The origins of this project are in the pre-COVID world. It grew in part out of a desire to map and understand visual culture beyond Skopje; the conflation of contemporary art in North Macedonia with contemporary art in Skopje has been something of a frustration for some time. The original ambition was to travel around regional centres beyond Skopje, engaging citizens in Bitola, Gevgelija, Kumanovo, Prilep, Strumica and Veles. We intended to work with emerging artists in each of these cities and to selected some to make new work in response to the broad focus of the project, based on their own experiences and interests as artists trying to maintain a contemporary practice beyond the capital. The onset of the pandemic precluded the travel element, but a focus on the cultural ecology and economy has persisted, as has the presentation of visual artists trying to sustain a practice in localities beyond Skopje, in the exhibition that accompanies the launch of this book. The scope of the project mutated unavoidably, however. What could not have been foreseen when we were drafting these parameters (in late summer 2019) was the digital handbrake-turn that contemporary Macedonian art performed in response to the pandemic. As events and shows were cancelled overnight and vanished with the world that had commissioned them, so artists migrated online, to a scattered digital archipelago of facebook invitations, Instagram promotions and residencies, and Discord servers. Both Ivana Samandova and Angela Vitanovska discuss this in detail in their contributions to this book. The pandemic has disrupted our sense of space and time, exponentially. Whilst it may have shattered any sense of local common endeavour as people lost physical and social contact with one another, it did open new and unexpected opportunities for artists and helped in the international visibility of contemporary Macedonian practice.

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Blackwood, J., Samandova, I., Vitanovska, A. & Ivanov, B. 2021, Overcoming art, Overcoming Art. https://doi.org/10.48526/rgu-wt-1481532

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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