04 Apr–22 May 2009
SKART: On the Origin of Wishes
Belgrade based Art Activist group Škart's first UK retrospective exhibition
Known internationally for their socially engaged artworks, Škart have employed an eclectic range of media including graphic design, poetry, video, embroidery and book making, consistently using art as a vehicle for social activism.
The tumultuous political and social history of former Yugoslavia has been an important influence on Škart’s work. In the early 1990s the ‘Sadness Project’ involved the production and dissemination of recycled cardboard booklets of poems on the streets of Belgrade. Handed out to passers-by, they punctuated the looming hopelessness as Yugoslavia continued war torn and Belgrade residents suffered under lack of necessities.
Škart have consistently challenged a consumer-led cultural model and the traditional privileged hierarchy of the artist. In 2000 they initiated a long-term embroidery project with a womens’ group in Belgrade; the aim being to transform the patriarchal messages of traditional embroidery into opportunities for women to say freely what they think. The collaboration spawned a number of other embroidery projects including an all-male group in Belgrade in 2007 and a womens’ group in the same year in Hackney.
Škart’s music collective, ‘Proba’ (‘rehearsal’), encourages musicians and audience to sing together, without distinction between them as ‘artists’, ‘performers’ or ‘observers’. Similarly, they have recently started an open poetry festival, where anybody can stand up and perform. All of the proceeds from the festival go towards publishing a book of poetry by one of its participants, given away to the visitors of the following event.
Literally translating as ‘trash’ or ‘scraps’, Škart use the re-used and recycled both out of financial necessity and as a creative choice that compliments their functional aesthetic and emphasis on direct social action. The costs of excessive capitalism, a global recession and a tightening of the UK’s financial belt sets a timely context for an examination of Škart’s work and the presentation of possible alternatives of cultural production.