– Spring/Summer 2007
Pictures of Women
Nataša Ilić, Dejan Kršić
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Sanja Iveković, Double Life, one from a series of 59 collages of artist's photographs and magazine ads, 1975, 60x80cm ©Egbert Trogemann, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn. Courtesy of the artist
In recent times Sanja Iveković has often been singled out as one of the most important artists of her generation. But if we move away from the sphere of PR talk, it is hard to give a straightforward answer to the question of whether that is really the case - not because we doubt she is a good artist or dismiss the relevance of her work, but because, to paraphrase Terry Eagleton, there is no artist whose work can be considered 'great' or 'important' (or anything, for that matter) outside of the context of the social institution that makes it 'great'. The context in which art operates determines the position from which the work is to be taken into account at all, and in the case of post-communist countries, this position is not particularly favourable. That is exactly the problem that artists from Eastern Europe faced after the collapse of the so-called 'socialist regimes': how to find their own place within the new situation, after the return of 'real capitalism'?
How to enter the mechanisms of an art market that until then had not existed? In other words, the question of what the role of art is within society was re-actualised. Any attempts to incorporate an artist's work within the western system are rendered problematic by the fact that art history is in the hands of just a few - those who can claim the right to speak in the name of a set of universal values against which all art needs to be measured. During recent years, increased interest in the art of the region of South-Eastern Europe (or, as it is usually