Contemplating renewing

Anca Verona Mihuleț 


A conver­sa­ti­on betwe­en Anca Mihuleț and Andreja Kulunčić on the occa­si­on of a solo exhi­bi­ti­on at the Modern Gallery in Podgorica

Dear Andreja, we met almost ten years ago in your stu­dio in Zagreb, which fun­c­ti­oned for years as a spa­ce for pro­duc­ti­on, meetin­gs, wor­k­shops, and roun­d­ta­ble dis­cu­ssi­ons. What caug­ht my atten­ti­on in our first conver­sa­ti­on was the mind map that par­ti­al­ly cove­red one of the wal­ls of your wor­ks­pa­ce. What does the mind map repre­sent for you, and how did you start using this met­hod of thin­king and envi­si­oning futu­re projects?

The mind map is a cons­tant in my stu­dio. Each one las­ts from two to four years, during which I slowly cons­truct them and then repla­ce them with the next one. They are use­ful to me when I’m buil­ding com­plex, long-term pro­jec­ts beca­use it hel­ps me struc­tu­re the pro­ject. I could com­pa­re it to the wire­fra­me a scul­p­tor buil­ds for the­ir futu­re clay scul­p­tu­re. Currently, I’m wor­king on a mind map for a text on soci­al­ly enga­ged art and its acti­va­ti­on poten­ti­als. At your sug­ges­ti­on, I’m tran­sfer­ring my recent map to the wall of the Modern Gallery as part of this exhi­bi­ti­on. It’s not fini­shed yet, but it intro­du­ces the audi­en­ce to my pro­cess and thin­king abo­ut soci­al­ly enga­ged art.


Do you see soci­al­ly enga­ged art as a mec­ha­nism for pro­fo­und soci­al chan­ge or a stra­tegy to com­bat disparities?

I start from the the­sis that soci­al­ly enga­ged art, thro­ugh its acti­ons, can make the wor­ld a bet­ter pla­ce. For me, its essen­ce lies in addre­ssing con­cre­te soci­al issu­es and con­fron­ting the audi­en­ce with per­so­nal res­pon­si­bi­lity for soci­al deviations.

I beli­eve that thro­ugh pre­ci­se stra­te­gi­es, soci­al­ly enga­ged artis­tic prac­ti­ce can lead to tan­gi­ble soci­al chan­ges, thus being an impor­tant agent or catalyst in soci­ety. It can ser­ve as a chan­nel for com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, sen­si­ti­za­ti­on, unve­iling struc­tu­res and mec­ha­ni­sms of soci­etal stig­ma­ti­za­ti­on, and pro­po­sing solu­ti­ons for a more just coexis­ten­ce. As part of the hege­mo­nic appa­ra­tus of the sta­te, art has esta­bli­shed modes of visi­bi­lity and fun­ding. Within rup­tu­res in the ide­olo­gi­cal matrix, it can cri­ti­cal­ly focus on reality and point out ingra­ined mec­ha­ni­sms of stig­ma­ti­za­ti­on. Opening ques­ti­ons, raising awa­re­ness of issu­es, facing the per­so­nal role of the viewer, fin­ding possi­ble solu­ti­ons, and ulti­ma­tely, chan­ging the exis­ting situ­ati­on are the fun­da­men­tal goals of my artis­tic practice.

We can expand the conver­sa­ti­on to encom­pass soci­al prac­ti­ce as a bro­ader artis­tic cate­gory to which soci­al­ly enga­ged art belon­gs. I refer to all artis­tic pro­jec­ts that take soci­al rela­ti­ons or the resul­ts of the­se rela­ti­ons as the­ir mate­ri­al, thro­ugh acti­ve viewer par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on, cri­tique of soci­al rela­ti­ons, ques­ti­oning of soci­al situ­ati­ons, wor­king with spe­ci­fic com­mu­ni­ti­es, and the like. Within this deli­ne­ated category,

soci­al­ly enga­ged art is a type of soci­al prac­ti­ce that goes beyond sym­bo­lic or merely aes­t­he­tic resul­ts. Instead, thro­ugh tac­ti­cal and subver­si­ve acti­ons out­si­de the artis­tic sys­tem, it achi­eves visi­ble chan­ges in the real soci­al fabric.

