Interview with Aleksandra Domanovic

Aleksandra Domanovic is a Berlin-based artist who works primarily on the internet. Much of her art contrasts and recontextualizes content derived online, such as found videos and Google Maps, in an effort to establish a dialogue between these different materials. I interviewed her via email. - Ceci Moss

You were born in Serbia, grew up in Slovenia and now reside in Berlin. Has this transnationalism inflected your work? How so?

I was born in Serbia, but in a Slovakian minority in Vojvodina. Hmm, I can't say how this expresses in my work...most of the artists I know are global nomads. I have a blurred sense of nationality and have no real feeling of belonging anywhere, which may explain my obsession with maps. I also lived in Vienna for six years and spend some time in Tokyo before moving to Berlin, and for now I still enjoy not having a permanent residence.

As a blogger for VVORK, you obviously spend a lot of time surfing the web. How does this daily routine influence your practice as an artist?

I became an artist through and with VVORK. Studying graphic design, but always making video on the side, I joined VVORK about one week after it was founded by Oliver, Georg and Christoph. Surfing the web extensively, seeing so much good work and discovering it for myself, motivated me.

You completed two projects which paired online mapping and video: Srbija Do Tokia and Tesla. Could you explain the concept behind these two works?

There are 3 pages: Srbija Do Tokia, Tesla and Holivud, all written as they are pronounced in Serbian language, which is the grammatically correct way of writing foreign words in Serbia. All reflect Serbian nationalism and the recent independence of Kosovo. The day after the declaration, there were videos like this one ( circulating the web, and they made me feel sad and ashamed of Serbia, but it also made me think how YouTube and the internet has brought actual happenings from the side alleys much closer while simultaneously alienating them from us. I could locate the exact street the protesters were rioting and stealing sneakers on, with Google Maps, while keeping my safe, cosy and easily moralizing position. I even measured the distances those girls had walked with one of my favorites: the distance measurement tool. :)

Srbija do Tokia, meaning "Serbia to Tokyo," is a slogan which was used by Serbian paramilitaries to glorify expansionism during the Yugoslav wars. It originated in 1991, with soccer fans. I combined it with YouTube excerpt form the film Tokyo Drift, accidentally depicting a three-finger salute, which was often used as a nationalist sign before and during the Yugoslav wars and it was often flashed by Serbian soldiers during their military operations. It's usage is still very controversial.

Tesla plays with the dual claim, Croatian and Serbian, over Nikola Tesla.

Holivud was a response to the ridiculous George Clooney-Sharon Stone rallying against the unilateral declaration of Kosovo independence. I also discovered older footage of James Belushi (of Albanian descent) congratulating Albania it's Independence Day, and opposed the found material.

Image: Tesla (screengrab)

You used Getty images to illustrate an except from Woody Allen's Annie Hall in Anhedonia. Why did you decide to recycle Getty Images, instead of images sourced from elsewhere, in this work?

What you can see on my website is an 11 minute excerpt, but the video is actually 93 minutes long just as Annie Hall. The first idea was to use YouTube material and build a feature film entirely out of our collective video treasury. It didn't work as well as I thought, since the tagging of material is left to the subjective choice of each user and therefore it was difficult to find appropriate footage. Stock image foundries function differently. Editors are hired to tag material based on a certain set of rules. Their clips carry reduced and concentrated meanings, are easy to find but also reflect the absurdity of today's template-driven image economy. So the use of stock-image-industry language was strategic in a way that it allowed me to translate a movie script into a incoherent visual stream that could still illustrate the words very clearly, although not always in a straightforward manner.I named the video Ahnedonia after I discovered that it was supposed to be the original title of Annie Hall, but was considered unmarketable. Anhedonia is a clinical symptom of depression. It's basically reversed hedonism, inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events.

It was also important for me to remake the whole film from the beginning to end. Then it can function as a full feature and could ideally be played again in a theater. The idea of replacing the visual layer of a movie, can also be seen as a reversal of Woody Allen's directorial debut, What's Up Tiger Lily?, a 1966 comedy, which utilized clips from Kokusai Himitsu Keisatsu: Kagi No Kagi, a 1965 Japanese spy film. Instead of translating the film, Allen added completely new dialogue that had nothing to do with the plot of the original film.

Image: Anhedonia (screengrab)

What projects are you currently working on?

I'm mainly continuing research into weather and weather related topics, trying to use weather as a medium. Further, I'm making animated gifs in different time signatures and morse code and I am also trying to get a nice tan this summer, but this is hard in Berlin.

What artists are you following right now? Are there any individuals or art collectives you find particularly inspiring?,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,