Full name: Sonja Jo
Organisation: Novo Kulturno Naselje (Novi Sad, Serbia)
Currently lives and works in: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Practice: Visual arts – sculpture, installation, video
Sonja Jo (b. 1992, Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) is based in Novi Sad, Serbia, and works in sculpture and installation. In 2018, she graduated in MA Sculpture at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. Her works focus on the impact of visual culture in everyday communication, ranging from childhood games, TV commercials to the five-pointed red star. She traces the transformation of these everyday symbols, questioning the two irreconcilable concepts of living, past ideologies and contemporary life. Thus, the game of hopscotch is presented as binary code for the generation who uses the Internet since a young age and are comfortable with new technologies and social media (Digital childhood, 2015); the TV coffee commercial becomes a B movie, a low-budget commercial film, poster and points to a widespread cultural hegemony (Coffee Time, 2017); and the red star is imprinted with the double-meaning of the cultural heritage of ex-Yugoslavia states and the remnants of the Communist era (Mommy It’s Broken, 2016). The ambivalent nature of the past and present and the transformations of meaning in different ideological conditions are recurrent themes in the artist’s works.
Areas of interest: History, public spaces, social issue, nostalgia, ideology
Why are you a part of MagiC Carpets: I became part of MagiC Carpets, when one of its curators Neringa Stoškutė found my artwork relevant for MagiC Carpets residency and for the concept of the 12th Kaunas Biennial. In my previous artwork, I did some pieces about politics and history which I combine with my personal experience, and this is rather close to how Kaunas Biennial wanted to approach Kaunas.
MagiC Carpets project: WITHOUT RUINS WE CANNOT SEE THE NEW WORLD
Without Ruins We Cannot See the New World is a project conceived by the Serbian artist Sonja Jo and completed during her MagiC Carpets residency in Kaunas. The project is based on the ideological transformations of 1990 in Lithuania, with a particular focus on the history of the former factories in Šančiai. The focus is on the personal stories of the former factory workers and their thoughts, feelings and opinions about the political and economic turbulence of that time. The notions of nostalgia, ideology, media and history intertwine to provide a critical reading of capitalism and what it brings to former Soviet countries such as Lithuania.
The starting point for the project was the distinct colour of factory wall bricks that bear physical witness to the change in regimes. The red (Soviet period) and white (Independence period) bricks that make up the façade of the 1940s building allude to the physical co-existence of the two ideologies. On a conceptual level, this work shows the ongoing relationship between industry and politics or rather how a profit-making mindset adjusts itself to current political and economic opportunities. In conditions of war or peace, communism, democracy or capitalism, politics always focus on the maintenance and progress of industry and not the individual. People’s lives and their spiritual and moral values become subordinate to the adaptation and modernisation of industry.
What inspires you as an artist? My field of research is diverse; I don’t have specific themes or interests that I am interested in. I make art of things that make me think of something in everyday life. Usually these are the things I do not understand well, so I try to find way to explain it to myself first. Then, through art, I tell the story to others.
What do you think is the purpose of art? I’ve always thought that the purpose of art is to speak, teach, change some faults in society, but not anymore. I am still looking into and thinking about what is becoming of art, and I can’t tell what I see. But the purpose of an artist is to disregard the trends and to be honest with himself / herself. It’s a process of learning. I’m still learning it.
Your favourite book(s): The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Your favourite film(s): Banishment, Return, Cache, Mad Men (TV Show).