Therefore, the role of the artist wit­hin soci­al­ly enga­ged art exten­ds beyond cri­ti­cism or aes­t­he­ti­ci­za­ti­on to cons­tant knowled­ge disse­mi­na­ti­on and buil­ding a plat­form for the col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve sha­ping of soci­al rela­ti­ons that lead to actu­al changes.


Besides Europe, you have wor­ked aro­und the wor­ld, from North to South America, from Asia to Oceania. How do you navi­ga­te the com­plexity of the loca­ti­ons whe­re you con­duct your rese­ar­ch? How do you posi­ti­on your­self in front of dif­fe­rent socio-poli­ti­cal textu­res that you encounter?

The issu­es I address in my wor­ks often have the­ir roots in the soci­ety in which I live. Post-soci­alist soci­eti­es con­ti­nue to be spa­ces of expe­ri­men­ta­ti­on. I don’t want to say that all of them end in failu­re, but they are mos­tly pain­ful inci­si­ons that we, as citi­zens, expe­ri­en­ce very per­so­nal­ly. Everything is on the “soci­al ampli­fi­er,” visi­ble, recog­ni­za­ble, super­fi­ci­al­ly repa­ired, but wit­ho­ut real struc­tu­ral solu­ti­ons. In that lig­ht, I can easily under­stand the pro­blems of other soci­eti­es; I see crac­ks, pro­tru­ding bones, sick organs… Special X‑ray gla­sses are not needed to noti­ce soci­al injus­ti­ces, people who are unfa­ir­ly exclu­ded and pushed to the soci­al mar­gins, and who, on the other hand, vivid­ly reflect the sta­te of soci­ety like mir­rors. For exam­ple, the issue of migrant wor­kers who are not well rece­ived in Western Europe has been well known in Yugoslavia sin­ce the 1960s. We had seve­ral migra­ti­on waves to the West in the past, and the latest sig­ni­fi­cant migra­ti­on of Croatian citi­zens began after Croatia joined the European Union. Therefore, it was not dif­fi­cult for me to under­stand the pro­blems faced by migrants in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland.

I would hig­hlig­ht two of my wor­ks, “Bosnians Out!” from 2008, which won the second pri­ze at the 53rd Herceg Novi Winter Salon in Montenegro in 2020, and “EQUALS – for the accep­tan­ce of diver­sity” from 2017. Both wor­ks have been exhi­bi­ted and cited many times. The first was cre­ated at the invi­ta­ti­on of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Ljubljana, and the second was a self-finan­ced pro­ject in Zagreb. I col­la­bo­ra­ted with three cons­truc­ti­on wor­kers from Bosnia in Ljubljana who were wor­king on the cons­truc­ti­on of the muse­um buil­ding at that time thro­ugh a lar­ge cons­truc­ti­on com­pany that secu­red the­ir work per­mits and took care of the­ir accom­mo­da­ti­on and meals. The con­di­ti­ons pro­vi­ded for them were enti­rely ina­dequ­ate, but the wor­kers coul­d­n’t pro­test beca­use the­ir work per­mits were tied to that com­pany, and ter­mi­na­ti­on would mean the loss of the­ir work visas and a return to Bosnia. Together with the wor­kers, I cre­ated city lig­ht pos­ters that accu­ra­tely depic­ted the­ir living con­di­ti­ons and the pro­blems they faced in Slovenia. By pla­cing them in the city cen­ter, we publi­cly pro­tes­ted aga­inst such a situ­ati­on, hoping to ini­ti­ate a dialo­gue with the public. We suc­ce­eded in that, as evi­den­ced by the cen­sor­ship of the work by the city admi­nis­tra­ti­on. The day after the pos­ters were put up, the city remo­ved all the pos­ters from the cen­ter of Ljubljana! After insis­ten­ce from the Museum, the pos­ters were retur­ned. https://www.andreja.info/en/projects/bosnians-out/

