Sanja Andjelković, a visual artist, who is also engaged in writing, was caught by the Covid-19 virus pandemic in Košice, Slovakia, where she travelled thanks to the ‘Plants AiR’ programme at the beginning of March.
The quarantine disabled her to implement her work as she had planned, and the closing of the borders made it impossible for her to return home at the end of April, when the residential stay was scheduled to end.
Nevertheless, the new situation did not prevent Sanja from creating, but became an inspiration, and she was given the opportunity to extend her stay in Košice for another month within the ‘Artist in Residence’ (Plants AiR) programme.
Sanja revealed in the interview how she spent days in quarantine, in what sense the pandemic became the inspiration, with what artists she made a connection in Košice and how she perceives the whole situation with the Covid-19 virus that blocked the whole world.
– First of all, bring us closer to the situation you found yourself in. You went to the artistic residence in Košice, but the pandemic caught you there and stopped your work?
Well, I actually arrived to Košice two days before the state of emergency was declared. So, when it comes to impression about the city, I haven’t created it yet. There was no one on the streets for a very long time. Sometimes we wouldn’t see anyone for weeks. Definitely a different atmosphere than in Novi Sad, haha. I wouldn’t say that it stopped my work, but it made me think about changing the concept of work. Although, in such circumstances when the possibilities are narrowed, art is the last thing I would dedicate myself to, I felt like swimming more.
– How did you feel when you realised that pandemic was changing your plan? Was it difficult for you not to be able to return home?
The first month of the residence I held up well. Solidly actually, regular bicycle riding along the river and maintaining physical activities are very important. When they closed the borders, I tried to project the future and come up with a better option than staying or leaving. In fact, moving. I was not ready to pack again and come back to Novi Sad in a panic. And it’s easy to panic. It seemed to me like much worse scenario than staying. April started positively, however, I missed my family. The internet cannot replace any living contact. It was painful to go through April.
– How did you spend your days? How long have you been in quarantine? What did it look like in Slovakia?
I read a lot, rode a bicycle, cooked (cooked a lot and tried various recipes), spent time with close people online, since I don’t have social networks, Skype was very active (it still is). I worked on a master thesis, wrote a screenplay, made music. A mitigating circumstance in Slovakia was that there was no famous ‘curfew’ and we could walk whenever and wherever. However, the Slovaks are quite self-aware, so they tried not to endanger anyone. I was certainly less afraid of infection here.
– Having in mind that some of your topics and focuses of work are environmental awareness and activism, how do you see the whole situation with the Covid-19 virus? Will this pandemic, which has blocked the whole world, teach us anything?
Haha, I’ll smile hard. First of all, I don’t think anyone can learn something if they don’t pay attention to it or if they don’t want to, even by force. I also think that people are not sufficiently aware of the various mechanisms that operate in their lives. First with some inherited, and further on at some social-political-technological level. I’m not sure that corona has been active long enough for any habits to change or for people to become more aware/conscientious.
– Since your primary task within the artistic residence was to explore the ways in which humans, nature and animals interact, but at the same time to critically question how the gap between man and nature/animals is created, will this pandemic create a new image or a new perspective in your work?
Of course, that’s what my work is about. In fact, it is a combination of speculative plot (fiction, science, storytelling) within various levels of human action, including climate change, which some people still do not believe exist, and wonder why the snow no longer falls.
– Will the pandemic perhaps be the inspiration for your new work in the future?
Since I deal with various types of ecology of diseases in my work, among other things, I believe that if it is not a pandemic, it will be, for example, cancer.
– Your stay in Košice has been extended for another month and now you are working together with another artist. How did the two of you connect? What is your plan? How much does it mean to you that you were given the opportunity to stay a month longer?
I work with an artist from the Czech Republic, in fact, I work with a lot of people. I met Michal thanks to the curator of the gallery where I am at the residence. Along with him, I work with Lav Kovač (former partner) on music and sound, the proofreading of the script was done by my friend Ian (who has now become a family friend) from Brighton, who narrates the dialogue of the characters from the film along with five other people. Well, now you know it’s a movie. We’re making a computer-generated movie. When it comes to time, I think that for such big projects (and they are not very big) time and a break in writing or work are always very important, therefore, everyone somehow works on the film without the usual pressure. The time we got is great!
– How important are the artistic residences for an artist? In which segments? How do you evaluate the Plants AiR programme within which you travelled to Košice?
In recent years, more precisely in the last three years, residences have been places where I work. I rest a lot and research. I think they are very important because of the focus that is able to be created, and which is otherwise less common because of the various existential worries of everyday life. On a scale of 1 to 10, I give 10.
– How often have you had the opportunity to participate in residency programmes?
Last year alone, I had five residences, the longest of which were about a month and a half. And one of those five was musical one. I send the portfolio and after that nothing is up to me, but some people like what I do.
The aim of the ‘Artist in Residence’ (Plants AiR) programme, which is being implemented within the ‘Novi Sad 2021 – European Capital of Culture’ project, is internationalisation of local artistic scene, education and networking of local artists with foreign artists and organisations. Within the programme, artists from Novi Sad are supported to implement outgoing residences, as well as to enable foreign artist to visit Novi Sad and to exchange experience and knowledge with local artists through work.
You can read about Sanja’s participation in the ‘Artist in Residence’ (Plants AiR) programme here.