A figure stands on stilts, or a raised platform, in a long white gown. Silent. Waiting. Buckets of hearts from slaughtered pigs are handed to a crowd. One by one, hurled in a seemingly unending fury they pelt the concept artist until she is handed a single rose still very much in the bud stage. The work is called “Ljubav.” It is the Serbian word for Love.
This is one in a series of concepts presented that critique, in some fashion, the role of women in Serbian society presented by the artist and her students, who all struggle to fund their art and find footing in communities that only value limited roles and functioning for women.
Robert Adanto’s Born Just Now chronicles the life and art of Marta Jovanović as she surveys the pain of a nation in turmoil and her own experienced body trauma from relationship abuse through the contemporary Serbian Avant Garde scene. Her acquaintances critique her motives over restaurant conversation. What she is doing is decidedly “out of the norm.”
“The art that you do, that is performance art, does not mesh with what most people consider performance in this environment,” she is told over drinks by Vladislav Scepanović, a noted artist and curator. He represented Serbia at the last Venice Biennale. He elaborates that it’s not private enough — and far too publicized. It’s almost as if he is speaking about the public and private divide themselves.
The film opens with the artist smashing hundreds of eggs suspended from the ceiling in gauze tubes with a hammer, yolk dripping down on her in a harshly lit enclosed performance space. It signifies wasted years of reproduction, in the pursuit of art and is performed “quite publicly.” Marta hangs one for each time she has ovulated and not conceived.
In explaining that her body and her devotion to art kept her from reproduction, in what might be a beneficial confluence of events, considering her husband’s malice for failure to fulfill her “role,” and a society that seems rather indifferent to her pain, Jovanović takes on the situation of many female artists, or even women doing anything else but having children, situated in patriarchies. Unacceptance. Frivolity. Wasted funds and space.
Jovanović examines her family’s place as a blended Muslim and Jewish postwar formation under Tito’s regime and her relationship to her grandfather who worshiped the dictator. She explains like she felt his ghost — and chooses a burial location close to Tito’s grave for his remains as she explains the art of others in the contemporary scene and students she coaches. Sewn mouths, bodies and sugar mattresses as endurance works complement torched white wedding dresses.
Adanto’s brilliant take on pacing, storytelling, and the emotional composition of a scene makes this documentary beyond riveting — as it exists as a tale of endurance and strength in expression in an age of increasingly curtailed liberties for women.
Drawing out emotional moments and allowing the pace of situational art to grab his camera are his gifts. In capturing moments of pain transformed into strange beauty he meaningfully shares the story of one woman, of many women, fighting for acceptance in their rebellion.
Born Just Now can be seen at the upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on the following dates:
WHEN: Sunday, November 4th at 8:00 PM
WHERE: The Savor Cinema, 503 SE 6th Street, Fort Lauderdale, FL
WHEN: Saturday, November 10th at 9:00 PM
WHERE: Cinema Paradiso Hollywood, 2008 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, FL
Robert Adanto’s new art documentary BORN JUST NOW offers an intimate look at Marta Jovanović, a Belgrade-based performance artist struggling to cope with the violence that has ended an eight-year marriage. Daring to live on her own terms, Jovanović has chosen art and art-making over marriage and abuse. Through provocative acts of endurance exploring intimacy, motherhood, and the trauma of the Balkan wars, Jovanović seeks to confront, release, and liberate her own pain in the name of art. This personal portrait is a moving meditation on what it means to be a fearless female artist living in the 21st century. Through Jovanović’s words and performances, the story of contemporary women’s ongoing struggle for equality emerges.
The film participated in the Sundance Institute Documentary Program’s Rough-Cut Lab in Miami.
Featuring: Marta Jovanović, Ivana Ranisavljević, Kathy Battista, Ph.D., Director of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, NY; Anja Foerschner, Senior Researcher, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; Milica Pekić, Art Historian and Curator, Belgrade; Jovo Bakić, Ph.D., University of Belgrade; Vladislav Scepanović, artist; and Jean-Daniel Ruch, Swiss Ambassador to Serbia and to Montenegro.