Most of the information I have written about the artist Nikola Dzafo has been copied from Nikola Dzafo's web site/s, which I have put information where you can get direct access to the sites mentioned.
In September 2020 in-between the ending of one lockdown and the beginning of another a porthole opened for me to attend the IMAF20 in Odzaci in Serbia (International Multi Media Art Festival), which I will write up a separate blog about my experience of being the only international artist that attended that years festival, due to world wide restrictions. The festival has been going for over twenty years, the founder is Nenad Bogdanovic, who runs it with a dedicated team.
2020 proved to be a challenging one for Nenad and his team, but somehow they managed to adapt, having forty artists from all over the world participating through online performance.
It was through Nenad I was introduced to the artist Nikola Dzafo who I had not heard off before, and this was my first trip to Serbia. Nenad kept telling me about an artist who paints rabbits and I must meet him. One night I got on the computer at the hotel and found Nikola's email and sent him a message with some photographs of my white rabbit performance and garden, which Nenad described as Man rabbit. The next day when I met up with Nenad he told me he had a call from Nikola and he would like to meet me, so we arranged to visit him and his wife and a group of artists/film makers at his home Petrovaradin in Novi Sad.
Photo above: White Rabbit with Nikola and his wife Vesna and Filip, Vid, Ivana, Nenad (forgotten the others names but will sort that out later)
Nenad and myself were met at Novi Sad train station by the film maker Filip Markovinović where we were taking in a taxi to Petrovaradin to meet Nikola and Vesna. Filip has been making a documentary on Nikola and his artwork, and the arrival of man rabbit added something new to weave into the documentary.
Above photograph with Vesna, Nikola, Vid, Filip, Nikola and Ivana
As the taxi drew up we were met by Vesna who gave us a warm greeting and beckoned us through the large steel gates, and then ushered is to the the garden at the back of the house. There was a gathering of artists, film makers and writers sitting at the outdoor table.
It was one of those moment it felt like a wonderful dream, we sat down to introductions and tea. I explained I had brought the rabbit costume and once it is on I am unable to speak so I will be under their control, just put me where you want me, and this they did. But before any filming began Vesna took me around her garden, it is autumn so we had missed everything in full bloom, but there was still enough vibrancy and colour to get a sense of the garden.
I was given a personal tour of the garden, Vesna knew every plant (In Latin!) I just smiled and nodded as I hadn't a clue what was what, but was in awe of her knowledge of plants. This to me was her pallet, Vesna's art.
(Bellow is a photograph of white rabbit in Vesna's garden with Vid holding a rifle, don't worry it was part of the filming! Vid is Filip's son)
After coffee and tea (Coffee is Nikola's speciality, the alchemist at work in his kitchen!) Nikola gave me/man rabbit a tour of his museum, which is based in their kitchen, though not everything is out, only on open days.
(please see slide show of part of the museums collection)
Many objects have been collected over many years
You can find more details of the museum and its work on: http://zeckojijepojeomuzej.com/html/09-kontakt-e.html ( or type on internet The rabbit who ate a museum )
Nikola put up a rabbit to be president of Novi Sad: here is text from Dzafo's site:
Action by Art Klinika and Radio 021
Dissatisfied with the city’s political culture and the artists’ status, Nikola Džafo, Art Klinika’s team-in-charge and Jovanka Zlatković with the Radio 021 team used the electoral campaign of candidates running for mayor of Novi Sad, and came up with the action “White Rabbit for Mayor of Novi Sad.” With mottos “I am a rabbit, not a dope” and “Fck infrastructure when you don’t have culture,” White Rabbit joined the electoral campaign. Because of the advantage in his biography over other candidates – quickness, good sight, sharp hearing, clean paws, life in harmony with nature and other positive characteristics – White Rabbit presented himself as champion of the city artists, and the campaign turned people’s attention to the unsolved problem of social security and health insurance for independent artists as well as the absence of a city gallery.
From August 2 to the end of September, Radio 021 broadcast jingles and reports that followed the campaign of White Rabbit: news, radio-stories, support of public persons, people surveys.
The site was also activated, and it followed the events surrounding the electoral campaign of its candidate. Daily newspapers were regularly informed about everything.
Biography from Nikola Dzafo web site: http://www.dzafo.com/biography/biografija.html
Rođen 1950. u Novom Sadu. Diplomirao slikarstvo na Fakultetu likovnih umetnosti u Beogradu 1978, magistrirao na istom fakultetu 1981. Član Udruženja likovnih umetnika Srbije i Vojvodine. Od 1990. pasivizira bavljenje slikarstvom i maksimalno je aktivan u borbi za društvene vrednosti i umetnički dignitet. Idejni tvorac i pokretač grupe LED ART (1993), s kojom kreira i realizuje više od trideset projekata. Suosnivač Centra za kulturnu dekontaminaciju u Beogradu (1995) i Multimedijalnog centra "Led art" u Novom Sadu (2000). Iste godine, u podrumu u ulici Grčkoškolska 5, pokreće Art kliniku, s utopijskom idejom da umetnost može da menja i leči svet. Živi i radi u Petrovaradinu.
Born in 1950 in Novi Sad. He graduated in painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade in 1978, and received his master's degree from the same faculty in 1981. He is a member of the Association of Fine Artists of Serbia and Vojvodina. Since 1990, he has been passive in painting and has been maximally active in the fight for social values and artistic dignity. Conceptual creator and initiator of the LED ART group (1993), with which he creates and realizes more than thirty projects. Co-founder of the Center for Cultural Decontamination in Belgrade (1995) and the Multimedia Center "Led Art" in Novi Sad (2000). In the same year, in the basement at 5 Grčkoškolska Street, he started the Art Clinic, with the utopian idea that art can change and heal the world. He lives and works in Petrovaradin.
Below photographs of man rabbit with Nikola Dzafo in the garden at his home.
Thank your to the various people who photographed with my camera much appreciated
I was so fortunate to get to meet Nikola and Vesna, most of the conversation was done through translation. Because I was visiting in the capacity of the rabbit, it was difficult to relax, as most people do not realize that my mask is latex underneath, so it gets very hot, in fact the the whole costume gets hot wearing it, so I have to have a shower afterwards and it takes time for me to wind down.
Vesna and Nikola and their friends were incredibly supportive and took care of me, we ended the filming with man rabbit running up the street chasing people who did not want to take a carrot from the rabbit as they cycled off. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZLO5IWU7yg ( Run Rabbit Run Novi Sad Serbia )
As 2020 drew to an end, I was left reflecting on how to create work within the restrictions of the UK Government, saying what we can and cannot do. It is difficulty to absorb the constant negative voices in the media, having to hear the word (Don't-Not allowed-be safe-do not mix with family or friends in other house holds. This has a great mental affect on all of us, though we are told that the arts have really suffered, and it isn't easy, for me being in the arts has always had it lack of funding and support especially in conceptual performance art. Music venues and Theatres are suffering, but in reality we are all suffering.
I wake up and ask myself what can I do as an artist, so came up with the idea of making my garden into an everchanging gallery and making installations. The recent one that I invited the community to make a face for 2021 to come together through art, using art as a way forward, to make our mark, being somewhere physical. My house is on a public pathway so it gets a fair share attention, its a small space but I managed to use it well.
I recently watched a film made behind the scenes, which was filmed around the area I grew up, its strange seeing the family house on film, and the streets I aimlessly wondered about as a youth. Check it out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTrVLIVynyA
Spike Mclarrity is a live art performance artist. He also paints, photographs, makes installations from a wide diverse range of mediums and materials. Spike has an MA in performance and Visual practices. He travels all over the world performing and makes regular trips to Japan.