Red sky at dawning: winter mornings, passing storms and the ethics of self representation



I have just got back from a crazy couple of weeks in Sarajevo at the annual International Festival Sarajevo, Sarajevska Zima  which is in full swing and will run until the end of March. I arrived the day after a snow storm that made international news as the biggest snowfall in a hundred years. There were reports of busloads of people stranded for two days before being rescued. So it was slightly idiotic timing to be taking a bus, in fact when I bought my ticket the guy asked me incredulously, “You want to go to Sarajevo tonight? But I got lucky with my timing and arrived without significant misshap, getting off the bus at 6am Sunday morning into the eery silence of a city shut down almost completely by the heavy blanket of snow. Later that same day I was struck by the almost carnival atmosphere as large numbers of people came out on foot in their snow suits with kids on sleds and smiles, making the most of the enforced holiday and turning the downtown shopping centers into winter playgrounds.

Installation view from the exhibition Winter: from fear to joy, curated by Dr Borut Batagelj. Photograph courtesy of Historical archives Celje


That image of people sledding in the shopping district of the city provides a lovely introduction for a touring exhibition that deals with how the popularisation of winter sports during the 20th century have transformed the social experience of winter from a season of hardship into a time of shared pleasure. The exhibition Winter: from fear to joy curated by Dr Borut Batagelj will be toured to the National Museum of History in Sarajevo opening next week March 5th. The extensive project showing the historic evolution of winter sports was first shown in the Historical Archives in Celje in 2010 and is accompanied by a beautifully designed catalogue. The Historical Archives in Celje has an excellent track record and ethos of working collaboratively, opening on the 15th of March is the project SIHeR, ​​which is the result of successful cooperation between the National Archives for Medžimurje, State Archives of Varazdin, State Archives in Zagreb, the Historical Archives in Ptuj, Maribor and the Provincial Archives of the Historical Archives Celje.


Artist Thom Vink opts to have his self-portrait made against a backdrop of uncleared snow on the streets of Sarajevo, as part of Slovenian artist Bojan Brecelj's ongoing photographic project Kdo si? Who are you? during the 2012 Sarajevska Zima. Photograph: Charlotte Parallel


Also on the streets of Sarajevo was Slovenian artist Bojan Brecelj with his ongoing photographic project Kdo si? Who are you? Slovenian audiences are already familiar with this project as a selection of the portraits were shown recently (from 19 October – 21 December 2011) in the City Museum of Ljubljana. Kdo si? in Sarajevo was presented under the title Synergies of Sarajevo – Expressing the identity of Europe in the eyes of Sarajevo people and challenged passersby to choose how they wanted to be represented and photographed in a self portrait. As a guest of the winter festival the intrepid artist carried his equipment on foot through the heavy snow day after day in February giving many people the chance to have their self portrait made in a range of different environments and atmospheres; from the snowy streets in the old town to a NeoNomadic party in Jusuf Hadžifejzović’s Gallery Charlama Depot in K.S.Centar Skenderija and in the iconic underground club Fiskultura at midnight during a concert by Belgium noise duo F.L.U.T. . Participants were asked to give a statement about how they felt about Europe from their perspective as Bosnians, extending the projects embedded dynamic of self reflection and identity. The artist is now planning a book publication of collected self portraits from Self fish studios which will be launched on March 25th so watch this space.


On a separate but not unrelated theme of self representation two projects involving re-imaging post Yugoslav feminist representations will bring women artists living in Sarajevo to exhibit in Ljubljana in the next weeks. Rising young Sarajevo based sculptor Nela Hasanbegović exhibited documentation of her performance work Under the veil (2010) at the Turkish Culture center in Sarajevo at the Dawn Light exhibition during the Winter festival. The work is a reflection on marriage and womens roles, featuring a group of young brides with a grid of chain links projected over their white clad bodies. Ljubljana audiences first saw Hasanbegović’s work in 2008 when her sculpture project Between, which also deals with light, was curated by Vesna Krmelj to Celica Gallery in Metelkova. She will be returning to exhibit again in Ljubljana as part of Perpetuum Mobile opening on March 7th in Ljubljana as part of Red Dawns festival at the Alkatraz Gallery and the Kapelica Gallery.


Perpetuum Mobile is organised as part of the ongoing project The Bring In Take Out – Living Archive (LA) by an international cross disciplinary group of feminist cultural producers using the name RED MIN(E)D, the project was launched with the event REDacting TransYugoslav Feminisms in Zagreb in 2011 and has more iterations planned in Sarajevo and Vienna later in 2012.

Noted curator Dunja Blažević is also involved in the Perpetuum Mobile project, while also currently working in her role as director of Centre for Contemporary Art, Sarajevo on a new curatorial project titled Žensko Naslijeđe: Miraz [Womens heritage: Dowry]. The exhibition has at its core a consideration of what it means to be part of the first postwar generation of female artists in Sarajevo.


Mostar born Sarajevo based artist Gordana Anđelić-Galić will contribute a work to the Dowry exhibition. Her performance work Pranje zastava [Flag wash]  (2011), was recently featured at at Muzej savremene umetnosti Zagreb, shortlisted in the annual T-HT NAGRADA@MSU.HR a juried survey of the 40 best contemporary art works for the year. Anđelić-Galić has a long term passionate engagement with the politics of self representation in arts practice and is also acutely engaged in a more universal sense with the ethics of cultural self determination. The following is a quote taken from an open letter that the artist circulated in 2007:

“…After Bosnia and Herzegovina was turned into a scrapyard for all kinds of chemical, biological, medical, technological, electronic and many other sorts of worldwide junk, let’s prevent this from happening on a cultural and spiritual plane. It is enough that we brought ourselves into the situation where, unfortunately, foreigners have to implement political solutions for us but let’s not allow our cultural and spiritual autonomy and authenticity to be taken away!”

by Gordana Anđelić-Galić, Artist from Sarajevo/ Bosnia & Herzegovina
(received 13 December 2007)

This online article Trouble on the Old Bridge, Mostar (2007) by Patrick Wright gives the background to the situation that prompted that fiery public response and includes a link to the full text of Anđelić-Galić’s letter.

I will be very interested to check out Žensko Naslijeđe: Miraz when it opens in Ljubljana on the10th of April at Moderna Galerija.



Spring is on its way…

warm regards

Ali Bramwell

(Gastarbeiter in Slovenia)


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