Nika Šimičić


The Youth Salon traditionally gathers artists up to the age of 35. The society we live in with our constant need for labeling has called this generation of people millennials. (William Strauss and Neil Howe coined the term in 1987. The term Generation Y is also used for the same generation). They are children of baby boomers from the 1950s, them being baby boomers themselves. The baby boom happens at a time when society feels safe, looks positively to the future, and generally, optimism reigns. Basic needs, according to Maslow's hierarchy, are met and an individual can devote himself to some other, more sublime categories on that pyramidal ladder. It might be too frivolous to consider this specific set of circumstances to be the cause of all the changes in the nature of an entire generation, but it certainly contributes to them.

To begin with, it should be emphasized that all of the text below refers to the Western social circle, to which, if not already in purchasing power, we belong culturally (many of the characteristics mentioned above apply only to white, middle-class children, that grew up in families where they were said that they could achieve anything they imagined while their "helicopter parents" were hovering protectively above them) and serves as a platform for young artists to reflect on what makes them members of that generation, the problems they face in our specific socio-economic context and it should invite them to be critical, but also to bring the wider cultural public closer to their world.

The information age and the global phenomenon of the rise of digital technologies and social networks have brought about unprecedented freedoms and benefits for the individual, but also some new problems, peculiar only to people of today. They, utterly de-concentrated, are unable to read any longer text, so the transmission of information is more or less reduced to bombastic news headlines, and communication to abbreviations and emoticons. The average Generation Y representative is frantically scrolling through information and swiping images. It suffocates in a pile of visual stimuli and continually sets itself unrealistic, perfectionist expectations, that come from consuming the vast amount of lies it also produces. The flourishing of the marketing and entertainment industry, which is why this era is often called the advertising age, has greatly contributed to the problem. The fish can hold focus for 9 seconds. The modern man, scanning information such as a scanning device in a neighborhood store, only 8. Did that actually devolve humans? It certainly hindered him, and all the benefits of technology are becoming a stressor, so the whole generation, though always smiling on Instagram, is actually deeply unhappy and frustrated with the daily struggle of existential nausea, to refer to the 1930s classic of European literature (Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea (La Nausée, 1938)). Depression has become the most common disease, and burn out syndrome and tips on how to deal with it in 72 steps are omnipresent, almost as much as a diet for cleansing after the holidays, recipes and miraculous exercises that will turn you into a Brazilian beauty or a Hollywood actor in just 2 minutes a day.

Globalization, hyper-production, and daring capitalism have made everything available to this generation. Everything is cheap and replaceable. From objects to human relationships. Young people today are confident and aware of their values, ambitious and educated, but also selfish and narcissistic, so it is not surprising that in 2006 psychologist Jean Twenge coined a new term - Generation I. Jung's Puer Aeternus or Peter Pan can serve us almost perfectly to depict the archetypal millennial, which is in a permanent search for his life purpose, although almost always this search becomes a purpose in itself. Puer aeternus (Latin name for "eternal boy"), in mythology, is forever a young god - a child. In psychology, this is a grown-up person whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level and is also known as Peter Pan Syndrome. Puer usually lives from day to day. He longs for independence and freedom, opposes borders and restrictions, and considers them unacceptable. In analytical psychology founded by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, puer aeternus is an example of one of the structural elements of the human psyche.

Perceptually saturated, insane and anxious, they will change a dozen jobs during their lifetime, which is the complete opposite of their parents, who (mostly) gained security and retirement in the same job, usually in state-owned companies and would go to same resorts on the Adriatic coast where they would take their children every summer (unless they lived at sea) and enjoyed the light notes on the terraces of socialist hotels.). It is the result of the Recession (the financial crisis that started in 2007) and the chaotic labor market situation.

It is a generation that is more or less completely pacified, open to being different, tolerant, and politically correct. It respects the heritage and culture of everyone, celebrating differences and togetherness. Both locally and globally. Young people have never volunteered in such large numbers (although, to be a bit cynical, that volunteering is often just a line on their bucket list next to which a tick should be placed, and volunteering places are very rarely Babina Greda, and much more often exotic Tanzania). It is a generation that doesn't stay in the same place for a long time, speaks a lot of languages (even when it doesn't know them, they speak confidently) to learn something about a new culture and tradition, and in a month enthusiastically prepare tofu with sprouts and bamboo for parents. so they can turn their noses around disgustingly, calling it swill and offering them stuffed paprika from the fridge to eat "something normal".

Yes, they still live with their parents. This is because of the comfort, simplicity, and the same stuffed mom's paprika, but also due to opportunities for stable employment being so bad and high real estate prices. Ph.D. students fill shelves in Kaufland, but they are always smiling and saving money for a new trip (because they have never been more affordable or cheaper). They seldom travel to the same place twice, and in one place they linger briefly in constant search of new sensory stimuli. The need to accumulate experiences goes beyond the need for vacation as it once was.

It’s a generation that cares little about preserves (unless it’s some special fig jam with carob and arancini), or marriage and starting a family, and much more about personal freedom and the search for meaning. Much later, if at all, they marry. Being alone is not a shame. On the contrary, being solo is desirable. To explore and experiment. In short, to enjoy without responsibility to another human being. They are prone to activism, socially engaged, altruistic, and liberal. They are careful about choosing the quality of food, respect the work of another person, and are deeply disappointed by the cruelty. They adopt animals and are ecologically aware, physically active, eager to connect with nature, but also overburdened with their appearance. The interests they have would certainly be called nerdy in the past. Today it is acceptable and modern, and knowledge and learning are celebrated.

So, in the hope that I have looked objectively enough at the general characteristics of this generation and remained neutral enough, I conclude the following: we are conditioned by race, environment and the moment in which we live (Hippolyte Adolphe Taine gave a theoretical basis for the naturalistic movement in French literature and is one of the major proponents of sociological positivism, Taine is remembered for his three-pronged approach to the contextual study of works of art, based on aspects such as race, mile and moment.) and we learn from an early age to be part of a social community, avoiding any excessive deviations from the norm, so as not to be excluded from it. Belonging is one of the basic human needs, even if we were aware that as sheep we run in a circle because that first sheep decided to do so. However, belonging to one generation does not mean that we are all the same, nor is it my desire to generalize all young people too much with this text, completely denying their individuality. The desire is to encourage dialogue and debate. To provoke a reaction and see how millennials see themselves.


Nika Šimičić was born in Zagreb in 1988. She completed her graduate studies in History of Art and Ukrainian Language and Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb (2014). She dealt with the topics of architectural heritage, participated in research, translated and exhibited at professional conferences, and her works were found in various anthologies and journals such as Kvartal and Zarez. She worked as a curator-coordinator at ULUPUH, and since 2017 she has been the Gallery coordinator of the Bačva i Karas gallery at Home of HDLU.