Already in its sixth edition, the Fotopub festival invaded once again a series of mostly disused spaces in Novo Mesto: a crumbling hotel, a school swimming pool left empty by the Summer holiday, a green lawn by the cathedral, etc.

Fotopub not only puts a sleepy Slovenian city on the international art map, it also encourages the development of art by young talents and creates a space for independent research, experimentation and unconventional curatorial gestures.


Exhibition Opening: Is it? by Luca Marcelli, Peter Kolárčik, Michael Kelly, Rok Hudobivnik, curated by Deja Bečaj at Hotel Windischer – Fotocubs Mentorship Programme. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Mark Farid, Poisonous Antidote. Photo by Klemen Ilovar, Fotopub Archive

This year, the Fotopub program of performances, music and exhibitions attempted to “address how the divergence between fiction and reality becomes a tool of manipulation for the construction of collective and individual identities through visual and popular cultures and information technologies, all conditioned by extreme capitalism.”

Fotopub has little means but plenty of ideas that makes it stand out from other Summer festivals. First, there’s the setting: Novo Mesto, a small city with a river (you can actually swim in) called the Krka, an oil painting by Tintoretto inside the cathedral (if that’s your thing) and a lovely old town center. Then there’s a mentoring program that enables young artists who had volunteered during previous editions of the festival to come back the following year and exhibit their own work. Finally, the organizers also invite back some of the artists who had participated to Fotopub in the past, a way to catch up with their work and follow their trajectory. This year’s returnees were The Cool Couple, Thomas Kuijpers, Mark Farid -whom i interviewed a few months ago- and Danilo Milovanović who’ll get his own story later on this week because he’s that good.

Let’s start with Thomas Kuijpers’ massive assortment of pre-9/11 memorabilia:


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019, Novo Mesto. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019. Photo: i-D


Microsoft Flight Simulator (v3.0) via moby games


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019. Photo by Klemen Ilovar, Fotopub Archive

A few years ago, Kuijpers stumbled upon a painting of the New York skyline featuring the Twin Towers. The description only said ‘painted before 2001’. The artist was deeply surprised by the contrast between this image of the standing monuments and his memory of the footage of the collapsing towers on tv. Such was the shock in the Western world and the power of the media that the repeated images of the falling towers has replaced initial representations of the World Trade Center in our minds.

Kuijpers bought the painting. From then on, he started an ever-growing collection of pre-9/11 memorabilia. Posters, tshirts, books and puzzles of course; but also snow globes, mugs and plates, film excerpts and even a bathing suit and a bottle of a discontinued soda. The artist’s most prized acquisition is a copy of the computer program Flightsimulator from 1988. The cover of the package features the Twin Towers and an airplane.


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019. Photo by Klemen Ilovar, Fotopub Archive

Over time he also filled a photo album with portraits of visitors who had just reached the top of the Twin Towers.

The World Trade Center is a symbol of the world before the War on Terror, before the paranoia, the islamophobia. But also a symbol of a culture that celebrated the excesses of capitalism and glorified finance.

By the way, if you happen to own any interesting object or photo of the Twin Towers in their former glory, do get in touch the artist.


Performance: Karma Fails by The Cool Couple at Kapiteljska Cerkev. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Performance: Karma Fails by The Cool Couple at Hostel Situla. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive

Nowadays even U.S. marines and London bankers get trained in meditation. Uprooted from its Buddhist foundations, meditation has grown into a lucrative industry. It has also become corporate culture’s best friend: it increases the productivity and well-being of employees, allowing the company to make savings on medical insurance and conveniently releasing mental strain while never questioning the rat-race culture that caused stress in the first place. What’s wrong is not capitalism, what’s wrong is inside your head.

Today meditation has become an effective biopolitical device for keeping a growing percentage of people busy and smiling at life while the world burns around them,” writes The Cool Couple.

