of proclamatory progress while eliminating all other differences with the symbolic polyphonous murmur of "Africa", i.e. the unaccustomed Other in front. Or on the floor.
In the Dictionary of Electro-acoustic Music complied by its Serbian pioneer Vladan Radovanovic, the entry "Electro-acoustic music" reads as follows: Introduced as a medium - a world of new sounds and set of techniques - rose to the status of a style, due to limitations and specific features on all levels, and finally - with multiple increase of realizational powers - almost lost its stylistic characteristics now to become a medium of all styles. Something similar could be said about this para-cockpit refraction of voices, harmonies, styles, messages and even linguistic, ethnic and ethic fractures and crossings which are not Tisma's goals, but which are used and sampled by him. Except that in this sense a medium and its capacity might rather imply a good spirit or rebelious will of the artist himself than any kind of media or artistic interface, even if it were both music and the baby brother of the hoe - the computer.
("Izba" Club, Novi Sad, September 2007)
The opus of Andrej Tima is rich and varied. Music, or - as he would say - "sound works" is yet another state of aggregation or a dimension of his art, besides his visual art works, performances, digital art and literature.
This music is, although a separate branch of Tima's activities, still a part of one and the same tree. It can be seen in the creative "composing" process and in the messages, in the attitude. These sound works are collages made up of samples from a wide range of sounds and types of music - from military orders, speeches and video games to Bach, Arab music, pop rock, trumpeters and Esma Redepova, while the rhythms and effects are mostly Tima's own creations. The use of various sources enables the author to select the best, or - for a given composition - the most suitable musicians and music tunes, which is certainly an unusual advantage of that kind of work process.
Regarding its message and attitude, this music is fully engaged. There is something vaguely raw in the sound of these works, they are tough sound messages which Tima sends to the world powers and power wielders. But his toughness, luckily, is not the only and the most powerful of Andrej Tima's methods of struggle - there are also always invincible and, in contemporary art, so rare but all the more so precious - irony and sarcasm, that is wit and sense of humor.
of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, 2013)
40 YEARS OF ANDREJ TISMA'S ART OVERVIEWS
During four decades of artistic engagement, regular production, collective and solo exhibitions, Andrej Tisma passed through several phases of artistic expression and applied techniques and his art could be regarded as a sort of sublimation of the general movement in contemporary artistic practice. Just a cursory glance at lists of Tisma's exhibitions, catalogs, performances, books and publications in the fields of visual art, poetry and prose, or a simple Google search of his name, shows an author of great human and creative potential, who uses every opportunity to show his artistic, visual and social engagement and attitude, defining himself as a modern artist who corresponds with his time and environment.
(Catalog of Andrej Tisma's retrospective exhibition, Novi Sad, November 2013)
talk about the artistic activities of Andrej Tisma, I actually talk
about a whole set of phenomena. What characterizes him is - in the early
70's - his interest in the rise of a new form of art, in the establishment
of a new approach in art in which the most important element is actually
the communication between the artist, his recipient, the assumed audience
and a very broad planetary layer of all that can be the subject of the
language of art and the aim of art's speech. This is why he became interested
in the new forms of art, from the rather unusual concrete and visual
poetry, over a whole range of works such as mail-art, other forms of
digital and various forms of communication in the artistic space, to
the works we encounter in his mature stage of creative work, the beginning
of which I place in the early 2000's. It is in these works that Tisma
shows a marked interest in bonding of what we can call his view of the
world and a commentary of that world with a possible address directly
to people and his audience, through very concrete, apparent and precise
engagement, all in keeping with his well-known poetic motto which is
very simple but has more meanings than one: "I am a man, man as
species". His art explains to us in a concise way that Tisma is
an artist of a classical humanistic interest, fighting for the humanistic
values and doing this in a paradoxical way - using the very technology
which questions to some extent our perception of humans, which in fact
tries to place humans in the background, whilst juxtaposing itself.
And this makes Tisma's creative work very important.
When he does this on the level of digital prints, and he has been focusing on it very much in the recent years in the series called "In my room", "Transition: impossible" and "Screen Layers", he juxtaposes various iconic images of the world of spectacle in which we live today with what is the most intimately human. In other words, he puts face to face those images of the public world, various brandomaniacal forms, icons of the modern world, from the world of fashion, politics, human tragedy or individual fates, with what is his own intimate fate. In this way, he opens up a dialogue between the space within his intimate and artistic and that of the public space. And he usually does this in forms which are pure, totally transparent, but not carrying one meaning only.
