The activities of the artistic couple MP_art began in 2003 in an atmosphere of numerous political, social and cultural changes. It was the time of changing decades, centuries and millenniums, and it intensified the awareness of change, the need for insight, the analysis and balance of accomplishments, and the need for new ideas appropriate for new times. In Serbian society, it was a time of epochal crisis, and the most distinctive points of that catastrophic period were: The break-up of Yugoslavia, hyperinflation, the NATO bombing in 1999 and the difficult transition which followed the democratic upheaval after 2000. At the same time, on a global level, the most important event was the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001, from which the world will not recover for a long time…. In addition, the planet had already been dominated by technological intelligence. The term “iconosphere”, which Mieczyslaw Porebski introduced during the late eighties, did finally, in this century, get its full meaning – the concept and function of the image were extended to unimaginable proportions…. All this, of course, has significantly changed the artistic reflection of a reality that is no longer a phenomenological category derived from normal natural processes, but it is becoming more often a product of artificially established relations imposed by the new technology of living. The social context in which contemporary art is developing, is the system of globally networked information and communication. Unlike, for example, the pop artist of the sixties and seventies, who was using the concrete, material, consumer object – the contemporary artist deals with information and messages of an immaterial character…. So, the contemporary artist has unexpectedly found himself in a changed socio-cultural context, in an environment with a specific transitional character. Therefore, the early years of the new century are characterized as a period of many reorientations within art itself. This transition is distinctive because it primarily refers to the changes caused by the acceptance of the new (highly) technological media opportunities. Nevertheless, the power of the new media, so effective in many areas of human life, has not enhanced the power of art itself. Furthermore, the powerlessness of art to change the world significantly has become even more apparent. Not by accident, Francesco Bonami, the director of the Venice Biennale 2003, in one of his interviews, stated that “art is just an interpretation of the world”, after which he unequivocally stated: “I prefer art that uses metaphors, even if they are related to ethics and politics, but on the condition that the metaphors are formulated clearly enough so that the observer can easily interpret them and in this way enter the field of the meaning of art.” So, Bonami offers the choice to the observer. Ješa Denegri, one of the most authoritative art theoreticians in Serbia, also insists on a subjectivistic perception of art, its messages, morals and meanings: „In the vastness of contemporary art everyone is invited to find his own way and decide how it fits his preferences, needs and interests.“
In these and in such contextual circumstances, in the atmosphere of the Vojvodina art scene after 2000, which has still not lost the dynamism and spirit of the nineties, the artists from Novi Sad, Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin have created their own artistic community and initiated the activities of MP_art. At the time of that fateful meeting, their artistic positions were different. Maja Budžarov (1970), during the nineties, until she joined MP_art, was working in the field of ceramics. In her works she insisted on a completely distinctive conceptual deliberation of the functions of the medium in which she dealt, usually trying to overcome the utilitarian functionality of shape. From the position of the applied artist she got into the so-called, expanded field of ceramic expression, going beyond the classical medium of ceramics, creating object installation exhibits which combined conceptual analysis, medium recognition and content definition. The artistic activity of Predrag Šidjanin (1953), in contrast to Maja’s, begins much earlier, in the early seventies, at a time of full enthusiasm, the so-called „new artistic practice“. In Serbian art, the art of Vojvodina and the former Yugoslavia, he gained recognition as a respected proponent of cenceptualist practices, especially as one of the earliest authoritative artists of the then innovative video, and afterwards computer art. During the decades of his creative continuity, Šidjanin has always managed to reach clear critical judgements about the world and the time in which he has performed.
The decision of Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin to start joint artistic activities meant the need to make radical changes to their previous individual artistic statuses, actions and behaviours. The artistic couple MP_art, at the very begining, had to undertake conceptual cuts and break with previous practice. In the first action MP_00 Cleaning (Pančevo, 7th -16th January 2003) Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin implement an act of radical cleansing of the body and mind, so for nine days they strictly fast and conduct a detailed confessional talk about the most intimate details from the past. In this way they „cleansed“ themselves and prepared for life together and for further artistic activities. It was soon proved that this initial and very intimate performance (played without an audience) was the only performing action of MP_art defined in a consistent manner of highly cultured artistic behaviourism. With this days-long premiere performance and verification of Joseph Beuys’s theory that „art = life“, MP_art clearly indicates the need to act ethically in the field of art, expressing the intention to prepare themselves morally for an artistic intervention in the specific conditions of a transitional crisis of a contextual environment, to allocate, problematize and criticize the neuralgic manifestation of local and universal order, through their characteristically intimate, always personally (even autobiographically) determined and characterized artistic procedures.
