This is a brief display of the artists and photographers from the Western Balkans who were shortlisted at the Different Worlds competition and collectively exhibited at Photon – Centre for Contemporary Photography and Kino Šiška in Ljubljana (7 November – 2 December 2016).
The jury members were: Sophia Greiff (FotoDoks, Munich) Jasna Jernejšek (Photon – Centre for Contemporary Photography, Ljubljana), Lara Plavčak (Kino Šiška, Ljubljana) in István Virágvölgyi (Robert Capa Center, Budapest).
The competition was open for emerging artists up to 35 years of age from the Western Balkans which is the other name for the territory of former Yugoslavia. The decision to focus on that area lies in the fact that this territory is chronically under-represented in the world of art following the brutal civil wars and years of ruthless political, social and economical transition.
*some of the series were originally showcased as installations (and they therefore require to be seen as objects, ie in person) so the visual representation of the works might be sligtly deficient!
Lana Bregar: Lost and Found (2016)
With the Lost and Found series of photographs Lana Bregar creates a landscape of her imagination. Believing that nature is above all worldly things, extremely rare and appreciated, she depicts a combination of images of nature (forest, trees or grass) and human beings (the artist’s self-portraits) in order to highlight their mutual tension as well as to predict their future. Nature as a rounded entity stands above all particular living creatures, however, human beings control the future of nature and therefore of themselves. The series thus describes the artist and her search for unknown identities and spaces that can be found in the big wide world.
Lana Bregar (1998) is a young photographer and filmmaker who is currently completing her studies at the High School for Photography and Design in Ljubljana. She lives and works in Grosuplje, Slovenia.
Jaka Bulc: Steelerton, 2015-ongoing
Steelerton is an ongoing project named after an imaginary place inspired by the real Slovenian town of Jesenice. Similar to numerous other photographers Bulc felt constricted by the spatial and temporal frames of his works. Thus, he set out on a mission to photograph motifs that would have a totally universal look, with no references to a place or time. The town turned out to be rather cinematic and – as the artist has a personal connection to the town – the work dealt with nostalgia as well as local social and demographic issues. Jesenice is a liminal place; a former industrial powerhouse whose industry has collapsed, and the town has remained in constant economic transition to this very day; a former border town which in a sense still represents a frontier within the EU; a town of emigrants from former Yugoslavia who have established a unique local community. The Steelerton series follows the idea of using universal imagery to tell a specific story of a specific place. The contemporary post-industrial town, with its real provenance only partially revealed, serves merely as a backdrop for a photographic exploration of the personal memories and the town’s spirit through a conglomerate of documentary, staged and found photographs.
Jaka Bulc (1989) holds a degree in Cultural Studies from the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana. He works as a freelance photographer, translator and writer. He lives and works in Bled, Slovenia.
Dejan Clement: The Artist is Dead (2016)
The project The Artist is Dead is a comprehensive mixed media artwork that includes video, performance, installation, live interaction and photography; however, within this context it is presented in the form of a photo-documentary series. The artist uses the working process to investigate the different sociological and psychological aspects of death in the world of art, which is usually a giant turning point in the creation of the myth of the artist. Clement collects media reports on dead artists and by doing this he is exposing himself in different situations and creating various scenarios of his own death. Every artefact is composed of three parts: the photograph of the dead artist, the official autopsy report, and the article appropriated from a newspaper.
Dejan Clement (1989) graduated in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade. He has been actively working and exhibiting since 2008. He lives and works in Belgrade, Serbia.
Mia Ćuk: Eikaiwa (2014-ongoing)
Approximately two years ago Mia Ćuk began working as a teacher at one of the Eikaiwa schools, a privately owned network of English conversation schools in Japan. She accepted its corporate policy, low wages and rules of impersonal communication in order to expose the school’s mechanisms – the institutionalisation of language, cultural clichés and its concealed policy. She worked in the ambivalent space of Skype where she followed the prescribed scenario and behaviour codes such as positive attitude and exaggerated enthusiasm. The Eikaiwa system is designed to neutralise the true identity of the students and teachers with nicknames and common discussion themes; it also attempts to subdue any critical opinions and keep the spaces in which classes take place (video frame) thoroughly impersonal. Despite the requested distance, the artist closely observed and documented details withgin the private spaces of her students. It was through these elements that Ćuk noticed modes of self-representation and speculated on the identities of her anonymous interlocutors.
