Šejla Kamerić, Basics, triptich

“In the Gorges of the Balkans” and other Balkan experiences during the years 2003-2006

The exhibition “In the Gorges of the Balkans” featured 88 artists from 12 different countries and regions (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey), which together define the term “The Balkans”.

Participating artists from ex Yugoslavia: Maja Bajević, Ivan Čivić, Danica Dakić, Braco Dimitrijević, Jusuf Hadćifejzović, Šejla Kamerić, Alma Suljević, Tanja Dabo, Tomislav Gotovac, Sanja Iveković, Mangelos, Vlado Martek, Goran Petercol, Sandra Sterle, Mladen Stilinović, Sokol Beqiri, Jakup Ferri, Driton Hajredini, lbert Heta, Merita Koci, Dren Maliqi, Erzen Shkololli, Marina Abramović, Uroć Djurić, Vlatko Gilić, Bora Iljovski, Mihael Milunović, Zoran Popović, Raća Todosijević, Milica Tomić, Vuk Ćosić, Irwin, Laibach, Marjetica Potrč, Tobias Putrih, Miha Vipotnik, Antoni Maznevski, Oliver Musovik, Žaneta Vangeli, Igor Rakčević, Jelena Tomaćević, Natalija Vujoćević

The Balkans are always the others

Residing at the interface between the Orient and Occident, Christianity and Islam, the Balkans have remained an uncharted territory, a blank space on the map, throughout their centuries-old, turbulent history, which has witnessed the rise and fall of monarchies, dictatorships, Communist social systems and democracies. As such, they have become the ideal canvas on which to project western European preconceived notions of the region – notions, which can even be found in Karl May’s Balkans novel of the same name.The definition of the term “The Balkans” is still rather diffuse. Geographically the Balkan Peninsula extends from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and refers in name to the range of mountains in Bulgaria. However, topographical boundaries do not convey the significance of the Balkans that is encumbered by assumptions, prejudices and fears, which have remained etched upon our cultural memories. And these fears are of a highly topical nature: As multi-ethnic societies, the countries of south-eastern Europe have in recent years served as the paradigm for prognoses on the processes of globalisation and in this way fuelled the notion of the “Clash of the Civilizations”. The “Balkans” has long since become a metaphor. The Balkans, in the words of the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, are always the others.In contrast to the novelist Karl May, the exhibition’s curator René Block has actually embarked on a journey through the Balkans where he studied the situation on the ground within the individual countries in close cooperation with indigenous artists and curators. Consequently, the exhibition IN THE GORGES OF THE BALKANS perceives itself as a documentary, as an eyewitness account, which invites the visitor himself to set out on a journey of discovery through south-eastern Europe. A journey leading from the origins of Concept Art in Yugoslavia in the 60ies, from works created under the most difficult conditions during the era of the Communist regimes (Romania, Albania), to the contemporary art scene. On our travels we also encounter artists who are operating within the Western (art) context, whilst retaining a strong affinity to their native countries. The individual works of art always provide a running commentary on the current socio-political situation. Whereas earlier generations of artists used their medium, among other things, to expose the political systems or social evils, contemporary art focuses more intensely on cultural traditions and on the events of recent history. The application of new technologies and the emerging issues relating to the status and relevance of art and of artists demonstrates that the artists of south-eastern Europe have long since been integrated into the global discourse on art.