Regarding this initial performance, the project curator Svetlana Mladenov wrote a text which, in a certain sense, can be accepted not only as a concise explanation of the essential characteristics of the concept that had just been established, but also as a suggestive notice of everything that will follow and will be consistently implemented during the latter acting of the artistic couple MP_art: „MP is an acronym of the names of the two artists who have adopted the attitude of conscious rejection of their own names and former research mediums. MP are focused on the exploration of mutual expressions primarily through the physical (performance) and the cognitive (text/image). The activities that MP create are related to the location, duration and physical/cognitive context in which the personal experience of intimacy and privacy are passed on and universally understood, through public appearances…“
Therefore, from the very beginning, the performances of MP_art have been based primarily on ethical considerations. During the ten years (2003-2013) they have made a conceptually coherent expressive corpus. The character of their work is a discreetly engaged action. At no time do they exceed in activism but keep the exclusivity of a formally clearly conceived and defined work of art. It is worth noting that the two members of MP_art belong to the performers who are trying to place the act of performing and the act of its reception as a real activity in the here and now. “So, the performance is a part of life which the performers and audience spend together and consume in the same place in which the performance and watching take place. The emission and reception of signs and signals occur at the same time.” (Aleksandra Jovićević, Ana Vujanović). Respect of the principle of „real time“, in contrast with fictitious time in a theatre play, provides the impression of an exclusive embodiment of reality through art in a closed space. In addition, in the performances of MP_art the effort to preserve the dignity of authentic artwork through the affirmation of exclusive prinicples of the selected medium is clearly visible. The performances and other actions of the two artists are based on a clear pretext and legible content, have constructed and visible form, and the messages are phylosophical and sensitized… Although some performances and other projects of MP_art are characterized by the impression of suggestive expressionism (Appearance, Keep a distance, Mental Ghetto, Limited, Shame and others), in their expression everything is based on solid forms of rational and critical philosophy of existential issues and situations (Left-Right, in-SIDE, Reflective mind, Big Brother, Boody book and others). Only in rare situations do the couple MP_art respond directly to the current socio-political challenges (Hental Serbia), but even then they are focused on complex discussions of socio-existential topics and issues. Finally, MP_art offers, in its several performative actions of „reflected reality“, without any hesitation, messages of the importance of moral criteria, respect of personal intimacy, integrity of the person in the circumstances of different current ideologies, politics, strategies and manipulations.
In their performances Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin strive to preserve the originality, funcionality, aesthetics and ethics of the performance. It is important to point out the high awareness of the two members of MP_art to maintain the medium purity of their own action. The two artists are concerned about the fate of the human being in the current civilizational moment and they express their concern through authentic aestheticism and purified artistic language. It is evident in the work of MP_art that after each aestheticism the ethics follow. In all, their entire past decade of involvement convincingly indicates that in their art they „adopted“ Edgar Morin’s theory according to which ethics necessarily appear as a moral imperative.
