MixTape by Vesna Pavlović is a series of photographs, exhibitions, public events and performances, and a cassette tape produced by Vesna Pavlović.
MixTape music covers are produced by Loney John Hutchins, Music director, Cleftmusic.
This essay, the exhibition talk, public events, and this website: Vladimir Jerić Vlidi.
On MixTape by Vesna Pavlović
Text by Vladimir Jerić Vlidi
As a part of the particular phenomena of the music scene of the Yugoslavia at the break of 1990’s, I was at the time frequently facing the lenses of the young “rock photographer” Vesna Pavlović. She was, in return, frequently the very first person standing in front of us, a young and upcoming band from Belgrade, as one of the unavoidable faces – and lenses – to be expected in the front row of the audience. This is how we both started our journeys trough the art of life, in the times of the unrestrained enthusiasm but possibilities suddenly limited, still fresh from the grand promise of the wide-open future of 1980s in which we had no reasons to doubt. We drew from the culture that was at ease with trial and error and improvisation; we were supposed to be the generations to finally dismiss all the skepticism and unconditionally embrace the New.
This was not bound to happen: as the tranquil “End of History” was enthusiastically announced in the West, in Yugoslavia and many other places it will result in another painful and devastating “birth of history”. In the beginning of 1990s the country will fall into the series of quick and dirty privatizations of politics and of property, becoming the grand loser and eventually the casualty of the so-called ‘transition’. Over the course of the decade it will be the site of bloody civil wars, the subject of international embargo, and eventually the place of NATO bombing. All this, as we were told, simply had no alternative. The possibilities have suddenly closed, and all the futures on offer got officially cancelled. Whatever ambitions we had we were supposed to replace by the ever-weaker hope that tomorrow will not be a slightly – or dramatically – worse rendition of today.
Under the circumstances, it wasn’t easy to maintain and defend our attitude of confidence and the sense of realization. Whatever we tried to do had to unfold trough the sometimes-misleading realm of instincts, as nothing we have learned or experienced by our early 20s made us able to expect, let alone cope with what was coming. This makes our generations perhaps unique in political naivety and after-the-fact skepticism. But at least we were quite proficient in the certain methodology of how, being the products of the distinct Yugoslav culture of DIY approach, of experiments with self-management and non-alignment, of a particular “hardwired autonomy”.
So when the invitation came to write about the early work of Vesna Pavlović, it inevitably gained a personal significance and threatened to become a kind of a cryptical journey into the past in the ways expected and unexpected. Will, in my case of a protagonist and a colleague, the facts of life obfuscate the art of it? Will this attempt to recollect and contribute create the hazy forest of garbled metadata as only memories can produce? The only way to know – as was always the case – is to press the PLAY button and see what happens.
When the 1980s begun, in the West Reagan and Thatcher were born; in Yugoslavia, Tito died. However different in sentiments, what was shared between the two events was their motion towards the search for alternatives, about to acquire an unmatched speed, or, with all implications of the word, an acceleration. Trough what was about to follow – the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia and later of all future as category on the global scale – our generation certainly learned some important lesson; now we are spending the rest of our lives trying to learn what the lesson was about. Or, to paraphrase the famous plot from the Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “If this brute reality and the loss of all future is a kind of answer, what was really the question?”
After the 1990s reveled itself as what they actually were and not the continuation of the 1980s anymore, the young “rock photographer” Vesna Pavlović refocused her lenses from the stage of the music venues to the bigger stage of streets and city squares. She was well aware that this is a different paradigm in which art and life blend in quite different proportions. Her images of public dissent and street performances (and later of spaces, which Pavlović describes as “… not photographs of hotels, not photographs of architecture, not photographs of furniture, [but of] something else”) would aim to create not so much of what would be characters or personalities, but rather to capture and re-create situations; they would inspect and contemplate, imply or underline the structures, dispositions and connections visible in what is perceived as herenow. This is what makes the photographs by Pavlović into something more than documents.