In addition to this, typical of Tisma, if he uses digital prints or as a web artist uses his computer in many ways, he does not do so in a high-tech manner in which the use of the technology would be dominant. On the contrary, he uses technology as almost a classical art tool which is serving the idea and communication. It is as if he had a kind of naive belief, which to my mind is not naive, that in doing so, as Austin - logician and philosopher - used to talk about perlocutive performative, he could bring about some concrete effect in this world. This is, therefore, his basic mission, he is an artist with a mission.
(Catalog of Andrej Tisma's retrospective exhibition, Novi Sad, November 2013)
Andrej Tisma can be talked about in several ways, but one of them is basic - the way which starts from the premise that he is an artist who has for forty years persisted in a particular way, the way of the avant-garde, more precisely neo-avant-garde. It all started in 1972-1973 and has been going on to this day. It has been forty years of Tisma's passionate belonging to a movement encompassing a multitude of ideas and attitudes. He started his artistic adventure with a series of stamps, or - somewhat earlier - a series of photographs. But those were not photographs from a family album. Those were photographs of real events which, when placed in a context, acquire a different meaning. At the same time, from 1973, his first stamps started appearing.
(Catalog of Andrej Tisma's retrospective exhibition, Novi Sad, November 2013)
My collaboration with Andrej Tisma is long-standing. I remember his solo exhibition soon after his return from the Prague academy in 1976. Already then I saw works in his apartment which were closer to conceptual art than to any traditional drawing or painting. From then on, till today, Tisma has been continuously developing a relationship in which his art has been authentically engaged. Whatever medium he is using, Tisma comes up with a personal attitude and takes a standpoint in relation to the events in the world and the time he lives in. Our collaboration was the most intense around his works in the 90s and after 2000. Those were the works of an already mature artist who reacts to the events with a sincere artistic passion, but in a rational way, reacting to the world events and using the so-called new media in order to explain what makes his attitude and his critical judgment. Tisma is not one of those who simply document what they experience and what they see. He regularly expresses his attitude. And it is regularly a critical stance towards a phenomenon which at that moment, when he deals with it, dominates the world scene or the everyday environment in which we live and struggle through. His work "Collateral damage" is unforgettable, and it is one of the most powerful experiences in my career as a critic. In 2001, we were working on an exhibition called "The fatal 90's". My part of the exhibition was in the Sremska Kamenica palace and Tisma was one of the selected authors. He exhibited a series of seventeen prints showing the capitals of the NATO countries as they would look if they had been bombarded. After the opening, we went to a reception at a restaurant and there we watched live the 9/11 event - the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York. What Tisma had anticipated somehow proved to be true the very day the exhibition was opened. Actually, a total anticipation of the sequence of events on a global scale was possible and proved to be true in his art.
(Catalog of Andrej Tisma's retrospective exhibition, Novi Sad, November 2013)
WAR ISSUES IN THE ART OF ANDREJ TISMA
The experience of the war phenomenon in Tima's works appears in a number of series - be it through criticism, irony, direct denunciation or in scenarios which expose the consequences of this phenomenon in the contemporary world. One can say that he "documents" the history of wars and their dialectic movements in a visual way, and, starting from them, proceeds to show a certain creation of history as it is actually being enacted today, because wars are often followed by a new era in world history, as Goethe's astute genius noted. Out of the (spi)rituals or art performances, which Tima made during the wars in former Yugoslavia with an aim to invoke peace through spiritual activity (calming down aggression, hate and destruction), he created graphics series dedicated to the above mentioned activities. This form of immaterial art named spi(ritual) - the name was forged by Tima himself in 1990 - is a form of ritual, the goal of which is spiritual exchange and raising peace-loving aspirations among people.
Valentina Cizmar, M.A.
(From the essay "War Issues in the Art of Andrej Tima: the World Between the Philosophy of War and the Philosophy of Peace", "Dometi" No. 160-161, Sombor, 2015.)