The creative practice of MP_art is based on the principle of the joint action of the male-female couple, which includes the obvious intertwining of their personal destinies with their art. Sanja Kojić Mladenov is explicit in her elaboration: „The meeting of the individual characteristics is connected to the idea and act of love as a well-known but always uncertain existential event. Physical and spiritual love, a behavioral event, becomes the main driving force of the two beings put together (connected) physically and intellectually. Their own, different identities remain recognizible, but as a part of a whole, one of the two poles or sides of the artistic couple represented by the acronym MP.“ It is obvious that such an established relationship between the two artists includes the sexuality as existential but, in this case, has an artistic elemental quality too. Since Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin decided to work within the artistic activist (pseudo) group, they directed all their actiivity towards the artistic work and the eroticism and sexuality became an integral part of their behavior and expression. In addition, the members of MP_art have full awarness of the importance and meaning of eroticism in current art – the two artists create numerous performative, video, photographic and post-production works in which is (sub)consciously „used“ the direct power of Eros in our time and in contemporary art. Because „Eros is no longer lust, or a higher cosmic force, but an effort, a striving, which opposes the limits, which overcomes the difficulties i.e. eroticism is now becoming the vitality of spirit, the liveliness of human existence, the energy which should provide an authentic existence“, while only „the awakened erotic being is a complete being who can think about death, shadow, happiness, old age, God…“ (Lj. Arsić). In fact, even the area of the erotic is included in the field of art, just as it includes many other areas of modern living. After the period of post-modernism, in the art of the ninenties, and in the period after 2000, there have no longer been dominant tendencies and concepts – contemporary art is increasingly becoming a field of complex relations and relationships. The creator of Relational Aesthetics Nicolas Bourriaud, in his Glossary of terms, explaining the term “Criterion of Coexistence”, writes: “All works of art produce a model of sociability, which transposes reality or might be conveyed in it.”
In their performances MP_art use their own bodies: the body is the medium of performance through which the artists evoke and transform social, political, cultural and other phenomena through the work of art with an artistic message. In their presentational performative act, just like in other and different activities and procedures, MP_art try to develop a kind of game of transformation (of semantic, behavioral and existential character). Thus, the erotic charge of their performances, videos, photographs and paintings, thanks to precisely set „choreography“ or composition – is transformed into clear and legible symbolic-metaphorical comments of a social, cultural, and even political character.
In MP_art’s work, the Boody Book has almost a paradigmatic significance. It consists of two parts. The first part is the work of Predrag Šidjanin from 1975. At the time of the „new artistic pratices“, during the avant-garde seventies of the last century, the young artist was exploring the relationship between the theory of art, the mediums in the world of culture and the contemporary art of that period. The work consisted of a series of iconographically identical photographs: in each of them there was a female nude in a sitting position, with legs apart, and between them there was a book with a cover page that refers to the title of some of the most important books and theses from the artistic literature of the period. The second part of the work was created recently, more precisely in 2011, when Maja Budžarov, respecting the iconographic idea of those Šidjanin’s photographs, painted with acrylic on canvas a series of nude self portraits where the crotch is covered with a book produced by MP_art. This complex work is indicative of the diversity of application of erotic strategy: Šidjanin wrote that in his photographs of 1975 a female nude is a „static entity which as a whole repeats and transforms into architectural exteriority“. Infact, it is about the early examination of eroticism as a constituent artistic expression. This phenomenon was innovative, but also common in the conceptual art of that period. It is the time of the mid-seventies of the last century – Šidjanin at that time is a young man who was close to the ideas of the „hippie“ movement and the atmosphere of the global „sexual revolution“. That movement was basically a consequence of general progress: it was the time of as never before progress in science, and medicine in particular, the period of as never before global economic growth, the period in which appeared the phenomenon of „baby boomers“, the generations born after the Second World war, and who, during the sixties and seventies grew up as a generation with different, more modern and more liberal conceptions formed in the conditions of new, previously non-existent standards…. Šidjanin is a member of that very generation and his attitude towards the erotic is pioneeringly authentic, very close to the particularization of eroticism of the period in existential and artistic relationships. When, after more than three and a half decades, Šidjanin’s photographs of the mid-seventies are „followed“ by a series of nude self portraits by Maja Budžarov, repeated in the same position – then it is inevitable to talk about the layered artistic-erotic note and provocation. These photographs and paintings, in a specific manner, in the works of MP_art, have verified the whole continuity of eroticism and sexuality in contemporary art since the time of the „sexual revolution“ until today. From the descrete approach and treatment of the female body, „applied“ in an artistic work in the second half of the last century (Šidjanin), we arrive to the self-conscious and willfully defiant expression of sexuality and provocative manifestation of self-erotic inhibition (Budžarov) – all in an effort to form a strategic channel which will result in strong metaphorical thought about art and its funcionalization in society at a certain time. If we compared the effectiveness of these different conceptual practices regarding eroticism and sexuality, we would come to a slightly absurd conclusion: the image of the body in the photographs of Predrag Šidjanin was sufficient to start, with discreet eroticism, a philosophical interpretation of the complex relationship between the world and art, in those, now distant seventies of the last century, while Maja Budžarov, today, has reached the same goal thanks to a much more assertive and provocative self-erotic-fetish approach. Modern society has imposed a different, freer, more provocative, more direct and significantly more present significance of sexuality over time and in the atmosphere of the „iconosphere“….
