Between June 21 and July 6, Triple Canopy editors will work with five artists and writers from Bosnia on a series of workshops and discussions dealing with idiosyncratic sites, figures, and objects with ambivalent relationships to the region’s traumatic recent history and concurrent forging of national identities. Triple Canopy editors and participants will choose places, things, and images whose meanings have not yet congealed but instead lead in contradictory directions. Rather than turning to emblems of entrenched narratives, rather than marking or restoring parts of the landscape in order to memorialize victims, preserve memories, or reveal a path to national rejuvenation, we'll attend to the meanings that cannot so easily be recouped and repackaged, that resist easy interpretation, much less definition. Among them: the Olympic bobsled track turned front-line barricade in the mid-90s; the popular Serbian Zastava 101 automobile; rejuvenated Bosnian black markets; the extra J that transforms a word from Serbian to Bosnian and Croatian; nascent national beverages, fashionable typefaces, suburban mosques, prominent branding campaigns.
These objects of inquiry will provide the basis for installations, performances, walks, and talks around Sarajevo; public presentations and discussions with invited guests; and contributions to Triple Canopy’s online magazine. Additionally, they will be represented in a book produced under the auspices of Triple Canopy's Volume Number series, which provides a variable space for thinking through—and collaboratively enacting—the practice of publication and instantiating the public spaces magazines purport to produce in the world. This book, Perfect Strangers: A Catalogue of Ordinary Icons, will be published in the winter and will include documentation of public programs as well as elaborations of the projects discussed and conceived in Sarajevo. The materials—artist projects, prose, poetry, fiction, photography, transcripts, documents, emails, screen shots, coupons, receipts—will be organized as alphabetical entries, resulting in a subjective, selective lexicon of the Balkan imaginary, and of an imaginary Balkans. Contributors will include the participating artists and writers, attendees from Bosnia and Serbia and abroad, Triple Canopy editors, and a number of commissioned respondents who will not be present in Sarajevo.
Perfect Strangers will develop original ways of thinking about how the work and identities of artists in the region circulate among the myths, misnomers, and misunderstandings that so often mark the context of international reception—and thus inevitably shape the conditions of production, and lead to the calcification of the symbolic repertoire. Triple Canopy editors and participants will discuss how artists and writers might productively evade and intervene in these discursive systems; misuse or abuse familiar, staid symbols and adopt new and defamiliarizing ones without sacrificing the social and historical complexity of their work. These problems will be reflected in the content of the work as well as the forms of its publication.
June 26 at Collegium Artisticum, 6:30 p.m.
Mladen Miljanović presents a genealogy of the Zastava 101, the stable and affordable automobile produced in Serbia from 1974 until 2008 without significant changes to its design. The Zastava, which was extremely popular throughout the former Yugoslavia, became emblematic of the region's economic and social stagnation, and often figures into Miljanović's artwork. Radenko Milak screens and discusses the 1958 promotional film for Novi Travnik, designed as a prototype for Yugoslavian socialist cities and promoted under the banner "new factory, new ideas of life." Followed by a conversation moderated by Triple Canopy's Molly Kleiman.
June 27 at Collegium Artisticum, 6:30 p.m.
Muharem Bazdulj discusses Arizona Market, a sprawling complex of stalls outside Bosnia's Brčko District, where disused, forgotten, or stolen objects acquire a currency that has as much to do with their historical resonance and the social relations facilitated by improvised capitalism as their economic value. Bazdulj will be joined by Brooklyn-based writer and Triple Canopy contributor Joshua Cohen in a conversation moderated by Triple Canopy's Sarah Resnick.
July 3 at Kriterion, 6:30 p.m.
Adela Jušić delves into Sniper Ghost Warrior 2: Sarajevo Urban Combat, a first-person shooter scheduled for release in August. The video game, set in besieged Sarajevo, features American-accented "ghost warriors" who defend the city from an attacking army—a historical corrective, or perhaps a creative diversion overwriting the collective trauma. Azra Akšamija analyzes the forms of mosques built in post-war Sarajevo, using three case studies to show how cultural memory is erased only to be reinvented. Followed by a conversation moderated by Triple Canopy's Alexander Provan.
July 4 at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 5 p.m.
Azra Akšamija, in collaboration with CultureShutdown.net and Triple Canopy, invites the public to initiate the collection of a new, portable venue for Bosnian cultural heritage, in response to the recent closure of the country's institutions due to lack of funding. Participants are invited to bring toys, pictures, tools, keepsakes, trinkets, and other objects they wish to be part of the collection, housed in a mobile vitrine and called Model for a Future Wing of the Museum. Documentation of the collection will appear on CultureShutdown.net, an online platform created in response to the crisis facing Bosnia's cultural institutions.
Perfect Strangers is organized in collaboration with Duplex/10m2, the Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art/pro.ba, Collegium Artisticum, Kriterion, the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and CultureShutdown.net, with the support of CEC Artslink. Special thanks to Pierre Courtin, Asja Hafner, Branka Vujanović, Vildana Drljević, Elma Hasimbegović, and Aida Salketić.
Azra Akšamija is a Sarajevo-born artist and architectural historian and is currently an assistant professor at MIT's program in art, culture, and technology. Akšamija’s work investigates the ability of art and architecture to facilitate transformative mediation in cultural and political conflicts, and in so doing provide a framework for researching, analyzing, and intervening in contested situations and places. Her recent projects have focused on the representation of Islamic identities in the West, spatial mediation of identity politics, and cultural pedagogy through art and architecture.
Muharem Bazdulj was born in 1977 in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia). He has published several novels and award-winning short story collections, including Druga knjiga (2000), which was translated into English and published as The Second Book in 2005 by Northwestern University Press. Bazdulj’s work has been featured in international anthologies such as The Wall In My Head, published on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Best European Fiction 2012, published by Dalkey Archive Press and edited by Aleksandar Hemon. His short stories and essays have appeared in World Literature Today, Creative Nonfiction, Habitus, and Absinthe, among other literary reviews.
Adela Jušić is an artist working in video, installation, and performance and living in Sarajevo. She is a founding member of the Crvena Association for Culture and Art. In 2010 she received the Zvono Award for best young artist in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her work has been exhibited at Manifesta 8, Kunstmuseum (Bonn, Germany), El Parqueadero (Bogotá, Colombia), Espace Appolonia (Strasbourg, France); the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, and Gallery P74 (Ljubljana).
Radenko Milak is a painter and curator based in Banja Luka. In 2005 he co-founded the Protok Centre for Visual Communications, an alternative art space in Banja Luka that is active throughout Bosnia and the region. From 2008 until 2010 he was the director of SpaPort, an annual international art exhibition. He is currently a professor at the Faculty for Information Technology and Design in Banja Luka.
Mladen Miljanović is an artist working and living in Banja Luka. In 2007 he received the Zvono Award for best young artist in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has exhibited at the National Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Vienna), and Smack Mellon (New York). In addition to his performances, new-media productions, and research-based work, Miljanović deals with the social and therapeutic aspects of art by organizing workshops for the disabled.