Being just an artist is almost impossible these days, or maybe it always was. I admit I am an artist only occasionally, only when I have the chance and room to be one. Otherwise, I have to arrange and divide my time and energy among many other things, luckily most of them could be labeled as labor in the field of culture. I do not have a steadily paid job. I work on many different things and I am involved in many different initiatives in the field of culture like being a host and member of the editorial team of a radio show following independent art and the cultural scene in Serbia, being part of an independent cultural center called Magacin in Belgrade, being part of the photo collective Belgrade Raw and so on. It is fulfilling and also very exhausting.

Belgrade Raw. Dzięki uprzejmości artystów.

Belgrade Raw. Dzięki uprzejmości artystów.

Belgrade Raw. Dzięki uprzejmości artystów.

Lately, more than ever, it is becoming obvious that we live in a time of overall corruption. We witness it in the everyday politics of our national states, but there is also a corruption of ideas and ideals on a global scale. Even though equality, democracy, justice, etc. are still glorified, those values are rarely (strived to be) achieved in reality.

Lately, more than ever, it has become increasingly evident that we all have to slow down. At the moment when the world has almost truly stopped, we are still told that we have to use this lockdown to work on our skills, expand our knowledge and improve our expertise by taking some online courses, reading books, watching movies, finishing our writing projects, developing new ideas, etc. So, after things go back to normal, we can be even more productive and more successful. Good. But do we want to go back to normal? Was normal good at all, and if so, for whom?

Mladen Stilinović, Artist at Work, 1978. Dzięku uprzejmości Branki Stipančić.

I can understand that some artists had an urge and initial reflex to create and express their feelings and thoughts as a response to the crises. But I cannot understand that the only response by the art and cultural sector is simply shifting to online/virtual operating, as if the only problem we have is the inability to enjoy art in a physical space. Suddenly we were overwhelmed with an insane amount of free books, online exhibitions, movies, and new quarantine artwork sharing platforms.

Even if some of it helped some people and filled the sudden void that appeared, what does this tell us? Art is something that one should consume if there is free time. You should read a book to kill the time since you are not able to go to a bar or restaurant with friends. On the other hand, you are not allowed to waste a minute of your time, you have to use it smartly and enrich yourself, learn something new, earn a new skill. Not to mention that all this content probably means nothing, or very little, to someone who just lost their job, someone who is sick and cannot afford medical treatment, someone who doesn’t have a place to sleep or something to eat or the ones that simply had to continue to go to their badly paid jobs in order to survive.

I have to admit that I also had a few ideas that popped into my mind. One was to become a panartist in the time of the pandemic. Trained as a painter, I recently started shifting towards other disciplines like music, dance, performance, so I wanted to add writing, filming, etc. One of the reasons for this is my belief that a good society can only function if equality is achieved through a redistribution of power by way of creating an environment of shared and non-competitive creativity.

Jelena Mijić, Grand painting exhibition with a pile of paintings or how NYC brought me back to painting, Remont gallery, 2018. Dzięki uprzejmości artystki.

Jelena Mijić, Grand painting exhibition with a pile of paintings or how NYC brought me back to painting, Remont gallery, 2018. Dzięki uprzejmości artystki.

Jelena Mijić, Grand painting exhibition with a pile of paintings or how NYC brought me back to painting, Remont gallery, 2018. Dzięki uprzejmości artystki.

Another one was a sort of survey on the function of art in society or “what the hell is my job” to be conducted among my close relatives who all belong to the working class. Or else we, as artists and cultural workers, only deal with the middle and upper classes, for whom art is only a product. Something you can buy. And the art world mostly goes along with it and acts like everything is ok as long as everybody is taking care of their own business. But what is our business and should it be called a business at all? Is it just to produce more objects and content, physical or digital, which means more waste and more noise? Or to participate in the perpetuation of a neoliberal capitalist system and beautify it with our creativity? Of course, all these questions are present in contemporary academia, and where they are much better formulated and discussed. But during this “unexpected” worldwide crisis they became more frequent, clearer, and more present in a public sphere.

More and more we are aware that the state in which the entire world’s societies and the planet itself are is not sustainable. Even though there is enough of everything for everyone, we live in a world of inequality and we continue to produce more and more. The only way to change this is a redistribution of power and slowing down in our daily lives. I believe that artists can help figure out how to achieve this change by getting rid of megalomaniacal projects and joining together in different types of experimental and critical collaborations, instead. Putting our energy, effort, and resources to build a stronger infrastructure, based on values of solidarity, equality, compassion, care, and love for each other.


Jelena Mijić (1989) is a multimedia artist based in Belgrade. She is a member of the Belgrade Raw collective, which was founded in 2009 with the idea of exploring the social, urban and political aspects of city life as well as the state of the community through capturing the everyday life of Belgrade using photography. In 2013, the Belgrade Raw collective, served a yearly term as curator of photographic exhibitions in Belgrade Cultural Centre’s Artget Gallery.

She is part of many self-organized initiatives in Belgrade, Serbia, including the independent cultural center Magacin, which is functioning on the basis of an open calendar and shared responsibilities. In 2016, she was part of a group that established the Ostavinska gallery, as part of Magacin.

Since 2017, she has been a co-host and member of the editorial team of the radio show Sceniranje, focused on the arts and culture scene in Serbia and the region.

Also, she is part of the organizational team of the unfunded international artist-in-residence program MultiMadeira on the Portuguese island of Madeira, which is trying to create a space for experimenting and meaningful exchange, completely independent from fundering, project logic, and reports.

She is a participant of the fifth edition of the artist expedition “Sound development city” (

Jelena Mijić is the recipient of the 2017 Dimitrije Bašićević Mangelos Award which is given annually to young visual artists up to 35 years of age in Serbia and an alumni of Residency Unlimited in New York.

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