*STATEMENT

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I‘v always been interested in direct contact with the public, intending to establish a special charismatic presence, to try and blend with the audience and finally take it under my wing. I work in the fields of live art, cabaret, contemporary opera, photography and film. Communicating with the audience, both in a direct and tinged with mystification manner, I use my body and identity as the main media. Creating subsequent characters facing with my national background. I see my work as a linear system of designated and highly self controlled, often non-linear situations in progression, through which I am passing, aiming to leave a permanent trace and bring my own standards. In my artistic practice I generally use three main types of bodies: Social body, Military body and Political body as well as their branches. In my late works I am getting very interested in concept of  ”individual movement within social choreography” as well as ”power of desubjectification”. At last, my major intention is to constitute my body as an independent territory with full integrity and sovereignty, a territory with its own rules and own gravitation.

Branko Miliskovic

Time, Body, Viewer ( in PDF )

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Branko Miliskovic is, as an artist and as a person, the perfect embodiment of the androgynous. In a broad range of performances he plays with ambiguity: stereotypical and purposely artificial characters versus his own very personal, sensual and vulnerable self; and the feminine elegance of stylised movements and delicate gestures versus static masculine poses and military discipline. In his performances the serious and nostalgic undertones, as a remembrance of his troubled youth, always have a disturbing, melancholic and reflective effect, even when counterbalanced by hints of frivolous cabaret.

Edwin Becker ( Head of Exhibitions at Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam )

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Branko Milisković studied sculpture, and there is truly sculptural approach in the way he “constructs” his performative personas: it is meticulous process of “building” a character and finding it’s ideal proportion between what might be considered real and transposed identity, or gender. In the piece “The Song of Soldier on Watch (WW3 Lili Marlene)” he seems to incarnate both, the figure of the mythical heroine from the song as well as the figure of the soldier who wrote it. In 1915 Hans Leip, a German poet and playwright called to join the army and fight on Eastern front during World War I, wrote lyrics for the song than entitled “The Girl Under the Lantern” which later on, especially during the World War II, became extremely popular by the name Lili Marlene. During the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941, Radio Belgrade became Soldatensender Belgrad and broadcasted programs to entertain the German armed forces. This song was played frequently and was also very popular on both sides of the front line. “Lili Marlene’’ was presumably one of the first songs of which one thought it could lead to an individual and collective resistance of the soldiers on the front. From this point takes stand Branko Milisković for his interpretation of “World War III Lili Marlene”, creating an ambiguous and androgynous character in whose appearance we can find echoes of cabaret as well as performance art of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Since Duchamp’s alter-ego Rrose Sélavy, the notion of transvestitism and androgynousness was questioned by a number of artists, like Ulay, Urs Lüthi, Michel Journiac and later by artists like Yasumasa Morimura and Cindy Sherman who gave another layer of meaning, shifting the frame of references from gender towards history of art and media culture. In Branko Milisković’s work this approach is put in relation with a personal history and traces of his own (traumatic) background of a young person raised in the conditions of the war in the territory of former Yugoslavia. So not by chance that the question of identity and cultural conflict emerges beyond the surface, but it doesn’t overshadow fascinating performative aspect of the work. “The Song of Soldier on Watch ( WW3 Lili Marlene)” is an enduring performance in which Milisković is singing his version of Lili Marlene with the sound of the gun bursts in the background, for about eight hours engaging both, himself and a public, in a journey that can reach almost a state of trance. Its the intensity and state of personal and collective catharsis that artist is trying to achieve with his theatrical but still very minimal and direct performative gestures which are present in this as well as in the other works, such as: “The Absolute”, “Enlightening”, “The Day of Defiance”, “Lost in Space and Time”, “Far…so faraway…”, “Detention Paradise”, “Battlefields”. Being directly acquainted with peformative practice of Marina Abramović, Milisković emphasises same values which characterise also her’s performing strategy: an ability to carry-on long and enduring actions through which is created “charismatic space” charged with energy that bounds performer to his/hers audience. The first element that performer needs in order to “built up” this “space” is time. It is a present time; time made of sequence of temporal particles, of moments which have to be intensified till the point in which past and future fade away, leaving the artist and the public bound to the “here and now” of the performative act. In the work of Branko Milisković the emphasis on the category of time finds it’s formal expression through the use of metronomes, clocks, as well as through repetitive and rhythmical gestures, such as ball-bouncing or red-flag-waving. They are “materials” with which he “sculpts” the choreography and the narrative structure of his performances, recurrently based on autobiographical and personal elements, but still enough common to be shared and recognised as part of wider picture which calls for renegotiation of the notion of cultural identity and sense of belonging. Being part of the last generation of “pioneers of Yugoslavia” and coming from the country which incarnated both, socialistic utopia and post-communist tragedy, Branko Milisković has centred his work in this point of fracture, thematising the sense of loss and displacement, as well as all those painful aspects that can emerge when personal and collective history clashes. That’s why he was also able to open-up the performative field and incorporate people from the audience in actions / dialogues / interviews like: “Blank Points” or “Ingression”. Both of this works are based on the structure of conversation between two persons who don’t know each other from before and who apparently don’t have much in common. Nevertheless, two apparent strangers enter in the relation, leading each other through the precarious territory of intimate thoughts and feelings, fears and remorses, transforming the performance in the moment of intersection between now and then, here and elsewhere.

