31-day online gallery with artworks by Ex-Yugoslavian artists living in diaspora

31-day online gallery with artworks by Ex-Yugoslavian artists living in diaspora

Each day in July, 2019, I will highlight one artwork by an artist from former Yugoslavia who left the country after the 90s and whose artworks I find interesting in relation to the phenomenology of place and the expanded notion of belonging, including the concept of inbetweenness. 


July 22nd

Artwork: Repriza/Uzvracanje (Reprise/Response), 2018

Artist: Damir Avdagić

The artist’s description of the artwork:

In “Repriza/Uzvracanje (Reprise/Response)” 4 people in their mid-60s, originally from Ex-Yugoslavia, perform a transcribed conversation from the piece “Reenactment/Process” from 2016 in which four people in their mid-20s discuss the inter-generational frictions they experience between themselves and their parents, relating to the conflict in Ex-Yugoslavia.
The participants in “Repriza/Uzvracanje (Reprise/Response)” perform the transcribed conversation and react to the content, commenting on issues of responsibility, guilt, shame and and the legacy of communism in the wake of the conflict.
“Reenactment/Process” from 2016 and “Repriza/Uzvracanje (Reprise/Response)” from 2018 make up a body of work that stretches a historical time period between two generations and reflects on how the past echoes in the present.

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The film Repriza/Uzvracanje (Reprise/Response) will be show during the seminar “Looking for another space of belonging” in Copenhagen in august 2019. The seminar exploring the notion of belonging through the work of artists from former Yugoslavia – especially those who left the country after the 90’s

Speaker: Tanja Ostojić, René Block, Irfan Hošić, Rainald Schumacher, Adnan Softić, Claudia Zini, Carsten Juhl, Jeppe Wedel-Brandt and Tijana Mišković
Venue: Kunsthal Charlottenborg (cinema space at mezzanine on the 1st floor), Nyhavn 2, 1051 Copenhagen K

Please follow the link for more information:

Looking for another space of belonging


July 21st

Artwork: Bigger Than Life

Artist: Adnan Softic

The artist’s description of the artwork:

In Skopje, a government plan costing several hundred million euros is creating a brand new, ancient city center; the project is called “Skopje 2014.” So far, some thirty government buildings and museums, as well as countless monuments in the classic style have been erected in the Macedonian capital, in an attempt to put Skopje on a par with Rome and Athens. In some cases, existing socialist structures were incorporated into the new builds.
A city looks for a future in history – Macedonia is inventing itself as a nation with historical status based on a model of antiquity that never existed in that form. Would that be something new? Will we buy that (hi)story?

In “Bigger Than Life” present-day Skopje becomes an archaeological dig. We can follow in real time how history is made, how antiquity is constructed, how historical singularities are manufactured via mimicry, and how the boundary between truth and falsification becomes blurred the minute something is recorded often enough on postcards.
A variety of differing ways of looking at the ongoing construction in Skopje produces a puzzle about multi-ethnic states and the phantasm of national purity, about romanticism and love, the relationship between personal memories and collective memory, and about how a history built on empty claims can actually take on substance.

AUTHOR, DIRECTOR: Adnan Softić,
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Helena Wittmann, Adnan Softić,
EDITING: Nina Softić,
MUSIC: Daniel Dominguez Teruel, Adnan Softić,
SINGERS: Alexey Liosha Kokhanov, Pauline Jacob…

………………………………………………

The film will be show during the seminar “Looking for another space of belonging” in Copenhagen in august 2019. The seminar exploring the notion of belonging through the work of artists from former Yugoslavia – especially those who left the country after the 90’s

Speaker: Tanja Ostojić, René Block, Irfan Hošić, Rainald Schumacher, Adnan Softić, Claudia Zini, Carsten Juhl, Jeppe Wedel-Brandt and Tijana Mišković
Venue: Kunsthal Charlottenborg (cinema space at mezzanine on the 1st floor), Nyhavn 2, 1051 Copenhagen K

Please follow the link for more information:

Looking for another space of belonging

 


July 2oth

Artwork: Greetings from Montenegro 2007-2009

Artist: Alen Aligrudic

The artist’s description of the artwork:

In 2006 Montenegro was the last of the republics in the former Yugoslavia to proclaim its independence. Alen Aligrudic wanted to document the changes after that historic moment, and travelled through the largely empty country. It faces a future which, according to him, is anything but rosy. From the first day of independence, foreign investors have been buying up the land and real estate. The Mediterranean climate makes the ground so desirable that the lure of turning a quick profit on it has now destroyed rural life and the agrarian sector. At the same time the change-over to a knowledge and service economy has proven difficult. Many former residents of the countryside are also moving to the coast or the capital, Podgorica, leaving rural areas even more depopulated than they were before.

My free reflection on the work: 

At the moment, I’m in Svedborg – a harbour town in southern Denmark. Several times a day I go to the sea and look at the boats. The question that has been circling my mind for the last couple of days has been What is local, and what is global? Or What do I consider local vs. global? 

And I can feel that maybe watching the sea from the harbour is slowly changing my vision of locality. At least, the water reflections make me reflect on my positioning and belonging to a place.

Often I feel my personal feeling of belonging is based on experiences. This feeling could also be called “experiential nearness”, and it is characterized by the fact that it functions across space and time. Sometimes I can feel (both sentimentally and practically) more connected to places and people far away from me or to historical moments that took place far before I was born. I guess most people have a similar feeling from time to time. This is experiential locality, which goes beyond physical reality. It is an open kind of particular locality, which, for a moment, could look like the idealized concept of universality.

While I’m sitting on the harbour and watching the sea, several times I’m hit by an almost physical feeling of wanting to sail away, to travel away into the unknown open sea and leave the local position behind. My friend who lives in Svendborg tells me often about the many wives of local sailors who stayed home “on land” while their husbands were “at sea”. These women must have had the same adventurous necessity to travel and sail away.

Maybe they were sitting at the very same spot watching over the same horizon as I am. They probably  worried sometimes about their husbands, trying to look for a silhouette of a ship arriving in the distance. But I’m sure that other times, they dreamed away in a spirit of wanderlust, driven by a desire to detach themselves from the local anchor and embark upon new adventures in the wide-open sea. It is impressive how the sea makes us dream away from the local into something more universal.

Alen Aligrudic’s photograph came to my mind several times today. Sometimes I felt like I was the big rock in his artwork – stocked, heavy, and unmovable, but wanting to sail away in the open sea. And in the other moments, I was thinking that the rock is not a physical thing, but a living being that represents an accumulation of our experiences. The more we experience, the more open our locality becomes. In this case, the growing massiveness of the rock was positive.


July 19th

Artwork: The Didactic Wall, 2019

Artist:  Mladen Miljanovic

For two days ago I came back to Copenhagen after spending two short days in the border town of Bihac, where the refugees are trying to cross the border from Bosnia to Croatia daily. I took part in a roundtable discussion organized by curator, Irfan Hošić in connection to the Mladen Miljanovic exhibition.

During the event, I was looking at the long gallery space. On one side there was a wall with the relief-like artwork in shiny stone and with drawings of people moving through the border zone. On the other side, there were windows, more or less similar in size to the artwork, through which one could see people walking up and down the pedestrian street. It was like seeing a mirror reflection with a twist, showing art on one side and the reality on the other.

Then it was my turn to answer one of Irfan’s questions at the roundtable, and I brought up the notion of Limbo as an in-between space (something that later that day – thanks to Ajla Borozan and other reflective participants of Kuma International – provoked an interesting discussion about my interpretation of the refugee situation at the moment, in which I had to explain that I was not overlooking the urgency and necessity of solving the problem of refugees, and that my point was not arrogantly to use a Christian term to justify the devastating feeling of ”being in the limbo”, but rather to use Limbo as a model for thinking about and imagining the third space.)

Suddenly a woman from the audience said that in the building just across the street from the gallery, at that very same moment, local politicians were also debating the refugee situation, but from a very different point of view; Instead of creating helping manuals for survival, they were trying to develop rules and “manuals” for making life more difficult for the refugees. I thought to myself that maybe we should go there and demonstrate or that we should invite them here to listen to our visions.

That is when I discovered that we were sitting in the Limbo-space of in-betweenness I was referring to – Gradska Galerija Bihać was exactly between the two realities, acting as a bridge between the artwork that tries to relate to the world outside the gallery and the window to the world outside pushing its way into the gallery.

Actually, Bihać itself is the “third space” where constructive reflections can take place. Exactly because it is a place of tension, grey-zone, uncertainty, and even conflicts, it can be the place of potentiality with important reflections and discussion, just as this exhibition and roundtable debate was attempting to be. We know that crises often generate creativity and inventive visions. Thinking in this way, it could be possible to transform the frustrating situation in Bihać into a situation for pioneering thinking in new directions and models that can help solve the alarming local situation but also be useful beyond the local context.

It is not easy to deal with urgent migration problems through art; it automatically activates problematic questions regarding ethics, empathy, the role of the artist in society, the potential of art to make a socio-political change, etc. Coming from the world of art and culture, one might easily end up making several unsuccessful attempts before finding a meaningful form to deal with the burning issues of our society. But it is important and brave to try. This is why I would like to support Mladen, Irfan as well as the team of Gradska Galerija Bihać. Thanks for being brave and trying to create meaningful and reflective art projects within this complex “space of Limbo”.


