I arrived at the University of Aberdeen over 7 years ago, and one of the first things I did was get in touch with Richard Demarco. I will never forget that first meeting with him and Terry Ann Newman—Deputy Directory of the Demarco European Arts Foundation—where we talked about art and artists from Eastern Europe. It was edifying to know that such kindred spirits, with shared interests, were “just down the road,” and made me feel like there was a reason that I was brought to the Northeast of Scotland.
Richard Demarco was the man who first invited pioneering artists such as Joseph Beuys, Tadeusz Kantor, Marina Abramovic, Paul Neagu, and Rasa Todosijevic to perform and exhibit in Scotland. Demarco had a special relationship with Beuys, and it should come as no surprise. Beuys advocated the idea that “everyone can be an artist” and developed the concept of “social sculpture,” which was essentially a conversation, meeting or discussion, that would be considered or framed as a work of art. Demarco feels quite the same.
In many ways, in addition to being an artist and curator, Demarco is a facilitator of relationships and connections—connections that lead to the development of projects, ideas, artworks, and more. These relationships and connections are works of art in and of themselves. For anyone who facilitates relationships and brings people together, they know the amount of effort, creativity and curation that goes into bringing the right people into contact with one another, at the right time and the right place.
Ever since I arrived in Scotland, I have been trying to follow in Richard’s footsteps. My aim, since I arrived in Scotland, has been to build, develop and foster a community of researchers working on contemporary art in Eastern Europe, and to showcase and bring to Scotland work by artists from the East—both those that have emigrated here on their own and those who are still based in Eastern Europe.
The exhibition currently on view in the MacRobert building at the University of Aberdeen, “East European Performance Art in Scotland: the Legacy of Richard Demarco” is very much about relationships—relationships with colleagues and artists in Scotland, the UK and Europe over the past 7 years. The exhibition is a collaboration among many individuals: myself and Demarco, as it includes photographs from his archive (read: gesamtkunstwerk) that document the relationships that he fomented. It is also a collaboration with three PhD students, Mariya Lanko, who helped curate the exhibition, and Jasmina Zaloznik and Denisa Tomkova who assisted with the installation as well as providing creative insights and ideas.
It is a collaboration with artists from Eastern Europe: Bozidar Jurjevic, from Croatia, and Branko Miliskovic, from Serbia, who performed in Aberdeen in October 2015. It is a collaboration between those two artists and the works of art in the University Collections, as their performances either interacted with or took place in the context of works from the collections. It is a collaboration between those artists, myself and a local photographer, Blazej Marczak, who not only photographed the performances, but came up with the idea for the display of the canvas in the exhibition, and the passport photograph. Finally, it is a collaboration with faculty and staff across the University of Aberdeen, from Estates and Museums to Human Resources and Finance, which facilitated all of the travel and events—and this invisible labour should not be forgotten.
The photographs and displays in “Eastern European Performance Art in Scotland: the Legacy of Richard Demarco” are a vain attempt to “perform the invisible”— to capture that which cannot be captured—precisely those relationships and connections that make art possible. These relationships involve much that is invisible: trust, good will, love, kindness, joy, interest, desire, and more. If even some small part of the positive energy and love that has been exchanged over the last several months, let alone years, has been conveyed through this exhibition, then it can be considered to have been successful.
Tweet about your experience with the exhibition at #DemarcoEast
East European Performance Art in Scotland: The Legacy of Richard Demarco
University of Aberdeen MacRobert Building Gallery (in the foyer)
Gallery Opening Hours:
27th April – 27th September 2016, 9.00am – 5.00pm, Monday to Friday
Special event: A Conversation with Richard Demarco, Wednesday, 25 May 6:00pm, King’s College Conference Centre followed by a drinks reception and official opening of the exhibition in the MacRobert gallery at 7:30pm
The event on 25 May is free, but booking is required: http://www.demarco-abdn.eventbrite.co.uk