Dobrila Denegri ( Theatre of Life, CSW/CoCA, Torun 2012) 

Branko Miliskovic is a performer in the truest sense of the word. I arrived for my meeting with him tired after a long day of meetings in the Belgrade summer heat. He told me that it was his job, as a performer, to captivate me – and captivate me, he did.

Branko is interested in politics as the ultimate performance. In fact, he tells me he was always more interested in politicians than performers, studying very carefully how they behaved. He combines the force and power of political speech with a military aesthetic, preparing very intense long durational performances, sometimes with audience participation, and sometimes without.

In Curfew, for example, a performance that he has done several times in different venues, the artist takes on an authoritarian role, commanding the participants to carry out various tasks. During this “curfew,” it is his rules and regulations that would apply to the audience, however the artist remained aware of the possibility of civil disobedience within this framework. In fact, in one of the performances, one of the participants left, then came back later and kissed him! It was perhaps the greatest form of civil disobedience – the violation of one’s personal and private space – but Branko, the true performer, didn’t flinch, and remained in character.

In Interloper, however, Branko himself was the transgressor – not necessarily of rules, but of boundaries. The artist appeared at a gathering for Norway’s National Day celebrations on May 17, 2011, dressed completely in black and carrying the largest Norwegian flag that he could find. Given this appearance, he stood out among the crowd, all of whom were dressed in national costume. The performance was about the possibility of fitting in in a foreign society, and though Branko, the foreigner, carried the “loudest” and most patriotic flag, by virtue of its size, he was actually criticized by one of the onlookers for blocking the view with it. Clearly, no matter how hard the interloper tries, he cannot fit in in a foreign society.

Branko is not only interested in crossing borders, but also straddling them. The Song of a Soldier on Watch is another performance that he has repeated several times. It involves the singing of the popular World-War II-era song, “Lili Marlene,” written by the German soldier Hans Leip from Hamburg. In the performance, Branko embodies both Lili and Hans, becoming an androgynous and therefore ambiguous character. When he performs the piece, he sings the song continuously for several hours, bringing both himself and the viewers, should they remain in the audience long enough, to a point of mesmerization. For Branko, performance isn’t simply a genre that he works in, it is an experience that he undergoes. Among other long duration performances are Ceci n’est pas un Garcon a la Pipe (This is not a Boy with a Pipe), where the artist performs as a living embodiment of Picasso’s 1905 painting Boy with a Pipe, and The Absolute, which consists of two days of performance: 1.) The Speech, and 2.) The Day of Defiance. The first day involves four hours of speeche, where the artist is speaking off the top of his head – not a prepared speech. The first day of speeches aims to rouse the audience for the next day -The Day of Defiance gears up toward that battle, which never happens. The artist whose focus has been on power, politics and military rhetoric once again aims to stir something within his audience, by pushing his own body to the limits of its capabilities. These performances bring to mind the long durational performances of Marina Abramovic, as well as those of Rasa Todosijevic. Despite being from Serbia, he was unaware of the legacy of these artists until he saw a poster for an exhibition at the Student Culture Center, which featured Abramovic. In fact, this was the first time that he had heard of performance. Since then he has studied the work of Abramovic, among others – Otto Muhl, for example. What he brings to his performances, however, is uniquely his own: an intensity that cannot be matched, and a consistency in approach to the power structures that surround us on a daily basis. Although I haven’t witnessed Branko’s performances in person, viewing them online gives a hint as to just how powerful they must be in person – as a performer, his intensity carries through.