The curator of the exhibtion, Irfan Hošić  did a text for the exhibtion which is, as he says also” thinking about Bihać as a limbo-space caused by territorial restrictions. Methapor-like construction could be extracted as well. From the one side there is hell from where the migrants and refugees are fleeing; on the other side there is also their desired geographic objective (EU); in-between is Bihać. The city became a symbol of enslaved human freedom. It is a social biotope that creates an environment conductive to development of categories of victims and illegality — all under the cloak of NGO humanitarianism.

A text by Irfan Hošić

Introduction

The Didactic Wall by the artist Mladen Miljanović is a subversive educational installation that focuses on the issue of migrants, refugees, displaced persons and apatrids, and the difficulties they face when moving towards their desired geographic objective. This is an engaged set of illustrations that address directly those who, in an “illegal” way, are trying to cross national borders to get to their “land of dreams”. The Didactic Wall is a kind of an instruction on how to overcome natural and artificial barriers an “illegal” person on the move may possibly come across.

The trigger for conception of this work is a massive halt of the migrants and refugees in Bihać as a result of literal closing of the green border by the border service of the neighbouring Croatia to serve as a defensive wall for the Western Europe.[1] The North-Western part of Bosnia is the most protruding and the closest to EU when travelling from the Western Balkans on the way to Slovenia, and as such, it is a logical point for migrants’ settling, gathering, regrouping and rethinking the rest of the travel through the well protected borders of European Union. For the migrants and refugees, Bihać has become a place “on the edge” in the literal meaning of the expression. The place of imprisonment between two realities – one that they are headlessly running away from, and the other – they are madly running to. Essentially, Bihać has turned into a dangerous place that reflects a difficult and unpleasant position of the “people on the move”. Paradoxically, it has become a symbol of enslaved human freedom, although it is a transit location, where migrants don’t want to stay for a long time. A limbo caused by territorial restrictions, all under the cloak of NGO humanitarianism, has created an environment conductive to development of categories of victims and illegality. The triangle between the government institutions, citizens and migrants, in a country like Bosnia and Herzegovina, is determined by establishing repressive control measures, which in turn lead to establishment of inequality in the process of depolitization.

Situation that has evolved over the past few months by activation of the so-called migrant route through Bosnia and Herzegovina is complex, and involves a number of different dimensions – the interest of the EU countries who want to prevent new inflow of “stowaways” at any cost; the interest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has no capacities to cope with this challenge; the interests of the migrants and refugees who do not want to stay long term in Bosnia and Herzegovina or Croatia, but hope for a passage to Italy, Germany or other European countries. What adds to particularity of the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina – not only due to the economic circumstances and lack of material capacities in the country to rise up to this challenge – is a very specific and almost complicated internal organization as defined in the Dayton Peace Accords.[2] The new situation with migrants and refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina has once again confirmed the country’s inability to cope with this and numerous other challenges of a similar kind, what in turn suggests the inexistence of rule of law and security apparatus that would ensure political and social stability of its citizens.

Because of everything stated above, the Miljanović’s Didactical Wall exposes at least three key positions as a kind of three-dimensional interpretative framework. Those are: (a) the artist’s engaged approach that sensitizes our society to the issue of migration, and views the “people on the move” in the spirit of the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees as a vulnerable social group;[3] (b) the artist’s subversive approach that very deliberately undermines security standards of the government apparatuses; (c) the artist’s (visual art) approach that points at the optics and perspectives that nevertheless may serve as a basis for some form of visual analysis.

When attempting to understand the Didactic Wall, it is impossible to avoid ideological and economic perspectives that imply that the causes of massive movement of people from countries such as Pakistan, Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and others are directly linked to imperialistic and neo-colonial strivings of the developed West. Numerous wars since 11 September 2001, unjustified military interventions, as well as global fiscal malfeasance have caused permanent instabilities in the developing countries. Poverty of African, Asian and Latin American regions is a cause of the global emigration wave that has led to a discrepancy between material hunger at the global North and physiological hunger at the global South. In this context, the Miljanović’s work takes a clear stand that migrants and refugees, as collateral victims of disastrous policies, have absolute right to be accepted, socialized and integrated in the mainstreams of the developed West.

Subversivness of the artistic concept of Mladen Miljanović is seen in the fact of his undermining the idea of borders as a symbol of state-building power that is so easily linked to modern ideas of national and territorial sovereignty. Re-establishment of borders between EU countries has generated a new wave of collective re-identification leading to affirmation of nationalism and right-wing ideas. Abundance of violence by border services (Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary) is a sort of response to fictional undermining the idea of border by “illegal” attempts to cross it. Numerous are the cases of abuse and torture used as a method of systemic intimidation and deterrence from trying to cross the green border again. The practice of organized pushback is in most cases accompanied by hitting and other violent strategies used by Croatian Border Police, and what is of a particular concern is the fact that these are not isolate cases.[4] This habit of the Croatian police – some thirty years after the war – acquires the bitter taste of the conflicts from 1990s – where the ideas of borders responded to ethnic, religious and linguistic divisions in the disintegrating country. Encouraged by Trump’s win in the USA and the Brexit in the United Kingdom, preconditions were put in place in some European Union countries for “emerging social and economic apartheid”[5]

 

Photos by Gradska Galerija Bihać

Border as a social narrative

Artistic opus by Mladen Miljanović shows his obvious interest to repeatedly and almost obsessively contemplate the issue of borders. Whether those were geographic borders, as in the case of the Didactic Wall, or social or mental borders that exist in the society where he lives, Miljanović takes the issue of barriers/limits/borders as a kind of backbone to his artwork. Conception of such practice may be linked to his earliest works, like Dobrodišli (Welcome) from 2005, and Služim Umjetnosti (I Serve the Art) from 2006/07. The first one is an explicit reference to the territorial shape of Bosnia and Herzegovina drawn by a hanging rope (possible punishment or suicide), while the latter work is a marathon project that lasted 274 days, where the artist’s body had been pushed to the limits of endurance in a voluntary isolation in the former military barracks Vrbas in Banjaluka.[6] Miljanović continued the practice of testing individual and collective abilities in the performance Na ivici (On the Edge) given at numerous locations since 2011 to date, where he literally hangs at the edge of a fence, while opening of his exhibition is in progress inside the building. His many performances and actions are coded with elements that examine personal or social restrictions, such as Pritisak želja (Pressure of Desires) that was performed on the eve of opening of the Bosnia and Herzegovina’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2013, when the artist was holding a heavy marble slate for about an hour and a half, with short messages responding to question “Dear friend, what would you like to see in the pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Venice?” In his most recent video, Zvuci rodnog kraja (Sounds of the Homeland) he gathers veterans from three warring armies and asks them about the purpose of their engagement in the war during the 1990s, questions the conflicting borders, and relativizes their significance to the level of banality. The common theme of all these works is ironization of the imposed barriers between individuals and groups, and an almost subversive attitude towards social norms and customs that foster and maintain such borders.

The borders as a theme of art is, of course, present in BiH art of other artists too.[7] This reflects the social reality where divisions and restrictions make an integral part of daily life, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina this daily life is marked by series of border systems, such as the two entities, one separate district, and ten administratively separate cantons. This phenomenon has been the object of interest of Maja Bajević, Šejla Kamerić, Veso Sovilj, Gordana Anđelić Galić, Andrej Đerković, Borjana Mrđa, Lana Čmajčanin and others – all of them driven mad by media-enforced theme of divisions in BiH society. From this point of view, the theme of borders suggests that there is a broadly set and rather dominant “real social substance”, because the “borders have become a sign of imprisonment, isolation, division, vulnerability, insecurity, problems and conflicts”.[8]

It is this artistic context where the Didactic Wall has its place, and Miljanović confirms his own rule that art can, but also should be, a criticism of disastrous policies, unethical rules and immoral values. The Didactic Wall is an engaged action that clearly and vocally takes position of sensitive and vulnerable population that has, by chance, been stuck not only in Bihać and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in numerous other places on this planet.

Constitution of Didactic Image

The visual language Mladen Miljanović uses originates from military literature of the former Yugoslav People Army. The artist places the educational materials used in the military schools in a completely different socio-political context. His intention is determined by the motive to create a functional and effective instruction for overcoming natural and artificial barriers, such as water bodies, injuries suffered in the wild, fences, infra-red rays, radars, etc. This is a utilitarian pictorial mission with an engaged prefix that is carried out in the medium of didactic illustration.

Such illustrations show a very clear constellation between the subject and object, and the point of view or observation of the presented situation is in most cases identified with the position of the subject. The angle of the projected view “from this side” is significant and suggests the artist’s identification with the subject. Namely, the illustrations show positions “on this” and “on the other” side using the same model that it is undoubtedly clear in military doctrine.

Miljanović’s establishment and determination of constellation between the subject and object does not allow for an avoidance of the issue of medialization of migrants as subjects. The mainstream media contribute to construction of media image of refugees, and often they do so in a wrong way, because they manage to depersonalize and dehumanize them. Therefore, the question of Miljanović’s determination and perspective in understanding of the Didactic Wall is of a central importance for ideological positioning of his own views. If by any chance the point of view had been placed “on the other side”, i. e. that the subject has been placed opposite to the viewer, it would create a visual antagonization. Although they are cold in their expression – as much as the illustrations of this type can be – they are not without emotion, and they are far from depicting migrants as the “others” and the “different ones” and therefore a potential threat, as it has been done in the mass media today.[9]

One relevant question regarding the subject is, of course, “what does he see”, i. e. “what the subject is looking at?”.[10] Miljanović’s Didactic Wall does not concern itself with this direct view, i. e. does not present it, but keeps it in mind nonetheless. In order to emphasize the didactic mission of his task, the artist very deliberately avoids the constitution of an image as seen by first person singular. So he chooses the second person singular and tells the story about the subject from a “didactic distance”, which in turn harmoniously defines the relationship between the object, the subject and the context. This makes the gaze by the migrant coded into the Miljanović’s illustration and the constituent part of the concept on which it relies, without showing it explicitly.