HERE SLIDE SHOW OF STREET PROTESTS CIVIL DISSENT ART PERFORMANCES
It was during the second half of 1990s when Vesna and me again crossed our lenses, to say; we both in the meantime started working for the foreign media, seizing the rare possibility to observe the situation of war from the perspective of both the local civilian and a foreign journalist. As to be expected, it was quite of an eye-opening experience. I was in charge, as a fixer, for the reports of the Swedish national TV. This is when, after being asked to explain it so many times in the briefings before, I have tried to formulate the disappointment of our generation in what appeared as a simple to understand comparison: as directly proportional to the grand promise of Yugoslavia of 1980s. But then I learned that such a promise became almost impossible to be described by itself; as what we call ‘reality’ started to depart at the speed of light from the ideas of equality, emancipation and self-determination, the 1980s Yugoslavia became hardly imaginable anymore. So I had to make peace with the fact that our generational sense of loss will probably remain mysterious and opaque to almost everybody who did not share the experience.
I was, of course, completely wrong.
The historical Yugoslavia in the work of Vesna Pavlović will frequently be returned to by examining, characteristically, what would be perceived as the ‘highest’ (as in her Palace of Federation series) and the ‘lowest’ (as in Sculpture Gardens project) points of the culture of the society. This dramatic span or scale of observation stands for a certain totality of perception, which in return may be able to verify and confirm the existence of the concrete and material truth. But the fact of the present moment – which was already the reality of the Yugoslavia of 1990s – is that such factual truth is growingly not admitted to be true by itself anymore; Pavlović was looking for a way to recreate the ‘truth experienced’ as both an artistic and a real, psychological fact.
It is now long ago since the 1980, when Roland Barthes wrote about photography being able “not to restore what has been abolished (by time, by distance) but to attest that what I see has indeed existed”.  The claim that a photographic image is capable to stand for the statement “this is what it was” could only have been made before the post-skeptical times of today, in which such sentiments evaporate in the presence of constant, structural doubt. From a certain point on the people stopped trusting even the photographs they themselves have made.
So ever since the 1990s, Vesna Pavlović and the entire generation of upcoming artists were faced with a difficult new challenge, in the form of the new demand: not only to speak the truth to the world – in a way that artists always do – but first to produce the proof that the very truth (even) exists. As all truth is personal now, such evidence cannot be simply accepted; it can only be personally experienced.
This is where we enter Pavlović’s constant (re)discovery of the archive as the result; in that key, however unexpected, the MixTape as a project is a consistent and continuous affair. In her (fill your own predicate: anti-, counter-, personal-, alter-) archives, the ‘lived’ Yugoslavia – and the dissolution of it – was presented not just as a mere selection and sequence of authorial images. The external images and ‘found footage’ – that is never actually ‘found’ before someone looks for it – started to be included in the mix, as if her approach towards the imersiveness and totality of storytellingwas eager to encompass all the images out there. What Pavlović did trough her relentless examination of both images as phenomena and the technology to produce and manipulate them was not to zoom in to some “pixel of truth” of any single photo, but indeed to zoom out and to have a perception of as much as possible of the recordings in one all-encompassing view or sequence. Treated like this, any visible frames of these images will already lose their function of boundaries or borders, but she will dissolve them further by exposing the metadata as an even wider and invisible frameof it. This is not an abstract affair, and has everything to do with the precise spatial dispositions, the articulated lines of view, with technologies involved and dissolved in the process.
In psychological sense, Pavlović’s archival maneuver can be seen as the record of the act of witnessing, in which the ‘personal’ is twofold. It does not stand for the personal moments of revelation nor for the moments of self-awareness in experiencing the certain situation, and it doesn’t explicitly advocates ‘personal’ as a magic formula of truth. It both produces and references the moments in which the others can inspect and test the existence of truth-by-itself by using the images carefully put on their disposal while witnessing for themselves the artist being true in her own act of witnessing, what is subtly implied by her apparent disinterestedness for anything else at the particular moment. In this way the bond of trust is being created that can be then put under hundreds of veils and remain unaffected. Its psychology gets complicated, and it becomes a certain form of socialness. And if there is nostalgia involved in all this, it remains a personal affair of Pavlović or of an observer; even if happen to be shared, it doesn’t grow to overtake her artistic argument.
Another and more personal personal would arrive in even less-abstract form, in her post-session manipulation of the materials, and later in retrospection and contextualization of the results within the (pseudo)archival form, where this ‘personal’ can eventually stand for ‘history’. The real, material ground of such truth claims is her modernist, almost forensic examination of a basis of existence of the images as the basis of all the truth than can be perceived. But, eventually, there is – there has to be – a certain abstraction at the core of how the observer relates with such aesthetical construct.
