External activity | exhibition Always Ready by Neda Firfova, associate researcher at press to exit project space | curated by Ivana Vaseva | Gallery MC, New York City | 24 – 30.08.2016
After holding the Always Ready exhibition in the YCC, Skopje in 2014, Neda Firfova with curator Ivana Vaseva have the pleasure to welcome you to the exhibition Always Ready in Gallery MC in New York City.
The project Always Ready was initiated by Neda Firfova in 2012 and it researched the disappearance of the thousands of cardboard books imported from China, and used for the creation of the ideological image backdrop in the mass games in communist Albania. The project focused on the reproduction of singled-out book objects and performances with them, while growing into a complex study of powerstyles. To the artist, these books have become meta-symbols of lost Eastern modernist knowledge and she uses them as reference symbols when critiquing the re-dress of the metabolist and brutalist architecture from the 1960s and 70s in her hometown of Skopje and its labelling as “Baroque”.
The exhibition will feature original book objects, video works and a printed archive from the project spanning from 2012 to 2016.
Excerpt from the catalogue Always Ready, A Project by Neda Firfova, YCC, Skopje, 2014:
I explored the disappearance of these books. They had been used for the First of May mass games in Albania, as well as at the Spartakiada sports event that took place during the communist regime of Enver Hoxha.
Both events included mass games elements, intended to stimulate the spirit, energy, and state of mind of the competitors. Of course they were also designed to empower national ideals through a meticulous combination of two types of body, political and athletic.
Large gatherings of students, arranged in patterns, held oversized books over their heads, thereby forming magnificent propaganda imagery. The books had been imported from China, during a period when the two states had close political and economic relations. Strangely, or perhaps fittingly – given the enforced cultural amnesia that took place after Hoxha’s death – there is not a single copy of the original books in the National Library, the National Archives, nor any of the sports-related institutions in Albania. It remains unanswered how were they destroyed, although we can easily agree that paper, along with printed matter, disappears first in times of enforced forgetting. According to the stories of mass games participants in Albania, the books were big enough to cover a sitting child, they had a minimum ten different colour spreads, and were often too heavy for just one student to hold. When I decided to “recreate” these books, this information was all available information. In my personal experience, the book was first immaterial and imaginary and needed to be recreated physically: as an artefact and a document, but also as an abstract element – necessarily inexact – of interpreted knowledge.
Neda Firfova is an artist, designer and a researcher. Her practice questions the printed medium as a symbol of established truth in the digital age, and the modernist invention of the grid as a basic tool for the democratic distribution of printed information. Often articulated in – or speculating with – printed media, her practice suggests more open approaches towards information distributions. It frequently stresses reverse editorial processes, such that it invites – and integrates – interventions by collaborators, and the audience. These experiments contribute to a mode of inquiry that reframes and repurposes the way graphic designers claim authority.
Neda Firfova graduated with a BFA in Fine Art Printing from the Academy of Fine Arts in Skopje, Macedonia in 2005 and pursued her MFA at the Graphic Design Department of Tama Art University in Tokyo, Japan, in 2009. She held a design researcher position at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht (2009-11), The Netherlands, and has a PhD in Arts from the Art Research Department of Tama Art University in Tokyo, Japan (2012). Since 2012, she co-runs the design platform and studio Modesty.
Neda Firfova currently lives and works in Tokyo and teaches at The Graduate School of Design an Architecture, Nagoya CIty University.
Ivana Vaseva is a curator and art historian. She has graduated on the department of art history in the University “St. Cyril and Methodius” in Skopje and has specializations in the programs Deschooling classroom (Self-education in the arts and culture) in Skopje/Belgrade and de Appel Curatorial Programme in Amsterdam.
The focus of her professional interest in the past few years refers to the reexamination of the agency of art and its production in the broader socio – political and economic system as well as the re-affirmation and analysis of its potency and potentiality towards stimulating changes (at least emotional and speculative) in different contexts. On one side, Vaseva regards this problematic through researching and using different, often alternative and informal educational practices and methods as an emancipatory means toward bigger awareness and on the other, though art projects that interrogate the relationship art and politics i.e. project that investigate how art manifests its political component.
Some of her long-term curated projects are: LIVING LIBRARIES: archives of civil disobedience, Culture for civil changes, the annual festival AKTO Festival for contemporary arts, The Artist and The Dictatorship, SKOPJE: THE ULTIMATE GOLDEN COLLECTION OF PERSONAL MEMORIES 1960-2010 vol. 1, the presentation/ game How to make a festival with 100 and 1 million Euros.
She has just finished the 11th edition of AKTO Festival for contemporary arts in Bitola named POP UP AKTO and currently works on the continuation of AKTO Festival in 3 other cities, Skopje, Shtip and Tetovo and on the research of the project IF BUILDINGS COULD TALK.