Net focus

An Interview
Macasev-- the-mighty.com

Aleksandar Macasev was born in Becej in 1971. He graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Belgrade in 1998. He works in the field of graphic/web design and art. He is a member of the Serbian Association of Applied Artists and the Art Directors Club of Serbia. He teaches interactive design at the Department for Computer Arts and Design, BK Academy of Arts in Belgrade, and also works in the advertising industry as an art director (Saatchi&Saatchi, New Moment, Mass Vision, and Ovation BBDO) and in MIKSER, an organization for intercultural exchange and production. He has received awards for web design and web art (Finlandia, Short Electronic Form, Xpose, ArtTech, Golden web awards), and participated in numerous exhibitions in Serbia and abroad. He lives and works in Belgrade.

Tell me about your work with Mirko Ilic.
Mirko Ilic is probably the most famous Serbian designer living abroad. I met him during the BeogrAD festival last year, where he presented his work in a way that was very popular with the public. During that festival we planned his retrospective exhibition. It is a freelance project of An ica Tucakov (former curating assistant in MOMA, NY) and her creative team. The exhibition will open on March 7 and it will last around two months. The show is a cross section through his career, ranging from early comics and illustrations, graphic design and op-ed pages for NY Times to TIME magazine covers. I will do art direction and design for this event. On the one hand it is a great opportunity, while on the other there is anxiety working for a “big star”. Besides being a very good designer, Mirko Ilic is a great teacher. I warmly recommend the lectures that will accompany his exhibition.
In addition to this exhibition, I amworking with him on a new visual identity for the Ministry of Culture of Republic of Serbia. This turned out to be an opportunity for this set of politicians in government to introduce high quality design according to the new cultural policy.

Tell us something about your web page, Black Pixel.
I started my own web page, Black Pixel (www.the-mighty.com), with the intention to use it as an online exhibition place. That place is structured as a gallery and it serves as a promotional tool. The main visual idea was playing with the ideology of net browsers and retro design – imitating the graphic interface of the browser and pixelized Spectrum-like design. This year I will release the version 2.00 that will be hand made. Black Pixel v.1.00 won several awards at various festivals.

What does the web page making process look like? How much do you depend on the client and what is your main direction?
Web page production in Serbia mainly depends on the client’s wishes and on the budget. I would also add the client’s understanding of the media and its possibilities. A very important phase is the planning: gathering information, analysis of the client’s needs, considering the target audience, analysis of the competition… The web page will be a visual representation of all this. Mainly I try to push the boundaries of what the client actually wants and what the audience is used to. An example of such a strategy is a web page for Bogomir Doringer, a fashion designer. I used short movie sequences and irritating punk esthetics.

Is web design your primary occupation and what do you do now?

I like to say that my primary occupation is visual culture. In the past fifteen years it was painting, various forms of contemporary art (site specific installations, objects, interventions, web art…), advertising, graphic and web design. The present situation in cultural production is such that there are not strict boundaries between various disciplines, which I like very much (some would call it “postmodern schizophrenia” and some “renaissance spirit”). During my studies of architecture I used to paint and draw a lot and that is a very good base for any kind of visual production. After my studies, I started to work in the fields of web art anddesign. Web media is very good because of a high degree of control, quick production and distribution. Right now I mostly work in the fields of graphic and web design with episodes in art.

Besides the work for Mirko Ilic’s exhibition I would like to mention the work on the promotion of the movie “We Are Not Angels 2”, a web page for artist Milica Tomic and a book for artist Mrdjan Bajic. Art direction for the promotion of the movie “We Are Not Angels 2” was very challenging because I had a chance to experiment with the usual movie promotion. I used sort of a disco esthetics mixed with western Christian stereotypes. I even had in mind a usage of a “white angel” fresco from Mileseva monastery. the web page for Milica Tomic was interesting because I tried to find a way not to jeopardize the design of her own work. The book that I am designing for Mrdjan Bajic is called BACKUP. This project will represent almost the entire artistic career of Mrdjan Bajic. The basic concept of the book is to make the process of art making visible. On the one hand it is meant to inform, while on the other to educate. I already worked with him on the Yugomuseum project (www.yugomuzej.com) that was presented at the Biennial in Sao Paolo. Yugomuseum is an online museum that includes his Ex Yugoslavia related artwork. There will be a web page accompanying the book. It is great to work with Bajic because his visual language is very easy to use in graphic design.

What are your plans for the future?
Right now I am working on a project I call, Readymade Design, that will use prefabricated design elements. I plan an exhibition in the autumn this year. Within my interactive design course at the BK academy there is a web project that we will do in cooperation with a university in Florida. Also I am working on a web festival in the O3ONE gallery as well as on the presentation of a Serbian web art practice on Rhizome.org (net art portal of a New Museum of Modern Art in New York). I use this opportunity to call artists to submit their work. There is another project of the national television where I will use the traditional journalist forms on web. The work will be presented in Prix Italia media festival.

What do you think of the Serbian cyberspace in the wider context?
As for design, there are a lot of young people in Serbia who are well trained on cheap software. Web designers are mainly coming from the field of graphic design which is good on the one hand because of the visual literacy, but on the other hand it is a setback because of not understanding the media. Two years ago there was a new department for computer art and design founded at the Bk academy of arts. Last year I was invited to teach a course in interactive design there and that is the only course of the kind in our country where you can get the complete knowledge of web design and various forms of new media.

There are also several digital art festivals where you can recognize the local web scene: ArtTech, KEF, WebART Podgorica ... These festivals could help in better quality of cyber production.

Besides good design you need to raise the awareness of local companies about the significance of e- commerce. Web sites of local companies look more like online versions of printed brochures. Basic information without much interaction with the users. Along with the design we need high quality planning, research and web development. Web is a huge and powerful field that requires teams of experts.

You have a lot of experience in advertising. What is your opinion about the trends of Internet and advertising in Serbia?
I worked in Belgrade advertising agencies for several years. Mainly at New Moment, former Saatchi&Saatchi. The situation in advertising is that everything is client focused. Local advertising agencies have an opportunity to educate companies and the audience, besides selling media time and reusing old ads. Unfortunately they seldom use that opportunity. You can see for yourself if you watch any block of commercials on any local TV station. This situation will likely change as the market opens up and becomes more competitive. We already have some examples of high quality production. For the time being it is not very probable that we will have web based campaigns. Online presentations are support for the standard campaigns. That brings us back to the fact that the web page should be a place for business and profit.

In the last months,there has been an interesting initiative of the OSCE and UNDP focused on networking of designers and companies. The point is for the companies to realize the significance of design and for designers to become known to the company. Within that project I am involved in making a web page for the Serbian designers’ community.

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