Kuma International, Sarajevo; International Summer School on Contemporary Art in Bosnia and Herzegovina; June 25th-30th, 2018
During the last week of June 2018, I have been invited to give a workshop lecture at a summer school for a new NGO in Sarajevo called Kuma International. This NGO is run by Sarajevo resident, Italian curator Claudia Klara-Zini, who is working hard to organize this first summer school on post-conflict contemporary art from BiH. I'll be posting more about this event in the next month, but some general info and a link to her Facebook page are below.
INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL
ON CONTEMPORARY ART FROM BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
Sarajevo, June 25th-30th 2018
APPLICATION DEADLINE: May 28th 2018
Kuma International in partnership with the WARM Foundation and Brodac Gallery presents one-week intensive course on contemporary art from Bosnia and Herzegovina, focusing on visual art, design, photography, film and theatre from a post-conflict society. Participation is open to graduates and postgraduates from the relevant disciplines, as well as art historians, curators, artists and museum professionals, and all people interested in training and developing new skills while experiencing a new and exciting learning environment in Sarajevo, the vibrant capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Kuma International Summer School
The first Kuma International Summer School focuses on the post-war artistic production from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Students will look at how artists from the region have been affected by the political turmoil of the 1990s and how they have processed the fall of Yugoslavia, the 1992-1995 war and its consequences through their art practices. Students will also have the unique chance to meet with local artists, explore the city’s museums and art galleries and visit artists’ studios. Addressing contemporary visual art produced in the context of conflict and trauma, Kuma’s first summer school and its local and international staff will provide a glimpse into the impact of war on local artists' aesthetics and narrative. At the same time, the school will look at the phenomenon of a new generation of visual artists and cultural workers belonging to the Bosnian diaspora who have started to come back to their country of origin out of a need to reconnect with their homeland and elaborate their traumatic war experience through art.
Amidst the chaos of the end of spring semester, I'm also finishing up an essay on landscape and memory politics in Post-Soviet Georgia titled "In Stalin's Cave." It focuses on the historical complexities of Georgia's borders under Soviet rule and in its aftermath through the lens of a contemporary native painter. This essay will appear in Getuigen tussen geschiedenis en herinnering (Testimony between history and memory), the international peer-reviewed journal of the Auschwitz Foundation, Brussels. If all goes well, it should be out in late summer 2018.
My essay on the work on Vladimir Miladinović will be coming out at the end of April titled: “Geographies of Loss: Testimony, Art and the After-Life of Batajnica’s Disappeared Objects.” In Getuigen tussen geschiedenis en herinnering (Testimony between history and memory). International peer-reviewed journal of the Auschwitz Foundation, Brussels.
This Wednesday, March 21st, at 18:00 is the opening of an exhibition in Tbilisi, Georgia of artist Giorgi Ugulava.
I am delighted to report that Salem State University has awarded me a Seed Grant to travel in June to work on my project about nostalgia and contested Soviet architectural spaces in contemporary Georgia. This is a project that will hopefully evolve into a book project that examines the complex relationship that Georgian's have with the Soviet Union/Russia through looking at various architectural landscapes of the recent past and present in Western Georgia and the capital city, Tbilisi. I'll be including my own photographs and some contemporary Georgian painting as part of the study. I'll be sending updates as I move forward on this new project.
Betlemi District, Tbilisi, Georgia
This week I have the privilege of being the guest of Professor Mark Baskin and the faculty at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Pristina, Kosovo. I have been able to meet their students and have had a lot of wonderful conversations about the intersections between my book project on memory politics in Bosnia and Serbia and student views on post-conflict Kosovo. I've been taking a lot of photographs, such as this one of the KLA cemetery and monument to Socialism in Yugoslavia.
The special issue of “The exhumed object: material traces of Mass death” is now online: https://www.cairn.info/revue-les-cahiers-sirice-2017-2.htm
The opening article has now been translated into English. Please see it here:
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.
Mapping the ‚Forensic Turn‘: Engagements with Materialities of Mass Death in Holocaust Studies and Beyond, Editor Zuzanna Dziuban
I am delighted to announce that my essay, "The Forensic Imagination: Evidence, Art and the Post-Yugoslav Document," is part of this new book.
Overview of the Volume:
During recent decades, forensic investigation has become a standard response to the reality of mass graves resulting from genocides and various forms of political violence. From Argentina to Rwanda, from former Yugoslavia to Poland, the search for the sites of mass burial, the application of archaeological and forensic practices, and the use of advanced technologies to collect and analyse evidence have all played a major role in transforming former landscapes of violence into scenes of crime. Yet truth-finding is not the only driving force behind forensic investigations performed at the spaces marked by a difficult past: the issues of politics and justice are at stake, as are the dynamics of memory and mourning and of the future of post-conflict societies, framed through the prism of the relationships between the dead and the living. The diagnoses of the ‘forensic turn’ therefore open up a complex terrain shaped by the interplay of scientific protocols, political interest, ethical sensitivities, and materialities of mass death – bringing about a proliferation of practices and counter-practices, discourses and counterdiscourses, imageries and counter-imageries. Building upon this recognition, this book asks how the turn towards forensics both as a standardized practice in the search for and identification of bodies, as a paradigm shift in remembrance and as an emergent cultural sensitivity, extends beyond the sites where forensic science operates, and transforms the fields of social and human sciences, political activism, popular imagination, and art.
Born out of debates held during the international workshop Forensic Turn in Holocaust Studies at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute in June 2015, this book gathers contributions investigating theoretical, methodological, political and practical implications of the ‘forensic turn’ within and well beyond the (inter)disciplinary realm of Holocaust studies.
Amazon France Link:
Please see my article:
A "Living Memorial": Forensic Imaginings from the Inside of a Bosnian Mortuary Fridge
Here is the editor's description of the special issue:
Some of you might be interested in the special issue of Cahiers SIRICE edited by Sophie Baby and I. The exhumed object: material traces of the Mass Death is a collection of nine papers, in French and in English. It brings together historians, historians of art, archeologists, anthropologists working on mass graves and memory of mass violence. We chose to focus our attention on the objects exhumed from these mass graves and not only on bones and corpses. What do they tell us about the victims, about the perpetrated crimes? But also we worked on the "second life" of these objects after they were unearthed. What is to be done with them?