In December I wrote the exhibition introduction for an art show in Belgrade, Serbia:
HASANOVIĆ | MILADINOVIĆ
It opened on December 7th, 2017, at the Gallery PODROOM of the Cultural Centre of Belgrade. Please see my text below and a link to the website that published it in Serbian and English with the photos of the art. www.supervizuelna.com/hasanovic-miladinovic/
IMAGINATION. In their group exhibition visual artists Ibro Hasanović and Vladimir Miladinović have come together to prompt questions about the contemporary use of concepts such as “document” and “memory” and essentially, about what it means to imagine the past in the present and for the future. Hasanović creates subtle art that grapples with how national myth making and ideology form collective histories to which individuals — whether by choice or force — must succumb. Through re-presentations of old family films and photographs, devoid of contextual explanations, he calls on the viewer to engage his or her imagination about the subjects in front of them. In turn, this opens up the possibility for creating new conceptualizations of history and memory. Similarly, Miladinović creates works that push the limits of our imagination. With his ink wash drawings — traces of documents, bureaucratic lists, maps, forensic reports — he offers us his critical observation of how information is often “disappeared” into vast vaults, what we call “archives”, never to reappear again. Through his artistic technique he disinters and shows official information in an aesthetic form. This work then acts as both a form of a so-called testimony and as a creative space for the possibility of re-imagining a buried past. Together the two artists ask: What does it mean to imagine for ourselves when other entities — institutions, governments, authorities — are always prepared to do this for us? Is there a way to imagine a world that is not so heavily circumscribed by institutional imagination and desire?
DOCUMENT. Also at play in the works of Hasanović and Miladinović is that both confront and further complicate the contemporary conceptualization of the power of the document as a steadfast source of truth. Etymologically “to document” comes from the Latin docere meaning “to teach”. Yet the document today is frequently less about teaching and more often used as proof positive that something happened. Yet, instead of opening up dialogue the document is more often used to mark the end of the conversation and to disallow further debate. And it is this aim to “put an end to further questioning” in contemporary society that Thomas Keenan takes to task because, he says, to say that something is “documented” ultimately shuts down the possibility for critical thinking. Thus, the link between Keenan’s work and this exhibit is that both aim to expose that the document no longer successfully masquerades as a representation of absolute power, but must instead be revealed as form without content; stripped of its authority, it is immobilized, an empty signifier. The art of Hasanović and Miladinović beckons the viewer to look closely at the “documents” that they offer up in this exhibition. They entice the viewer to lean in, and to reflect on what it means to “document” and to “archive” the past in the present and for the future. Whether the source is one of Hasanović’s VHS tapes created by his father or one of Miladinović’s ink wash drawings of ICTY documents, act as what Tariq Jazeel and Nayanika Mookherjee refer to in their article “Aesthetics, Politics, Conflict”, as a “mobilization of aesthetics” in the face established and consensual truths, misinformation, and mutations of power.
MEMORY. Memory and the processes for remembering are also challenged in the art of Hasanović and Miladinović who draw attention to the complexity of trying to disentangle powerful discourses of institutional collective memory from individual, personal memory. Both artists are concerned about the way that individuals are pushed into the trap of grand narratives created by the state and other powerful institutions in the wake of calamity, which are essentially used to create, strengthen and/or maintain the physical and conceptual borders of that entity and to aid in the forgetting of other, seemingly silenced narratives. Instead, they struggle with the complexities of a concept that in BHS is Izrečena istorija, “rendered history.” Hasanović’s work mingles prose and poetics, aesthetics and form, as it presents the viewer with simple objects such as a film of children playing together on a winter day, as children might anywhere. Miladinović’s rendered documents depict how memory narratives are produced in the public sphere — narratives that are politically contaminated and largely determined by falsified histories and now requiring a fundamental reconsideration. Echoing Edward Said’s words about issues of representation, we can say that in this exhibit both artists show us “unconventional, hybrid, and fragmentary forms of expression . . . an alternative . . . to the one usually encountered in the media.” Thus, rather than creating an aesthetics of suffering to provoke explicit affective reactions, both artists attempt to create an alternative and thoughtful space of enunciation. They endeavor to generate a conversation with the dialectic of individual and collective memory — to challenge us, the viewers, to imagine a kind of memory that appeals to a world that is not purely subject to simple stereotypes and hegemonic archetypes.
Tariq Jazeel and Nayanika Mookherjee, “Aesthetics, Politics, Conflict.” Journal of Material Culture (2015) Vol. 20(4), 353-359.
Thomas Keenan/Hito Steyerl, “What is a Document an Exchange Between Thomas Keenan and Hito Steyerl.” Aperture 214 (2014), 58-64.
Edward Said, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives. Columbia University Press, 1999.
Stephenie Young, “The Forensic Imagination: Evidence, Art and the Post-Yugoslav Document.” Mapping the ‘Forensic Turn’: The Engagements with Materialities of Mass Death in Holocaust Studies and Beyond. Ed. Zuzanna Dziuban. Vienna: New Academic Press, 2017. 221-239.