In visual sense, the Miljanović’s illustrations are emotionless. Since this is an educational material, the range of visual expressiveness and expression has been narrowed down to the most basic information. Character of the drawings is determined by tactical norms from military manuals and for soldiers in rear detachment.[11] The mentioned reading material from which the artist “borrowed” the templates has often been labelled by publishers as a “military secret”, suggesting the incriminating potential of the whole artistic project, mostly because the artist translates the military doctrine into civilian purposes. An additional complication is summarized in the fact that those are not “ordinary” civilians, but “stowaways” and “illegal migrants”.

Miljanović choses stone as material that has traditionally implied monumentality. By carving his drawings into such material, he wants to underline the social importance of the message he carves into it and its present significance. The attempt of artistic matching of an idea with selected materials points at the necessity of permanence in preserving its content, and the artist’s desire to avoid the trap of simply documenting a specific problem. He uses his full capacity to advocate for creating an effective instruction and set of methods for overcoming the “migrant crisis”. When doing so, the solidity of stone offers also a sacral dimension, as it inevitably reminds of the Moses’ Commandments that are believed to have been carved in stone as well. In addition, the relationship between the name of the work and the use of the word “wall” is more than obvious. Therefore, the Didactic Wall is an indestructible building and permanent monument to empathy and social responsibility that strives to achieve better society, affirmation of democratic values and human rights.

Conclusion

Earlier, Miljanović has already reflected on the process of transforming elements of military into art in his work Služim umjetnosti (I Serve the Art). His desire from a young age to build a military carrier has been weakened by processes of demilitarization of army structures of Bosnia and Herzegovina immediately after the war. As a young cadet of the military academy in the barracks Vrbas in Banjaluka, he saw the acceptance of the new profession of an artist as the only scenario after the military barracks were transformed into an Academy of Arts. This has turned Miljanić into an alchemist who transforms the elements of military into elements of a social sphere. Therefore, the Didactic Wall is a very valuable contribution to the society – a pacifist and human oriented tool that has emerged from destructive and militant didactics of sophisticated wars of today.

 

[1] Any reminiscence of the wording by Pope Leo of the 16th century about Croatia as the bulwark of Christianity (Antemurale Christianitatis) standing against invasion of the Ottoman forces is purely coincidental.

[2] Main characteristic of the unique organisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is its ethnic regionalization stemming from experiences of genocide committed during the war in 1990-ties, odd parliamentary setup with three presidents, etc.

[3] “Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees” in: UNHCR, 1951. Document available at: https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10 (last accessed on 8 March 2019).

[4] “Croatia: Migrants Pushed Back to Bosnia and Herzegovina” u: Human Rights Watch, 2018. See: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/12/11/croatia-migrants-pushed-back-bosnia-and-herzegovina (last accessed on 9 March 2019).

[5] T. J. Demos, The Migrant Image. Duke University Press, Durham and London 2013. P. 246.

[6] Služim umjetnosti (I Serve the Art) by. Mladen Miljanović, Boško Bošković (ed.). Besjeda, Banjaluka 2010.

[7] Irfan Hošić, “Granica kao metafora. Šta je to ‘bosanskohercegovačka savremena umjetnost’ (2)” in: Iz/van konteksta. Connectum, Sarajevo 2013. Pp. 132-140.

[8] Irfan Hošić, “Bosnian and Herzegovinian contemporary art and a resurgent question of context” in: Duplex 100m2 (Pierre Courtin, ed.). Sarajevo, 2019. Pp. 36-39.

[9] Sara Kekuš, Davor Konjikušić and Petra Šarin, “Uloga vizualnih narativa u konstruiranju slike migranata – poziv na solidarnost ili depolitiziranje masa?”, in: Kamen na cesti: granice, opresija i imperativ solidarnosti. Centar za ženske studije, Zagreb 2017. Pp. 114-123.

[10] Irfan Hošić, “Pikselizirana trauma između fikcije i realnosti”, u: Oslobođenje, 10.8.2018. Sarajevo 2018. https://www.oslobodjenje.ba/o2/kultura/pikselizirana-trauma-izmedu-fikcije-i-realnosti-384495 (last accessed on 22 May 2019).

[11] Taktika, Savezni sekreterijat za narodnu odbranu, Beograd 1983.; Priručnik za komandira odeljenja, Savezni sekreterijat za narodnu odbranu, Beograd 1988.; Priručnik za vojnike pozadinskih službi JNA, Savezni sekreterijat za narodnu odbranu, Beograd 1990.


July 18th

Artwork: Worth of gold when a home is made, 2007

Artist: Saša Tatić

 Saša Tatić, WORT OF GOLD WHEN A HOME IS MADE, 2007

The artist’s description of the artwork:

Old bricks, that were previously used as a material for construction of a house, still hold the potential for its recreation, a habitual place commonly accepted as home. As the identical content of two photographs, with a small intervention that created ‘before and after’ relation, they ask for recognition of fundamental values which under the flux of life often stay hidden and forgotten.

My free reflection on the work: 

This artwork of Saša Tatić carries a concept of potential in a possible construction, but visually, the bricks in her artwork remind me as much of construction elements as they remind me of ruins or something related to deconstruction and rebuilding. This is probably why the Tower of Babel came to my mind, not religiously, but rather as a model for thinking about language, which can lead to a mutual understanding as well as misunderstanding.

According to the legend, the story about the Tower of Babel goes back to the time when all people spoke the same language and humanity was united to initiate a common building project explained as such in the book of Genesis, Chapter 11  :“Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The Tower of Babel remained an unrealized idea, as God chose to punish humanity for its hubris by splitting the language common to all people into many different languages. The penalty came with this explanation: “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

After the split, the people could no longer understand each other, and thus the Tower of Babel was never built. The linguistic division today is not only traceable in terms of language differences in the world. This unfinished action has also left us with ruins that have implanted some sort of nostalgic loss into our view of history.

The ruins are important images for the understanding of the world today, and there are two distinct views of ruins. One of them is rooted in a transcendental worldview vertically pointing towards God or another greater power, while the other can be called horizontal because its worldview is placed on the immanent level. The greatest difference between the allegorists and the symbolists is based on their different concepts of history.

A beautiful image of the allegorists’ melancholy associated with the history, can be found in Swiss painter Paul Klee’s angel, who Benjamin in 1940 called the Angel of History and described in the following way: There is a picture of Klee called Angelus Novus. It depicts an angel who looks as though it was getting away from something it is staring at. Its eyes are obscured, its mouth is open, and its wings are wide. This is how the angel of history must look. It turns its face toward the past. Where, for our eyes, there is a chain of events that sees the one catastrophe that incessantly piles up ruin on ruins and throws them at the angel’s feet. It wanted to stay, wake up the dead and add it back together. But from Paradise, a storm that has its wings blowing and is so fierce that the angel can no longer fold them. This storm drives it relentlessly into the future as it turns its back, while the ruins in front of it grow into the sky. What we call progress is this storm.”

Contrary to the allegorists, the symbolists mostly interpret ruins as remnants of a whole that have occurred once in the past, and therefore (at least potentially) as remnants that may well be recreated. We could, therefore, say that the symbolists are spokesmen for a transcendental worldview and that the languages ​​for them always have a clear reference to the “common human language” – also called “Adamic language” because it (according to Chistianity) is the language Adam spoke in Paradise to communicate with God and name the animals. This kind of language is based on pure and immediate communication –  language without grammar or accents, based solely on the use of language (parola) and not the language structure (lingua).

Since Adam was expelled from paradise, the language has degenerated so that today we only experience incoherent fragments of it. The symbolists’ mission is to return to the true expression of the original language by mapping the many world languages ​​in a hierarchical system according to their respective degrees of authenticity (or how close to the language they come).  – The search for the original Adamic language takes place through empirical analysis and techniques where one attempts to map the history of language by looking at changes in, for example, bending forms and sound shifts. This science and research is driven by the idea of a common human past where there was a perfect language in which the sign and signification were assembled in an almost magical and divine primordial archetype image possessing an archaic character and expressing something beyond itself.

Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré, 1866

Returning to the image of the Tower of Babel, one could say that the symbolists’ mission is to rebuild the Tower of Babel by bringing fragments from the ruins together in a solid, upwards-striving tower with a harmonious and perfect expression depicting the transcendental idea.

The picture of the tower I would like to refer to is not the image of a solid tower, but a picture of the broken tower.

 

In the ruins of the tower, as you can see from the picture, there are a lot of remains in the form of bricks and parts of the wall that randomly lie in a pile. Maybe the only right way to navigate the world is to move between this rubble. Instead of re-connecting the remains, one could “draw” a connecting line between the fragments.

 

This would not be a connection that closes itself in one whole, but an open construction under constant change. The many sub-elements in the tower that symbolically each represent a language in the world may be related to each other again – not in the form of a vertical structure like a tower that strives for the sky, but as a network moving in the margins of tower- ruin.

Maybe in these lines we can sense a common human understanding that is not an “original language”, but another type of community based on linguistic inconsistencies and misunderstandings. And thus, it would be one that consists of a common alienation to each other’s respective languages. The untranslatable and the invisible elements of language could maybe serve us in imagining unity in the linguistic differences and cultural diversity.

