About MixTape on Viral Self-Portraits Exhibition

(or go to MixTape now)


Mixtapes are made for sharing, and their role in artistic production and political economy of art is determined by this fact; the MixTape by Vesna Pavlović project captures the moment in which the pop-rock music was a symbol of resistance and hope for the socially isolated communities in former Yugoslavia during the wars of 1990s. Though consisting of images and sounds, the MixTape project was always presented in the form of event, sharing with the audience a certain experience. But being personal and intimate as category, each experience needs an instance of translation and re-actualization for the sharing to begin with. By repeating, re-enacting and translating the particular experiences the  MixTape project creates an aesthetic-political tension, producing the unexpected performative forms that can be seen as either absurdist or motivational. It reminds its careful listeners about the moments of artistic hope, the power of music, and everything that can be described by the term ‘movement’.

Perhaps we do need to be reminded about a lot of things today, but the  MixTape project does not lament, it goes beyond. Translation is a viral process and we know it really well. In the darkness of the present, in which the education, contemporary art and scientific labor are hit by the crisis and bad social management by the ill-intended rulers and power players supported by the ill-informed masses, contemporary conservatives have already utilized the potential for translation trough their cynical (re)production of memes on social media. The virality of the  MixTape project offers so much more, precisely for the absence of any cynicism.

The MixTape of progressive Yugoslav music from the period of 1990s is a portable container of the memory and hope that the future would, and could, be different; it speaks about the atmosphere of permanent struggle, but also about a certain generational self-confidence and about the high level of serotonin in social metabolism. The project conveys these feelings by the means of translation that connects unexpected geographies, forms, temporalities and atmospheres.

Mixtape as a medium is an extimate portrait – the auditive map of social relations and historical moments, playing on the premise “you are what you are listening to”. As the message, the mixtape is ultimately intimate, and holds the inspiring potential for actualization. A DYI archive when it is made, or a viral self-portrait when it is shared, it never became a strictly official genre of publishing but remained influential in the smaller communities and through the channels of free dissemination and copying. And this calls for another word to be referenced with the project – community. First and foremost the MixTape by Vesna Pavlović is also the product of generations of musicians, artists, activists, collaborators and friends, from Yugoslavia and Tennessee, from 1990s and 2010s.

Within the Viral Self-Portrait exhibition the Mixtape project is presented through the web interface/archive by Vesna Pavlović and Vladimir Jerić Vlidi.


Each photograph is an evidence. It testifies about something that happened, about something that was there. Or that the photographer was there. Perhaps it witnesses about an experience of hearing a camera click.

Long before the current crisis, photography needed to rethink itself. With each new social media platform, it became increasingly removed from its experiential promise, now sent and delivered through a set of screen interactions. The physical attributes of images are now thought in terms of digital pixels, their surfaces flattened even further.

If the MixTape offered a moment of remembering the promising, yet challenging decade of the 1990s, the Viral Self Portraits exhibition gives us a chance to think about ourselves and our lives in yet another moment of crisis and loss. Revisiting the archives of documentary images and sounds now allows us to contemplate the future that remains uncertain, adapted to a digital stream. Anything can affect the representation which enfoils now: the bandwidth, the quality of the camera, the quality of the screen. The image, as well as sound, are stretched within the new parameters of perception. The MixTape archive, seen and heard today through the interactive screen, reconsiders the role of documentation in image production. It is yet another attempt to document the present about the past, for the future past.


Arriving to Nashville in 2018 for the MixTape exhibition opening speech was among my most powerful personal experiences. Being one of the musicians from the “original versions” of the MixTape project, I never even considered to be able to witness young people from the opposite part of the globe reinterpreting and re-enacting the sounds and words as we have made some 30 years ago. For such a rare and unexpected privilege I owe to the colleague and dear friend Vesna Pavlović, who is to be blamed for this emotional rollercoaster.

So we continued exploring this sudden and strong discovery of historical connections and (mis)understandings between generations, continents, technologies and, first of all, politics, trough the series of events in Belgrade. This will only continue; refreshingly, as in any proper jam session, there is no timeline or a concrete plan for that. This also lists the MixTape among the most spontaneous, most instinctive projects I was recently involved with.

About what I think what this project means, what it does, and where it came from, I spoke at the exhibition opening and wrote in the accompanying “B-Sides” essay; if you are curious please find it at mixtapeproject.net, which presents yet another attempt for the Mixtape to be presented as a specific experience, this time in the networked and digitized form – the website. Photography and music do bear a strong “craft” aspect of art. Behind experiences there are technologies. After the cassette tapes, ghetto blasters and walkmans, it is of no surprise that we turned our attention to digital networks, sound codecs and image compression.

For the occasion of theViral Self-Portraits exhibition, without denying the conditions of the global pandemic and the (current) inability to present any art in live and direct form – what is a distinctive artistic challenge for itself – I find it important to say that mixtapeproject.net is not made for the purpose of the online exhibition, or as a surrogate of what would otherwise be a live event.

We did already plan this as the next, genuine phase of the project.

The web site does not present a substitution for anything, and is (probably) not the attempt in the discipline of “creative documentation”. The mixtapeproject.net is rather a mix between what the contemporary exhibition catalogue could be, and an experiment to find the proper language trough which such project could exist on the internets in a native way.

We hope that the sounds and images and texst and how is this put together will provide a certain experience. We hope you will feel strongly about it, take some distance, and then experience it even stronger; welcome to mixtapeproject.net!

About MixTape by Vesna Pavlović

This project was initiated by Vesna Pavlović in 2018 as the artistic reflection of the turbulent periods of Yugoslav and post-Yugoslav history, during which the author was engaged in documentary photography. Realizing the role of sound while going trough her photographic archives, Pavlović, who was also a rare music photographer to document the progressive music scene from the period, decided to revisit this historical experience in a specific way.

The MixTape by Vesna Pavlović project had so far produced the two exhibitions and a “listening party”, the twelve music covers of the songs of Yugoslav rock and pop artists reimagined by the participants of the Nashville contemporary scene, the cassette tape, the concert and a concert video, and the two critical essays. It was presented trough the series of exhibitions and events in Zeitgeist Gallery, Nashville (2018) and MARSH/Student Cultural Center Belgrade (2019). After revisiting and reviving the original technologies used in the production of the original materials (analog photography, cassette tapes, ghetto blasters and the legendary “walkmans”), all this is now made available on the latest platform to continue the project, the website mixtapeproject.net.

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)

MixTape music covers are produced by Loney John Hutchins, Music director, Cleftmusic

The essay, the exhibition talk, public events, and the website:  Vladimir Jerić Vlidi

Film by Bill Badi

An essay by prof. Milena Dragićević-Šesić

Graphic Design of the Cassette Cover:  Slavimir Stojanović Futro