By its function of capturing the individuals in a staged performance the music photography puts an accent on characters, and it could be a kind of (a natural) exception to Pavlović’s non-exclusivity of personal within a situation. But, again, this does not result with her music photography standing as the certain alternative to or in a juxtaposition with her photography of protests and dissent, of rallies and streets and activist groups in public performance. (Frequently the similar or the same people would both perform and march; what was different was a spatial dispositionof these acts). Here, yet another double negation takes place: these images do not stand ‘naturally’ with one another, so it is only Vesna Pavlović who can provide them with connection in space and in time; this is why MixTape is (also) her curatorial project.
HERE SLIDE SHOW OF MUSIC PHOTO URBAN LIFE
A mixtape, just like photography, is a phenomenon that requires the three conditions of existence: it needs an author as the point of observation, it needs an external object of perception, and it needs a medium to record the results. Trough her MixTape project (re)examining her early work Vesna Pavlović challenges this premise on many levels.
Although mixtape itself being self-contained and a proper object-per-se, there is nothing objective involved in making, or listening to one. (Despite what Wikipedia says, a digital playlist of today is not a mixtape. And the very thing was not invented by Nick Hornby in the mid-1990s, however enthusiastically he wrote about it.) A mixtape is not a compilation, nor a ‘best of’ kind of release. It is not based on any statistics, nor on any measurable something, like what was selling the best, what was most played on the radio, or was on B-sides of the more famous singles. (But let’s not even start on B-sides; it is a parallel universe all by its own.) A proper mixtape is not even a release, as it is never ‘official’. Mixtape is always made by someone – what is today perhaps seen as an act of curating – and its purposes and authors may vary: it could be you assembling your favorite songs in the perfect order for a long car ride (what people used to do before they started yelling their wishes towards Siri or Google who would happily serve back the wrong stuff or explain that something is not available half of the time). Or it could be your friend capturing the certain mood or memory of the period, or a professional musician or a DJ you have never met, exploring the sounds of the upcoming season, or making a tape to be played at parties.
Importantly for the nature of the medium, each ‘play’ has to be, in accordance to the physical characteristics of the entire thing, slightly or dramatically different from the previous or the next one. But unless the tape was too worn-off or the machine was in a very bad shape, mixtape simply worked its way with expected, reliable results. Frequently confused with bootleg or pirate recording, mixtape is neither, and it is almost never bought or sold – it is, if of any interest for the occasion, simply handed over or copied. So, get your copy here:
Depending on the motives and the content, there are mixtapes to be shared, like that time you believed you have discovered the best formula for the good party or exposed the very essence of a certain author or a genre; then there are those best kept for oneself, like the occasional collection of sonic “guilty pleasures” of cheesy tracks or a sequence of songs to create and remind on this or that personal affair. Shared or not, mixtape retains this personal character of being authorial, of always being the consequence of a certain personal choice in a certain situation. (The very purpose, the reason of existence of mixtape, is to be shared; if with no one else than with yourself in the future).
Some of the best mixtapes (still?) out there were functioning as someone’s diary entries or memory logs not easily possible to be decrypted by anybody but its author; some other mixtapes are made to be heard by a particular person, and present a kind of correspondence, as many people decided this is the best way to express their declaration of love, or of being hurt. (And some mixtapes, for this or that reason, consisted of one and the same song repeating endlessly by being recorded over and over again until the tape was full. This was before digital technologies reduced the function of repeating to a single, lazy command.)
Creating a mixtape is a deceivingly simple affair, as there are only two sets of decisions one must bring, but both are essential and make all the difference: the selection of songs, and the order of how they will follow or announce one another. Making the mixtape can feel as ambitious or as straightforward as the occasion demands: it can be the act of meticulously curating the mood of an important moment, or simply a way to record the notes on the sound of the season.
HERE SLIDE SHOW OF EXHIBITION VIEW
Raster, the point after which the zoom travels no more, this crime against the high resolution – and again the consequence of certain technology, always as determinative towards the artistic work as are social and psychological circumstances – can help us contemplate the somewhat confusing nature of pixels, being today the unavoidable mediators of ‘reality’ and all fiction. (There will be a lot of raster involved in MixTape, enough to finally witness the fact that indeed a “pixel is not a little square”, but actually a very, very big dot 🙂 
We loved raster – it was the kind of a ‘proof of being published’ (before the internet, to be published meant a different thing). As the unmistakable artifact of technology and of industry, the raster as such could be endlessly referenced and manipulated. It was already adopted as the certain ‘aesthetics of alternative’ by some of our Western inspirations emerging at the break of decades (after all, we do belong to the generations of 1980s and 1990s, responsible for numerous aesthetic crimes).