 


July 17th

Artwork:

Artist:  Amel Ibrahimović 

The artist’s description of the artwork:

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin(1935): »Buildings have been man’s companions since primeval times. Many art forms have developed and perished. Tragedy begins with the Greeks, is extinguished with them, and after centuries its ‘rules’ only are revived. The epic poem, which had its origin in the youth of nations, expires in Europe at the end of the Renaissance. Panel painting is a creation of the Middle Ages, and nothing guarantees its uninterrupted existence. But the human need for the shelter is lasting. Architecture has never been idle. Its history is more ancient than that of any other art, and its claim to being a living force has significance in every attempt to comprehend the relationship of the masses to art. Buildings are appropriated in a twofold manner: by use and by perception – or rather, by touch and sight. Such appropriation cannot be understood in terms of the attentive concentration of a tourist before a famous building. On the tactile side there is no counterpart to contemplation on the optical side. Tactile appropriation is accomplished not so much by attention as by habit.«

Bosnian House Konak (2012 revised 2017) is Model House design in collaboration with Maria Engholm 2012 Iben Bach 2017

Photo credit: Torben Eskerod 2017 Marcel Stammen 2012 revised 2017 Anja Franke 2012

The project is supported by the Danish Art Workshops

My free reflection on the work:

Konak is a word that refers to a guesthouse. And when we say “na konak”, it means to sleep at someone’s place. Konak is about hospitality offered by the host to the guest – the generous welcoming gesture in the form of a place to stay. It’s the idea of an ultimate Bosnian house; Konak is thus also the idea of Bosnian hospitality, a quality one could question, especially in today’s context where border towns like Bihac are facing waves of refugees from the Middle East without always receiving them with hospitality.

The artist inherits the concept, and probably also the symbolism, of the house from his father. He transforms the drawings made by his father into a three-dimensional model. The drawing lines made by the artist’s father in Bosnia, before the war, are many years later translated into construction elements developed by the artist in Denmark, where he escaped to as a refugee. In this process, the idea becomes more concrete. Nevertheless, the model is still only a sketch; it is not a real house. Maybe this ideal house should never become a real house. Maybe it should remain as a model of potentiality maintaining the aspect of not yet realised possibilities.

We could describe Potentiality in following way (inspired by wikipedia descriptions of Physics (Aristotle)

Potentiality and potency are translations of the Ancient Greek word “dunamis”, as it is used by Aristotle as a concept contrasting with actuality. Dunamis is an ordinary Greek word for possibility or capability.

In his philosophy, Aristotle distinguished two meanings of the word dunamis. According to his understanding of nature, there was both a weak sense of potential, meaning simply that something “might chance to happen or not to happen”, and a stronger sense, to indicate how something could be done well.

Throughout his works, Aristotle clearly distinguishes things that are stable or persistent with their own strong natural tendencies towards a specific type of change, from things that appear to occur by chance.

He treats these as having a different and more real existences. “Natures which persist” are said by him to be one of the causes of all things, while natures that do not persist “might often be slandered as not being at all by one who fixes his thinking sternly upon it as upon a criminal”. The potencies that persist in a particular material are one way of describing “the nature itself”. According to Aristotle, when we refer to the nature of a thing, we are referring to the form, shape, or look of a thing, which was already present as a potential with an innate tendency to change in that material before it achieved that form, but things show what they are more fully, as a real thing, when they are “fully at work”.


July 16th

Artwork: House Museum, 2007

Artist: Katarina Šević

The artist’s description of the artwork:

House Museum is build upon a story of a house, situated on peninsula Pelješac in Dalmatia (Croatia). By adopting an archeological approach, this project explores questions of collective heritage, story telling, value systems, expanded notions of the past and the present.
Archived objects reconstruct the past by using a private, family, story. Sociological and anthropological issues of heritage are placed in the foreground, with special emphasis on how a house can become a museum, historical witness of the process with many layers. House Museum presents more than personal memorabilia, it is telling a story of an entire epoch. The question of heritage in the Balkans has always been a problematic field, for various historical and cultural reasons. House Museum is dealing with tricky issues such as repatriation and restitution in a very subtle way.

In 2003 Serbian citizens were allowed for the first time (after the fall of Yugoslavia), to enter Croatian territory without visas. Finally, people had the possibility to enter again the territory banned for thirteen years, some of them even to visit their own (summer) houses.
My family’s summer house was build in 1972, in Žuljana, a small village on the Peninsula of Pelješac. When we found it again in 2004, only the flat roof and the walls were left, and it was obvious that different people had visited and used it. Some village neighbors said that there were soldiers, homeless and immigrants coming and going…

In the last few years, every summer, we spend a month there, trying to restore the house by ourselves. Just the clearing of the rubbish took several week. In and around the house we came across different objects, some of which we kept. Together they become readable and bear witness to the history of one house.

We have decided to catalogue the found objects and by organizing them into the ‘House Museum’. We divided the objects in to 3 sections:

1. x-1971
The walls of the summer house were erected on the ruins of a very old house. Objects in this category are from the time before the buying of the location and building of the summer house in 1972. Most of these objects were deep in the ground, damaged, and corroded.

2. 1971-1990
Djordje Šević built the summer house using the layout of the ruined edifice in the ground and the scattered old stones lying around. Second section contains the objects that belonged to the Šević family during the summers they spent there from 1972 to 1990.

3. 1990-2002
The last section is of those objects that arrived to the location with the events of the war. Unfortunately we have thrown away most of them during the clearing, so only a few of them remain and are included in the Museum collection.

My free reflection on the work: 

I heard about this work when I had a chance to meet Katarina during her residency stay in Copenhagen. As the title indicates, in this artwork the artist creates a museum with objects from a house. The way she told me the story was like telling me about her family member. The house was like a long lost family member who had been through a turbulent period, of which the objects from the house were traces. The everyday and often insignificant objects seemed to be there as valuable museum objects.

This personification of a house made me think of the “changing house” in the novel The Neverending Story. The “changing house” is a place the protagonist Bastian goes to after meeting Yskalnari, in a community that does not know the word “I”, wishing to be loved as a person with a personal identity. He wanted to be loved for being just what he was and was thinking “…In this community of Yskalnari there was harmony, but no love”. He finds the compassion he wishes for in the “changing house”, where he receives motherly solace and love from Dame Aiuola, which he later wishes to give to others. The “changing house” is a house in slow but constant change. Both it’s inside and outside changes, according to the visitors who themselves are transformed after being there. Just like in Katarina’s artwork, the house becomes a reflection or a concretization of these fluid transformations and changes in time.

The way Katarina made a museum out of the house led me to think about several coexisting times that characterize a museum space. There is the time of the exhibited object (when the artefact was produced), the time of the collection (when the artefact entered the collection), and the time of the exhibition (when the artefact is presented to the audience). These times coexist as different layers of perspectives and realities in the interpretation.


July 15th

Artwork: (Re)arranging , 2009/ 2015

Artist: Nermin Durakovic

The artist’s description of the artwork:

(Re)arranging is an installation composed of furniture from the 1990’ies Danish asylum centre arranged and rebuilt in the same creative manner that the residents of the asylum centres often employ to optimize their living conditions.

My free reflection on the work: 

I believe that everybody who lived in a typical Danish refugee camp in the beginning of the 90s, remembers these red metal structures. My parents, my brother, and I lived in a room like that for nearly three years.

Architecture is something we build around us the way a bird builds a nest. Apart from providing the necessary protection from the outer world, architecture is also a way to organize our lives. The interior architecture is thus often a visual organization of our everyday actions, which creates space for potential activities.

For a person coming from war and a state of emergency, where their power to make life decisions is taken from them, the only thing left is to reorganize the few possible things in their everyday life. The furniture given to the refugees act almost like LEGO-bricks, which, with some creativity, could be turned into usable elements for the improvement of minimal living conditions. The creativity and improvisation, even though very limited, stimulate a feeling of freedom and give an impression of being able to step out of an imposed frame. It is also a way of organizing the thoughts in the chaotic state of mind caused by uncertainty.

In the refugee camp, everybody got the same furniture and similarly sized living space. There was something sympathetic about this distribution method, which was based on a concept of equality and fairness and which both reminded me of the Yugoslavian socialist system we came from and the Danish democratic system we were entering. Nevertheless, we were constantly fighting against it. When I think back, these attempts “to step out of the crowd” and claim one’s individuality was somehow an almost impulsive attempt to fight for a better life. Something about it was connected to a survival instinct. In most of the refugee camps, everything outside the private room was a collective, shared space. The room was, in other words, the only private space where one was able to add a personal touch and organize based on individual needs. The collective life in a refugee camp standardizes the individual life to the minimum. Every small possibility to step out of the standard is used, even though it sometimes only means moving the wardrobe closet from a vertical to a horizontal position.

In the artwork of Nermin, the red constructions can be connected to a number of conceptual and aesthetic connotations, rather than nostalgic or autobiographical ones.

The red colour of the lines and squares of the furniture has an alarming effect. The red structures don’t only refer to the structures in the concrete refugee room, but also to the structures in the political and legal systems shaping our society. We could say that the refugee room, with its limitations and minimal possibilities for re-arranging, is a reflection and symbolic visualisation of the Danish migrant politicise at the time.

From my imaginative perspective, the red frames for the bed and the table, as well as for the red square door on the closet, create a minimalistic painting based on lines and geometric shapes. This brings back the concept of minimality, which I find very relevant for the discussion about the living conditions of refugees. It might be one of the artist’s main messages in this artwork, which can serve as a pivot point for further analyses, possibly in direction of Hannah Arendt’s “The Human Condition” and Giorgio Agamben’s “Remnants of Auschwitz”.