THE BOMBARDMENT AS A WAR OF INTERESTS AND THE TRUTH ABOUT NATO'S CRIMES - TISMA'S ART ABOUT NATO BOMBING OF YUGOSLAVIA IN 1999
Andrej Tima is one of the artists who used the internet as a medium of communication with foreign countries during the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia in order to convey his personal testimonial about that military intervention, actually a subversive perception of the event opposed to the official versions of it. In the case of the artistic production of Andrej Tima, it was predominantly criticism aimed at the Western media, media activism, but also perseverance in the presentation of the Serbian victims. Within the scope of his internet-based-activist campaigns, perhaps the most interesting one was the creation of a fake KFOR's website http://www.atisma.com/webart/KFOR/kforonline_com.htm . Here is what the artist wrote about it:
"Towards the end of June 2000, on the occasion of the first anniversary of KFOR's deployment in Kosovo, I made a fake KFOR site by simply copying their site and changing their photos and texts. Their site showed soldiers planting flowers, tending gardens in Kosovo, carrying Albanian children in their arms, etc. - namely, presented a rosy picture of the reality. Instead of those photos, I put those of burning Serbian houses, of a murdered Serbian old man lying in his own blood, having been killed by the Albanians in his own house, blown-up Serbian churches, etc. On top of their title page, next to a photo with NATO member countries' flags, I added a photo of a blown-up Serbian church and modified the site name to read "KLA-FOR Online" (Kosovo Liberation Army FOR Online) - implying that they were assisting that terrorist formation. Under the title, there was a text in which they were proudly celebrating the anniversary of the Kosovo occupation and expulsion of 350,000 Serbs and non-Albanians, killing 1,100 Serbian and non-Albanian civilians, as well as the abduction of 1,000 people, expressing a hope that Kosovo would be totally purged of all Serbs before the next anniversary.
All in all, that site stirred great interest. A friend of mine from Spain, who had also fought against NATO with his writing, suggested that he should rent an internet domain with a very similar address to that of the original KFOR site, with an only slight difference in its name being a dot instead of a hyphen, and to insert the contents of my site there. Of course, I agreed to it and my friend launched the site very soon afterwards, with a message that the truth about the happenings in Kosovo was finally being revealed. I also sent it to numerous mailing lists around the world. It had 3,000 visits on the first day, 3,000 on the second, and altogether 14,000 visits in the first week. Many people spread the link further around. Therefore, we were successful in promulgating the truth about NATO, KFOR, the Albanian terrorists and Serbian victims.
The site was quite frequently visited by NATO soldiers as well, and at some point the KFOR site quoted an order of their commander not to visit that site because "it was our enemies' doing". Thus, we managed to break into the soldiers' ranks and open their eyes to the truth. Soon afterwards, the address of the official KFOR site was changed, to become a part of the NATO site." (Tima, 2012).
Tima also wrote a large number of texts: from e-mails to an online diary of the bombardment ("To Survive a Bombing" http://www.atisma.com/webart/surviving/survive.htm , illustrated with private and documentary photos) to digital interactive works: "Bomb Contest" http://www.atisma.com/bomb.htm , "Eyewitness to the Bombing" (use Firefox browser) http://www.atisma.com/webart/Eyewitness/Tisma_Eyewitness.htm , "NATO Olympic Mascots" http://www.atisma.com/webart/maskote/mascots.htm and others. He took an active part in the Syndicate and Nettime mailing lists, and - thanks to his criticism of NATO - at some points he was denied access to those sites. As a direct reaction to his personal trauma and the need to confront the perpetrators with the consequences of their criminal actions during the bombardment, in addition to his video works, the artist Andrej Tima performed a series of internet works - a militant accusation of the NATO member countries for the bombardment of the FR of Yugoslavia and victimization of the citizens of Serbia. "Collateral Damage" http://www.atisma.com/webart/Collateral/collaterals.htm is an ironic reinterpretation of the euphemistic expression "collateral victim", which shows the capitals of the NATO member countries burning under exploding bombs. "NATO Olympic Mascots" is a bloody satire about the NATO bombardment as Olympic Games. The team's coach is the US, whose motto is "All innocent victims in the competition are worth our Olympic team's interests", and the players are the NATO member countries, whose mascots with national flags are multiplied Barbie dolls, symbols of the American consumer society and narcissistic culture. Each player-country specializes in a particular discipline: the USA in swimming in blood, France - knocking down residential buildings, Britain - throwing cluster bombs, Germany - shooting from 15,000 feet altitude, the Netherlands - football with human heads, Canada - running after passanger trains. In the end, each sports discipline is illustrated with a documentary photograph of the bombardment, showing the so called collateral damage - dismembered human bodies or destroyed buildings.
A deconstruction of the discourse of an exact military intervention, built up by the NATO propaganda, is achieved through a confrontation of the world of fiction and that of reality - an idea of military Olympic Games versus the realistic victims of the bombardment. The basic intention of these works sprang from the need to accuse the European countries - besides the USA - of the bombardment, because - as obedient executioners of the US demands - they took part in the crimes of killing people and destroying the infrastructure of a European country.
Two video-works about the bombardment, "Loss of Innocence" and "Shaving", created in 2011 and 2012, depict the artist's personal trauma. The dominant theme of the works created during the bombardment are victims of war - from explicit scenes of dead bodies and killed children, demolished bridges and city architecture - to the Tima family themselves or the vulnerable artist's body. Although dealing with the same topic, the video works are fundamentally different from the body of works originating in 1999, mainly because they were born a decade after the war, in 2011 and 2012, and are therefore a postponed act of the event's recapitulation, generated in different conditions, but also a reaction to the contemporary global wars (in Syria, Iraq, ).
