Meet the curator: Tena Bakšaj

In 2017, Tena went to a small punk bar in Connewitz. She had seen a flyer for an exhibition entitled, Enjoy Yourself.  Music, dance, drink and art sounded like the perfect way to do that. It was an exhibition from the 33rd round of Pilotenkueche. After conversing with the artists, Tena was enticed to follow their journey. When she attended their final show, she felt comfortable in the Pilotenkueche space and decided to apply for the curator internship.

After studying French and German Language and Literature in Zagreb, Tena started working at the Modern Gallery. There she learned how to take visitors on guided tours, building a storytelling skill which later found its way into her work.

Discussion with a group of former museum colleagues lead to a common realisation that there was a lack of opportunities for emerging artists and young curators within the city. This resulted in the birth of Kolektiv EMGE – a non-profit curatorial organization dedicated to filling this gap. This allowed Tena to develop a practical knowledge in the field of curation and the organization of art events.

Kolektiv EMGE ‘s first exhibition, Under Cover

“We noticed that there was a refined independent music scene present in the whole region and that a lot of musicians collaborate with local artists in a form of cover artwork or visual identity, thus creating an alternative/DIY network between many local young creatives. We wanted to research and map these collaborations in a form of an exhibition.”

A series of interviews with musicians and artists lead to an exhibition showcasing 50 cover artworks along with a story and explanation of how each image was derived. The success of the exhibition lead to a tour of the ex-Yugoslavian region, fulfilling the collective’s original goals and providing them the energy to push their intentions further.

photos by Pilotenkueche International Art Residency or supplied by Tena

With their next curatorial project, the collective decided to take a similar anthropological research approach – this time with the topic of Kino (movie theatres) in Zagreb from the sixties and seventies. After delving into state archives and newspapers, EMGE gathered material to create a multimedia interactive exhibition. They showed the current and past states of each theatre. The focus was on the development, growth and degradation of each individual site and eventually on how the buildings were adequately or inadequately repurposed.

Next, Tena and the collective assisted in the coordination of the Antisalon project, which is based on the concept of gathering the work of artists recently rejected by the Youth Salon (an established biennial art show collating works of emerging Croatian artists). Antisalon is a space where young artists often exhibit for their first time and it takes place in Zagreb’s alternative center/squat Medika, in Grey gallery. The main goal is to give insight into the complete emerging art scene and not only the works selected by established museum. This was Tena’s first step towards curating a show with an emphasis on providing a platform for each individual artist.

As the next development, Pilotenkueche will allow Tena to gain experience in building relationships with each artist and monitoring the progress of all projects involved in the exhibition.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of working with sixteen very unique artists and providing ample attention to each one of them. My desire is to create a coherent show which is accessible to the public eye. It is important to me that there is a dialogue between the works. This close relationship and observation of the artists progression should enable me to find this dialogue.”