As the most convincing and most authoritative protagonist of immaterial art forms on the contemporary Yugoslav scene, but also as its outstanding theoretician, Andrej Tisma calls his art works (spi)rituals rituals of the spiritual exchange, which means immaterial art intended to be perceived neither though senses (like beaux arts), nor through a mental process (like conceptual art). Instead, it was made for the human spirit, which is a great potential waiting to be awakened, and the author thus elicits at the same time the material he uses in his work, the spiritual energy. He considers it a resourceful substance that can be shaped, directed, spread, absorbed, etc, in order to reach an ultimate goal, which is inspiration, the pure sensation of enlightenment and purification, and the touch with the meaning of our existence, and that is the main target of every artwork. The artist has almost been forced to give shape to the material he has chosen by processes once used by shamans, artists of the ancient times, that is, through ritual acts which function directly, without any object serving as media, and in that way shorten the communication channel to a great extent.
Following the development of the authors (spi)rituals through time, and having in mind the above mentioned thoughts and observations, one inevitably comes to certain conclusions concerning the seriousness and intellectuality of the artists engagement in his work. But it is not a kind of engagement which tends to criticize norms of behaviour and thinking. Its purpose is to bring one to his own self in the noblest way. (Spi)rituals such as Love (Belgrade, 1984) in which the author hugs and caresses a map of the world hung on the wall, with words I love you constantly repeating from a tape recorder (a line from Elvis Pressleys song Love Me Tender), Inspiriting of Vransko Lake (Vransko Lake, 1990), where through inspiration, i. e. paying deep attention to the lake, it becomes a work of art itself, then Be Grateful Child to Mother Earth (Sremski Karlovci, 1990), where he puts some inspired water from the lake on palms of hands of members of the audience, performing thus a transmission of inspiration, The Resurrection of the World (Milan, 1991), where he pours the inspired, consecrated water over some soil brought from Yugoslavia, Street Encounters (Novi Sad, 1991) in which, during a nine-hours conversation with passers-by, he points out that one should not go blindly down the streets, but pay more attention to other people, or A Student of Goodness (Novi Sad, 1992) in form of a lecture at the Philosophy Faculty during the students demonstrations, as well as Landmark of Love (Senta, 1993), during which a stone was dug into the town park ground, a stone representing the collective memory of the gathered group of people, left there to radiate with love, and similar (spi)rituals can be explained with lines written by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen: LOVE IS A FIRE / IT BURNS EVERYONE / IT DISFIGURES EVERYONE / IT IS THE WORLDS EXCUSE / FOR BEING UGLY.
Andrej Tisma, however, does not see the world as something ugly, and thinks it is, in fact, worth fighting for. He does not do that by using the characteristic, usual language of engaged art (like aggressiveness, shock and irony) although he is sometimes close to those elements as reaction to reality: You Cant Buy Love, Faith, Friends and Art (Amsterdam, 1990) is an action with a stamp with the title engraved on it, whose prints he distributed at a symposium Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy (The Stedelijk Museum), Declaration of Peace (Sremski Karlovci, 1991), in which he breaks knives in The Peace Chapel, Air-Raid Alarm (Novi Sad, 1992) in which Tisma threw plastic military toy airplanes into a jar of water, Love from Cage (Belgrade, 1993) he spent some time in a metal cage placed in one of the busiest streets of central Belgrade, or The New World Ordure (Novi Sad, 1994), which is a parody of one personality which symbolizes world power.
Trying to awaken in people a consciousness of belonging to humankind and everyones mutual dependence (Love), putting an accent on the right of individual freedom and equality of races (Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite 1789-1989 and Stigmatization), on the relations between an individual on the one hand, and nature and social environment on the other (Be Grateful Child to Mother Earth, 43 Cubic Meters of Love, or Tisma at Delifrance) or on relations of an individual to another individual (Street Encounters and Spirit Control) as well as on his personal attitude toward centers of power (Encounter in my Heart), this artist creates a spiritual space which unifies and crystallizes emotions which are rather general and common than personal, and, in relation to the society, they are not a reflection of the world outside, even to a lesser extent are they an expression of the artists own consciousness or feeling, but they are, in fact, first of all, catalysts of the collective consciousness.
Many (spi)rituals performed by Andrej Tisma have been documented in various ways. Most of them, the documents were made with a stamp designed by the author himself, or they were in forms of photocopies of documentary photograph collage, art postcard, silk-screen, but also made in a way typical of processual art. The following example illustrates the way, and it can be followed in the series of performed (spi)rituals, beginning with The Inspiriting of Vransko Lake. Before he went on holiday, Tisma noticed in a picture taken from a satellite (in a map atlas) that Vransko Lake looks like an eye gazing at the Universe, so he decided to transmit his inspiration to the lake in a direct contact with it. (Instead of painting a landscape, I wanted to emit my own enthusiasm to it Tisma said.) In the same year, when he returned, he performed the (spi)ritual entitled Be Grateful Child to Mother Earth, in front of a wall with picture showing the transmission of inspiration to Vransko Lake projected on it, he distributed the inspirited water from the lake among the audience putting it on palms of everyones hand (I want to transfer the inspiration I felt on the lake to you, not by a painting but by means of this water.) Next year (1991) he uses water from Vransko Lake once again, during a (spi)ritual performed in Paris, during the Gulf Crisis. He pours the inspired water over a piece of soil brought from Iraq (a tile from the tower of Babylon), in order to clean it from layers of evil (an association of the act of Christening), saying his wish for peace. Later he used water from the lake as one of the props for Resurrection of the World, the above described (spi)ritual performed in Milan. After that, in a very impressive (spi)ritual entitled Declaration of Peace (a slide illustrating the Resurrection of the World was shown, and a stone from Illyric times, a prop from the (spi)ritual Illyrians, Forgive Us, which had previously been performed below the palace of Queen Teuta, was placed in the center of The Peace Chapel) he spilt the soil used in Milan around the audience and eventually took knives from candle stands placed in four major directions, broke them one by one and put candles in their places, with words: I declare peace!. Tisma explained his motives with the following: In the place where the 1699 world peace treaty was signed, I intended to evoke the event strongly because of numerous similarities in todays situation.
By awakening spirituality in the field of his own existence in space and time, Andrej Tisma does not only confirm himself as an artist, but also brings to the surface or reality some categories of value buried deep inside every being, which have been - whether we are willing to admit it or not suppressed through time.
Sad, Yugoslavia, 1952) graduated from Academy of Fine Arts in Prague,
Czechoslovakia in 1976. From the early '70s Tisma was concerned with concrete
poetry, mail-art, photography, xerox, and since '80s with performance
art and video. He has had solo exhibitions beginning in 1972 in Novi Sad,
Belgrade, New York, Milan, Seoul, Munich, Naples, and San Francisco. Since
1996 Tisma has been working in the field of digital graphics and web-art.
He has been publishing art criticism and essays since 1976. Tisma lives
in Novi Sad, Serbia working as an artist, art critic, and curator.]