Yane Čalovski: Personal Object

External activity |  Personal Object | Yane Calovski’s exhibition  | Kohta, Helsinki, Finland |  12. 03. 2020 –10. 05. 2020 

Čalovski’s exhibition at Kohta – his first in Finland – contains selected drawings from the last 20 years (displayed on wall-mounted plywood panels as part of the work Closet, 2020) and a new version of the work after which the whole venture is named. Personal Object (2017–18) is a sculptural installation comprising synthetic rubber, metal hooks and cosmetics that belonged to his late mother, Biljana Čalovska. She showed scholarly and artistic promise but discontinued her studies in 1972, dedicating herself to becoming the trusted collaborator of her prominent husband, the late poet and radio journalist Todor Čalovski, and to raising and home-schooling their two children. (Her life choices were not uncommon in 1970s Yugoslavia, although they didn‘t quite conform to the socialist norm of women in the workplace.)

Why include such personal biographic information in a text of this kind? Because in this particular case it adds to the understanding of the work on display. The dominant presence in Kohta’s larger gallery is 
Embroidery (2020): a construction of wooden sticks and plates, all painted black, and at the same time a drawing in space, the prototype for an architectural folly, an invitation to linger and sit down – and a reinterpretation of a small embroidery of abstract triangular and rectangular shapes made by Biljana Čalovska sometime in the early-to-mid 1970s. Bed and Toy (both 2020) are sculptural compositions in foam and wood that evoke her educational practice of doing and making things while lying on the floor.

As its title indicates, ‘Personal Object’ is an exhibition about the personal and about objecthood. But it is also about how the exhibition, as a format of experimental articulation, embodies the three kinds of images outlined by philosopher Gilles Deleuze in his two books on cinema: the visible image, the readable image, the thinking image. The last one is supremely intriguing, but hardly explicated at all by Deleuze (or indeed explicable in terms that don’t leave common sense behind). Should we understand images as having the agency we usually ascribe to ourselves as viewers? And what about the author’s agency over the work he produces, using himself (or at least his own subjectivity) as material?

Opening and artist talk with Yane Čalovski and Anders Kreuger on Wednesday, 11 March, at 6–8pm

Now and then, Kohta hosts an artist in Helsinki for a month or two to make and exhibit new work. This is not a regular residency programme but a series of bespoke arrangements accommodating the needs of the invited artist and allowing us to show art from all over the world (without having to ship it across continents and customs borders).

Educated in the US, Japan and the Netherlands, Čalovski has been active in the Macedonian capital Skopje since the mid-2000s and is often seen on the international exhibition circuit. He participated in Manifesta 3 in Ljubljana in 2000 and Manifesta 7 in Bolzano in 2008, and he represented Macedonia (as the country was then known) at the Venice Biennale in 2015 together with his partner Hristina Ivanoska. The couple work jointly – most recently presenting three consecutive exhibitions in Vodnjan (Croatia), Zagreb and Skopje in 2017–19 – but also separately, and ‘Personal Object’ is a solo project by Čalovski, featuring new and still ongoing pieces as well as material from his own archive.

Drawing is a crucial component of his practice. Yet it is not as if a constant stream of drawings were flowing from his hands, waiting to be skimmed for easy visual displays. Making drawings is, to him, rather what getting houses built is to an architect: a sign of achievement, but also a signal that more is to come and proof of the unbroken connection between thought and image and object and physical environment and lived reality. In fact architecture was part of Čalovski’s artistic education and has frequently figured in his work, as solid objects or lofty plans (or the depleted physical remains of both). He has, for instance, done extensive projects around his parents’ self-designed house, the new ‘metabolic’ master plan for Skopje after the 1963 earthquake or Polish post-war architect Oskar Hansen and his ‘principles of open form’.