Ana Radovanović (8/12/1986), a very stylish and colorful girl, is a design journalist and graphic designer based in Belgrade, Serbia. She has studied cello instrument in Music High School in Beograd, painting in Rome and Communication and Editorial Design in Urbino, Italy. Ana won the First award at Dan D design festival 2015 in Zagreb, Croatia, and the Golden bra – Best design 2013 awards at Magdalena festival in Maribor in Slovenia.
She presented her works in many countries, as for example in Canada (“Zine Club” exhibition curated by Sylvana d’Angelo at Vancouver Book Fair), in Italy (“Fahrenheit 39” editorial festival) and in Belgium (Mikser Festival in Brussels – “Serbia in Redesign” at Press Club Brussels Europe).
Her successful Master thesis, a research about neo-avant-garde artists’ magazines of former Yugoslavia, was presented at the First International Symposium of Young Art Historians in Split, Croatia and an article concerning her work will be published soon in The Territories of Artists’ Periodicals symposium’s publication at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, USA.
Hello Ana, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ciao! After several years spent in Italy, I am living in Serbia again. I wasn’t really planning it, but it seems to be working for me right now. I am also collaborating with people from the ex Yugoslav region – from Croatia and Macedonia, in various kinds of projects (designing, writing etc.).
Your master thesis “Neo-avant-garde artists’ magazines of former Yugoslavia,” supervised by the famous graphic designer Leonardo Sonnoli, was a successful work. Could you briefly present us your project?
The choice of a topic concerning Neo-avant-garde artists’ magazines of former Yugoslavia was for me a natural convergence of two themes that interested me more in these years: editorial design and Serbian and ex Yugoslav design history. I found interesting studying an issue so little known like this one, in fact on that subject existed only few researches about some magazines. I decided to present the final result of my work divided in various categories such as: index cards, visual documentation and descriptive textual analysis. I have also included two infographics: the first shows the magazines in their geographical and temporal relationship and provides the comparison of their technical features; the other one shows the interrelationship between the common collaborators of the magazines, i.e. the complex network of their cooperation.
It’s very interesting that this work includes some magazines unknown till now. Was the research difficult?
The thing is that, in some cases, the magazines were known only to a small circle of people and so until now. This research considers 27 different neo-avant-garde artists’ magazines. Therefore, it doesn’t exist a kind of rule that regards all of them and they are quite different from one another. The research itself was the most interesting part of this journey. I went to interview several artists, historians, collectors and gallerists from Ljubljana (Slovenia) to Zagreb (Croatia) and from several Serbian cities. It was a sort of detective game.
Do you consider the period of the former Yugoslavia as a difficult past to research nowadays?
It depends on the topic of your research. It can be quite complex. First of all you have to interpret different kind of sources, like personal memories and actual documentation, and interpret them in relationship with the collective imaginary of that time. All of these kinds of sources are difficult to read and analyse because compromised in different and various ways. It gets quite complicated when emotions are involved. Personal experience doesn’t necessarily involve collective facts about the phenomenon in question or the other way around. Points of views are also related in terms of politics to nowadays imaginary. I personally don’t believe in absolute theories, I always try to understand different theories and ideologies maintaining a neutral position. A neutrality that might be only apparent, or almost impossible. Anyway for now I don’t identify myself in any of the options appeared after the crash of ex-Yugoslavia. I think these are regular problems that any historian encounters in his way, especially researching on subjects of our recent and still controversial past. Personally I am not a historian, so I found myself in a challenging position. I looked at it as if it was some kind of puzzle that I was putting together, where every single piece was profoundly connected to and influenced by our present.
I imagine it was exciting to review the original magazines. Which is your favorite one? Can you choose and tell us an anecdote about interviews you did?
Reviewing original magazines was great! The fact that some of the owners didn’t care much for them, while the others made me use gloves, tells a lot about general consciousness about the neoavant-garde artists’ magazines. These magazines had significant differences in terms of form, print run and number of issues, for that they were differently received by the public. Conceptually, there was a rich diversity as well. You can find kinetic art, as well as visual poetry or mail art. For many reasons, I am fond of the Belgrade based Rok magazine (Deadline). It was founded and edited by the writer Bora Ćosić in 1969, while most of the design was made by Serbian designer Slobodan Mašić. Inside the Serbian cultural milieu, these two figures are known for their elegant controversy. Therefore, many decisions made inside the magazine – that were regarding the content or the visual appearance, were interesting, inspiring and quick-witted. For example, they presented the Prague Spring of 1968 as the infographic of the Fluxus event.
As for the interview anecdotes, I have a clumsy one to tell… I was about to interview a very important Serbian historian, founder and collaborator of two magazines of my research. I was lucky enough to find him while he was having a coffee with another Serbian artist that was also involved in one of the magazines (and who is currently living in the USA). I have borrowed a nice dictaphone from my friend. I was quite nervous about that interview. At the end, everything went so well. The three of us were talking for about two hours. Except for the fact that the battery went off, so none of the interview was actually recorded…
You have participated in many exhibitions. You have curated the “1/18 Poster Exhibition” as well. It was held in Stepenište Gallery in Belgrade, in 2013. Could you tell me more about this experience?
My intention was to present the spirit of contemporary, young, Italian design scene to Belgrade’s audience. The participants were invited to respond to the word “Relation” by designing a poster, while taking into consideration all the closer and more distant meanings that that word could imply. Although the institution where the gallery was located had a very long tradition, the space by itself was small and it wasn’t located in the centre of the city. I was concerned about the number of people who would have visited the exhibition. However, the attendance was great. Furthermore, there were two international festivals that were held in Belgrade more or less at the same time as the exhibition, so many of their visitors came to visit the 1/18 exhibition as well.
Can you explain your inspirations for the posters you choose to expose?
Actually, my task was to choose the participants. Once they had the topic, they were free to do whatever they felt appropriate. I tried to pick designers with different background, origin, interests, age and sex. They were mostly students, or have just started their professional career. I wanted to show the diversity of the Italian approach to design. I thought, and I still do, that this approach differs largely to the Serbian one. It wasn’t an easy task. I had my right-hand man – the studio Spectacle from Rome, that helped me a lot and curated the visual identity as well.
Can you suggest us a graphic designer you love or some studios to keep an eye on?
I don’t like to have idols. I do appreciate Dutch design in general. Although there were some design’s lectures that made me (re)think my approaches, or simply inspired me. It happened to me several times that I fell in love with someone’s ideology or energy also if I don’t appreciate his actual work. It is important to pick the positive elements and to merge them into personal experience. I could name some of the lecturers as Jan van Toorn and Maureen Mooren from the Netherlands, or the British Jonathan Barnbrook or the Serbian Isidora Nikolić and Borut Vild.