Croatia-born, Munich-based artist Jadranka Kosorcic has spent most of her career organizing blind dates. The set up is standard romantic fare: two people who have never met set a time and place and chat for a few hours, getting to know each other in the process. But Kosorcic’s dates don’t happen at a bar or coffee shop, they unfold in her studio; the "couple" is composed of the artist herself and a brave volunteer subject; the entire conversation is recorded; and the tangible outcome is a seemingly rudimentary charcoal portrait. The sketch and the conversation are exhibited together, the voice of the sitter animating an unembellished, barebones drawing.
Kosorcic finds her subjects through a simple request that is both on her website and in emails she sends to potential candidates: “Artist is looking for people e m/f willing to pose for a portrait. Time spent: 1-3 h. Send photo to email@example.com.” The artist has been having “Blind Dates” since 1995 in Berlin, Munich, London, Malmö, and New York. She hopes to add Tokyo to the list in the future. This May, Kosorcic’s first U.S. solo show at Jack Hanley Gallery was well received and she is currently living in New York as an artist-in-residence at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) residency in Bushwick, a few blocks from 3rd Ward. During her time at the ISCP, Kosorcic is drawing portraits for a project on people working in the New York art world, a commission for Berlin-based contemporary art magazine Artinvestor, which will publish ten drawings alongside snippets of the recorded conversations she had while sketching her subjects.
In a spirit of journalistic inquiry, I responded to an email sent on Kosorcic's behalf by White Columns, who will be showing her work this December at NADA Miami. I met her at the studio without many expectations of how our date would unfold. Kosorcic is very tall, though not imposing; she wears her hair short and dresses practically and unassumingly. The artist's soft-spoken, accented English is good, but not perfect, making it easy enough to carry on a conversation for the nearly three hours I spent being drawn. She started by asking me where I was from and what trends I saw in the New York art scene, and I asked her about her work and her travels. She told me stories about growing up in Croatia, being invited at the last minute to Olafur Eliasson’s Christmas party in Berlin, and fishing trips to Greek volcanic islands.
We joked about Marina Abramovic and her MoMA staring contest "The Artist Is Present" while I was there, but the comparison is apt. Still, this was not a transcendental, tear-inducing experience with a silent, berobed artist-deity. It was a casual conversation with a very down-to-earth and well-traveled woman who just happened to be wielding a sketchpad. The conversation was long: at times funny, at times awkward, and at times entirely lost in translation.
In Kosorcic’s project, identity is captured in two different ways. I created my own identity in our conversation, constructing a semblance of my own personality that was recorded and archived on tape. She captured my image on paper, translating my features into a series of simple, sparse lines. But what is unique about Kosorcic's project is her emphasis on the experience — the sketch seems like an excuse for the conversation. Over-the-top artist-induced experiences, from the likes of Tino Sehgal or Mike Nelson, are standard fare, but here the experience was more personal, more tactile. Being sketched is an odd experience, easily yielding to miscommunication and misrepresentation. Kosorcic’s project captures both the futility and delight of the endeavor.