July 14th

Artwork: Transition, 2010

Artist: Ana Pavlovic

Transition" by Ana Pavlovic
A mixed media artwork, 200 x 200 x 200 cm made of wood, oil paint, collected objects, video and sound.

The artist’s description of the artwork:

The starting point for this project is an actual kiosk, which can be found in Belgrade, Serbia, not far from where I grew up. The original kiosk was made in the 1970s in former Yugoslavia and was state property during the socialist period. In that time each housing area had a red kiosk where you could buy newspapers and hotdogs & yogurt for you lunch break.

Today, more than 30 years after, some of these kiosks survived the many political changes, war, sanctions and economical transitions, and they are still standing in the countryside. Now they are private property and you can buy all kinds of domestic and western products in them. Originally they were made from iron, with no water, toilet and proper heating installed; they were not designed to last 30 years, and so they are severely dilapidated. However the kiosks are still serving their purposes in the time of transition and nostalgia for better times.

The government is working on removing them and replacing them with new ones owned by large corporations as a result of the recent privatization. These kiosks are one-man or family-owned property and are often the primary source of income.

The red kiosk is a symbol of utopian times in which it originated, and simultaneously a symbol of nostalgia for that time and eventually an entire generation.

I have visited the kiosk in Belgrade several times in 2009 and I spent some time in it observing and being with the employees. I documented it with photographs and shot a short movie in it trough the small front window that is used to serve the costumers. With help from neighbours and family I collected the different products and empty packaging from the kiosk, which is a part of the installation.

My free reflection on the work: 

The modernism of Yugoslavia was monumental and temporary. And the kiosk is a part of that story. It is a design classic and part of Yugoslavian heritage. Since the 1970s, the kiosk has been a part of MOMA’s architecture and art collection.

In its original design and function, the kiosk was an organized mobile system not technically requiring service units. Conceptually, the kiosk followed a certain standardization and harmonization in the urban public space. The kiosk was created by Saša Mächtig from Slovenia and is characterized by his mindset of not only thinking about function and form, but also economy and technology. The kiosk is a project that requires knowledge both on urban planning and industrial design.

I remember the kiosks from my childhood, too. They reminded me of mushrooms, probably because they were small and red. Just like mushrooms, they were spread all over the city space. A kiosk was a small pit stop for individual needs (such as buying a newspaper or chewing gum) in a mass society race (for example, from home to work).

There was something very official and organized about kiosks back then, but today the kiosks are more part of a dynamic of confusion and disorder in the urban space. As always, when control is slipping out of hand, the spontaneous human creativity takes over, and Ana’s artwork makes me think about that. It also makes me think about the destinies of people working in these kiosks, how the small (now privately owned) space becomes a representation of someone’s life. How the shelves full of unnecessary products become a backdrop for their everyday life, and how a small window becomes the only vision out.

The artwork can be defined as a spatial installation or a sculpture with both elements of video and painting. The aesthetics of this artwork make the border between fiction and reality more of a blur. What seems solid and three-dimensional is actually made of two-dimensional elements, and what seems to be a flat screen is a video to another reality. There is also an intersting difference in the way artwork looks on the outside, comparing to the inside.

 

Ana manages to transform the small kiosk from being a mobile service unit to being a capsule that can also translocate us in time and place. When experiencing the artwork with such a strong iconic reference, one is automatically invited to travel back to a time of socialism in Yugoslavia, when this design was born, and try to imagine the ideological conditions that served as an inspiration for the creation of the original kiosk. At the same time, we see an almost direct transmission – like a video – and one is invited to travel into the culture that is happening in the present time in Serbia, where the kiosks are still in use.

The artwork shows the change that has taken place around and inside of the symbolic kiosk object –  a change on a socio-political level as much as a personal and psychological/mental level. Just like the title of the artwork indicates, the kiosk is the architectural object being and representing a transition.


July 13th

Artwork: SUBLIMINAL FAMILY ARCHITECTURE, 2010-2013

Artist: Mladen Bundalo

 

SUBLIMINAL FAMILY ARCHITECTURE, Mladen Bundalo

Is a series of photos and drawings. A drawing booklet related to the project can be seen on this link “Subliminal Family Architecture”

The artist’s description of the artwork:

After the civil war devastation, large ethnic migrations have been completed within the territory of the Bosnia and Herzegovina. While new governments start to deal with the land property questions, new land was given to refugees, and embarked in the construction of their houses. Entire towns with tens of thousands of family houses of the population that had immigrated from different provinces conceptualized the houses constructions in an identical or very similar manner. The dominant principle includes plans of a house of big dimensions, which is upgrading through a longer period (now through the decade) due to a lack of finances and a strong drive of the house-builder to build up floors that might host further families of his male child. This conceptualization happened with “no visible social agreement” and there is no single public discussion on such principle.

I personally grow up in such a house and I have struggled to understand the princip and motivations lying behind. Hence, I started making a photo documentation of such houses, trying to understand psychological effects such architecture apply on the family living inside. One question has opened another and I found myself intersected by vectors of tradition, utopia, capitalism, patriarchism, vision of future, conflicts of family members, taboo, architecture, wishes etc. All of these concerns, gaffs produced by behaviors imposed from “above” and behaviors motivated from “below”, result in architectural family formations that rise up as totems of powerlessness. How to balance biopolitical terms of family (nowadays) with its “internal contracts” which are, still, in the spirit of the patriarchal ambition? Would that sort of ambition have generated super-stratum “family language” of the Balkan‟s family landscape? Unfinished houses of large sizes. In the garden, instead of grass, there are permanently materials of installed constructions which transform themselves, temporal construction context to the primary and crucial principle of life. As a visual entity caused by a vague crash of the “desired” and the “possible one”, these visual signs have become deeply embedded in the Balkan family identity.

My free reflection on the work: 

It is fascinating how much the architecture of a home affects the psychological state of mind of and the interactions/interrelations between its residents. The architecture often melts together with the destiny of the people who live in the house. It often happens that a person becomes a house, and a house becomes a person.

Architectonically, the house is primarily a construction that provides protection from the outer world. As such, it creates a difference between outside and inside, and thus draws a line separating private and public space, the neighborhood being the in-between place.

The house is an inner psychological space. The identities are shaped by the architect of the place (topos), but since a house changes as the household grows and develops, the time (chromos) also plays a role. In his drawings, Mladen Bundalo uses the aesthetics of instructions. They consist of illustrations with figures of people that explain the navigation in the given architectural space, but they also consist of drawings with fleshes and directions indicating lines that visualize the process.

By linking the project to the specific context of post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina, the artist draws a sociopolitical line, which for me opens up critical questions related to belonging to a family as a genetic entity and belonging to a nation as an ethnicity and national entity.

 


July 12th

Artwork: Flotel Europa, 2015 

Artist: Vladimir Tomic

The image is a still from the video Flotel Europa, 2015 (70 min) More Info and a intro video on following link .

The artist’s description of the artwork:

In 1992 a wave of refugees from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina reached Denmark. With existing refugee camps completely full, the Red Cross pulled a giant ship into the canals of Copenhagen. The ship, Flotel Europa, became a temporary home for a thousand people waiting for decisions on their asylum applications. Among them was a 12 year old boy, Vladimir, who fled Sarajevo together with his mother and older brother. They spent two years in the limbo of Flotel Europa.

Two decades later, Vladimir Tomic takes us on a journey of growing up on this ship filled with echoes of the war — and other things that make up an adolescence. The coming-of-age story is juxtaposed with personal VHS archive material shot by refugees who shared the “space-time vacuum” of the Flotel.

My free reflection on the work: 

Since my own family belongs to the wave of refugees who came to Denmark from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and were placed in floating refugee camps in Copenhagen in the beginning of the 90s, I cannot help but feel connected to the stories told and featured in this artwork. This is especially so when it comes to the question of belonging.

There is something very symbolic about the ships that functioned as floating refugee camps and a new temporary home for people who had just arrived in a new country in search of a better future in a critical moment of uncertain destiny.

The special thing about the ship as a place was the fact that everything was constantly in motion. We could divide it into three moving platforms:

  1. We were living on water – on the moving sea platform, instead of steady ground.
  2. We could constantly feel the boat rocking and lacking stability.
  3. We were witnessing the shaky emotional state of those living on the boat and the frustration of being on board without sailing in any direction.

When we talk about belonging, we often think of a place of steady territory, which is not changing. For example, when inheriting or owning land, we assume that we will be anchored to that place forever. This is of course not the case with a ship. When you grow up on a floating structure in constant motion, the concept of belonging is different. One could say that one feels more detached or rootless, but on the other hand, the refugee boats were “anchored” to the Copenhagen harbour, and many of the people who were “on-board” in the camp, actually stayed in Denmark and feel that they belong to the Danish culture.

Aesthetically, this film brings us into the world of archive or historical material, which automatically makes the content look like visual evidence of an authentic situation. The impression one gets is that the film is a documentary with an artistic and personal twist.

The film is made with footage from home video cameras, which were very popular in the late 80s. As the name indicates, these cameras were made primarily for documentation of home family events, such as birthday parties, the first steps of one’s child, or a wedding. With the war as an interruption in the everyday normality, the function of the camera changed. The state of emergency made people use the home video camera as a tool for documenting the war and the refugee situation. The peoples’ “small” lives were put in the context of the “bigger” socio-political realities, and the pleasure of video-registering one’s personal stories and harmonies of life was exchanged with the necessity to register the absurdity and chaos taking place. In the artwork, we clearly see the personal reality meeting the collective one when the protagonist artist tells his “insignificant” teenager experiences of falling in love for the first time while a number of “more substantial” questions about survival are at stake.

