“Small Talk”

Group exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Skopje, Macedonia. April-June, 2001.

By definition, “small talk” refers to those seemingly insignificant things that we say in between the periods of discussions concerned with important, universal matters. Small talk may not change the world, but it reveals the concerns of our daily lives, it may be about a small idea, a small problem, a small joy, a small disorder, a small defeat, or a small victory.

We actually engage in small talk all the time, with friends and colleagues, family members and people we know well but only meet on the street. The only kind of people undeserving of our “small talk” are our individual enemies. Although, if the “enemy” is not in fact deadly, even he or she may occasionally enjoy the pleasure of our small talk, in the name of propriety.

Does anyone ever admit to spending a lot of his/her time on small talk? Does anyone ever put much effort into making “intelligent” small talk? Small talk is usually about things which, although important to us, are not of universal significance. Small talk is not about issues of time and space; it is not about the Big Brother nor the Big Other; neither the big Why nor big changes”. The list of “BIG” issues in art and culture has been sufficiently covered and explored by numberless exhibitions all over the world. It is time to dedicate an exhibition to the small issues.

I think it was John Lennon who once remarked: “Life is what happens while we are busy doing other things.” Maybe “talking small” simply means telling each other all these countless small things that we do each day, yet which don’t seem to count when it comes down to “Life”. But what is life in terms of “small talk”? Doesn’t life consist precisely of the webs that people weave in their daily conversations? For instance, are the thirty minutes that I spend on the bus going from my home to the house where my son lives with his mother an important part of my life? During this half hour, I see and think so many things. Or, to present you with another example, the time between the moment in which I conceive of a great idea for an artwork and the moment of the successful opening of the exhibition where this artwork is shown, is this important?

In a sense, small talk is the fabric of life, or rather, the raw material out of which large actions and grand art is born. One could also say that “art is what happens to you while you are busy organizing other exhibitions.”

The exhibition project “Small Talk” is about artists who have worked together “here and there,” and who often, while working on their installations, have been “small talking” to each other while waiting for a bucket of paint, or a bunch of nails, or a customs official to release the works. This is the time during which artists share things that don’t seem to bear any significance on the large scale, but which nevertheless illuminate their lives; things that one tends to forget overnight, but which are strangely persistent – in various disguises they come back to haunt us everyday, every second. Small Talk starts the moment you meet a friend and say: “Hi, I haven’t seen you for a while! How’s life, how have you been? How are you?”. Then, a bit of complaining, a bit of bragging, a bit of gossip, a bit of fact. And suddenly, the full picture of life is being painted between two (or more) people.

The exhibition “Small Talk” presents issue-based art about artists and their daily lives. It is about the moment when dividing lines fall and identities become tangible. It is about what happens to you in the period of time between the conception of a great idea and the grand opening; it is about the immediate physical environment that we share with others.

One would assume that “Small Talk” consists of “small” works that are easy to transport, installations that can be realized on site, and low-budget works to fit the context. However, the diversity of approaches, as far as the media are concerned-from objects and physical installations, to video (monitors and video beams), photography and Internet projects-is expected to cover a wide spectrum. Still, the main requirements are the relative inexpensiveness of works and flexibility as concerns their execution, transport, etc. The list of exhibiting artists, although only provisional at this stage, comprises people who have all at one point or another met and worked with each other. Their presence at the exhibition is required not only for the installations, but also for “small talks” and presentations that they will share with their colleagues, and, most importantly, with the audience.