In a way, the entire MixTape by Vesna Pavlović could also be considered a certain generational affair; to quote the writer Bruce Sterling from his 2017 SXSW talk, “…the new economy – it’s terrible. It’s a curse. Everyone hates and fears it, no one is optimistic about it […] Musicians suffer terribly; whatever happens to musicians will happen to everybody else. And music as it’s played on contemporary digital hardware sounds worse than it did on analog hardware 40 years ago.”
The break of 1980s towards the 1990s was the period in which the technology eventually entrenched its status as the essence, and not the coincidental circumstance, of artistic work. Finally, the famous Benjamin’s thesis on technical reproducibility of arts was being accepted as a manifesto/declaration rather than a lament. A common for musicians and photographers was a complicated affair with gear – we needed a lot of it. Understanding what can and cannot be done with particular technology started being crucial not only for the inception or production, but also for any perception and reception of whatever is being produced. (In the era of analogue technologies and technological scarcity this also meant a lot of hacking, today somewhat aesthetically fetishized for the ‘warmth’ or ‘liveliness’ of the artifacts produced; in fact, we were frequently quite frustrated with the results at the time.) It is a neverending process of learning-by-doing, and the consistency of results could depend, literally, on the weather of the particular day or on the oscillations in the power grid. It could depend on the exact age or a particular state of decay of this or that valve or any given tiny screw or a soldering point of a certain machine. A lot of auxiliary equipment like stands or cables or filters was simply not available, but with some experience and some handcraft it could be easily manufactured or improvised on the spot. As today we would be all using pretty much the same technology of various-sized digital rectangles as the input, processing and output devices for everything we do, this experience alone makes Vesna a rare and important educator.
Being concerned with not only how to capture a sound or an image but how it is being reproduced to the public grew to become perceived both as an extension of the sovereignty of a certain way of authorship but also as the new responsibility of authors to present an compelling experience. If the sounds and images of the Mixtape project are considered as a kind of an ‘echo’ of history, then precisely the affects and effects of immersion and contemplation are where Pavlović’s work differs from the universe of particular aethetics objects that Hito Steyerl wrote about in her “Defense of the Poor Image”. If Stayerl’s poor images are “heavily compressed and travel quickly”, “co-authored, edited or translated by the users” of the very networks they roam, then the “poor image” of Pavlović can be seen as an analogue imprint of a similar but not the same flow, as an artefact of detection and transition of a certain ‘drive by’ appeareance, frozen in time and etched to the gallery wall.
In such a process, no recognition is given for granted and has always to be evaluated contextually: the poor image of today, this “lumpenproletariat in the class society of images”, would have to test itself in the realm of stilness, solitude and disconnect of the gallery space; it would have to be able to find its purpose and nature beyond being “a visual idea in its very becoming”, and all that without changing its initial class character or origin.  In other words, it had to be taken as an exception from the otherwise exceptionless world. 
HERE SLIDE SHOW OF ZEITGEIST PERFORMANCE + MAYBE SKC?
MixTape is still the exhibition of conventional/material aesthetics and of concrete and quite fragile objects, and not (yet) a part of the growingly dominant paradigm of metadata.
When exhibited, Vesna Pavlović appears to remain true to the modernist pursue of examination of the form, and on the very surface of the display her elaborated language of photography often hides the fact that the actual artistic intention unfolds at another level, from a space external to the work-as-object. Seen as either archival (as installation) or curatorial (as installation of the installation) or both, it is in this layer of interventions where the ultimate artistic of the entire work resides. This does present a transgression of the modernist setup, and a critique of the canons of the world of art constructed as one autonomous and self-referential field independent from external judgment. Importantly, regardless of her acting in the domains of archival, curatorial, education or production, Vesna Pavlović insists of being [remaining?] first and foremost an artist.
