Artist Maja Rozman on Dreams, Creative Collaboration, and Future Work

Interview by: Elaine Ritchel

Published: August 5, 2013  |  Ikon Arts Foundation, New York (USA)  |

Intrigued by alternate realities, the atmosphere of dreams, and even everyday rituals, multimedia artist Maja Rozman creates delicate work that centers on questions of perception and consciousness. Since graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, where she is now an assistant professor, Rozman has co-founded art collective called Projekt6, participated in numerous international residencies, and has won several awards, both at home and abroad. Currently, she is preparing for an upcoming solo exhibition that will be held at the Department of Prints and Drawings (Kabinet grafike HAZU) this fall. Here, Rozman tells us more about her artistic practice and the values that drive her to create.

Can you tell us a bit about you and your work?

Currently, I am living in Zagreb where I am teaching drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts. I started exhibiting works in 2003, and since then I have been active in Croatia and the rest of Europe. In my work I use drawing, printmaking, and sound, which often serve as complimentary parts to my installations or actions. In general, my work deals with the intimate process of creation, the authenticity of our imminent surroundings, and the way we perceive what we take to be a work of art. I strive to make an observer wonder about the reality and the way in which they perceive it.
I got interested in this concept during my teens, as I came across the novel written by Michael Ende, The Neverending Story. For me, it was quite an unusual book. I liked how the writer used colored text, opposing the complementary color pair of red and green, each color representing reality or fantasy… I thought it brilliantly played illusion: a story where not everything is about the plot or boring multi-page technicalities detailing fabric and decor. Anyway, I liked its potential. I think the people who read the one-color-text version missed out a lot.
It is more fun when you look beyond the plot. So I am often stressing out the existence of other possibilities to figure out what something truly is in its essence. Once you remove the obvious you are left with something much more interesting.

Your series Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore! centers on dreams/the subconscious, a subject that preoccupies another Croatian female artist – Kata Mijatović. Of course, many other artists over time have explored the subconscious/dreams as well. Why the fascination with the dream world? What was the intention of this series for you?

I am fascinated with dreams, not with interpretations or analyses of them. I like possibilities and sensations they provide. Every time I dream, I live an alternate life. Years ago I began to write my dreams down and simultaneously sketch the elements I couldn’t or didn’t know how to describe. I never intended to end up with a series of drawings from of it. It was just my need to somehow memorize the parts of lives I lived while asleep.
The series Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore! was based on the those texts. Through my drawings I recalled the situations, emotions, and atmosphere I had in some of my dreams. Unlike Kata, I am interested only in my own dreams… this series is a kind of an alternate personal history. I particularly enjoy the incoherencies and incompleteness of thoughts, whereabouts, and actions I experience while dreaming. So I tend to use them for recreating the atmosphere I want to recall. I find it interesting to play with alternate realities, and with the possibilities of experiencing myself in them. Dreams are just a part of this “identity” play.

Do you have any major influences, artistic or otherwise?

There are artists whose work I admire. Although I may not work with the same themes as Bill Viola, for me the aesthetic of his works is simply amazing. The same goes for Luc Tuymans. Jenny Holzer was also a big discovery for me. I saw her installation in Bilbao Guggenheim museum, during my high-school trip. I stared at her work until I memorized the whole text. This was the first time I actually connected with contemporary art.
Dan Graham blows me away. The way he explores the experience of space in his installations and manipulates people to perceive his works is fantastic. He is still one of my favorite artists ever. And finally, I would like to mention Douglas Huebler, for his saying “the world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more”.

What about media – how do you choose which medium to work with?

I like to play with different media, though I never start working by obsessing about it. Something catches my imagination and I try to figure out more about this theme. This in turn informs me about the media I am going to use. It’s not exactly a straightforward process. It happens spontaneously. And then, in addition, I have technicalities, logistics issues, budgetary constraints, deadlines, and what have you. So I don’t have to worry. They narrow possibilities down for me.
As a result, the final outcome is always surprising for me. For example, one time I was invited to work specifically with printmaking and ended up exhibiting an installation. It explored the essence of the printmaking medium so it was still right on the subject. It just seemed more interesting than just making prints.

Tell us a little about Projekt6, the small collective you helped found in 2006. What was the experience of working collaboratively with other Croatian artists, and how did this experience shape your own work?

It happened spontaneously. After graduating a friend of mine and I got each locked in our own studio. Working alone, we were missing the creative and critical surroundings we had at the university. So we came to the idea of forming a group where we could discuss each other’s work and move away from the safe spot. Our colleagues joined and Projekt6 was born.
Throughout the project we held frequent meetings where we questioned our opinions and attitudes towards art. Each author expressed oneself by referring to the works of another author, thus becoming the subject of someone’s reference as well. Together, we realized seven different works, which we exhibited in twelve shows in Croatia and abroad. We had a great time working together, we learned a lot, and it helped form us as individual artists on the current Croatian art scene.
Being a part of an art group is somehow similar to a relay race: if one of the team members makes a wrong move, everybody loses. It is a great responsibility. But if they pull it through, the happiness is bigger because you get to share it. As an artist, you mostly work alone, make your own decisions, and take responsibility for your own mistakes. Working in a group is different. You get to blame the others. So with time you fall apart. But it’s nice while it lasts. We’re still all good friends.

What’s next? What projects are you working on now?

Currently, I’m working on a series of drawings and prints that are scheduled for an exhibition at Kabinet grafike HAZU in September. I’ve been lucky to get a solo show. I received an award at last year’s Print Triennial in Zagreb and an exhibition that goes with it. So I thought I would come up with something new and they went along with it. Couldn’t be nicer.