In the EQUALS pro­ject, I wor­ked in Zagreb with five women of dif­fe­rent mino­rity iden­ti­ti­es, parap­hra­sing a ques­ti­on posed by Indian-American ant­hro­po­lo­gist Arjun Appadurai in the book “Fear of Small Numbers.” I was inte­res­ted in why people in Zagreb “fear” women who have cro­ssed the age of fif­ty, who are rare (in ter­ms of small num­bers), and com­ple­tely har­mless to the local popu­la­ti­on, howe­ver, what is the reason for the­ir cons­tant dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on. I wan­ted to iden­tify the basic pro­blems they face on a daily and ins­ti­tu­ti­onal level, which result from dis­cri­mi­na­tory beha­vi­our and legis­la­ti­on. After a seri­es of joint wor­king meetin­gs, we con­clu­ded that they are the ones expo­sed to dis­com­fort and fear, for exam­ple, when passing thro­ugh cer­ta­in parts of the city beca­use of skin colo­ur or reli­gi­ous sym­bols (head­s­carf), feeling une­asy abo­ut using the­ir own lan­gu­age (Arabic), having no oppor­tu­nity to adopt a child in a same-sex rela­ti­on­ship, and facing asylum rejec­ti­ons. In addi­ti­on to pos­ters with the­ir “wishes” for the nor­ma­li­za­ti­on of life, espe­ci­al­ly for the­ir chil­dren, we also cre­ated a short edu­ca­ti­onal ani­ma­ti­on aimed at young people and spre­ad it on soci­al networ­ks. The work has achi­eved suc­cess that we did not actu­al­ly expect. It has been exhi­bi­ted in more than ten coun­tri­es so far beca­use, unfor­tu­na­tely, iden­ti­cal dis­cri­mi­na­ti­on pro­blems are pre­sent in other coun­tri­es aro­und us. https://www.andreja.info/en/projects/equals-for-the-acceptance-of-diversity/

In both of the­se wor­ks, we can talk abo­ut a dual line of acti­on. On the one hand, in the pro­cess of cre­ati­on, and on the other hand, in the impact of the wor­k’s resul­ts, which raises awa­re­ness and thus chan­ges society.

During the work on both pro­jec­ts, chan­ges occur­red wit­hin our­sel­ves — our col­la­bo­ra­ti­on, the per­so­nal empower­ment of the par­ti­ci­pants thro­ugh public enga­ge­ment, ques­ti­oning posi­ti­ons, and a sen­se of unity. Here, I would like to recall a rela­ted tho­ug­ht of Antonio Gramsci when he des­cri­bed agen­cy as a war of posi­ti­ons in which we need to cre­ate situ­ati­ons and empower indi­vi­du­als who can lead move­ments towar­ds col­lec­ti­ve change.



The con­cep­ts of chan­ge, equ­ality, labor, lega­lity-ille­ga­lity, people, rig­h­ts, self-orga­ni­za­ti­on, stig­ma­ti­za­ti­on, the stran­ger, or tole­ran­ce often appe­ar in the dis­co­ur­se sur­ro­un­ding your work. Indeed, you spe­ak very direc­tly and ope­nly abo­ut soci­al differences. 

On the other hand, you also fol­low ini­ti­ated pro­jec­ts in a way that rese­ar­ch con­ti­nu­es and never stops, fin­ding dif­fe­rent ways of pre­sen­ting or repe­ating exis­ting ide­as. Do you con­si­der your­self an acti­vist or soci­al­ly enga­ged artist? What would be the limits of soci­al­ly enga­ged art from your perspective?