Perhaps she will once present her works and archives as a fully-fledged digital affair, exploring and exploiting all the possibilities of eternal availability, superhuman resolution and first of all the seducing interconnectivity and ‘searchability’ of images digitized and networked (a task growingly catered for by the appropriate algorithms). For the time being, these images will remain ‘vulnerable’ and their life temporary, and will only be mutually connected in the (very human and always to be interpreted) space of narrative as constructed by Vesna Pavlović.
The MixTape as the present-day event does not call for the reversal of history in any way, or worse, to fall back to some more bearable, more livable “previous life” unfolding in some collective or personal memory.  By referencing the Yugoslavia of yesterday, these images are returning the gaze to the Nashville of today (and pose a strong challenge for thinking about the future of both). The music covers do not present a ‘new life’ of the songs you are about to hear, but their – quite unnatural – progression.
Is what we witness (or access) trough the MixTape project a kind of documentation? Is, with all the ‘anti-’ or ‘post-’ or ‘counter-’ or ‘alter-’ prefixes included, the MixTape still a kind of archive? On one level, it certainly is. But approached like this it is rather ‘a book of Vesna Pavlović’ than ‘the very book of history’, without the history being sacrificed or compromised in any way. These images are not, as we can easily slip a step too deep in the paradigm of cassette, replayed; they are, as objects, as actual and new as the present moment in which one may encounter them.
However hazy, washed out or rasterized, the physical and mental images of MixTape by Vesna Pavlović do stand for “something we can hold onto when everything seems to be slipping away”. [is this a quote?] But the very fact that the images are surrounded and recontextualized by the new and yet familiar sondscapes underlines the fact that this hold is for the future, and not a ‘better past’.
Every mixtape also has an end. If you mind the silence, you can try to play this in reverse now. And for something more risky, you can simply flip it over; there is always the B-side.
 As our band was given a shared studio in the basement of Students Cultural Center (a place at the time becoming a distinctive Yugoslav counterpart to the alternative and entrepreneurial ‘Californian creative infrastructure’ of garage), right besides the space allocated to the young visual artists, Vesna was frequently around; as ‘rock photographer’, she belonged to neither rooms, and, as the fact was, she belonged to both.
 The society changed in a structural manner: among the older generations this new disposition started to produce an unarticulated motion towards conservatism, making our fragile sense of orientation even more confused. For the generations to grow up during the 1970s and 1980s – the first and the last to be considered a ‘genuine product’ of the post-war Yugoslav society – it took quite some time to accept the idea of reality in which the future will not be a glorious, open and fulfilling expedition into all of what was left to envision, discover, achieve… Instead, we were faced with the struggle to maintain even the basic social and living infrastructure created by the preceding generations. Our future turned into one cynical struggle for the world we took for granted before, and for which we believed it could and should be significantly improved. (On another cynical note, Yugoslavia seems to always have been at the avant-garde of the world events, even in executing the own demise.)
 The only sense of caution and constraint we knew about was based on reason and ethics, and never on fear. We grew up being taught that fear is never an option, and many among us – Vesna included – never learned how to become afraid. (It was something we did not fully understand at the time.) This is important; otherwise, a lot of the images and sounds you can witness today being the part of the Mixtape project would never be made.
 The reference to the well-known 1989 essay “The End of History?” by Francis Fukuyama published in The National Interest journal, in which he proclaimed the ‘end of ideology’ and the historical victory of the concept of liberal democracy.
 Jelena Vesić and Vladimir Jerić Vlidi, “1984: The adventures of alternative”, in Nick Aikens, Teresa Grandas, Nav Haq, Beatriz Herráez and Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez (eds), The Long 1980s—Constellations of art, politics, and identities a collection of microhistories, Amsterdam: Valiz/L’internationale, 2018, pp. 112–121.
 That same history that seemed so conveniently tamed to make possible for our generations to expect to build on the existing achievements, to never look back but to aim further and beyond, now begun to move at the speed of light and in the opposite direction. [GOTO TXT?]
 From Hacking Europe: From Computer Cultures to Demoscenes, edited by Gerard Alberts, Ruth Oldenziel, Springer, 2014, Introduction, p. 17:
“The development of independent Yugoslav software through the exchange of cassette tapes, radio broadcasts, and transcriptions was similar to that in the Netherlands. But in Yugoslavia, the autonomy was hard wired. The architecture of the locally produced kits and computers was such that the software protection, either backed from the US standards or locally produced, had to be removed before it could be installed. The thriving hacker scene in Yugoslavia was elitist, participated in a culture of alternative music and art, but was not driven by political motives.”
