Blesok no. 35, March-April, 2004
Gallery Reviews

Globalization and Identity

Emil Aleksiev

    Between the local and the global, between the national and the universal, between the need to preserve one's own identity and the need to be part of the large cultural synthesis of the West, the Macedonian arts has been roaming for over a century.

    The deep and substantial social changes that had been shaking Macedonia in the 19th century, accelerated the course of history. By adopting the European cultural values and civilization achievements, the traditional way of living was abandoned and the entire attitude was changed. It was the time of the birth of the “contemporary myth about Europe”, which narrowed to the concept of the West as a place of fulfilled human happiness and welfare, opening the optimistic perspectives of a quick progress. And, while in the middle of this century the process of Europeisation, especially emphasized in the urban centers, had been gradually taking all the spheres of social life, strong resistance occurred against the tempest that threatened to seize Macedonia. The Macedonian intellectuals of that time were asking the question of how to reach Europe, and at the same time preserve their own identity, how to preserve themselves from the foreign language and culture, how to become part of the world and remain their own.

    The moment when all these dramatic changes occurred gave rise to the initial and pointed interest for their own tradition. It was the beginning of a struggle for searching and defining the authenticity of their own cultural past that, acquiring the dimensions of a kind of a national cultural program, turned into a bloody battle for the present and the future. The folklore, where the meaning of our historic persistence in time is concentrated, acquired the significance of a spring that led an entire generation of Macedonian enlighteners, writers, poets and revolutionaries, in the search for their own identity. The awareness that this sum of values that this people has created and preserved from destruction and oblivion, makes its cultural heritage – the national essence, the customs, the verbal tradition considered as a birth certificate, as a negation of the false documents issued by the occupiers who tired to hide what we are -defines and directs the already open process of national constituting.

    The sharp cut by the end of the 19th century broke all the ties that had been connecting the Macedonian art with the millennial tradition. The civic art died, but soon the occurrence of the Macedonian Modern Art in the 1920s started the process of connecting with the contemporary European streams in the art. Accepting with delay and following from a distance the turbulent changes in the European art, the Macedonia artists showed increasing interest for including into these quick streams, but the interest for their own art tradition grew, as well.

    From the discreet, subtle influence of the immediate contact with the artworks, basically with the Medieval Byzantine art with Martinoski (the obsessive repetition of the motif of motherhood and his “Mothers” as a hidden memory of the icon of the Holy Mother before which twinkles the flame of the incense, illuminating the dark space of children's dreams) and the folklore that was used as a fine humus for growing new and wonderful forms with Ordan Petlevski, through the formal acceptance of the stylistic and iconographic language of the “cubist oratorio” of Borka Lazeski, all the way to the moment when the group “Dawn” (1960) posed new questions on using the piled art experience, when Dimitar Kondovski made his “icons”, and Tomo Šijak his “musandra”, formulated as sacral, cult objects, from the fascinating visions of Vladimir Georgievski to the “style exercises” of Gligor Čemerski, continued the dive into the depths of their own past and the evidencing of the past of their people, with a rather distinguished creative language of the secret hieroglyphs of Macedonia.

    Today, when we demand of the art to help us touch the reality, when we demand of it to renew the decomposed picture of the world, maybe it is necessary for the art to open to the experiences that have been piling up for centuries. It makes no difference if we are aware of that – the millennial art experience is a part of us and all that we are building now has been built over the layers of this experience. Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are again confronted to the same questions that have been posed since long ago: how to reach Europe and preserve our own identity, how to preserve ourselves form the foreign language and culture, how to become part of the world and remain our own?

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