From the very begin­ning of my artis­tic prac­ti­ce, I am addre­ssing the­mes such as racism, gen­der equ­ality, and soci­al jus­ti­ce and the­ir impact on indi­vi­du­als and soci­ety at lar­ge. I use vari­ous met­hods of soci­al prac­ti­ce to sti­mu­la­te the audi­en­ce’s thin­king and acti­ons regar­ding socio-poli­ti­cal issu­es. Through my work, I cre­ate a posi­ti­ve atmosp­he­re of dialo­gue and awa­re­ness abo­ut soci­al pro­blems for which I beli­eve we can col­lec­ti­vely find points of resis­tan­ce. I want to ena­ble indi­vi­du­als par­ti­ci­pa­ting in the pro­ject to spe­ak abo­ut the­ir issu­es them­sel­ves; I pro­vi­de them with tools but do not spe­ak for them. Art is part of a pri­vi­le­ged soci­al struc­tu­re. I use its reso­ur­ces with a cle­ar goal of cre­ating spa­ce for tho­se who lack a voice. It is cru­ci­al to me that everyo­ne has the­ir acti­ve agen­cy wit­hin the field they con­si­der sig­ni­fi­cant. Our com­mu­nity beco­mes frag­men­ted, the soci­al body dissi­pa­tes. Instead of poli­ti­cal bein­gs, people have beco­me con­su­mers. We indi­vi­du­ali­ze, self-indul­ge regard­less of others’ needs, as German – South Korean phi­lo­sop­her Chul Han warn us. Therefore, I beli­eve it is essen­ti­al to cons­tan­tly reflect on the kind of com­mu­nity we are cre­ating and whet­her the­re is room for bet­ter relationships.

Art has tran­sfor­ma­ti­ve power. It ali­ena­tes, awa­kens, ques­ti­ons, direc­ts our gaze to the people aro­und us, and enco­ura­ges empat­hy. I beco­mes WE.

I would say that my work is not acti­vist, but it is enga­ge­ment for dialo­gue and under­stan­ding dif­fe­rent posi­ti­ons. In that sen­se, I do not see art as having limits; it is limi­ted by bud­get, the art mar­ket, which co-opts it in vari­ous ways and takes away its edge, but this is not a cha­rac­te­ris­tic unique to art. We live in hyper­ca­pi­ta­lism, and we sho­uld try not to suc­cumb as much and when we are able. In that sen­se, com­pa­ssi­on, empat­hy, love for the per­son next to us, even if they may not be simi­lar to us in reli­gi­ous, raci­al, ethi­cal, sexu­al, class, or any other sen­se, rema­ins a per­so­nal decision.

My wor­ks spe­ak abo­ut the impor­tan­ce of taking per­so­nal res­pon­si­bi­lity for the people aro­und us, as well as for the soci­ety we live in. I beli­eve that art has strong poli­ti­cal potential,

a view sup­por­ted by the tho­ug­h­ts of the Belgian poli­ti­cal the­orist Chantal Mouffe in her essay “Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces.” Mouffe argu­es that artis­tic prac­ti­ces play a cru­ci­al role in under­mi­ning domi­nant hege­mony and cons­truc­ting new subjec­ti­vi­ti­es. She refers to prac­ti­ces that raise awa­re­ness thro­ugh an ago­nis­tic appro­ach, making visi­ble what the domi­nant con­sen­sus seeks to obs­cu­re and giving a voice to tho­se silen­ced wit­hin the exis­ting hege­mony. Their goal, she says, is to occupy public spa­ce and disrupt the glo­ssy ima­ge that cor­po­ra­te capi­ta­lism seeks to spre­ad, brin­ging to the fore­front its repre­ssi­ve character.

In my wor­ks, I invi­te the audi­en­ce to cre­ati­vely and con­s­ci­ous­ly enga­ge in the pro­cess, giving them spa­ce for deci­si­on-making and col­la­bo­ra­ti­on in the cre­ati­on or com­ple­ti­on of the work. Such par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on can impact the exis­ting situ­ati­on and lead to chan­ge. Therefore, con­tem­po­rary soci­al­ly enga­ged artis­tic prac­ti­ce is, for me, an impor­tant agent in society.