 In 1980, Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were finishing the process of taking over the power over their respective societies, heralding the era of the great global turnover; the President of Yugoslavia and one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement Josip Broz Tito died the same year.
 Laura Hutson, “ArtScene: Interview with Vesna Pavlovic, Lecture and Gallery Talk at The Frist 2 p.m. Today”, The Nashville Scene, September 1, 2011, https://www.nashvillescene.com/news/article/13039730/artscene-interview-with-vesna-pavlovic-lecture-and-gallery-talk-at-the-frist-2-pm-today
 After the 1990s/2000s, there was no choice but to use the 1980s as ‘the measure of’: of promise turning into depression, of enthusiasm turning into skepticism, of any good will that eventually produces resentment. But it also remains a ‘measure of’ a certain hope that can not fade or be taken away.
 In Pavlović’s later works, former Yugoslavia will be examined and returned to as historical society in its present-day material form, intersecting with her ongoing observation of the actual and contemporary society. This binary position will become a certain hallmark of Vesna’s oeuvre, creating the dialectics between art and life, between what is perception and what is memory, between the present and the history. According to this particular generational sense, the future can not be a simple sum or the mere intersection of what can be stated or verified from the position of now, but would always stay open for more.
 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, Hill and Wang, New York, 1981, p. 82.
 This urge to always present an composite and all-encompassing image, as one not really pragmatic aspect of enthusiasm, Pavlović manages to put under control and in the service of the very situation to be (re)created by the meticulous process of selection. (What makes this possible, and what produces something else or something more than what the very surfaces of these items may carry, is in her venture beyond aesthetics; Pavlović selects her images by exposing and juxtaposing their frames, their formats and metadata, their very planes of existence.)
 There is a lot of experiment in Pavlović’s work, but not an excessive amount of improvisation; once she decides on a language to follow in a certain situation, this language gets formal. This is where Pavlović reveals her origins in modernism-proper and renders herself as meister, or better meistress, of both the medium and the discourse.
 The music-as-topic, or as ‘visual object’, stands for the totality of the experience of Yugoslav cultural space, specific by its tendency to connect rather than to discriminate between the fields and disciplines. Important to note, the music scene of former Yugoslavia was a wider and more complex social phenomena than what the concept usually means in the West. If in USA the alternative (always a slippery word to use!) music scene exercised its political trough the historical moments (e.g. with Woodstock and related anti-war manifestations of the 1960s, or with MTV in 1980s establishing the TV presence of black artists together with what was perceived “scandalous” before – Run DMC, Michael Jackson, Madonna), than in Yugoslavia the alternative music scene had a connotation of an inherent and continuous political. [Too long of a story for this occasion?]
 Let’s not forget that, following the logic of the vinyl record, the cassette had an A-side and a B-side. You can’t find more music on the B-side of a digital file; there is only one, always the same and quite expected side of it, and if you try to flip it over you’ll find only a bunch of metadata. But discussing the unignorable existence of B-sides, often more important than the perky A-sides, and the whole arcane art of taking these into the equation, is something we better not even enter in this occasion.
 From Alvy Ray Smith, “A Pixel Is Not A Little Square”, July 17, 1995, http://alvyray.com/Memos/CG/Microsoft/6_pixel.pdf:
“My purpose here is to, once and for all, rid the world of the misconception that a pixel is a little geometric square. This is not a religious issue. This is an issue that strikes right at the root of correct image (sprite) computing and the ability to correctly integrate (converge) the discrete and the continuous. The little square model is simply incorrect. It harms. It gets in the way. If you find yourself thinking that a pixel is a little square, please read this paper. I will have succeeded if you at least understand that you are using the model and why it is permissible in your case to do so (is it?).”
 The full quote from SXSW Festival keynote speech by Bruce Sterling, March 2017, https://soundcloud.com/officialsxsw/the-future-history-that-hasnt-happened-yet-sxsw-2017 (‘06’50”):
“Musicians suffer terribly; whatever happens to musicians will happen to everybody else. And music as it’s played on contemporary digital hardware sounds worse than it did on analog hardware 40 years ago. The new economy – it’s terrible. It’s a curse. Everyone hates and fears it, no one is optimistic about it, even the very few guys, the very few guys who really made out like bandits are afraid of the new economy. Nobody is happy with it.”
