The key exhibition of the DanubeDialogues 2015 Festival of Contemporary Art, entitled Art in the Age of Emotion and Non-Emotionality took place at the Rajko Mamuzić Gallery in Novi Sad. The gallery’s three floors allowed the works to be shown in three segments, each taking up several rooms and thus providing partly separated exhibition areas. The curators, Hartwig Knack (Austria), Vladimir Beskid (Slovakia) and Sava Stepanov (Serbia) made good use of this space to present the works of 20 artists from the Danube countries.
The idea of the exhibition was not to ask if art is possible in an age without emotions, but to examine the present sociological circumstances from which art emerges. The predominance of works arising from the use of technology (videos, 3D animations, photography), particularly those selected by Vladimir Beskid, confirms Sava Stepanov’s theory that the nature of our understanding of a picture has changed and that painting is no longer the paramount medium. This is the result of the complex relationship between art, society, science and a technology which enables art to be viewed as a means of communicating on subjects that need not necessarily be artistic, but are of general interest. The situation is fostered by the irresistible development of technology which, while providing us with vast opportunities for communication, information and education, can likewise be manipulated and abused. In such an environment, art tests the boundaries to which we should permit technology to facilitate our greater ease and efficiency (Isidora Todorović, Stevan Kojić, Nada Denić). By opting for a looser view of the theme, artists were able to explore the idea of identity through their works (Jan Vičar, Vendel Vaštag), real, imaginary, historical and mental zones (Eva Petrič, Olja Triaška Stefanović, Ulrike Königshofer), or to express their opinions and emotions through the use of their bodies (Nataša Teofilović, Eva Petrič, Stephanie Guse, Brigitte Lang, Marikke Heinz Hoek).
As Sava Stepanov has pointed out, a technological environment alienates the individual from the self and the emotions, but art that makes use of technology succeeds in ensuring just as much emotion, empathy and feeling as any other medium. Hartwig Knack agrees with this, declaring that although technology offers us surrogates for the emotions, emotionality plays a large part in our society and is thus important for understanding the relationships within it; artists register these relationships and changes in their works. Vladimir Beskid, too, concludes that things are gradually moving away from an analytic attitude to reality towards one that is more emotionally charged. Perhaps this is why his selection for this exhibition featured only women artists as the potential proponents of the new emotionality (Anetta Mona Chişa and Lucia Tkáčová, Lena Von Lapschina, Olja Trijaška Stefanović, Pavla Sceranková and Vladeva Dixebová).
All things considered, the theme that gave the tone to this year’s Danube Dialogues is one that is in step with what is happening in the world and in art. The question of the emotionality of our times is very much to the point as it allows us to survey it from several angles – as many, indeed, as there are types of emotion. This exhibition provided us with several potential geographic, cultural, historic, home-grown and other points of view on the subject.