ARTISTS: Zdravko Delibašić, Flaka Haliti, Gjorge Jovanovik, Milena Jovićević, Adela Jušić, Alketa Ramaj, Goran Škofić, Slobodan Stošić
CURATORS: Nic Bezemer and Annina Zimmermann
CULTURESCAPES invited eight visual artists from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania to Switzerland in order to participate in artist residencies lasting several weeks. The project room ‹Basement› will showcase the works created during the summer in Nairs and in the autumn in Basel alongside existing pieces. The exhibition covers the initial impressions of our guests and provides a first insight into their work.
What does the term ‹the Balkans› mean with regard to the work of the individual artists? The question mark in the title indicates our curiosity about this cultural scene, about which very little is known in Switzerland, but also questions our expectations of a mutual identity. The individual attempt to comprehend and come to terms with the consequences of the Balkan conflict is particularly expressed in the works of Adela Jušić, who interviews older family members about the civil war in video clips. She dyes her grandmother’s hair in front of the camera, thus turning her into her younger self, and whispers the thousand memories on which her generation was nurtured: of family ties and the war, reaching far back into the 20th century.
The attempt to start all over again is more than obvious with artists such as Goran Škofić or Slobodan Stošić. In an ironic reference to country art, Slobodan Stošić uses a school map to suggest expanding the Adriatic Sea around the entire former Yugoslavia. Using this falsification of historical events, an act that is apparently commonplace in classrooms around the world, he turns the territorial claims of his homeland Serbia into an absurd farce, thus affirming art’s position as a symbol of humour and freedom. Goran Škofić, on the other hand, works in the white emptiness of the studio – in Nairs – and manipulates his acrobatically captured self portraits in post-production: he hovers in the empty space between the difficult legacy of everyday life imbued with ideology and the daily tricks of individual life.
The Macedonian artist Gjorge Jovanovic lets the polyphonic male choir in Southern Albania comment on contemporary society. What sounds like folklore to western ears, is a reckoning with post-communist realities and the distance of conceptual art to the problems of everyday life. Alketa Ramaj and Milena Jovićević on the other hand expound the problems of the gender ratio. In exuberant drawings and animations Jovićević creates an unconventional and aggressively funny version of the story of Adam and Eve. In a quiet film, Alketa Ramaj entangles two lovers in a tender power struggle: a kind of cinematic poem about the castrating effect of great intimacy.
Zdravko Delibašić’s charcoal drawings achieve an understanding of light and dark. People and interiors are just a glimmer in the light reflexes of the white paper. His poster ‹Balkan’s Perception of European Identity›, which won an EU award, shows a glowing field through a keyhole as if we were locked in the darkness. Flaka Haliti is more light-footed on her travels between Vienna, Munich and Pristina. The starting point of her performance for the camera in the studio in Nairs was the question of whether the unpopular topic of physical exercise could be approached with artistic discipline.
Some of the works of the eight guests from the Western Balkans are characterised by latent melancholy and aggression, but most of them by black humour. While some artists process their ancestry in their work in an analytical manner, others decidedly work on super-personal topics – even though we in the West may view aggressive feminism, for example, as a reaction to the traditional male image. The selection of artists who were invited to Switzerland due to the vicissitudes of various artistic networks holds numerous individual but also precise answers to the question: ‹The Balkans?›