 “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, a famous essay by Walter Benjamin published in 1935, remains a kind of a test of an for interpretation to the present day. Being one of the most significant early critical accounts of how the advancing technology affects the society via the means of culture in the decisive period of the early XX century, the text offers an insight into the details of this grand social transformation, and an informed idea on its causes and consequences. The analysis as presented by Benjamin remains so far the most useful way to face the event of the New: to try to understand from its very onset what the New exactly is, how it appeared, what it had replaced and made historical, who and what this particular New benefits for, and why. The rapid development of technology over the course of the last 90 years or so, besides on a few technical points. haven’t managed to make the questions raised by the essay entirely resolved, or entirely obsolete. A lot of the paragraphs from the essay could be applied to our topic of observation; in this particular mix, we chose this one:
“From a photographic negative, for example, one can make any number of prints; to ask for the ‘authentic’ print makes no sense. But the instant the criterion of authenticity ceases to be applicable to artistic production, the total function of art is reversed. Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice – politics.”
(Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, from Illuminations, New York, Schocken Books, 1968, new edition 2007, p. 224)
 Following the “Art Thinking” approach by Luis Camnitzer, it could be said that the important aspect of Pavlović’s educational effort is not that much in explaining the particularities of this or that historical technology, however useful and precious this knowledge can be by itself, but precisely in the articulation and mastery of the very attitude of ‘art-thinking’, that is, of ‘hacking’.
(Luis Camnitzer, “Thinking about Art Thinking”, e-flux journal #65, 2015, http://supercommunity-pdf.e-flux.com/pdf/supercommunity/article_1148.pdf)
 From Hito Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image”, e-flux, Journal #10 – November 2009, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/10/61362/in-defense-of-the-poor-image):
“The circulation of poor images feeds into both capitalist media assembly lines and alternative audiovisual economies. In addition to a lot of confusion and stupefaction, it also possibly creates disruptive movements of thought and affect. […] The poor image—ambivalent as its status may be—thus takes its place in the genealogy of carbon-copied pamphlets, cine-train agit-prop films, underground video magazines and other nonconformist materials, which aesthetically often used poor materials. Moreover, it reactualizes many of the historical ideas associated with these circuits, among others Vertov’s idea of the visual bond.”
 What Pavlović addresses, by being firmly rooted in time and place and context of her objects of observation and historization, is a common (both in the sense of global and communal) affair. Even if not admited as fully-fledged “poor images”, her photographic installations/archives do create what Stayerl descibes as “shared history”, and are certainly able to “create new publics and debates”.
 The certain process of ‘dematerialization’ is also addressed by such constructed “poor images”, but in connection with a different part of Steyerl’s essay, the one dealing with “the post-socialist and postcolonial restructuring of nation states, their cultures, and their archives”; if Stayerl finds that “in the case of a film museum in Sarajevo, the national archive can find its next life in the form of a video-rental store” (what seems to be precisely the idea behind the recent institutional transformation around the ex-Yugoslavia), then it is precisely the personal archives as (publicly) created by Pavlović that differ from such a grim, forgetfull, diminishing and commercialized future.
 This is an ambitious demand: as Rebecca Gould writes about the state of exception, it is something the world is never really ready for; it does underestimate a certain suspension of the real, of what is logical and expected and learned, in order to face the facts of whatever the ‘new reality’ could be:
“Most fundamentally, ‘exception’ suggests a limit: on a rule, to fulfil its mandate; on reason, to make sense; on logic, to be consistent with itself. Concomitantly, it suggests transcendence: the omnipresence of the ineffable, a lurking regime of permanent negation. The exception is everything but: the non-law, the state of emergency, the other, the negation of what holds-in-all-circumstances, the impossible, the unthinkable, the aporia, the utopia.”
(Rebecca Gould, “Laws, Exceptions, Norms: Kierkegaard, Schmitt, and Benjamin on the Exception”, Telos: A Quarterly Journal of Politics, Philosophy, Critical Theory, Culture, and the Arts, No 162, 2013)
 I did my best not to misuse the position of being one of the protagonists of the events captured by both Vesna’s camera and the historical transformation of the times by trying not to mention a single name, date or other piece of metadata related with this, but to provide a less personal and more general set of observations.
