“The Space” in Nottingham Contemporary where our exhibition was held.
Last winter, Nottingham Contemporary presented the Monuments Should Not Be Trusted exhibition that explored “the golden years” of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia through the works of over 30 artists from this period and location.
As part of the yearly Memory Project, now called Aftermath, students from the Master of Fine Arts from Nottingham Trent University and for the first time, students from the MA History of Art and MA Visual Culture from the University of Nottingham, collaborated to create an exhibition that responded to Monuments Should Not Be Trusted by reactivating the conversation that started with the winter show, and even half a century earlier in Yugoslavia.
We named it The conversation isn’t over and it was a new experience for most of us, which on the one hand was the cause of some logistical problems, but on the other hand gave us a taster of what our career as (hopefully) artists and curators would be like.
I made a piece of work specially for this exhibition and showed an older one I made in October at the beginning of the course.
Tito’s Dildos is a series of 14 pencil drawings directly inspired by a collection of relay batons presented in Monuments Should Not Be Trusted. These relay batons are part of a (much) larger collection of dozens of thousands batons used in the Relay of Youth races, organized from 1945 to 1988 as a celebration of the Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito’s power and birthday. The Youth Batons were, in other words, birthday gifts from the people of Yugoslavia to their leader, who was sometimes depicted as benevolent, yet referred to as a dictator.
This major contradiction led me to the humorous reinterpretation of these beautifully crafted objects as dildos.
Because of their phallic shape, the sex-toys can be seen as symbols of male authority but are commonly associated with female masturbation and homosexuality, which are far from corresponding to the representation of hegemonic masculinity cultivated by dictatorships.
By (imaginarily) shifting the original batons’ use, we are opening the gates to reinterpretations of history where for example, Tito would be a collector of fanciful dildos, or the people would openly tell their leaders to literally ‘go fuck themselves’.
These side stories obviously only exist on these pages from a personal diary, the closest antithesis I found to propaganda posters.
Artefacts bears a more solemn aura. It is made of 62 pieces of plaster stamped with numbers from 001 to 062 and sorted by ascending numerical order on a grid of 7 rows and 10 columns.
The fragments are presented as archeological findings but don’t seem to be pieces of an identifiable object. They rather seem to have been chosen at random, and order only comes from the numeration that looks just as arbitrary as the small sculptures’ shapes.
Archeologists excavate and decipher fragments of human history, a common heritage to us all. By acknowledging these Artefacts as pieces of art, you are making them a picayune part of this heritage, one that is yet to be unravelled.
This third artwork, a ready-made from Inferno Pizza, wasn’t displayed for security reasons. It was part of a performance I called Relishing Aftermath.
Last month I came across a naan pizza recipe while looking for new ways to cook my boring potatoes. It looked very good and tasty yet quite fast and easy to make.
I was also intrigued by the “naan bread” that I first confounded with pita Mellark.
I went straight to the store looking for this Asian bread I never heard about before and found it litteraly next to pita on the bread shelf. Though they both look relatively similar, naan bread is puffier, which is perfect to get the soft and chewy pizza crust I like.
I bought garlic and coriander naan for this recipe, but plain naan bread is also perfectly fine. I would just add some chopped garlic before putting the mini pizzas in the oven because I would miss the condiment’s savory and the bad breath.
For the topping I first put a layer of grated cheese followed successively by slices of potatoes, red onions and cherry tomatoes.
Making very thin slices of potatoes allows them to cook more quickly and evenly, which is important to prevent the other ingredients from burning.
I season with salt, pepper and herbs and drizzle about two spoons of olive oil on each pizza.
I put them in a preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes (180°C / 356°F) depending on how fast the potatoes cook.
After this successful first attempt at making mini pizzas I tried a few variations of topping including vegetarian mincemeat, sweet chili sauce or raw tomatoes slices.
I love cooking au gratin because putting grated cheese everywhere just makes things smell, taste and look better to me.
Potatoes gratin is my favorite and it’s perfect to face a cold winter day. Naturally, this is the first dish I cooked when the flat’s oven got repaired last month.
Here are the ingredients I used to make it as simple and student-budget-friendly as possible:
You just need enough butter to grease the casserole dish and to add on top of the gratin before putting it in the preheated oven (200°C / 392°F). Use as many potatoes as your dish and your belly can contain. They have to be washed and peeled.
I usually cut them in half vertically then into thin slices to facilitate the water, cream or sauce absorption. If you wanted to use chunks of potatoes instead for any reason, you would have to parboil them beforehand.
This potatoes gratin basically consists of successive layers of potatoes slices/chunks, cream and cheese until you reach the top of the dish.
I start with a layer of potatoes “fish scales” and add some creme fraiche right on top of it.
Then I add some salt, pepper, and some spices I have in the cupboard. Last time it was ground ginger and cinnamon.
The third layer is made of grated cheese. I used grated cheddar for this one but you can use any other cheese, depending on your preference. If the cheese you want to use is already salty, be careful on the seasoning from the previous step.
Just restart and repeat the layering process until the dish is full or you have nothing more to put in it.
I never know whether to end with a layer of potatoes or a layer of grated cheese. This time it was potatoes, so I added some butter to melt on top and prevent them from drying. I put the dish in the oven for about 30 minutes.
This time I took it out from the oven a bit late and the gratin was a bit burnt on top but still fine.
If the outside is cooked and the inside is still liquid because of the melted creme fraiche and cheese, you can let it cool down for some time. It took me about half a hour to get a more solid consistency.
The Douaumont ossuary, built within the Verdun Battlefield.
Back to France, we took a couple of days to visit Verdun, one of the main battlefields during the First World War.
On the 28th we went to Gien, a city built around the Loire, which is the longest river in France. This is the kind of cities I like, maybe because on the continent, the river is the closest link I have to the sea I miss so much.
The day after we drove to my partner’s birthplace in Issoire, then on the 30th we split up for a few days at Clermont-Ferrand where I took the train to Bourg-en-Bresse, to my cousin’s place.
We are meant to meet again in Lyon tomorrow, for a few more days, the last of the holidays.