Just like business managers at Google and Goldman Sachs manipulate meditation to keep their employees happy and compliant, The Cool Couple uses the ancient Eastern practice as a tool for critical thinking, a language that helps “deconstruct the pervasive visual stereotypes of capitalism in the Anthropocene.” Every morning and every afternoon during Fotopub, the artists set up meditation sessions on the grass outside the cathedral or on a wooden terrace. I was extremely reluctant to enter one but curiosity got the better of me and i joined the group on the last day of the festival. It starts like what i assume is your standard meditation class, with breathe in breathe out lingo and invitations to let your body ‘melt’ into the ground. Once we were totally relaxed, the soothing voice of the meditation instructor started inserting into her instructions invitations to visualise the current state of our planet and our role in the depletion of its resources and in global heating. The experience managed to be both very calming and slightly disturbing. Yet, at the end of the session i could see that other participants were absolutely delighted and wanted to repeat the experience. I’m still as unenthusiastic as ever about meditation but i must admit that The Cool Couple’s take on the practice is cunning and worth the hour i spent on that little yoga mat.


Mila Panić, Saša Tatić and Đejmi Hadrović, Rocking Chairs, 2019. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Mila Panić, Saša Tatić and Đejmi Hadrović, Rocking Chairs, 2019. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Mila Panić, Saša Tatić and Đejmi Hadrović, Rocking Chairs, 2019. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive

One of the most interesting moments in the festival for me was Mila Panić, Saša Tatić and Đejmi Hadrović‘s series of “performative installations.” Every afternoon, they installed rocking chairs and carpets in the middle of the city main square and invited people to debate on various social, political and economic urgencies. I didn’t attend all the sessions but i followed with great interest the one that invited the participants to reflect critically on the Fotopub festival, on the economics of art events in general and on the general public’s lack of interest for contemporary art. What elevated the conversation beyond the usual complacent chit chat was that the 3 performers relentlessly pushed us to investigate the role and value of the art world as ruthlessly as possible. Which led us to some exchanges and self-examinations we might not all have been completely comfortable with.


Michael Kelly, Feedback Loop, 2019, at Hotel Windischer – Fotocubs Mentorship Programme. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Michael Kelly, Feedback Loop, 2019, at Hotel Windischer – Fotocubs Mentorship Programme. Photo by Klemen Ilovar, Fotopub Archive


Peter Kolárčik, Not Giving Shape to Ideas, 2019, at Hotel Windischer – Fotocubs Mentorship Programme. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Exhibition Opening: Is it? by Luca Marcelli, Peter Kolárčik, Michael Kelly, Rok Hudobivnik, curated by Deja Bečaj at Hotel Windischer – Fotocubs Mentorship Programme. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive

The Fotocubs Mentorship Programme is an informal educational programme led by the Fotopub Team. A group of last year’s volunteers are invited back to Novo Mesto to have a mentored group exhibition(s). The festival’s big THANK YOU to the international art students who had given their time over the past edition. This year, a group of six art students was trying to answer the question, “What do you see when you close your eyes?”

Each of the Fotocubs works had something meaningful to convey but i was particularly interested in Peter Kolárčik’s series of interviews with young artists who, after graduating from an art academy, had suddenly decided to leave the art world. In the conversations, he gets them to explain why/how their ambitions and priorities changed.

Michael Kelly put old tape recorders in circles as if they were having a conversation up there on their battered wooden plinths. 3 of them record the conversations around them. The other 3 play them back. They share a single tape and after a couple of hours, the accumulation of voices and messages accumulate into a noise that has lost both meaning and sense of humanity.

More images from Fotopub 2019:


Exhibition Opening: Turborage by The Cool Couple at Mestni Park. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Exhibition Opening: Turborage by The Cool Couple at Mestni Park. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Exhibition Opening: Poisonous Antidote by Mark Farid at Glavni Trg 6. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Night Programme with Kukla, or Kукла, Visuals by @BeamTeam. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Night Programme. Photo Janez Klenovšek for Fotopub


Spit roast dinner and night programme at Beach Bar Loca. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019, Novo Mesto. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Thomas Kuijpers, When the Twins Were Still Beautiful, 2019, exhibition opening at Hotel Windischer, Novo Mesto. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


1999 The Oracle Told Me I’d Fall in Love with the One, 2019, installation view, Novo Mesto. Photo by Janez Klenovšek, Fotopub Archive


Michael Kelly, Feedback Loop, 2019, at Hotel Windischer – Fotocubs Mentorship Programme. Photo by Klemen Ilovar, Fotopub Archive

This article was originally published at We-make-monery-not-art.com