 What it means to hear these songs in Nashville today, reinterpreted through a complex set of cultural, historical and technological filters? What it means to recreate the images – or rather, the situations – of Yugoslavia of early 90’s and to expose them in the south of USA in 2018? Are through such procedure those situations being repeated not in some introspective, memory-invoking way, but as real, material acts? Do all these questions even have a straightforward answer? We certainly do hope that the evolution of the Mixtape project, from hand to hand, from link to link, will be able to provide some clues.
HERE YOUTUBE PLAYLIST OF ORIGINAL SONGS
About MixTape by Vesna Pavlović
MixTape explores the personal documentary photography archives by Vesna Pavlović taken in Serbia during the 1990s, and offers a comprehensive look into an a certain aesthetic of resistance at the time of the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The images capture the 1996 student protests, Pavlović’s early engagement with the art collective Škart and their radio and street performances, the work of peace pacifist group Women in Black, and various other non-for profit organizations such as Radio B92 and Center for Cultural Decontamination.
As one of the early photographers of the music magazine Ritam in Belgrade, Vesna Pavlović also created an archive of concert photographs which could be seen as a counter archive to her more institutional documentary work. For MixTape Project, she selected a number of songs by bands from the former Yugoslavia, with lyrics transcribed phonetically by Vlidi, and offered to a group of Nashville musicians to create a special mixtape produced by Loney John Hutchins. The music covers were released in September 2019. For her opening in Zeitgeist Gallery, Nashville, the bands performed the covers live, introduced by the talk by Vlidi. The performance was filmed and edited by Bill Badi. The limited edition cassette tape with the cover designed by Slavimir Stojanović Futro was released in December 2019. The project continued in Belgrade in 2019 and evolves further, but that’s another, and much longer story.
The full website with the timeline of the project, the archive of public presentations, performances and exhibitions and an essay by prof. Milena Dragićević-Šesić is coming soon! If you wish to get notified, subscribe to the MixTape newsletter.
Original music on MixTape by Boye, Darkwood Dub, Ekatarina Velika, Haustor, Jarboli, Laibach, Neočekivana sila koja se iznenada pojavljuje i rešava stvar, Obojeni Program, Oružjem protivu otmičara, Partibrejkers, Plejboj, Vlada Divljan, Idoli (Ex-Yu)
Performed in Serbo-Croatian and English by Country Music, Dumbsigns, Lambda Celsius, The Mute Group, Lylas, Patrick Damphier, The Robe, Sehr Modern, The Altered Statesman, The Styrofoam Winos, Sugar Sk_lls (Nashville)
Jarboli, “Samo ponekad” by Patrick Damphier with Cassie Berman
Haustor, “Sejmeni” by Sugar Sk* -*lls
Obojeni program, “Nebo, nebo plavo je” by Country Music
Boye, “Dosta, dosta, dosta” by Sehr Modern
Partibrejkers, “Hocu da znam” by The Styrofoam Winos
Ekaterina Velika, “Zemlja” by Dumbsigns
Neočekivana sila koja se iznenada pojavljuje i rešava stvar, “Ruski gruv” by The Altered Statesman
Oružjem protivu otmičara, “Mladiću moj” by Lambda Celsius
Darkwood Dub, “Zapremina tela” by The Robe
Vlada Divljan, “Ona zna” by Rodrigo Avendano
Plejboj, “Superstar” by The Mute Group
ldoli, “Kenozoik” by lylas
MixTape mastering: Loney Hutchins, Cleft Music, Nashville.
MixTape received a huge and unconditional support by LEJN? and Ana and Zeitgeist Gallery, Marko Maršićević and MARSH, Stevan Vuković and SKC, Vlada Lenhart, and all of the musicians on both sides of Atlantic. Thank you for such ENTHUSIASTIC? participation!
MixTape by Vesna Pavlović is a series of photographs, exhibitions, public events and performances, and a cassette tape produced by Vesna Pavlović
MixTape music covers are produced by Loney John Hutchins, Music director, Cleftmusic.
This essay, the exhibition talk, public events, and this website: Vladimir Jerić Vlidi
Film by Bill Badi
An essay by prof. Milena Dragićević-Šesić
Graphic Design of the Cassette Cover: Slavimir Stojanović Futro