Kassel as the centre of art in south-eastern EuropeWhereas the Museum Fridericianum itself is devoted to the presentation of objects, paintings, installations, photography and video art, the exterior space is playing host to actions and performances, together with exhibition bound / less borders, which has been realized on the initiative of the Goethe Institute in Belgrade and which, in the form of large-format posters, introduces further artists from the region. Each week, the exhibition’s comprehensive accompanying programme focuses on a different South-eastern European country and highlights its cultural features by means of lectures, film screenings and theme-based guided tours. Many of these individual strands are bundled together in the form of a symposium entitled THE REINVENTION OF THE BALKANS. GEOPOLITICS, ART AND CULTURE IN SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE, October 24 – 26. It is no accident that in recent times various institutions and exhibition projects have focused their attention on south-eastern Europe. Of these, “In Search of Balkania” (Graz, 2002) and “Blood and Honey. The Future is in the Balkans” (Klosterneuburg, Vienna, running until September 2003) provided some initial interpretations of the Balkans. Yet the Kunsthalle Fridericianum goes a decisive step further. Following the launch in Kassel, subsequent projects including exhibitions, publications, congresses and discussion forums will be staged by the cooperation partners IN THE CITIES OF THE BALKANS (Belgrade, Bucharest, Cetinje, Istanbul, Ljubljana, Prishtina, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Tirana and Zagreb) before reaching its conclusion BEYOND THE BALKANS. This will take place in 2004 in the form of the Kassel Project by the Slovene Marjetica Potrč and a retrospective dedicated to the Croatian art poet Mangelos (1921 – 1987), whose work has enriched the canon of European art history with the inclusion of a further chapter. Consequently, for the period of one year, the Kunsthalle Fridericianum will become a forum for discussions – internal and external – dedicated to exploring the term “The Balkans”.Staged for the first time on this scale, this dialogue between just one town in Germany and the entire region of south-eastern Europe was facilitated by the generous financial support from the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal Government.
Text from the archive/ report


Photo @Sabine Vogel

René Block (*1942  Germany) grew up near Düsseldorf before he discovered Berlin as his field of action in the year 1963. The gallery founded in 1964 became the base for his ‘curatorial building,’ which received a roof with the invention of TANAS (20 08 2013). With the exhibition „The Unanswered Question. İskele 2“ Block considers this building completed.

René Block Opened a gallery in Berlin in 1964 at the a ge of 22 , whose first exhibitions and performances were arranged with then also young artists like Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Wolf Vostell, Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik and the international Fluxus group a.o. In 1974 he opened an exhibition space in New York with “I like America and America likes Me,” by Joseph Beuys. At the same time Blocks tarted to work as an independent curator, he curated “Downtown Manhattan: SoHo,” 1976, and “Für Augen und Ohren”, 1980, both for the Berlin Festival as well as “Art Allemagne Aujourd’hui” for the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1981. From 1993 until 1995 he determined the program of the exhibition service at the Institute for Foreign Relations (if a), which is responsible for the presentation of German art abroad. From 1997 until 2006 René Block was the director of the Kunsthalle Museum Fridericianum in Kassel. In 2008 he founded th e a rtspace TANAS in Berlin, a platform for Turkish art. In Denmark he was cofounder of Kunsthalle 44 Moen and functions as it s artist ic director.
Some other important exhibitions : 1990 “The Readymade Boomerang”, 8. Biennial of Sydney1994 “Iskele”, contemporary artists from Istanbul, ifa– galleries in Stuttgart, Berlin, Bonn 1995 “Orient/ation“, 4. Istanbul Biennale1997 “Pro Lidice“, Museum of Fine Arts, Prague2000 “Eurafrica“, 3. Gwangju Biennial, Korea “Das Lied von der Erde“, Kunsthalle Fride ricianu m, Kassel First international Biennial Conference, Kassel 2003 “In den Schluchten des Balkan”, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel2004 “Love it or leave it”, 5. Cetinje Biennale, Montenegro (together with Nataša Ilić) 2007 “Welfare Farewell”, Nordic Pavilion (Norway/Sweden/Finland), Venice Biennial2010 “Starter”, inaugural exhibition for ARTER, Istanbul2013 “Eine kleine MACHTmusik“, Museum ESSL, Klosterneuburg/Wien2013 “Iskele 2 –The unanswered question”, TANAS and NBK, Berlin.
Bio from on-curating, in connection with the Interview with René Block by Sylvia Ruttimann and Karin Seinsoth

Related links:
Edition Block 

René Block will give a 30 min presentation on Tuesday, August 20th from 15.00-15.30 during the seminar “Looking for another space of belonging”

Seminar Full Program