“The citizens became artists and artist became citizens,” said a friend from Egypt to me about what happened during the Arab Spring uprising, when the citizens started expressing visually in an almost artistic manner what was taking place.  artists, on the other hand, started acting more activistic, compelled by civic responsibility.

There has been a lot of discussion about the importance of social media for the Arab Spring, but we tend to forget that the war in Bosnia was the first war, which could be video-documented by private people with their own homemade cameras. One did not need to be a professional videographer in order to make video documentation. (This might seem a strange thought to us today, when most of us have a camera on our phone, as well as a possibility to easily edit and even distribute the video registration publicly.)

There is a film called “Sjećaš li se Sarajeva” / “Do you remember Sarajevo”, which uses footage from private people made by their home video cameras. In a very precise way, the film highlights this tendency of peoples’ necessity to register and document the unreal transformation they were experiencing. Almost overnight, Sarajevo changed from a peaceful city to a warzone, and the lives of individual civilians changed from free to limited and in extreme danger.

In Vladimir Tomic’s film, camerographers are the refugees who borrowed the cameras from the humanitarian organizations in order to document their lives in the camp. Many of these footage materials were sent to families back in Bosnia and Herzegovina or other parts of the world as video-letters, but I guess it has also functioned as a self-therapeutic, diary-like attempt to digest the absurdity and the uncertainty of the situation they have found themselves in due to the war.


July 11th

Artwork: The ROBEL, 2008

Artist: Danica Dakic

“The ROBEL”, 2008 is a C-print on aluminium from a photo series related to the video installation “El Dorado. 

ROBEL, 2008 Photo series C-print on aluminum © VG BildKunst Bonn

When I saw the video installation “El Dorado” in Kassel at Documenta 12 it made an immediate impression on me. – The juxtaposition of young underage migrants from a refugee camp in Kassel and the idealized dream-like backdrop in the same town’s wallpaper museum was such an evocative setting.

Apart from being a visual backdrop, the museum rooms and labyrinth-like architecture, made out of mobile exhibition walls, also act as a historic and cultural backdrop, encapsulating a number of topics such as colonialism and exotica and putting thus the situation the young immigrants are finding themselves in today in another perspective.

Throughout the video, there are several overlaps between the presence of the “real” immigrant-protagonists and “unreal” museum universe. In its essence wallpaper is a fake decorative surface of the wall and as such, it automatically refers to the idea of camouflaging or a covering-up for something more real but “less-decorative”. The doubleness between real and unreal is also illustrated in the title with reference to the legend of El Dorado.  (The fact that the El Dorado originally was a person El Hombre Dorado, but then during the expedition in the late 1 500s became a place, also fits well to the merging of the mental place (in the young people’s minds) and the museum space (the physical place).

Another duality exists between the interior and the exterior; The function of the wallpaper is a decoration of the interior of the house and its motive often being an illustration of the exterior with outdoor motives such as plants, landscapes and exotic dreamlike; places far away from the indoor everyday life which takes place in the interior. When the artist brings young refugees in the museum, the difference between the world outside, as it is and as it is illustrated in the exotic dreamlike motives, becomes very obvious.

From the video, I especially remember a young African boy running through the museum. (The artwork “The ROBEL” is a portrait of him) This running action which does not belong to the museums indoor setting created a strong impact and left me with an almost physical feeling of claustrophobia. The breadth and the steps of the young boy made his body very present. The boy was very alive and compared to him,  the museum space and its limited architecture seamed life-less. It was like seeing a bird trapped in a cage.

At this year’s Venice Biennale I saw another work of Danica Dakic, where a running scene is used again. This time it is a woman running inside an abandoned factory space.

I’m a fan of these two running scenes, which in my opinion show Danica Dakic a great talent for connecting the architecture of concrete places with both the mental and socio-political or historic space. There is an interesting overlap between the concept of place and space, which has to do with belonging and definitely deserves to be analyzed further.


July 10th

Artwork: Replanting The Roots2016

Artist: Nenad Milcevic

Replanting The Roots, Video. 7:13 m, which can be seen in the following link.  For more information about the artwork, please send an email.

The video shows the process of planting an exotic palm tree on a beach in Denmark.

I would like to use the word passage to analyse this “replacement of roots”, which metaphorically illustrated the physical and mental space many foreigners are going through. Namely, the passage from the life they had in their own country and culture they have left to the new country and culture in which they must be integrated.

Integration is seldom a smooth process; on the contrary, it can be a long transition filled with difficulties and even conflicts that leave traces. Nevertheless, the concept of passage has become an integral part of our society and can as such be interpreted as a cultural ritual with a vital function in the mechanism of our overall society.

To explain cultural transition rituals, such as the rite of passage, Victor Turner uses the three-part model, developed by Arnold van Gennep. The model consists of three steps or three phases: 1) the separation, 2) the liminality (the transition), and 3) the incorporation (the return). In the first phase, a group of people are separated from their usual environment and daily routines. In the second phase, the group is placed in a Limbo-like zone of liminality. Then in the third phase, they are set back to the normality of everyday life, but now in a changed state.

It is very easy to transfer this model to the situation refugees and immigrants are in when they arrive in Denmark.

The first phase of being removed from everyday life can easily be recognized by the fact that a certain group of people are forced out of a country because of war, natural disaster, or a given political regime.

In the second phase, the separation is characterized as a state of emergency shaped by a number of legal and physical rules or limitations, which often affect the mental and psychological state of the foreigner. This phase puts the immigrants outside normality; they are in a limbo-space. What occurs in this phase is best explained as a crisis, which has a negative connotation.

But at the same time, this limbo-space has a particular way of existing parallel to the real world as some kind of reflection or comment. It is on the one hand detached from reality, and on the other hand, deeply rooted in it. And as such, it might be hiding a key to the potentiality of the marginalization.

When immigrants enter the society’s mechanism again – gain access to the labour market, social services, political influence etc. – they have reached the third phase (the return). The difference between their state before and after undergoing the passage transformation is their increased level of consciousness.

 

Another tool for analysing this artwork could be the word “Translation”, which is most commonly used in relation to language, even though its Latin root – lātus (ferre), meaning to bear or carry – gives it a more physical undertone.

Due to the prefix trans- (meaning across, through or beyond) the word “translation”, also has a direction for an action that needs two poles: the one where the object is translated from (the source text) and the other where it is translated to (the target text).

This physical dimension in the word “translation” can maybe help imagine what it’s like for a person to be exposed to the integration process, which basically is an attempt to translate people.

The word carry is a transitive verb that cannot occur without an object. We need to know who or what is being carried in order to understand the message. Even though the object is necessary, it remains a passive element, while the subject gets empowered.

In our example, it is the people being “translated”/ “carried over” who are made passive and unable to decide about their life because their destinies are left to an invisible power that only manifests itself indirectly in the form of political decisions.

 


July 9th

Artwork: NO SPACE, 2019

Artist: Selman Selma

The artwork is an online-video and research project. For more information about the artwork, please send an email.

The artist’s description of the artwork:

The work NO SPACE
is superpositionally
about every possible space
and about all possible people.

The main idea of the work is to
bring the world back
to thinking about the physical realities of Earth
by visualizing how space and belonging
are conceptualized today.

While using a virtual planet
And making my body both
bigger than the Earth,
And as small as your phone screen
I am questioning our conceptions of
physical space and personal belonging.

Paradoxically using an image of my BIG BODY to claim that there is no space
for anyone but me

While performing visually
that there is always
more possible space on Earth
than any image could possibly claim. 

Many of us are affected by capitalism’s images,
due to capital’s disorganizations
of physical reality.
 
Capitalism makes images
that make physical work invisible.
In response, workers, protesters and I wear high visibility neon.

With so much impossible invisibility
of physical work,
the most direct artwork,
visualizes the physical work
of constructing impossibilities.

My free reflection on the work: 

In my opinion, there is nothing space- or territory-bounded about Selman Selma, the Bosnian artist of Roma origins, who today lives and works between several countries. There is an aura of freedom around her both as a person and as an artist. Even this artwork is free of physical space and can freely be experienced as an online-video and a research project on the following link.

Seeing the Earth from Space is an awe-inspiring experience called the “overview effect”. It is a feeling that automatically changes our self-consciousness as humans and shakes our concept of belonging to a culture, country, religion, or other identity-related segments, which in the perspective of Earthrise, seems insignificant. Since Earthrise – the photograph of Earth taken by astronaut William Anders in 1968 (preceded by the black and white image from 1966 taken by a robot) – we have been able to see the Earth from the Space, and it is interesting to think how this self-transcendent experience has psychologically affected our states of consciousness. In his book “The Overview Effect: Space Exploration and Human Evolution”, the space philosopher Frank White writes about ”the experience of seeing firsthand the reality that the Earth is in space” and how ”permanent perspective from outer space will affect our politics, our religion, our social relations, our psychology, our economics, and our hard sciences. He confronts the possibility of rebellion by a space colony and of contact with extraterrestrial beings. And, finally, he makes it clear that our fate is in our own hands, that we will shape our future in space effectively only by fashioning a new human space program, free of excessive nationalism and dedicated to the peaceful exploration of the space frontier.”