In any case – in the entire work of MP_art, the eroticism is a constituent conceptual element: from clearly defined existential erotic subauditions, that may even be the primary basis for the entire work of this artistic male-female couple, „applied“ in the work-processes in which a behavioral concept and everyday life „match“ (Intimate, Hotels, etc.), through the realization of precise „body politics“ in well written and realized performances (Mental Ghetto, Limited, Left-Right), to the aggressive erotic (and fetishistic) presentations (If Then, Collection, Taking Off, self-erotic paintings of Maja Budžarov, the entire series of photographs) close to the dominant visual culture in which „the eye is free to wander promiscuosly, accepting patterns, or lack of patterns, without any need for explanations“ (Robert Hewison).
With their presentations, Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin constantly strive to create and provoke a strong erotic fiction – “fiction which expresses reality “ (Joost Smiers). In this way, free of any restrictions, censorship and self-censorship in their personal work, the two members of the MP_art in the best possible way, comment, criticize and metaphorically interpret many social phenomena and processes after 2000.
“In our age aesthetics is considered unnecessary, at least in its previously known form,” writes philosopher Milan Uzelac, a professor of the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. According to him: “If only a little more than half a century ago it seemed that artistic practice and aesthetic studies were in mutual fruitful dialogue, equally contributing both to the development of art and its always more successful reception – the situation in which we are now is fundamentally changed.” This change, of course, has been caused by new relationships in the world and in the world of art, established during the recent exiting turn of the century. In these, still introductory decades of the twenty-first century, we live in a time after postmodernism, surrounded by the state of the “iconosphere” (Porebski), created by the globally advanced technology and the expansion of digital media. In such circumstances, the category of beauty in the arts loses its previous meaning, it has been somehow negligently lost in feverish modern-day efforts to promote the work of art structured by recycling or the direct appropriation of reality. According to Bourriaud, in the absence of modernist and avant-garde projects, contemporary art abandons provocation, critical attitude, protest and changes. The contemporary artist today operates within the social process “and participates in minor adjustments of the world and time in which he lives and works.” And when Bourriaud states that “All works of art produce a model of sociability, which transposes reality or might be conveyed in it” then he leads us to reflect on the problematization of the social contextualization of contemporary art. After all, his “relational aesthetics” considers an artistic activity that arises and takes place in the existing social environment, the art of extremely open relationships and opportunities, the art of inexorably changing art forms. This art doesn’t have a solid material support any more, today it doesn’t use objects but, in the time of mass media, it operates with information, news and other immaterial factors.
The changed character of the perception of aesthetics and beauty in art has also defined, in a specific way, the character of the artistic concept of MP_art. Their primary goal comes from the need to show, in the face of the fatal challenges of the modern age, composure and the sublime presentation of relations and relationships imposed by the new technology of living. In such an environment, respecting the system of global dominance of information, and constrained by the authentic artistic reflex of “inner necessity”, the members of MP_art eternally strive to reformulate their philosophical views in metaphors which are “clear enough so that the observer can easily interpret them and in this way enter the field of the meaning of art”, as stated by the previously mentioned Bonami. In order to achieve this, they are committed to exploring eternally their own sensitivity, to defining their own language, to caring about ontological issues and recursive consistency, and standardization of their working procedures. In this regard, it is shown in the dialog of the text of the conversation between M (Maja Budžarov) and P (Predrag Šidjanin) published in the catalogue of the exhibition MP_exp_08 FRAGILITY – POWER of WORD.
“M: Our individual content of expressing through the use of words and photographs is complemented by the use of the body through which in performances we articulate certain ideas (emotional states).
P. The words and symbols (images and gestures) that we use to express ourselves are set on a certain path which reflect on each other as a recursive operation.
M. We try to present this reflection, sometimes strictly formally, creating one, now already known artistic discourse, based on the individual characteristics of ourselves, as well as on a common inner perception.
