Nena Skoko, Serbian contemporary artist, affronts cultural, political and social context with sharply humoristic and intriguing works that often challenge the spectrum of tolerance and modernity. When you see her embroidered sanitary towels or banknotes put across the artist’s face, well it can’t be just a shortage of canvas or paper.
Nena Skoko is a primarily textile artist, in a way that she thinks of layers, compositions, threads even when she employs video and performative techniques. Sometimes she enters into paper collage, photography or land art, but all the time thinking of background on which she configures patterns. And these patterns really have a story to tell: about femininity, art power vs. political power, personal boundaries and myths…
Even when you’re focused on the beauty of a minute ants made of yarn and hair, spread on the plate, you should look up for some deeper meaning of entropy, balance between order and chaos.
Order and Chaos
Nena Skoko is always pulling some tricks! For example, her huge installation ‘Cat is turning round you’, in a shape of textile labyrinth invites you to enter it and enjoy within white soft walls that curve like a snail. But what she actually does is sophisticated realization of children’s playing song that is not so cute and funny after you stop singing and start thinking about the lines.
E-mail handkerchiefs are also a good, not to say practical, jokes about modern communication. Twenty years ago everybody had a nice, ironed and clean, cotton handkerchief in a pocket, usually decorated with embroidered initials. Instead, Nena Skoko stitched email addresses on! What a great clash!
While reading her biography, which is amazing, I stumbled upon a great statement: ‘I’m intensively trying to forget what I learned at Faculty of Applied Arts, Belgrade’. Nena Skoko successfully passed through the whole system of artistic education (MA Belgrade, postgraduate studies Helsinki, Poznan and London), but only after leaving the institutional tradition she found her individual sense of art making. By now Nena exhibited a lot at national and international level and started many projects: Rerna, Punctum for artist experiment, Balkan Fibre Art…
Cat is turning round you
When I think of textile art, I cannot help myself not to think about the huge tradition of textile handicrafts which generations and generations of women used to patiently learn, primarily to produce a dowry for a dissent marriage, and secondly to socialize with other women during winter days.
Nena Skoko also pulls a lot from this social aspect; she always comments on the environment she lives in (and Balkan countries have much to offer in this respect), but at the same time uses her artistic energy to include other people in creative process. Project Renovation / Art service invited people to intervene with fancy work on old clothes – as subversion to consumerist anti-individualistic contemporary fashion.
Seven Women’s Days
Her last work is called ‘Seven women’s days’. Nena was inspired with bodily changes, with process inside us that employ physicality, emotionality and psyche. Just as mature women, burdened with patriarchic taboos, she was ready to speak openly about her period and to buy sanitary towels without rapping them in five bags. But now, those seven days are also entering some changes…. She stitches blood traces, in all the nuances so well known to every woman, on the sanitary towels demonstrating to gender inclusive views how this actually looks like. Balkan men see pussy in a different light now, there’s no doubt!
Nena Skoko makes art in conditions that put her on the edge; she plays with tolerance, good taste, common sense, institutions, showing all the danger of normalization processes. The humor is here to make us laugh at first point, but soon this laughter makes you think about the world you live in.