In this con­text, I defi­ne an agent as a dri­ver of acti­ons that are tho­ug­h­t­ful, invol­ve deci­si­on-making, lead towar­ds col­lec­ti­ve chan­ge, and take on responsibilities.

As an exam­ple of a work that invol­ves acti­ve col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with a cle­ar goal and out­co­me, under­mi­ning exis­ting hege­mony, I will men­ti­on my piece “NAMA: 1908 employe­es, 15 depart­ment sto­res” from the year 2000. It is a poli­ti­cal and enga­ged artis­tic work that emer­ged in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the uni­on of the depart­ment sto­re cha­in NAMA during unsuc­ce­s­sful wor­kers’ pro­tes­ts due to unpa­id wages and emp­ty shel­ves in the sto­res. Among three com­ple­tely dif­fe­rent ide­as with which I wan­ted to “amplify the voice” of the wor­kers in public, they cho­se the sug­ges­ti­on invol­ving pos­ters in city lig­ht boxes, con­si­de­ring it pro­vi­ded the gre­atest visi­bi­lity. We pla­ced pos­ters with NAMA’s wor­ker in the recog­ni­za­ble work uni­form and the text NAMA: 1908 employe­es, 15 depart­ment sto­res in cen­tral city loca­ti­ons. After three days, the­re was a flur­ry of arti­cles in the news­pa­pers ques­ti­oning who and with what pur­po­se had pla­ced the pos­ters. The exis­ten­ti­al uncer­ta­in­ty of the wor­kers was bro­ug­ht fur­t­her into the public focus, as was the issue of non-tran­s­pa­rent pri­va­ti­za­ti­ons. Through the media, a public dialo­gue was res­tar­ted and that pre­ssu­re also hel­ped to rever­se the gover­n­ment pre­vi­ous deci­si­on to clo­se the com­pany and sell the pro­per­ti­es. The final out­co­me was ban­krup­t­cy with res­truc­tu­ring. Workers were not laid off, wages were paid, and depart­ment sto­res con­ti­nu­ed to ope­ra­te. https://www.andreja.info/en/projects/nama-1908-employees-15-department-stores/



Recently, you exhi­bi­ted the pro­ject from 1999, “Closed Reality – Embryo,” at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka. This work was based on an inte­rac­ti­ve web appli­ca­ti­on, invol­ving seve­ral sci­en­tis­ts and soci­olo­gis­ts, spar­king a dis­cu­ssi­on abo­ut the soci­al impli­ca­ti­ons of gene­tic engi­ne­ering even back then. What do you think the Embryo pro­ject says abo­ut today’s spe­ci­fic con­text? Do you con­si­der it his­to­ri­cal, or do you beli­eve it still has an impact?

Embryo was, for me, a pro­ject that spo­ke abo­ut the futu­re. The ’90s were dark, dif­fi­cult, and depre­ssing due to the war. I wan­ted to open a dif­fe­rent topic, ini­ti­ate a dialo­gue whe­re we could col­lec­ti­vely ima­gi­ne, dre­am, and cre­ate a (dis­tant) futu­re wor­ld. At that moment, it was a good deci­si­on; people beca­me inte­res­ted, enga­ged, and the atmosp­he­re was posi­ti­ve. https://www.andreja.info/en/projects/closed-reality-embryo/

Today when con­tem­pla­ting the “futu­re,” often envi­si­oned with a dys­to­pi­an end for huma­nity in the era of the Anthropocene, I beli­eve Embryo rema­ins rele­vant, albe­it in a dif­fe­rent con­text. Currently, I am wor­king on a new pro­ject that con­nec­ts the ques­ti­on of the futu­re of tec­h­no­logy, drawing from anot­her inter­net-based work of mine, “Distributive Justice” from 2012. This pro­ject ini­ti­ated a col­lec­ti­ve dialo­gue on the fair dis­tri­bu­ti­on of goods and ques­ti­oned the sen­se of per­so­nal invol­ve­ment in it. https://www.andreja.info/en/projects/distributive-justice/

