Katarina Šević was born in Yugoslavia in 1979, left Serbia in 1999, went to Budapest for her studies, because the NATO bombings impeded her to reach Austria, where she was originally intending to enter the Fine Arts Academy in Vienna. She now lives and works in Berlin. Like many of us who come from or live in this southeastern region of Europe, she is a displaced woman, and like for many of us, for Katarina identification is a pivotal question to be taken care of, as well as a process to orientate in her everyday life.
In the brief description of her artistic practice, one can read that her work is often formulated and presented through a series of objects, related to performative situations and events, which regularly involve text or narration. Yet, the work that captivated me the most is a series of objects to which the artist decided not to link any performative facet or narrative elements. At least not obviously. A couple of weeks ago, I asked Katarina in a rather unelaborated manner how much she refers to identification in her artistic practice. My down-to-earth question received a delicate answer: “It is a very important topic for me but I don’t intend to address it in an obvious way. It is present in all my works, but as a subtext.” — she explained. The superimposition and interlocking of the implicit, in the sense of the subiectus, the subject and the explicit, i.e. the obiectus, the object, was indeed the appropriate formula to apprehend her work.
Katarina Šević: News From Nowhere, 2009- (ongoing project), series of objects, wood, veneer, varnish
The artist’s ongoing series entitled News from Nowhere (2009-) is a peculiar ensemble of handmade wooden objects. The title itself refers to the eponymous novel by the British artist and designer William Morris who wrote it in a utopian, futuristic spirit and inspired by early radical socialist ideas. However, the series revolves around the issue of craft, craftsmanship and the place it occupies in contemporary society. It operates as an alchemy, combining forms that she encountered in her childhood: memories of objects, pieces of crafted material, furniture belonging to her family as well as imaginary meanings, stories and narratives she assigns to them. “These are specific forms, chosen from my memory of things and meanings of the highest importance. The objects also play around the idea of the possible future models of certain forms (then out of use), or the possibility of future reconstruction […] I expect that their understanding takes shape through the viewers’ own feelings and presumptions” — states the artist. Indeed, the viewer presumes, guesses, associates, sometimes intends to recognize, partially identifies these carefully crafted objects or is left puzzled, intrigued and confused by them. Without any clearly distinguishable style, they evoke the furniture of the nineteenth century, the attributes of the bourgeoisie, political symbols of a declined era — the star, the eagle —, object of everyday use — a ladder, a purse — or ambiguous, anachronistic, mundane-looking elements of unusual size with unknown function, usage, or meaning, yet movingly intimate — a miniature stand, a monochrome rainbow, an empty house.
Through the reference to Craft as materialization of ideologies and a tool for material identification, Katarina Šević develops an existing/non-existing, remembered/forgotten, recreated/deconstructed and objectified diary-like environment. News from Nowhere is a familiar yet mysterious set of artifacts reifying the process of identification, a riddle to which only she has the keys and codes although generic enough to immediately recall upon the viewer’s own memories.