Dante Buu’s point of view is as unique as the pieces he is producing for the Venice Biennale this year.
Her colorful embroideries are sculptural pieces affixed to flexible metal rods that can be manipulated to cause the pieces to change shape. Buu himself constantly transforms his forms of expression. Using video, performance art, photography, text and textiles, Buu challenges notions of alienation, sexuality, intimacy and identity.
His works will represent Montenegro at the “Art World Olympics” in 2022.
“I am the first artist of Muslim origin to come out publicly as gay in the Balkans,” Buu insists. “It’s a concept with a specific wording that I use. Of course, there are others and I do not deny their existence. It’s about making a statement to the world.
Originally from Rožaje, which borders Serbia and Kosovo, Buu grew up feeling lonely, due to his homosexuality and his Muslim faith. Books and movies were and still are his comfort.
His loneliness shines through in the photograph “If you want to fuck me, you don’t have to pretend it’s for the art”, in which a dapper Buu is enveloped by men in suits who offer to light his cigarette . It is a direct reference to the film ‘Malèna’ by Guiseppe Tornatore in which the character of Monica Bellucci pulls out a cigarette and men demand to light it. At that time, she decides to prostitute herself to survive. Malèna’s husband is said to have been killed in the war, she is short of money. It’s a precious moment, in Buu’s eyes, of empowerment.
“Every human being in this world is relevant. There is no person supremacy. Unfortunately, we live in a world where wealth dictates supremacy.
Minority in Montenegro
Dating his parents at the age of 14, he credits the support of his family for strengthening his sense of self. Buu also spent some time in Sarajevo before securing an artist-at-risk grant from the Martin Roth Initiative, arriving in Berlin in 2021. He still regularly returns home to Rožaje.
“I come from two minorities in Montenegro. I was constantly bullied and bullied as a child. In fact, there is no difference between children and adults in this way.
Buu sees his existence as a resistance to uniformity, a feeling that shines through in his works.
“I stand up for myself given my background and then, in the face of the art world which also has abuse and abuse of artists.”
After coming from the sidelines, Buu won major scholarships and awards. He has become artist-in-residence at venues such as KulturKontakt Austria and Ankara’s Queer Art Program. This fall, he will join CEC ArtsLink in New Orleans.
More recently, he was selected for one of the most important contemporary art residencies in Germany, Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin. Christoph Tannert, artistic director of the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, calls Buu’s art “true and beautiful”.
“He buries himself in the wounds of the soul”, notes Tannert “All he exudes is an almost tender humility which he shows to all who enter into dialogue with him.”
Performing Arts and Social Affairs
Buu’s performance works are meant to challenge our sense of intimacy as well as the art world’s emphasis on production and theme. He values lasting performances because they are not just objects to be purchased or seen casually without the presence of the artist. For Buu, each performance is different, ineffable, impossible to reproduce exactly.
“He is driven by a desire for truth that is often so deep and existential that it leaves you speechless,” says Tannert.
“The international art scene is characterized by routine. Dante Buu relies on breaking the norm.
One of his most notable performances took place in 2015 at the , a center for contemporary art in Graz, Austria. Entitled The Winner Takes It All, it features Buu in front of a video monotonously singing ABBA’s famous song with its melancholy harmony, supported by two pasted videos: one shows homosexuals dancing happily in a new-fashioned nightclub. York girl and the other, in stark contrast, is from a YouTube video of a group of Russian men beating up a gay man.
Russian “gay hunters” have been known to lure gay men into attacks by hiding in gay chat groups.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Buu admits. “The video is both executioner and victim. That’s what happens in life. We all have a personal responsibility to each other, but I find that people don’t. There’s a moment in the YouTube video where a man tries to stop the beatings, and then they explain to him why they’re doing it and he joins them.
At the Bethanien in Berlin, Buu confronted the audience with two performances. One, entitled “and you, you die happy? featured Buu in a window, standing in the middle of a phone call with watery mascara running down her face, four hours a day for eight days. A performance he repeated twice in different places in the city. While at thigh height, he displayed some of the embroidery he has been working on since 2020 while showing off motionless for 27 days, five hours a day.
“I’m obsessed with time and what it means for artwork. With the performance, we see the time, but the work is ephemeral. With the embroidery, we see the result, but we have a fleeting idea of how long it took to produce – the first one I did took four years,” Buu explains.
Buu’s embroidery work began in 2014 after her father fell from a cherry tree. While her mother waited in the hospital for her father to wake up, Buu, who has seen her grandmother, aunts and mother embroider throughout their lives, started a piece in black. It ended up being 2 meters long.
Embroidery and class in Montenegro
“It’s a job that’s denigrated because if you’re poor in a place like Montenegro, you have to make things, and the women did that, it’s also part of their dowry. This is the kind of women’s work that is made invisible.
Buu invited her mother, in anticipation of the Biennale, to create a new piece of embroidery. She starts at one end and they meet in the middle. They take anywhere from three months to years to complete depending on their different sizes.
“I just tell her to pick the colors randomly and go with her feelings. There’s no planning and she’s the only one who can do it.
Five of Buu’s pieces will feature in Montenegro’s contribution to the Venice Biennale from April to November.
It has been a difficult journey from Rožaje to the Biennale, where Buu’s work will be in the international spotlight, but he remains firm, reluctant to meet the needs of mainstream audiences.
“Artists often have to say that they are influenced by such – from the canon of Western European art by straight male artists. But what is art history? It’s not that .
“It’s something we were sold and it’s not the truth.”