There is something fairy-tale-like about the out-of-scale motive of a girl alone on what looks like a small planet protecting her territory. I think about “Alice in Wonderland”, and then I remember that there is a disorienting neuropsychological condition called Alice in Wonderland syndrome that affects perception when people experience distortions in visual perception, such as “micropsia (objects appearing small), macropsia (objects appearing large), pelopsia (objects appearing to be closer than they are), or teleopsia (objects appearing to be further away than they are).”  The size is relative, and the body of the artist is “bigger than the Earth, And as small as your phone screen”

It looks like a motif from “The Little Prince”, only her outfit is different. Instead of an otherworldly cape, she wearing a down-to-earth workers jacket with “high visibility neon”, creating an intelligent critique of capitalism. This made me think about José Oiticica’s critique of private property from his book “The Anarchist Doctrine Accessible to All”, 1925, in which he explains:

This right to the monopoly of land obtained through purchase, heritage, donation, war, etc., seems natural and just to us, because we have been used to it for thousands of years, however, we can easily evaluate the monstrosity that this entails with three simple considerations: a) The sun, the air, the rain, and the sea are natural gifts and nobody has the right to appropriate them to exploit another person. Natural gifts are and must be free, and should not be bought or paid for with work…So, what we find so monstrous about the air, the light, the sea, and the rain does not repulse us in the same way when it comes to land. Land is also a natural gift and nobody should appropriate or dismember it in order to exploit the work of another. b) This injustice becomes extremely potent if we observe, for example, the legal institution of inheritance. An individual is born. If the father is the owner of large land extensions, the child becomes heir just because the father is a proprietor. Without any personal effort or work, without participating with any physical or intellectual contingent, the heir becomes the owner of these lands, with the ability to sell, rent, or leave them uncultivated. While the rest of people in need do not have the right to cultivate these lands without the heir’s consent. c) This fundamental injustice is so severe that it has convert¬ed the economic regime in a paradox, namely, the less you work the more you have or the more you work the less you have. In fact, the proprietor of the farm, factory, or commercial establishment, deals with the lightest of services – that is, when they actually occupy themselves with something – and obtains the bigger profits; while slaves, employees, cashiers, workers, all of those who work the hardest and the longest hours receive, in the form of a salary, a small amount of the wealth produced.

In the video we see the artist claiming her right to “her” planet by shouting hysterically and in an almost out-of-control exaggerated manner. This parodic (almost comic) insistence on ownership makes the concept of belonging rather meaningless and out of proportion. In the video, the artist is all the time looking and talking to the camera, to us, which makes the self-reflection stronger. We simply start laughing at ourselves for being ridiculously stocked in a traditional mindset of belonging to a territory, ownership of land, and national identification.

 


July 8th

Artwork: From Line of the Horizon, 2017

Artist: Ismar Cirkinagic

This work is part of a bigger spatial installation also including video and audio elements. For price and more information about the artwork, please send an email.

The sculptural elements and the main material in this artwork are war debris and ruins, such as pieces of bricks and stone fragments of demolished buildings, collected from war hot spots around the world. Like beads on a string, they are positioned side-by-side, creating order and system that seems absurd when thinking of the chaotic contexts each of the elements come from. What at first, glance might seem like a result of an almost senseless necessity for systematic precision is, in fact, the artist’s attempt to reenact an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) routine that appears as a consequence of PTSD.

The artist orders the debris in a similar way to the kid on Don McCullin’s photograph, and to create some sort of universal sense of being and reasoning in the uncertainty and “centrifugal force of nonsense” that surrounds him.

The photograph was taken in the section of a hospital for children with special needs. The death of hundreds of people during the bombing of the hospitals was nothing compared to what Don McCullin witnessed in this department. The horror he found there has shaken his faith in humanity. But, in the middle of the chaos, he finds a boy sitting on the floor, quietly playing with debris ripped off of the walls in the explosion. It is, in McCullins words, “as if he was playing with Lego bricks.” The artist is also aware of this state of mind from one particular case in Bosnia, where the boy who survived the mass execution in Hrastova Glavica in 1992 (BiH) was seriously wounded and unable to leave the pit in which he was thrown. In the final hours of his life, he placed his personal belongings in a similar organized way. His body, surrounded by personal objects, was found in 2002, at the same location where he died.

The fact that the war debris are collected from different parts of the world moves the concept of war above the national contexts and onto a more universal level, where it can be questioned from the point of view of humankind.

This element of unity in the artwork finds its inspiration in “Meditation XVll: No man is an island…” by John Donne from 1624, which was also the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway’s war novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.

No man is an island 
entire of itself; 
Every man is a piece of the continent, 
a part of the main; 
If a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less, 
as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; 
Any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

The title and the beginning of this short poem indicate that no one can be totally isolated and independent because we are fundamentally, inseparably connected, if not physically then emotionally or spiritually. The end of the poem underlines this human connection and explains that it is not important for whom the funeral bell rings, because we are all connected to each other and when someone else dies, it is as if part of us died, too.

In the sentence:

If a clod be washed away by the sea, 
Europe is the less, 
as well as if a promontory were, 
as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were;

we understand the message that the “clod” (piece of dirt) is as important as the “promontory” (a point of high land that juts out into the sea or a large lake; a headland), meaning that all people are equally important to the world – the “small” people, the “big” people, you and your friends.

I find this idealised message of universal empathy very touching in an almost religious way.

At the same time, this artwork has another strength, another counterpoint – namely the precision when it comes to the specific socio-political contexts, where the original war debris almost become forensic evidence.

This tension is what gives the final edge to the artwork: We can interpret the stones with the connotation to war and PTSD, and at the same time we can have a more universal interpretation related to nature, even diving into the geological sphere of petrology, dealing with the origin, structure, and composition of the stones.


July 7th

Artwork: From YU: The Lost Country (2011-2013)

Artist: Dragana Jurisic

The artwork is a C-Prin, 70 x 70 cm, Edition of 8 + 2 AP. For price and more information about the artwork, please send an email.

The artist’s description of the artwork:

Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991. With the disappearance of the country, at least one million five hundred thousand Yugoslavs vanished, like the citizens of Atlantis, into the realm of imaginary places and people. Today, in the countries that came into being after Yugoslavia’s disintegration, there is a total denial of the Yugoslav identity.

“There proceeds steadily from that place a stream of events which are a source of danger to me,” wrote the Anglo-Irish writer, Rebecca West in 1937. “That place” was Yugoslavia, the country in which I was born. Realizing that to know nothing of an area “which threatened her safety” was “a calamity”, she embarked on a journey through Yugoslavia. The result was Black Lamb and Grey Falcon. Initially intended as “a snap book” it spiraled into half a million words, a portrait not just of Yugoslavia, but also of Europe on the brink of the Second World War, and widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.

At Easter 2011, I started retracing Westʼs journey and re-interpreting her masterpiece by using photography and text, in attempt to re-live my experience of Yugoslavia and to re-examine the conflicting emotions and memories of the country that was.

My free reflections on the artwork: 

This picture is taken in Kosovo, somewhere around Kosovska Mitrovica.

In the picture we mostly see stones, but it is somehow possible to sense that there is also a river nearby. There is a certain feeling of the shore in the picture – a sense of being on the edge between the constantly flowing river and the steady coastline, the edge between life (time moving) and death (time being still).

On the shore, we see a pair of almost decomposed denim. Like an organic-shaped sculpture, they are slowly becoming a part of the landscape. The tactile stony surface of the coastline and the denim feel of the almost fossilized jeans are melting.

When worn, with time, cloth takes the shape of a human body. When the body is gone the cloth is left behind as a physical form representing a memory of a person who no longer exists. The cloth thus encapsulates the body, the soul, and life, just like skin does. Both cloth and skin tissue represent the membrane that separates the body from its surroundings and protects it from external factors. Skin is probably our only real and unquestionable place of belonging.

In his book The Skin, Curzio Malaparte emphasizes the importance of the skin in the following way: Our skin, this confounded skin. You’ve no idea what a man will do, what deeds of heroism and infamy he can accomplish, to save his skin. This—this loathsome skin, do you see? […] One’s skin is the only thing that counts now. The only certain, tangible, undeniable thing is one’s skin. It’s the only thing we possess, the only thing that’s our own. The most mortal thing in the world! Only the soul is immortal, alas! But what does the soul count for now? One’s skin is the only thing that counts. Everything is made of human skin. Even the flags of armies are made of human skin

 


July 6th

Artwork: Central Europe 1815 – 2000, 2005

Artist: Suada Demirovic

“Central Europe 1815 – 2000” is a video work ( 02:15 min). It has been exhibited at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and The Betty Nansen Theatre.

The map in the artwork is changing as if it was a constant pulsing rhythm of a person breathing. The borderlines are moving as if they were dancing, which makes it difficult to take them seriously as constant borders. The aspects of objectivity and neutrality, when it comes to cartographically visualising the reality into decipherable spatial information, are shaken.

The map shows the region of Central Europe and its border development for the last couple of centuries, which is about where Balkans lies. Balkans is the so-called country of  “blood and honey” (etymologically from the Turkish combination of the word “bal”, meaning blood, and “kan”, meaning honey). This contrasting nature of the name can also be recognised in descriptions of Balkans as being the subconsciousness of Europe – a region that is exotic and compelling on one hand, while at the same time being unpredictable and frightening.

Maps are normally used for orientation, but in the case of the Balkans, a region so connected to the idea of periphery and the “other”, it is not even sure where it starts. For Germans, Balkans might already start in Austria, while for the Austrians, it definitely starts further down around Slovenia. However, Slovenians often don’t consider themselves as belonging to the Balkans and would say it starts further southeast in the region of Bosnia and Serbia and so on.

