When I lived in Macedonia, I met one Igor Tosevski through a series of mutual acquaintances. After long periods in rustic and rural places, going for a coffee or a meal with Igor and his longtime parter, Tanya, was always a breath of life. Conversation was never limited. Their horizons seemed to be continually broadening at a time when mental space in Skopje was continually shrinking. No mean feat, that.
In addition, I got an education in situational art beyond the passing acquaintance I’d had with pompous and effete fops in the US. Sure, guerrilla art has been the provenance of a certain urban class of elites since its inception. But what does it mean to do this in the former Yugoslavia and in Macedonia, especially during the nineties, when it was prudent to keep one’s views to oneself? What does it mean to do this during times of nationalism and small-mindedness? The stakes are much higher than what they might be in Milan or New York.
In 2004, I had the good luck to see Process at a time when the Macedonian government’s inability to regulate or commodifiy any kind of production — much less art production — was making the lives of most people a bureaucratic hell. The use of a rubber stamp to create a giant self-portrait in a room festooned with the actual legal text stipulating that artists must register as ‘traders’ was a biting commentary on the attempts of post-socialist bureaucrats to privatize virtually everything.
In the same year, I had the even better luck to go with Igor on some of his missions to paint occupied Territories at various sites around the country. Macedonia had just narrowly avoided the kind of senseless violence and partition that still plagues places like Kosovo and Bosnia today, so the act of painting arbitrary (or, sometimes not-so-arbitrary) lines in the people’s common spaces, delimiting them for obscure motives, was even more trenchant. The looks on people’s faces ranged from apathy to disgust to — rarely — joy. It was a project that bound the absurd with the deadly serious in an active, physical, even fun way.
Igor’s art is compelling and actually makes one question what is going on in one’s surroundings. It accomplishes that very rare thing of succeeding where so many others have failed miserably. (In that way it reminds me of another artist from the same country that once upon a time, there was.) It is timely; never hectoring, always thoughtful, with a keen eye to the political but not overtly so. It’s good art. That’s uncommon.