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Hospitality Utopia

I was invited to the exhibition "hospitality utopia" by Justina from Improper walls...It is an international video festival that has been taking place since 2017 in the small town of Uzice in western Serbia. As always when I am invited abroad, I asked for an extension of my stay to capture the flair of the city and to develop my idea in peace, before the typical organizational stress sets in. I love to walk alone through unfamiliar cities and let myself be inspired in this way. In 2020, I started making a series of video works in which I expose myself and the circles I move in. In this sense and in the context of the exhibition concept "hospitality utopia," I developed a basic idea: to juxtapose the world of a travel influencer with the traditionalist older population of Serbia. I wanted to depict in the film the fact that hospitality nowadays is subject to a system of quick and constant evaluation. Our kindness is commercialized. Our behavior is influenced by likes, dislikes, and comments from others. I had read about this in Byung-Chul Han's book "In the Swarm of the Digital." For this, I was looking for an older person who should be prepared for an interview consisting half of falsehoods and half of truths. The ideal person for this was Milos Vukecevic's grandmother, whom I met over lunch and subsequent schnapps. The false part was preceded by the invented scenario that I was a travel influencer staying with her. She was supposed to speak ill of me, saying that I was only nice to her when I needed something and otherwise always just hung out on my phone, and that I had threatened to give her a bad review. Her acting performance was irrelevant because the video was meant to confuse and amuse the viewer. Her initial reaction was funny when she was asked to say pre-scripted phrases about me being an idiot, and she said I was so nice.  In the true part, I wanted to learn from her what life was like before there were social media and cell phones. A poignant moment was when she talked about how every time she had a little money saved up, she would continue to build onto her house. She would ask the neighbors for help, and on Sundays, there would be so many neighbors there wanting to help her voluntarily that she had to send half of them home. She said that would be unthinkable today. I named the finished video "Olivije," which is how my name is spelled in Serbian. For me, the video was a reminder of how our behavior nowadays is sensitively influenced by quantitative rating systems. Additionally, nowadays it has become very difficult to distinguish facts from fiction.

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