I have a soft spot for Ana, and it has a lot to do with our mutual Ex-Yugo upbringing. When in the city, and if she is around, I feel like there is a certain understanding from both parts, hers and mine. I understand where she is coming from, and I most definitely understand what her work means (literally), especially if it is entitled something like, ‘Stena’.
Officially, we meet a good year ago, when I was commissioned to interview her for the first time. I meet her at her Bowery studio/apartment in Chinatown. I lived just around the corner, on Canal and Eldridge, so straight up I got neighbour feels. When I got to her place, we first started off in English but then soon progressed and talked in Serbian, her mother language — mine is Slovene, so not far off. I don’t know what is it about feeling closer to someone who comes from a similar upbringing, especially when you meet in a different country, but it definitely is a thing. During our interview, many times we fell off the ‘official’ track and talked about our mutual friends, Beograd, Zagreb, Ljubljana, etc. We send them selfies and reminisced about our time there.
Fast forward to a year later, when I decided to put up my first show ever, as a curator, and somehow felt NYC is the city to do so. When me and my partner in all of this Good Taste (name of the exhibition platform) shenanigans, Paige Silveria, started to put down names on who to show, Ana was one of the first names we brought up. Thankfully, she understood our vision, trusted our opinion, and decided to show with us.
Why Ana? Well first and foremost for everything I just wrote. Understanding and feeling someone’s work is the base of GT. She speaks our language, literally and figuratively.
She carries the ability to perfectly capture both of her worlds – Serbian and American – and carries a dialogue which is respectful and understanding of both.
For a start, do you want your work to be read as a document?
Got it. How much of your work would you say is then psychological and how much is purely formal?
My work is mostly tactile, but there’s some psychology in that too.
Jasper Johns once said, “I often find that having an idea in my head prevents me from doing something else. Working is, therefore, a way of getting rid of an idea.” Would you agree?
Yes and no. I function very well with ideas in my head, though, they don’t prevent me from doing other things or having other ideas. But I am a woman and we are naturally better at multitasking; that’s a skill we are born with in order to be a mother one day. Men are better at focusing on one thing, hunter style. I like to brew ideas in my head for a while, many ideas simultaneously, and when they’re ripe, they just push out to get sketched, and then materialised.
If we look at mediums you work with, I feel like, in all, your main aim is to take the viewer(s) into landscapes of temporal experiences or?
I don’t have a goal and I am definitely not trying to spread any messages. If someone gets an emotion out of my work, that would be nice.
How easy should art be though? How much depends upon the viewer and how much upon an artist for the public to gain an understanding?
Well, that depends if you are a conceptual art lover or if you prefer just an instant emotion while experiencing something. I am definitely the second type. I don’t like reading about the concept to understand the piece. I prefer to just feel an emotion and be taken by something on a very instinctive, experiential level.
Your apartment is also your studio. When Richard Prince interviewed Vito Acconci they addressed just that, as Vito also lived in his studio or let’s say, worked in his apartment. He said, “I can’t separate living and working; I like to sleep for an hour, get up, work, sleep again, etc. I need to have books and records (tapes, CDs) around me at all times, like pets, like walls.” Seeing your place, knowing your work, I feel like what Vito said applies to you greatly.
I do see my life and work as one because there is no point where one ends and another begins. I’ve found this entire floor loft on Bowery so it made sense to make it two in one because of the size. Ideally, my dream would be to have a separate studio one or two blocks away.
If we now look at your photography work, your subjects are often foreign to you. Are your photographs a look into your identity or theirs?
Can’t tell. I just like to photograph people — close people to me, as well as strangers. I really love the moments when people are not aware I am looking. That’s when they are the most vulnerable and beautiful.
What about your painting works? John Currin once said, “The subject of a painting is always the author, the artist.”
Painting and drawing are really thoughtless for me. It is just my hand channeling whatever is subconsciously happening in me. Sometimes I get curious about what came out, and then I turn it into a series, dive more into that place, and it all starts making sense.
Now onto the objects—in a Marxist’s sense—are your objects made with an idea of a commodity?
Objects and furniture exist to be used. Form comes as a result of thinking and trying new things with materials and construction.
Ana, do you ever think about the world becoming too homogenised? I feel like slowly every place looks like everywhere else.
The western world is becoming more and more homogenised. But there are authentic places still, mostly ones that are underdeveloped. That’s what I love most about Belgrade; it still holds a great deal of authenticity.
What does it mean to you to be a female Serbian artist in America? Do you feel any sort of responsibility to merge the cultures or does that not impact your expressionistic language?
I never think about me being Serbian and I sometimes even forget I live in America. It’s all such a weird concept of pinning down the location and being defined by it.
Where do you call home?
Belgrade and my apartment in NYC.
Are your expectations for life high?
I really love life, all the bad things about it too. It’s just so interesting. The endless task to solve and it never gets old and you never feel you’re on top of it.
What motivates you?
The feeling of pleasure while making things.
What is freedom to you?
Not having to do things that don’t feel right deep inside.
What is one thing most people do not know about you?
I love the turbulence on the plane.
Have you ever envied anybody in your life?
I once read creative people are more promiscuous than others, would you agree?
Creative people express themselves constantly, so if you think like that, they maybe should be even less promiscuous; as in a way promiscuity is a result of being repressed in some way? But I don’t know. I am not promiscuous.
What is good taste?
Good taste is when a person measures their behaviour just right or when you put food in your mouth and it feels really good, so you want more.
Interview: Katja Horvat
Photos: Portraits by Dev Hynes, work; courtesy of the artist
The interview is part of the Good Taste series, an exhibition outlet curated by Katja Horvat and Paige Silveria, and powered by Budweiser.