Emerging artist: Toni Mijač (Split, Croatia)
Residency place: META Cultural Foundation (Slon village, Prahova county, Romania)
Practice: artist and film director
Collaborating artists: Mihai Smeu
Curated by: Raluca-Elena Doroftei
“My work in/with Slon started two years ago, when I was given an opportunity to come to Meta’s cinema residency in Slon village within the MagiC Carpets project thanks to LAB 852’s proposal, but couldn’t because of the pandemic, creating a unique chance for a virtual zoom call format program. A challenging but successful process came out of these conditions, and this year I was grateful to get the invitation again and create new work questioning what this one-month-long distance relationship with Slon can become when finally stepping my foot on the location.” (Toni Mijač, August 2022)
In 2020, because of the restrictions determined by the pandemic situation, Toni Mijač attended the residency in Slon on-line, through a virtual visit, working through video-streaming with the Romanian artist and photographer Vlad Dinu. The result, Slon Eye, moves around the idea of exploring an area when there is no possibility to physically do so. It was a demanding and ambitious process at that time, but also an achievement, as Slon Eye received the jury’s 1st prize for the best artwork on the GRISIAyouth 2021 exhibition in Rovinj, Croatia.
Toni’s projects evolve from the impulses he receives from his surroundings, from the locals and from everyday life situations – actively observing himself and other people, spotlighting the performative/ theatrical aspects of this perspective and remodelling those interests in an artistic method. Behavior, dynamics, memory, rhythm and reaction are recurring interests in his works, and the aspects highlighted by them are starting motivations in his research. “What triggers me is any motive that provides a new or different angle of meaning, especially if relevant to sociological or cultural contribution.”
The research phase started with the same questions for the villagers asked by the first film Slon Eye (this time with the artist present): “What were lockdown and isolation like in Slon? How is everyday life like in Slon? What are the routines and traditions? What are the childhood ambitions that you’ve never fulfilled, and why? If there was a chance to be filmed while expressing a certain idea, statement or wish, what would that be? What roles and importance do art and exhibitions have in a personal and social context? Through a video call, what can you get across about life in Slon, and what can’t you?”. Despite the language barrier, by ways of informal translation and non-verbal interaction with the locals – Mijač’s portrait of Slon found an intersection with the community in which they had the common ground and that was the question of “What is art to you?”. Out of all the questions asked, this seemed to be the most engaging.
The project Slon Eye: Bună Ziua is an extension of the puzzling communication methods between Toni as the artist and the village and locals of Slon as the subject. Around ‘art’ as main theme, the film is built with characteristics that resemble the techniques from the first film while portraying a warmer and more intimate approach to the community. The experimental video essay presents answers to the questions above including the artist’s answer to the last question. These are accompanied by visuals of nonverbal atmospheric illustrations of Slon, inspired by the locals.
*In villages like Slon, where the traditional way of life is still preserved, people greet each other in the streets, even if they have never seen each other. Travelers are welcomed with a head nod or a loud “bună ziua!” which literally translates to good day.
Text written by Raluca-Elena Doroftei