P. Among other things, there is one pragmatic question: is the language we have used so far for the presentation of our relationship and emotions the most appropriate or is there some that is more powerful, more expressive and more applicable to our artistic activity?”
This dialogue of the two artists, made in the manner of private language and the mental circle concept of MP_art, reveals the creative reasons pointing explicitly to the deeply intimate and authentic poetic-philosophical character of their actions. At the same time, with this mutual conversion, the couple Budžarov-Šiđanin also decrypt the procedures through which they try to announce their own personal inner states, perceptions, reflections, inhibitions and emotions – find and determine an adequate discourse or form, which is defined well enough to be enabled to invoke against themselves, and that, at the same time, can be codified as unconventional but authentic codex aesthetic. Therefore, in the works of MP_art there are discreet aesthetic remarks, and some quiet elegance defined by the subtlety of artistic actions and behaviours. This is evident in the unusual combination of purity of space, idea and performative action (Cleaning), in exiting the accuracy of a mise-en-scѐne event (Keep a Distance), in a poeticized and by the tulle curtain shaded performative event (Belonging), in the aestheticized sublimity of setting and realization (Confession – Pillory), and in latent aesthetic additions noticeable in well-composed photographs, video post-production works, paintings, books and other artistic products.
Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that the basic aesthetic impulse of the artistic couple MP_art is not aimed at the definition of beauty as a separate category in their art, but is constituted as an aspiration to create a good and effective work of art. The artists try, with their authentic artistic action, to create the ideal relationship within their own works or production, which show the universal essence of the world and the time in which the artistic work was produced. As such, with their creative intentions, the members of MP_art have taken (and further developed) the text of the project of art historian Darka Radosavljević “What is art that works?” presented in the catalogue of the 46th October Salon in Belgrade (2005). With this was created a pattern for the criteria for “a good work of art” i.e. a “checklist” for each of their works of art:
Knowledge of materials (medium of presentation)
Precise technical realization
Innovation (in the way of presentation)
Layers of interpretation (not just metaphorical)
Temporal and locational versatility
Social context & social justification
This schematical, precisely systemized series of ideas and practical actions truly enables the understanding of the positivist idea of immanence of structure and the meaning of the works of art produced by MP_art. In addition, their entire work has been enriched by the unusual exciting enthusiasm and belief that, despite the contemporary philosophical skepticism, it is still possible, to interpret through art, aesthetically and ethically trustworthily, the world and time in which we live.
Appendix : MP_art _art of painting
In the practice of MP_art the art of painting is not an act of integral knowing and interpretation of the world. The intention of the two artists is aimed at reflecting over the actual content, a critical analysis of the phenomena of everyday life at the beginning of the XXI century. It is a strategy of narratives which lacks the analytical examination of painting ontology and engages with the issues of pictorial authenticity – therefore the paintings of MP_art are established as clearly defined discussions of socio (political) events or philosophizing about the meaning of art. In addition, Maja Budžarov and Predrag Šidjanin don’t intent to evoke reality accurately, although, according to some “external” representations, they are close to a concept of photorealistic painting. In their paintings they are not aiming at mimetic painting that confirms and affirms reality as it is, but, on the contrary, with this and such realism they focus the content on the philosophizing of the phenomena of the world and art. The achieved familiarity with the photographic matrix should be understood as a kind of consequential event: it is about the paintings of two artists completely enveloped by the spirit of the global “iconospehere” through which pulsates an unfathomable array of paintings of a different technical-technological origin and which, at the beginning of the XXI century, relentlessly cover the world we live in. In the “iconosphere” the photograph has the reputation of a basic unit, and therefore its position in the overall visual presentation is influential and highly suggestive.
During the act of painting the members of MP_art are not acting as an (artistic) couple, as it is in the case in common performative and photographic actions. Their separate individual painting processes are such that, despite the inevitable differences in personal sensibilities, they remain entirely logically “locked” together in a unique mutual creative concept. This is evident even in their understanding of the aesthetics of realism. Both artists, using the method of realistic art of painting, do not insist on strict interpretation, but try to present clearly and concisely their own conceptual ideas. In addition, the logic of the content-philosophical authors consideration derived from the joint actions, projections of reality, firming up of ideas and post-production work continues. In Maja Budžarov’s work, in a series of erotic like self-portrait figurative paintings, there is a specific indication of modern-day brutality and cruelty. Those paintings are, very much, in line with the spirit of the time and can be accepted even as an essential marker of the world and the time in which they were made.
