Get to know SqW:Lab 2020 fellows – today we speak to artist, Ana Čavić.
Take me with you, blindly, from The naturalness of strange things, Ana Čavić
Where can you be found?
This is already a deeply philosophical question! Ideally, sitting on the floor with a magic carpet of scattered poetry books. Often, in a forest. More often, at my desk in the tiniest of flats–it’s almost a caravan–in Ljubljana with, importantly, a view of the sunset. When in London, at the Scooter Bar, any one of its many galleries and museums, The Saison Poetry Library… And, whenever possible, on a road trip!
Tell us about a creative action you have taken this week.
I have been drawing all week long! I am making a new drawing/writing performance piece using the conductive properties of graphite to incorporate sound elements, which can be triggered by touch during the performance.The drawings consist of 12 pieces of paper that together form a larger, interconnected visual score for the performance. They also contain lines of original poetry embedded in the images. I will perform this piece later this week at a literature and performance festival in Cyprus, SARDAM.
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home has meant different things to me at different times in my life. As someone who has immigrated several times in my life—from Yugoslavia to Australia as a child, to Britain as a teenager and most recently, to Slovenia—my notion of home is rather complicated. I can only say that in each place, where I feel welcomed and feel that I belong, is a kind of home. There are temporary homes—I once lived in a caravan, in a warehouse, for a time—and there are what we think of as permanent homes; places we can always return to and resume from where we left off as if we never left, even for the day. A home can also be created in the abstract, on the basis of a sudden understanding that something or, indeed, someone is home. Here I am thinking of the sense of home you have when someone has let me know, in one way or another, that their home is also your home. It has the effect of immediately “making you feel at home”. Whenever I visit any one of the places I have lived, I think to myself that I could stay there forever, and I am convinced it is home. There are always reason to return to a home, or set up home. More often than not, this reason is a person or people. If I close my eyes and try to picture a home, one image springs to mine. My most psychically charged notion of home is physically manifest in the house of my grandparents, long since passed away. It is located in Mokra Gora, a village in Serbia, surrounded by pine forests and mountains. There, I feel a tremendous sense of belonging, which I have felt nowhere else as keenly. It is so imbedded in my psyche that my most memorable dreams, which I take to be most auspicious, take place there to this day. Dreams where all my family and friends gather, object defy gravity, time becomes irrelevant and everything—even the planet Saturn rising like a giant air balloon in the garden—is possible. My grandmother planted a chestnut tree for each of her grandchildren in its garden. My tree—it was under the leafy branches of this tree that I once gave myself a bowl haircut because I had seen it in one of my grandmother’s vintage magazines, retrieved from the attic along with other curiosities and treasures—is also my home. A home can be a book, a poem, even a drawing. It is any space, real or imaginary, that always already has within it, a space set aside for you.
What was the last thing you drew?
A fox standing on its hind legs, drawing a bow and arrow towards the night sky.
Tell us about 2 of your most subtle influences.
Subtle? Well, Marc Chagall, who I disliked for much of my life, crept up on me when, a few years ago, I saw one of his giant backdrops to The Magic Flute opera on display at The Berardo Collection in Lisbon. Taking up an entire wall in the tallest part of The Berardo, it depicted the night garden scene from the opera in typical Chagall fashion: gravity defying figures suspended on an impossibly coloured ground suggesting a magical garden and all across the backdrop giant plastic gems sewn into the fabric–a myriad of colours glinting in the lights. I was floored, literally. I sat on the floor, as close as possible to it, and utterly dwarfed by the scene, simply got lost in it for what seemed like hours. Thus Chagall, and his figures–always taking flight in the immenseness of space, their shapes aspiring to a kind of boneless malleability evoking the impossibly free dance of dream, a visual poetry–subtly found their way into my artistic imagination and I suppose that I had internalised them a long time ago. Alexander Scriabin’s music.
Please share your thoughts / a few words about your expectations of the SqW:Lab fellowship, of being in Mumbai and the project in total.
I am excited to explore, through the protean concept of drawing proposed by the fellowship, and in the company of the gathered fellow creatives also engaged in the same exploration, the creative potential of the drawn line to describe something of the poetry of our human relations and the poetics of our environments today. I think of drawings as the ultimate interface between our private and the public lives, an attempt to materialise our thoughts and sentiments and make them accessible to others in symbolic form, crucially, beyond spoken and written language. The potential of drawing, for this reason, is always radical. Considering drawing situated in a space, its radical potential is amplified. Here I am thinking not only of its ability to communicate incommunicable thoughts and ideas, but also of drawing as a means of publicly expressing, or “publishing”, that always has the potential to elide censorship—even self-censorship. As such, an artist who makes a drawing can no more conceal their attitude, their influences, their thoughts and emotions towards their fellows and their environment, in between the lines, than a poet in a poem. Drawing can be a highly political act, individually and collectively. My own research into drawing and writing has to do with the notion of publishing the unpublishable, by which I mean that which is at the edges of what is representable and requires new modes of expression or ever new concepts. For me, the most radical aspect of drawing manifests in the context of an event, specifically the notion of drawing as a distinct type of human activity that is performed. It is a very theatrical notion of drawing that encompasses drawing as social ritual, traditionally, and in contemporary art terms, drawing as performance art.
Standing before ancient rock art near the Australian outback town of Laura several years ago, I seemed to me that the drawings described more of the culture of the people who created them, all those thousands of years ago, than volumes of history written since. Malevolent and benevolent crosshatched spirits with six fingers—to distinguish them from humans—loomed large, striking poses while human and animal forms drifted in a dreamtime landscape. After a while, I noticed that people, kangaroos and a whole gallery of bats were depicted vertically, while turtles and crocodiles were depicted from above; it suddenly occurred to me that this was a first point perspective of another human being, perhaps several of them, who lived long ago and attempted to communicate their point of view to their community and beyond. Drawing, evidently, has been with us for a very long time and held an important place in successive human cultures. Considering Australian artist Brett Whiteley’s more recent idiosyncratic first point perspective drawings and paintings, often featuring images of his hands as they draw the space he finds himself in—the imaginary and real mise en abyme—they are not so different from the Laura rock art, on which human hand prints are immortalised with the pigment spitting technique. The real and the pictorial spaces of these drawings, whether created over 14,000 years ago or several decades ago, bear the indelible traces of human relationships, with each another and with their environment. It is this sense of wonder at the diversity of human culture, especially culture expressed in traditional and contemporary forms of drawing, which I will take with me to Mumbai. I hope to have similar encounters, as with the rock art and Whiteley’s art, with the social aspect of drawing and its far reaching and enduring influence on our own cultures of today and will hopefully continue to inform cultures to come.