However, today, con­si­de­ring the pla­ne­tary con­di­ti­ons of the Anthropocene that sur­ro­und us, eco­lo­gi­cal jus­ti­ce, cli­ma­te risks, glo­bal reso­ur­ce dis­tri­bu­ti­on, and soci­al jus­ti­ce reve­al an ine­vi­ta­ble glo­bal inter­con­nec­ted­ness. Consequently, we incre­asin­gly recog­ni­ze the nece­ssity of raising awa­re­ness abo­ut the cur­rent sta­te and chan­ging our rela­ti­on­ship with the wor­ld aro­und us.

The fun­da­men­tal ques­ti­on now, I would say, is: what is a just dis­tri­bu­ti­on on a pla­ne­tary level, and what tools do we have at our dis­po­sal to achi­eve it?

The tec­h­no­lo­gi­es we use, inclu­ding arti­fi­ci­al intel­li­gen­ce, mir­ror the inhu­ma­ne aspec­ts of the cur­rent soci­ety. Therefore, pla­ne­tary jus­ti­ce is inhe­ren­tly con­nec­ted to necro­po­li­tics, the con­trol of death thro­ugh sta­te violen­ce, which par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ts me wit­hin the bro­ader pic­tu­re I have outli­ned, relying on the the­ore­ti­cal reflec­ti­ons of the Italian-Australian phi­lo­sop­her Rosi Braidotti and the Cameroonian his­to­ri­an and poli­ti­cal sci­en­tist Achille Mbembe. Braidotti war­ns us abo­ut the other face of biopo­li­tics, which, besi­des its con­nec­ti­on with Zoe, also has a pro­fo­und asso­ci­ati­on with necro­po­li­tics, the take­over of con­trol over death thro­ugh sta­te violen­ce, as dis­cu­ssed by Mbembe. Death emer­ges as a cen­tral ele­ment of socio-poli­ti­cal rela­ti­ons in Africa and other under­pri­vi­le­ged regi­ons of the wor­ld. It is legi­ti­ma­te, accep­ta­ble, undis­pu­ted, whi­le the mec­ha­ni­sms of violen­ce are cons­tan­tly upgra­ded. Necropolitics and glo­bal neo­li­be­ral eco­no­mi­es mutu­al­ly sup­port each other, cre­ating oppre­ssi­ve soci­eti­es, whe­re death – not life – beco­mes a means of power and domi­na­ti­on over a sig­ni­fi­cant part of the wor­l­d’s popu­la­ti­on. According to Braidotti, the­se are the inhu­ma­ne aspec­ts of the pos­t­hu­man con­di­ti­on. Referring to Mbembe, she sees many con­tem­po­rary wars led by Western alli­es as neo­co­lo­ni­al conqu­es­ts for the extrac­ti­on of reso­ur­ces for pro­fit. Braidotti cal­ls the use of tec­h­no­lo­gi­cal­ly medi­ated violen­ce a new “semi­otics of kil­ling,” cre­ating paral­lel “wor­l­ds of death” cir­cu­la­ting the glo­bal networ­ks as info­ta­in­ment, chal­len­ging pos­t­hu­man ethics.

I see a clo­se con­nec­ti­on to Embryo, i.e., tec­h­no­lo­gi­es influ­en­cing huma­nity, in the the­ori­es of the pos­t­hu­man, or the new subjec­ti­vity that incre­asin­gly bin­ds humans to mac­hi­nes, making our iden­tity flu­id and chan­ge­able. We beco­me assem­bla­ges of everyt­hing that sur­ro­un­ds us, noma­dic subjec­ts, as Braidotti suggests.

The upco­ming pro­ject, “Worried, we stand at the thre­shold of a conqu­ered wor­ld,” based on the­se pre­mi­ses, is being deve­lo­ped in col­la­bo­ra­ti­on with the Art Pavilion in Zagreb and is cur­ren­tly in the fun­dra­ising sta­ge for production.


Since 2018, you have dedi­ca­ted your artis­tic ener­gy to the mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary pro­ject “You betrayed the Party just when you sho­uld have hel­ped it.” For this pro­ject, you have used your artis­tic met­hod of rese­ar­ch and site-spe­ci­fic inter­ven­ti­ons over an exten­ded peri­od, col­la­bo­ra­ting with indi­vi­du­als from vari­ous dis­ci­pli­nes. The pro­ject invol­ves the cre­ati­on of per­for­ma­ti­ve video wor­ks, pho­to­grap­hs, the col­lec­ti­on of tes­ti­mo­ni­es, and the orga­ni­za­ti­on of wor­k­shops aimed at recons­truc­ting the men­tal and emo­ti­onal sta­te of fema­le pri­so­ners on the islan­ds of Goli and Sveti Grgur. How would you cha­rac­te­ri­ze this pro­ject – as repre­sen­ta­ti­ve of Croatian soci­ety, as disrup­ti­ve to the esta­bli­shed his­to­ri­cal nar­ra­ti­ve, or as a col­lec­ti­ve responsibility?

The mul­ti-year artis­tic rese­ar­ch pro­ject ” You betrayed the Party just when you sho­uld have hel­ped it,” ini­ti­ated in 2019, was ful­ly pre­sen­ted to the public in a solo exhi­bi­ti­on at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka in 2022. Prior to that, in 2021, it was exhi­bi­ted at the Historical and Maritime Museum in Pula, featu­ring a video ins­tal­la­ti­on and a dis­cu­ssi­on on “History/HERstory: A Discussion on Women in the History of the Political Camp Goli otok.” This year, it was showca­sed in Manila at the Vargas Museum, with a dif­fe­rent emp­ha­sis on the wor­k­shop com­po­nents of the project.

In this pro­ject, gro­un­ded in soci­al­ly enga­ged artis­tic prac­ti­ces and reali­zed thro­ugh vari­ous con­tem­po­rary art media, I, along with my excep­ti­onal col­la­bo­ra­tors Renata Jambrešić Kirin, an ant­hro­po­lo­gist and femi­nist the­orist, and Dubravka Stijačić, a psyc­hot­he­ra­pist, addre­ssed the suf­fe­ring of more than 850 women pri­so­ners on Goli otok and Sveti Grgur from 1950 to 1956, fol­lowing the poli­ti­cal rift betwe­en Tito and Stalin. The mar­gi­na­li­zed his­tory of women ser­ved as the star­ting point for rese­ar­ch and acti­va­ti­on of the the­me, mani­fes­ting thro­ugh spa­ti­al artis­tic inter­ven­ti­ons at the sites of the fema­le poli­ti­cal camp, three exhi­bi­ti­ons, a web­si­te, publi­ca­ti­ons, stra­te­gic work on media visi­bi­lity, and a dis­cur­si­ve pro­gram, inclu­ding a seri­es of wor­k­shops and dis­cu­ssi­ons. https://www.zene-arhipelag-goli.info/en/home‑2/

The pro­ject pro­ble­ma­ti­zes the col­lec­ti­ve amne­sia sur­ro­un­ding the violent his­tory of women, aiming to esta­blish a more just memory and stri­ving to raise awa­re­ness abo­ut the fact that the struc­tu­re of a camp is always possible.

The pro­ject also points to the silent appro­val and par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in tota­li­ta­ri­an regi­mes that lurk aro­und us. In other wor­ds, it cal­ls for col­lec­ti­ve res­pon­si­bi­lity towar­ds the futu­re by taking us back 64 years to an untold chap­ter of our sha­red history.

One sig­ni­fi­cant seg­ment of the ongo­ing pro­ject, which hol­ds par­ti­cu­lar impor­tan­ce for me, is the par­ti­ci­pa­tory cons­truc­ti­on of anti-monu­ments thro­ugh the “850 women for 850 women” acti­on. This invol­ves invi­ting women to cre­ate, thro­ugh wor­k­shops, a small scul­p­tu­re in clay for each of the fema­le pri­so­ners who endu­red the camp repre­ssi­on. Through a col­lec­ti­ve pro­cess of buil­ding an anti-monu­ment to a mar­gi­na­li­zed his­to­ri­cal event as one of the fil­ters for decons­truc­ti­on, new reflec­ti­on, accep­tan­ce of the past, and the cre­ati­on of new memo­ri­es, the pro­ject con­tri­bu­tes to the decen­tra­li­za­ti­on of col­lec­ti­ve memory. The con­cept of anti-monu­ments enga­ges the audi­en­ce in the pro­cess of tran­sfer­ring memory, whe­re each indi­vi­du­al, depen­ding on the­ir per­so­nal inte­rest, seeks infor­ma­ti­on and answers. By cons­truc­ting the­ir own memo­ri­es, they beco­me bearers of memory — monu­ments — taking on res­pon­si­bi­lity for the futu­re. https://www.zene-arhipelag-goli.info/en/anti-monument/

In a seri­es of your pro­jec­ts, you have embra­ced a more direct appro­ach to addre­ssing soci­al injus­ti­ce — using simu­la­ted adver­ti­sing pos­ters con­ta­ining tes­ti­mo­ni­als of vul­ne­ra­ble indi­vi­du­als (i.e., migrant wor­kers, teena­ge mot­hers, immi­grants), gran­ting fre­edom and a voice to people soci­ety ten­ds to per­ce­ive and tre­at one-dimensionally. 

Additionally, your long-term pro­ject “EQUALS – for the accep­tan­ce of diver­sity” revol­ves aro­und the­se the­mes. Do you con­si­der this pro­cess synonymo­us with arti­fi­ce or with the cre­ati­on of soci­al awa­re­ness? How do you per­ce­ive the pre­sen­ce of the Other in today’s world?

If we view arti­fi­ce as the idea of a pro­cess that brin­gs abo­ut chan­ges in the textu­re of events or acti­ons to ser­ve the pur­po­se of art, expo­si­ti­on, or pre­sen­ta­ti­on, then I don’t con­si­der the pro­ce­sses I go thro­ugh in my pro­jec­ts as the arti­fi­ce of life. On the con­trary, the goal is to direc­tly, some­ti­mes pro­vo­ca­ti­vely (as seen in pos­ters like “Bosnians out!” or ” Austrians only”), use artis­tic tools to impact life. Changes occur in the textu­re of the soci­ety we sha­re, not in the art from which the acti­on is facilitated.

All of us can, in some aspect of life, beco­me the Other. Remaining unem­ployed, fal­ling ill, migra­ting, beco­ming impo­ve­ri­shed, ulti­ma­tely aging — the­se are all possi­bi­li­ti­es of mar­gi­na­li­za­ti­on and losing soci­al roles and pri­vi­le­ges. The only cons­tant is that we live in a flu­id, chan­ging wor­ld whe­re we rely on each other and the com­mu­ni­ti­es we build.

What I pro­ble­ma­ti­ze wit­hin my wor­ks is recog­ni­zing our­sel­ves in dif­fe­rent defi­ni­ti­ons of the Other and sen­si­ti­zing our­sel­ves to such and simi­lar life situations.

Considering the sta­te of today’s wor­ld, I beli­eve col­la­bo­ra­ti­ons, clo­ser con­nec­ti­ons, and expan­ding alli­an­ces are nece­ssary in the effort to cre­ate a bet­ter soci­ety, whe­re art can be one of the impor­tant agents.