PERFORMING THE EAST , Amy Bryzgel discusses the work of Branko Miliskovic

Branko Milisković jedan je od retkih domaćih autora mlađe generacije koji je svoj rad posvetio formi performansa. Kroz visoko stilizovanu i do detalja zanatski usavršenu formu izvođenja autor problematizuje niz aktuelnih društvenih i političkih tema od pitanja roda do odnosa pojedinca i struktura vlasti i moći. Kroz seriju radova umetnik gradi karakter performera koji se desubjektivizuje i postaje simbol, instrument koji izgledom, glasom i pokretom gledaoca suočava sa društveno-političkim ambijentom savremenog trenutka.
Pojavno karakter bez roda, porekla, određenja, Miliskovićev performer posreduje slike, situacije i istorijske citate, suočavajući nas sa sopstvenim predrasudama i utvrđenim interpretacijama dominatnih društvenih narativa.
Upravo hrabrost u izboru i obradi tema, veština u izvođenju i sposobnost transformacije značenja poznatih izvora iz prošlosti, izdvaja rad Branka Miliskovića kao umetnika sa jedinstvenim doprinosom u daljoj razradi forme i uloge performansa na umetničkoj sceni Srbije.

Milica Pekić, tekst povodom solo izložbe ”ATTENTION ! HERE I AM” u G12 HUB, 2014.

”You can’t write a song out of thin air. You have to feel and know what you are writing about”.

Irving Berlin 

I tear myself apart in order to find the most appropriate particle of my being and look for the right moment to show it out loudly. There are so many instant HIT ideas and glorious thoughts constantly penetrating my mind and most of them are nothing but a junk. Those rare (good) ideas are far more malicious, making me scared out of my wits. That´s the moment when you feel life is worth living.

(B.M) 24/09/2014 

I don’t perform what my audience would love to see. I tell them what they should love.

(B.M.) 17/02/2016

One of the most dangerous issues in art is to be creative. I firmly believe only in strict and thoughtful concept ready to be executed.  

( B.M ) 02/03/2014

Despite of the system and art market and the competitors , I firmly believe an artist should NOT compete with others , as it’s not about the best art, the best artist or the TOP 10 artists of the year. Each artist should be an independent territory building up his/her own temple.

( B.M) 

In performance every emotion must be justified. Even if acting is in charge , screaming, crying, laughing, anger etc should be physically or mentally caused. If not, if all these emotions are coming suddenly and with no justified cause than the entire scene looks shallow and rather pathetic.

(B.M)

One of the worst things in a comedy is to do your best to make the audience laugh. I´v been witnessing many attempts, by both, young artists and some already established stand up comedians and I was almost always very regretful and self pitiful at the end of the show. A comedy is all about a very sensitive gaps in between two lines and it´s particular way of delivery. It´s impossible to learn and to teach.

(B.M)

13/11/2013

Between ”Being on stage” and ”Being present on stage” the distinction is unimaginable.

(B.M)

‘You as an artist can’t be deterred by things that are other people’s problems.”

Leontyne Price

“If art has any purpose at all, it is to ignite a small flame – be it good or bad” – Neo Rauch

Black Period

I too am against everything. I too believe that everything is unknown, that everything is an enemy! Everything!

Pablo Picasso
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From –Sacred Monster Callas Biography written by Stelios Galatopoulos
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”In every performance , or so it was with Callas, she felt that she had to prove herself as if she was a debutante.” p. 439
”I know that my enemies are waiting for me , but I shall fight them in the best way I can.” p.239
”The great urgency of the matter left me without much time to get scared out of my wits.”  p.89