Mia Ćuk (1988) graduated from the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad and holds an MA in Photography from the University of Westminster, London. Her artistic practice focuses on collecting fleeting and transient moments, daily routines and habits. She lives and works in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Vedad Divović: Jesus, the Yugoslavs and the Creation of the World (2016)
Vedad Divović’s series of photographs entitled Jesus, the Yugoslavs and the Creation of the World is a subjective record of a journey through the seven newly established states of former Yugoslavia. Following the collapse of the once collective supranational identity that was maintained here for almost half a century, the photographer travelled across the area and focused on the border territories which segregate the populations and build new identities based on ethnic division and hatred. The work produced in the form of a photobook consists of a combination of portraits, metaphoric pictures of landscapes, architecture and street snapshots. Together they showcase the living conditions of these places today and challenge the viewer’s gaze by deliberately blurring the line between the remnants of the past and the signs of the present. The book treats the entire region as if it was still a unified territory – with no ideological distinction and no (immediate) captions that would disclose the provenance of particular places.
Vedad Divović (1991) graduated in Photography from the University of Applied Science in Bielefeld, Germany. He has been active in the field of art and photography since 2010. He lives and works in Hamburg, Germany.
Ibro Hasanović: Black Chronicles (2014) / 1st award
The Black Chronicles series is based on the crime stories press section of the photograph archive at the Bosnian daily newspaper Oslobođenje. It attempts to juxtapose striking similarities in the motifs and compositions of the crime stories. Hasanović exposed the apparent repetition in the visual representation of victims, criminal suspects and law enforcement forces in the mass media, all of which lead to psychotic propaganda and a scary picture of the contemporary society. However, the flow of images could also have cinematic elements. Images showing close-ups of guns pointing towards the viewer and scenes of masked police task forces create a suspense based on their familiarity; contemporary popular culture, regardless of whether this is the Hollywood film industry or mass media, uses the very same stereotypes by showcasing armed policeman wearing black masks and handcuffed criminal suspects. Moreover, these images are produced within a political discourse that favours strong executive and authoritarian imagery. In everyday life its results are manifested as a belief that in a society in which crime is omnipresent only a strong police presence can guarantee the safety of its citizens.
Ibro Hasanović (1981) studied Product Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo and Contemporary Art and Cinema at Le Fresnoy – Studio National des Arts Contemporains in France. In his work he focuses on issues relating to history, collective memory and personal archives. He currently lives and works in Priština, Kosovo.
Sanja Knežević Jovanović: Family Matters (2010-2011) / 2nd award
In her long-term project entitled Family Matters, Sanja Knežević Jovanović explored the phenomena of arranged marriages in rural Serbian areas where numerous villages have been abandoned over time. In search of a better life women often move to towns, leaving behind lonely men. Tired of searching for Serbian women who would be willing to move to these godforsaken areas, men often resort to services provided by Albanian matchmakers who charge good money for a successful meeting. Bachelors, most of them in their forties, thus get a chance to find a wife; however, they are usually poor and are unable to pay for the service without selling a part of their property. The photographer documents the matchmaking processes in which communication is most commonly limited to body language since the couple does not speak the same language. Of course, there are also other significant differences, such as religion and the generation gap – men are usually much older than the women. However, the series showcases the possibility of coexisting despite huge cultural differences.
Sanja Knežević Jovanović (1984) is a documentary photographer who focuses on long-term social projects that emphasise common humanity. She graduated in Photography from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade in 2008. She lives and works in Belgrade, Serbia.
Andrea Palašti: Home Workouts – The Shopping List (2013-ongoing)
Home Workouts is a work in progress that consists of a series of various individual workouts. Andrea Palašti conceived them as a communication exercise and workout routine that can easily be achieved with minimal equipment, time and effort. Moreover, in order to investigate a particular phenomenon within the everyday routine they can be performed in (any) home, with or without other family members. The workouts represent a humorous analysis of history, identity, gender, economy and political issues as well as employ collaborations and curatorial impulses into the project. Different tasks are documented with a camera, for instance The Shopping List series collects, classifies and documents the simple act of writing down a list of products that need to be bought at the shop on a daily basis. Palašti collects these seemingly insignificant documents in order to form an archive of everyday life.
Andrea Palašti (1984) holds a MA in Photography from the Academy of Art, University of Novi Sad, and a PhD in Art and Media Theory from the University of Arts in Belgrade. In her work, in which she often crosses artistic and curatorial boundaries, she focuses on research and exhibition practices that experiment with archives, methodologies and contextual aspects of art. She lives and works in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Tina Umer: Home (Pictures of Memories) (2016) / 3rd award
In an attempt to explore the concept of home and homeliness of a certain place, Tina Umer decided to create a contemporary photographic view of Slovenian Istria, a remote region where she lived as a child and youngster. She attempted to recreate her own visual imprint of the area. The images seem like an echo of her childhood, charged with emotions and memories of specific events or special places. The photographs are composed into a wholesome installation that wishes to remain playful and indistinct (like memories and emotions usually are) while remaining consistent. Umer’s view of the region is therefore a very specific and intimate one, and it differs greatly from the idealised tourist presentations that promote the Adriatic coast and local wine routes.
Tina Umer (1991) graduated in Visual Communication from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She has been working in photography and exhibiting since 2010. She currently lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark.