Memory Lane at la galerie du jour agnès b, Paris

The collective exhibition Memory Lane explicitly prompts memories as a result of reconstructed history through the means of art. Right at the entrance, it’s the series of photographs, Tito in War (1992-1995), by Milomir Kovačević, that commemorates Tito’s portrait in after-war public spaces. Covered with blood, protected by broken glass, hanging on a half-demolished wall, these 33 photographs of photographs enact the symbolism of the leader’s portrait presence and legitimises the space.

An exhibition of this sort may risk diluting its message through a didactic and activism approach. Nevertheless, one could not help but notice that behind activism tendencies, there is a tribute to the traumatic past and the memory construction mechanisms there is a shadow of worldwide contemporary art trends.

Alma Suljević’s work revolves around the theme of landmines and mined areas. The series titled Minka is a delicate oeuvre accomplished in ready-made tradition: real mines are placed into jewelry caskets. Thus, the mines become potentially ready-made explosive. The references to war are symbolized in France-based artist Damir Radović’s creations: the phrase “How the war started in…” turns into an image multiplied in pop-art tradition, while the question “Who started the war?”, originally taken from Danis Tanović film No Man’s Land, is enclosed in neon writing. This tendency seems to be symptomatic: as in pop-art tradition, where symbols of everyday culture and goods are mirrored in artworks, the war experience is recycled as semiotic symbols and meanings.

The spectacular 6-meter long installation by Šejla Kamerić, A Red Carpet (2011), appears to be hand-knitted with random red clothes. Each element holds an individual story that metaphorically interlace into the tough layer of collective memory. Units without owners bring into existence flesh, a tissue, a symbol of nation as well as a sign of totalitarian regime. It’s intriguing to notice how the theme of needlework finds itself behind the idea of the people, body and nation: Irena Sladoje, in her video Paper Can Take Everything (2010), shows up surgery carried out on the torn paper. A fine needle neatly mends a rupture, almost in a meditative way, sewing up the body and the memory.

The series I Serve Art by Mladen Miljanović consists of 274 photographs portraying the artist at ‘shun! at the old military base Vrbas in Banja Luka. This project is prompted by the artist’s personal experience. He himself, a former soldier, considered the area of a military base where he had been trained and trained other soldiers after as a receptacle of regime’s consequences that are still experienced in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Adela Jušić also addresses personal war experiences in the video The Sniper (2007), that emerged from her father’s diary, where he was systematically noting down his number of killed: the artist found this notebook right after her father’s demise in battle.

The exhibition unavoidably questions the problem of territory: Lana Čmajčanin creates an installation, a workshop that invites a visitor to cut out their own map of the country. Ibro Hasanović in his video works The Spectre (2012), and A Short Story (2011), utilizes references to cinematography with his concentration on poetry of visual details and to literature in the process of storytelling of his characters.

Collective though personal, matter of fact though detailed, brutal though delicate, peace though war. Once expressed, a reality becomes fiction. Therefore, a memory lane turns into a multifold of mosaic pieces, a chorus of voices, or a re-darned fabric knitted from a myriad of yarns.

Ekaterina Shcherbakova

Memory Lane: Contemporary Art from Bosnia and Herzegovina, until July 26, la galerie du jour agnès b, 44, Rue Quincampoix, Paris 75004.

Follow us on Twitter @AestheticaMag for the latest news in contemporary art and culture

1. Mladen Miljanović, Guilty, Photography, 90cm x 60cm, 2008. Courtesy of la galerie du jour agnès b.
2. Mladen Miljanović, Ignore, Photography, 90cm x 60cm, 2008. Courtesy of la galerie du jour agnès b.