The situation is similar even in Šidjanin’s art of painting interpretation – his paintings with quotes from the history of art carry actual clear visual information. With his painting, the artist is not searching for authoritative support for further art of painting action (as was sought by the painters of postmodern and new art of painting of “art of painting of quotes” during the 80s and 90s of the last century), but is constructing a conceptual situation through which he emphasizes his own critical attitude towards events in the society in which he works.
It is important to note that in the paintings of MP_art, in addition to all the conceptual definitions, regardless of the method and procedure, there is and endures constantly a specific mystery to the painting filled with multi-meaning, the kind of mystery about which Francesco Bonami thought and wrote in his texts “about the effectiveness of the simple artistic metaphor that observers can easily interpret and in this way enter in the field of the meaning of art.”
A specific example of the art of painting of MP_art is certainly the painting They_the golden heads (2009/2010). Although in this monumental painting the process of quoting a motif from the history of art is not literally applied, it is quite obvious that it is about the use of a conceptual “form” of the painting The Opening (1967) by Howard Kanovitz, a pioneer of American photo and hyperrealism. With this painting, Kanovitz has pointed to the established situation which inevitably accompanies the art – the act of the opening of an exhibition, in which there can be recognized the most distinguished critics and theoreticians of the New York art scene of that time, seen as a gathering of persona whose behaviour indicates mild (non) interest in the exhibits – which can’t even be seen in the painting. In the painting They_the golden heads which has a similar visual constitution and compositional scheme, MP_art shows the art historians, critics, theoreticians, collectors and art activists from Vojvodina’s milieu at the beginning of the XXI century. Although painted without portrait features, the figures are recognizable because of the specific features of the painted constitutions. In the center there is the figure of a theoretician giving a lecture standing on a landing made of (his) books. Even though everything is set up so that the participants of that gathering look relaxed, there is obvious tension that exists between the painted figures gathered in small groups. There can be suspected the “firm attitudes”, all the discrepancies and the non-interest. In this sense, the monochrome pink “background” on to which the painted figures are projected, has a “reverse” meaning. Of course, as in the entire work, even in this painting, MP_art defines its critical attitude towards reality and this painting represents a kind of “criticism of criticism”. At the same time, its meaning is much broader and more complex, because “art is always indicative”, and so its “messages” are valid and implied in a wider social environment, and in the time of the long transitional crisis of the Serbian society.
 Ješa Denegri, Francesco Bonami etc.: „Kritika u uslovima globalne rasprostranjenosti savremene umetnosti“, published in the book Umetnička kritika u drugoj polovini XX veka, Svetovi, Novi Sad, 2006, page 392-396.
 From: Aleksandra Jovićević, Ana Vujanović: Uvod u studije performansa, Fabrika knjiga, Beograd, 2007 (PDF edition).
Published by Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial – Share Alike licencom: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/, 29.7.2013.
 Sanja Kojić Mladenov, MP – Intimizam u tranzitnim okolnostima (manuscript).
 See www.scribd.com/doc/139146282/SARAJEVSKE-SVESKE-29-30, 13. 8. 2013.
 See www.scribd.com/doc/52592851/Bourriaud-Nikolas- Burio-Relaciona-Estetika, 13. 8. 2013.
 Quoted from: Joost Smiers, Arts under pressure, Estetika i zemlja želja, page 186-192, Svetovi, Novi Sad, 2004.
 Milivoj Uzelac, Inflaciona estetika, www.uzelac.eu4. 20.8.2013.
 Catalogue of exibition MP_exp_08 Fragility – power of word, Galerija SKC, editor Slavko Timotijević, Belgrade, 2004.
 Ješa Denegri, Francesco Bonami etc.: „Kritika u uslovima globalne rasprostranjenosti savremene umetnosti“, published in the book Umetnička kritika u drugoj polovini XX veka, Svetovi, Novi Sad, 2006.