I guess we could also say that the map is some kind of translation: We translate a certain geographic space, which is impossible to overview with the pure eye, into a concrete drawing and visual illustration, translating something abstract into something concrete.

My father often told me stories from his school time in Former Yugoslavia and how, in Geography class, they were asked to draw neat, freehand drawings of the maps of the country. The fact that the students were exercising to be able to have an inner vision of a geographic territory of their country really fascinated me.

The transformation of scientific and technical calculations into a visual map – edited, projected, scaled and designed to be an as objective and effective representation of reality as possible – is already a complex translation. But then converting an official map into a free hand childlike drawing, with all the subjective interpretations that come along, is even more advanced.

There was something patriotic about it, in a poetic way. I wish I could see these drawings and the different personalized variations of the map of Yugoslavia – a country that does not exist any more. The children were drawing an idea of the territory rather than the territory itself; and today when Yugoslavia does not exist any more, their free-hand drawings might be considered more relevant and authentic than the official maps. Their drawings were capturing the real historic moment and are thus more actual than outdated maps.


July 5th

Artwork: Broadway Boogie-Woogie, 2006

Artist: Nebojša Šerić

Broadway Boogie-Woogie is a ready-made sculpture. Plasteline, plaster, wood, foam, ready-made.

The artist’s description of the artwork:

This is a scale model of the trenches I tried to dig during the time when I was drafted into the war in Bosnia. As a soldier, I began to dig the trenches in the shape of Piet Mondrian’s painting Broadway Boogie Woogie. Unfortunately I was immediately arrested by security officers as I was digging these trenches. I did not succeed in explaining to the officers that this act of digging was actually an art project made on the front lines. This project reconstructs my memory of those years, and the actual battlefield where I happened to be–because I couldn’t choose not to be there.

My free reflections on the artwork: 

Its model-like size and form make the artwork look like a children’s board game to me. The design-like combination of lines and squares indicates that there should be certain rules of the game, even though the mission of the game remains unknown.

The terrain is divided into sections, either for agriculture purposes (fields) or for war purposes (trenches) as if there is not much difference between a planted field and a battlefield.

It’s if the land is being simultaneously cultivated and ruined.

The artwork is a model of a strategic military plan, but it is also a model of ruins. There are several traces of war, and it is clear that the grid pattern is being partially destroyed.

I can not help but think that the organized manner of visualizing a chaotic war action and turning a serious situation into a playful game might be the artist’s method of coping with the irrationality of the war.


July 4th

Artwork: Herbarium, 2017

Artist: Ismar Čirkinagić

Herbarium is a series of framed herbariums in various sizes. Parts of the series have previously been exhibited in ARoS Triennale – THE GARDEN, Liverpool Biennial /City States, Vantaan Taidemuseo Artsi and Pulse Miami Beach. Today one part of Herbarium series has been purchased by Sorø Kunstmuseum, and another part of the series is in ARoS Aarhus Art Museum. For price and more information about the artwork, please send an email.

My free reflections on the artwork: 

For more than ten years, I have worked with Ismar Cirkinagic – an artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina who often expresses the brutality of the Balkan war though subtle and aesthetic artworks related to nature.

In the artwork Herbariums, for example, the artist presents dried plants collected from the locations of mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina, not far from his hometown. The collected plants are neatly pressed in the traditional botanical preservation method. They are each accompanied by information, not only regarding the Latin name and which plant family they belong to, but also the names of the mass graves the plants were collected from as well as how many bodies were found in the graves.

Conceptually, the artist illustrates how the deceased human body becomes nurture for grass and the plants in order to take on a new form of life. He puts, thus, the course of nature and its resilience in contrast to the rupture of life circle, caused by human brutalities such as war.

The juxtaposition of society and nature underlines two different perspectives of our being in the world: the existential human belonging to nature, alongside animals and plants, versus a more constructed perspective of belonging to a society or a nation. Changing the lens between these two perspectives is also challenging our understanding of time and the importance of life in general. It allows us thus, to step out of the immediate situation and see it from a different angle.


July 3rd

Artwork: 551.35 – Geometry of Time, 2014

Artist: Lana Čmajčanin

551.35 – Geometry of Time is an installation – lightbox, print on Barrisol canvas. Dimension 306 x 395 x 25 cm. Edition 4/2. One edition is part of collection Arteast 2000+ International Collection – MG+MSUM, Museum of Modern Art + Museum of Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia. Other editions are still available. For price and more information about the artwork, please send an email.

The artist’s description of the artwork: 

“551.35 – Geometry of Time”confronts us with various delimitations of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose borders were set and changed following dynamic and intense historical processes. It points out the social and political reality of Bosnia and Herzegovina by illuminating the conflictual and unstable nature of its territory. For centuries the borders were set by wars and peace treaties, while in 19th and 20th centuries they were constituted by turbulent ideological events. At the time cartography turned into political geography and produced openly nationalistic, imperialistic, intentionally educational maps with a clearly underlined territorial nature. Besides the territory they represent, historical maps of Bosnia and Herzegovina thus also map the interests and conquest plans of cartographers throughout history. 

In “551.35 – Geometry of Time” the light object that illuminates multiple layers of overlapping maps of the territories of former Yugoslav republics serves the same purposes as the special tables used in the army to enable a more precise, clearer reading of maps. Since the density of marks makes the borders unclear, the work can be read as an overlapping of all previous text that results in illegibility and the inability to consider the sovereignty and statehood of this area as it is today through the numerous layers of the past. 

My free reflections on the artwork: 

This artwork deals with the mapping of land – both as national territories and as lithospheric soiled parts of the earth.

On one of the images, the map motive in the artwork seems blue and looks almost like a map of water, rather than land. This makes me think about the sea and the fact that the concept of territorial belonging for people living on an island surrounded by the sea might be quite different from the widely held land-based sense of identity of those living inside the continent.

For an islander, the (national) border is the coastline – a natural meeting point between the hydrosphere and lithosphere and open liminal space of all sorts of exchange and crossings.

Obviously, the constant and obvious presence of the sea makes islanders’ sense of belonging more fluid, and the sea becomes a connecting pathway, rather than a boundary. Several interesting writers and anthropologists have written about this fluidity, such as Édouard Glissant, who introduced archipelagic thinking on how very diverse islands can be interconnected, or Caryl Phillips, who presented the Caribbean creolization as an answer to atavistic tribe-like Eurocentric cultures.


July 2nd

Artwork: Uprootedness

Artist: Nenad Milčević

Nenad Milcevic, “Uprootedness"

Uprootedness is a photo series/light box installation. Dimension 1 x 1,5 m. For price and more information about the artwork, please send an email.

My free reflections on the artwork:

The subterranean motive of the artwork Uprootedness seems more alive the more I look at it. This is probably owed to the dominant red colour, which makes the roots look like veins in a living organism. The blood red colour also indicates death, even though uprootedness is not necessarily an act of destruction (since the plant’s roots are not cut off). It is rather an act of relocation, in which the destiny of the plant is to be decided by its adaptability to a new environment. I wonder how big the role of adaptability of the moved “plant” plays compared to the capability of the new environment to accept it. Of course, this makes me think about integration – about uprooted people removed from their homes or a familiar location and their struggle to take root in a new place.


July 1st

Artwork: Burned Field, 2017

Artist: Mila Panić

Mila Panic,"Burned Field", 2017

Burning Field exists both as a video artwork and a photo series. For price and more information about the artwork, please send an email.

The artist’s description of the artwork:

The video is recorded in real time, showing the intentional burning of the field. The work presents the field which is supposed to be mine one day, as a family inheritance. We burn crops and weeds on our fields after the autumn harvest, an annual (illegal) process to clear and fertilize the land for the next year, or at least we believe it to be so. Our relationship to the landscape often speaks of a longing for the land we are familiar with, which was, or is ours, and has defined our sense of ourselves. With this work, I am asking what my responsibility is towards my heritage and inheritance. The longer one watches the more intense their anxiety and lethargy becomes and this duration becomes a coexistent with the weight of the field.

My free reflections on the artwork:

The artwork had an immediate effect on me – I was attracted by the cosy, home-like fireplace sound in the video, while at the same time I feared that the fire could lose control at any moment. This both beautiful and frightening burning motive made me think about the space Limbo and then, Diaspora.

Limbo derives from the Latin word limbus, meaning border; it is not Hell, but it is not Heaven, either. It is a Christian solution for undefined afterlife belonging between Heaven and Hell. (There were two types of souls whose fates were difficult to determine: a) the good and just people who died before the time of Jesus Christ on Earth, and b) the innocent new-borns, who die before being baptized, and thus neither can enter Heaven nor deserve to be punished in Hell.) Since its place as a hypothetical concept in the Middle Ages, Limbo has since theologically become a “real” third space on equal terms with Heaven and Hell. The souls in Heaven see God face to face, whereas those in Limbo do not (Beatific Vision).

Considering that souls in Limbo – unlike those in Heaven – don’t see God face to face, the idea of distance arises. Just like in the case of diaspora, the distance could be seen as a beneficial tool that maintains a tension between the things it separates, allowing the introduction of a new third space: “inbetweenness” (l’entre) as an existential and ontological condition based on our ability to visualize a third in-between place. This is according to the French philosopher François Jullien, who says “The distance (écart) maintains a tension between the things it separates and the established distance brings forth the “inbetweenness”. If the “between” is the thing of which ontology cannot conceive—because it has no in-itself: i.e., no essence—it is also the space through which [the thing] passes, or occurs: the space of the operatory and the effective.”