I have 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, visual cabaret, solo 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 (constructs) with strong visual imagery, facing with my national as well as my emotional background.
I see my work as a linear system of tediously 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 numerous branches. I frequently use the historical references, inhabiting and turning them into expressive contemporary imageries (reminders), respecting visual and symbolical style characteristic for my general opus. Lately, I am particularly devoted to producing and staging my own durational Oratorios as well as obsessed with ”power of de-subjectification”, social choreography and power of authority, experimenting with socio-political structures, social samples, groups and masses, levels of social obedience, mass controls, demagogy etc. I don’t see my performances only as an experience between the audience and myself but also as the pictures, meticulously crafted and engraved in a collective memory. I am also interested in the possibilities of vocal manipulations, researching a wide range of voices, vocal projections, and hypnotic mantras.
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
Time, Body, Viewer ( in PDF )
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 )
Branko Milisković studied sculpture, and there is a truly sculptural approach in the way he “constructs” his performative personas: it is a 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 the 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 far away…”, “Detention Paradise”, “Battlefields”. Being directly acquainted with the peformative practice of Marina Abramović, Milisković emphasizes same values which characterize 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/her audience. The first element that performer needs in order to “built up” this “space” is time. It is a present time; time made of a 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 recognized as part of a 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 speech, 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 is one of the few native authors of the younger generation who are devoted to performance art. Through his highly elaborate performing, artisanally perfected to the minutest detail, the author is problematizing a series of current social and political issues, from the question of gender to the relationship between the individual and the structures of power. In a series of works, the artist – by his appearance, voice, and movement – is building the character of a performer who de-subjectivises himself and becomes a symbol, an instrument that faces the observer with the social and political environment of the present moment. Manifested as a character with no gender, origin, identification, Milisković‘s performer conveys images, situations and historical quotes, confronting us with his own prejudices and established interpretations of dominant social narratives. It is the courage in choosing and processing the themes, the skill in performing and the ability to transform the meanings of known sources from the past that positions Branko Milisković as an artist who makes a unique contribution to further elaboration of the form and role of performance on the global art scene.
Milica Pekić, text from the exhibition ” ATTENTION! HERE I AM” G12 HUB, 2014.
”You can’t write a song out of thin air. You have to feel and know what you are writing about”.
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.
I don’t perform what my audience would love to see. I tell them what they should love.
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 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.
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.
One of the worst things in a comedy is to do your best to make the audience laugh. I’ve 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 very sensitive gaps in between two lines and it´s a particular way of delivery. It´s impossible to learn and to teach.
Between ”Being on stage” and ”Being present on stage” the distinction is unimaginable.
‘‘You as an artist can’t be deterred by things that are other people’s problems.”
“If art has any purpose at all, it is to ignite a small flame – be it good or bad” – Neo Rauch
I too am against everything. I too believe that everything is unknown, that everything is an enemy! Everything!