HEKLER RESEARCH RESIDENCY: NINA KOMEL
UŽICE (SRB) - JUNE, 2019
Residency period: June 21 – July 5, 2019
Residency Hosts: Prljević Family
Studio Hosts: UVUU (Association of Visual Artist Užice)
In June 2019, HEKLER organized its first research residency that took place in Užice, Serbia. For this occasion, we invited Nina Komel, a conceptual artist and researcher from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to be our inaugural resident. This residency was an extension of a previous collaboration between Nataša Prljević and Nina Komel that resulted in Nina’s solo exhibition, Charting Absurd, organized and curated by Prljevic in 2016 while Nina was an artist-in-residence at Residency Unlimited in New York.
For this residency in Užice, Komel and Prljević used site-specific research methods to establish correlations between artists’ hometowns, City of Užice (RS) and Municipality Brod (RS, BiH), that both reflect the failure of transitional economies during and in the post-war period. This process encompassed audiovisual mapping of the foreclosed public factories due to failed privatization and their influence on the working class community, as well as displaced historic landmarks. An important part of their research was facilitated by amazing staff of City of Užice Historical Archive (Istorijski arhiv Užice). This is an ongoing collaboration and a part of larger HEKLER project that examines the relationships between social and architectural transformations within peripheral neoliberal economies.
One result of the research was Komel’s new work Lik i djelo / Figure and Deed that examines the displacement of a public statue (Images 3 and 4) dedicated to Josip Broz Tito, President of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943-1980), created by Frane Kršinić. The statute was originally placed on the Partizan Square in 1961 when the square was finalized which was also a year when Tito and the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru established Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade. Located in Užice center, the square was celebrated as an outstanding urbanist and architectural modernist complex in Yugoslavia designed by architect Stanko Mandić, that includes residential buildings, cultural and administrative centers. After 30 years on the upper level of the square, the statue was violently removed during local protests in 1991 with the beginning of the Civil War in Yugoslavia. Upon removal, the statue was driven through the city and left neglected behind the National Museum building.
As a response to this act, Komel designed three posters depicting the statue’s three different positions in blue, red and yellow signifying societal and ideological shifts. On the back of each poster there is a map depicting the removal route and its absurd distance of 822 steps. In Komel’s words: “Transitional economy activates and carries out transformations towards ones own cultural heritage. With this violent and absurd act of removal, society embraces and perpetuates new cultural order which normalizes the discontinuity of its historic, cultural and economic development.” This work was produced for distribution during the annual group exhibition at Reflektor Gallery run by the Association of Visual Artist Užice where artists were invited to participate. For this occasion the audience was invited to use Lik i djelo / Figure and Deed as a tourist and ideological map to find the statute and position themselves.
Nina Komel is a conceptual artist from Brod, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Komel’s work is based on documenting and emphasizing the absurd state of everyday interactions and value systems in Bosnia and Herzegovina that occupy both personal and public experience. Focusing on the state of isolation, Komel works in a range of media, from text to immersive interactive installations that use visual and non-visual language. Komel recognizes the power of irony to transform the accumulation of contradictions in the current state of the culture and the pressure it imposes on the artist and the citizen. She lives and works in Novi Sad, Serbia.
1, 2. Memorial Complex Kadinjača located 14km from Užice, commemorates Partisan antifascist Worker's Battalion that died protecting the town against German forces and enabling Tito’s escape on November 29, 1941. The battle was the conclusion of the first liberated territory within occupied Europe in WWII, the Republic of Užice. Built in 1952, the architectural museum form was expanded by sculptor Miodrag Živković and architect Aleksandar Đokić. The entire memorial complex was officially open by the President Josip Broz Tito on 23 September 1979.
3, 4. Statue of Josip Broz Tito behind the National Museum building.
5. Foreclosed textile factory Cveta Dabić located on the city’s river bank.
6. Demolition site of the foreclosed factory FASAU, to be replaced by a shopping center.
7. Underground tunnels of Partizan worker’s weapons and munition factory operational during WWII; the image marks the place of explosion in which 120 workers lost their lives.
8, 9. City of Užice Historical Archive (Istorijski arhiv Užice), research through archival photographs. Photograph of a hero mother soldier and her good bye letter to her child she wrote before her execution.
10. HEKLER residency studio generously provided by the Alliance of Visual Artists Užice. Located in the former military complex and historic building.
11. Lik i djelo / Figure and Deed, Reflektor Gallery, Užice
12. One of many nights with the family and neighbors at the balcony - eating homemade pies. :)