The "Shaving" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mj7VLp4g2iE&feature=youtu.be , from 2011, a traumatic record of death machinery at work, combines sequences of flashes from the private life of Andrej Tima shaving himself while a B-2 stealth bomber takes off. Apart from parallel montage, the scenes are linked with an ominous sound of the shaver, so that the sound functions as the main channel for the dissemination of meaning: when life is threatened, the private becomes the public and the public becomes the private, leaving the individual unable to influence the superior currents of history. The dialectical relationship between the two actions is removed from the marked event, the trauma of the NATO bombardment, through a strategy of euphemism, irony and humor. By placing a passive body and an active machine into a dialogical relationship, by showing the "conflict of two realities" (Tima, 2012), this video reports on the "deadly method of dehumanization".
The "Loss of Innocence" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svj98DyU4bA&feature=youtu.be is structured in the same way. Two parallel worlds are juxtaposed - the world of innocent childhood and the area affected by air raid. On the one hand, there is a combination of Tima's childhood toys and the official NATO aerial photographs of the attack on Novi Sad. On the other hand, melodies of Serbian and American children's songs ("Mommy, mommy, do you know?" and "Alphabet Song") with pilots' voices from the cockpits and the rumble of detonations. According to Andrej Tima, since he had grown up with the products of the American culture, toys and cartoons, the "Loss of Innocence" points to a great disappointment in the USA, to their loss of innocence. The regression into the childhood world creates a dissonance between the adult world (the space occupied by the NATO documents) and children's world (the zone of innocence and play) thus underlining the traumatic aspect of the bombardment.
What mostly differentiates these works from those created during the bombardment is the absence of perpetrators' faces - the NATO pilots and the victims' faces. The former had shown massacred victims' bodies. In the case of more recent works, political messages are clearer: the bombardment is exposed as a war of interests and a political war.
The strategy of alienation in these video works - humor and irony, a return to childhood, which emphasizes the idea of innocence without protection, demonstration of the powerlessness of an individual human body against war machinery and historical trends is weighed against the strategy of erasing all traces of the crime. The obliterating can be seen first of all in falsifying the facts, covering up or embellishing the truth as part of the NATO propaganda. It should also be pointed out that the two video works by Andrej Tima exemplify some of the more recent artistic depictions of the NATO bombardment, which means that they provide a particular critical reflection of a time in history marked by an increasing number of global conflicts and interventionism. The critical dialogue in Tima's works morally condemns the crime of the first order - bombardment, followed by the condemnation of the crime of the second order, i.e. covering up and embellishing the crime itself. Tima's works "Shaving" and "Loss of Innocence" exhibit a deeply personal aspect of a testimonial, a deadly method of dehumanization and ludicrous cruelty, as sources of a trauma. In this sense Tima's own testimonial as a victim has offered resistance to the official narrative of the NATO alliance and constructed a perception of the crime which attempted to reveal and preserve the truth.
ON TISMA'S NEO AVANT-GARDE ART ACTIVITY FROM THE 1970s TO THE 2000s
A permanent and basically determinative characteristic of Andrej Tisma's artistic positioning in the historical development of Yugoslav and transitional "second line" is reflected in a consequential utilization of new media and strategies in the humanistically oriented effort to actively influence his micro and macro social reality, therefore to revolutionize the plenitude of life. His decades long continuous avant-garde creative commitment lies in a utopian endeavor to artistically in an interactive manner re-shape recipients' souls through mental powers, on the basis of essentially different evaluative and ideational relationship of man with nature and himself, and to create a world order fundamentally different from the currently governing capitalist one. This is why Tisma, both in physical and virtual reality, incited, awakened and sensitized domestic and international public by ideologically subversive images, attitudes and emotions, critically pointing to the major civilizational problems and affecting change of their media-influenced opinions, with a goal to see them changed for the better. Testing in this way the limits of social and political impact of artists, with his overall creative engagement, substantially tied to life, he has been striving, with his entire personality, to act in a dual but convergent way, by diagnosing and healing the diseased humanity. Tisma has consequentially put to practice his fundamentally avant-garde idea in street actions, performances, stamps and artistic meetings, photographs and video works, through the Institute of Love and "Love" magazine, decades long creative and custodian work in the scope of the international mail-art movement, as well as in his web art works, websites, participation in world mailing lists and social networks, essays, art criticism and theory, prose and poetic works, digital prints and music.