Artists of the 1st Edition

Curated by Branislav Dimitrijević

Participating artist only during the first edition of the Project:

Hüseyin Bahri ALPTEKIN  (Ankara), Maja BAJEVIĆ (Sarajevo), Veronica BROVALL (Falun), Jim FINN (St. Louis), Villu JAANISOO (Pirkkala), Šejla KAMERIĆ (Sarajevo), David MALJKOVIĆ (Rijeka), Radenko MILAK  (Travnik), MONUMENT GROUP (Established in 2002) Damir Arsenijević, Ana Bezić, Jasmina Husanović, Pavle Levi, Jelena Petrović, Branimir Stojanović And Milica Tomić, MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART, BERLIN (Established in 2004, Berlin), Ahmet ÖĞÜT (Diyarbakir), Lala RAŠČIĆ (Sarajevo), RÖMER + RÖMER  Nina RÖMER (Moscow) and Torsten RÖMER (Aachen),Erzen SHKOLOLLI (Pejë).


Curated by Petar Ćuković

Curators’ Assistants

Anja Bogojević & Amila Puzić

Curators of the 1st edition

Branislav Dimitrijević (Belgrade)

The Atomic War Command in the Bosnian town of Konjic was one of the largest underground facilities ever built in Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and one of the most massive construction projects in its history. Dedicated to sheltering the Yugoslav Army headquarters along with 350 chosen ones in the event of nuclear war, this space was built over a period of almost three decades (from 1950s to 1970s) and cost billions of dollars. Today the ARK has all the characteristics of a failed Cold War investment. The nuclear catastrophe it was meant to survive never occurred, and the state which had systematically worked to defend itself in case of such a disaster, fell apart in a conventional war fought with far less technologically advanced means.The historical lesson is unambiguous. Nonetheless, it should not be approached with cold cynicism as a symbol of a failed political project. Today the bunker in Konjic is gradually becoming a time machine that inspires us to travel into the past as much as into the future. This journey may be initiated and mediated by innovative practices of contemporary art, in the form of critical inquiries into the implications and consequences of this unique place, and its historical tale.

The ARK can be stirred, analysed and actualized through various artistic interventions by creating different nodes of ambiguous meanings where space and time meet, both physically and politically. The bunker was a place that could provide shelter and sustenance for a limited number of people during a brief period of time in a potential catastrophe. The exhibition could therefore become a “simulation of life” in the restricted circumstances, in the sense of pure “survival”, with all its accompanying political and psychological (personal/intimate) experiences and insights. While the invited artists are asked to base their work contextually, they are also asked to freely broaden this context to include contemporary implications that can trigger the relevant questions that we pose ourselves about the future of the entire planet.

In the field of contemporary culture and media, the issues raised by this location and this project are reflected in the dominant “pre-apocalyptic” mood: climate change, environmental pollution, rapid depletion of natural energy resources, dispersion of the nuclear arsenal (with the possibility that not only states but also powerful individuals may possess the capacity to develop and launch such weapons), drastic increase in population with resultant poverty, an expanding “third world” in a global “post-industrial” economic and political system, aggressive privatization of public assets including “universal knowledge” itself, repressive political dictatorships and growing religious fanaticisms announcing the upcoming “end of the world”, etc…

The first edition of the Biennial will be realized under the title NO NETWORK. The title came out of a simple observation: the bunker is a secluded and isolated space which prevents us from using contemporary means of individual communication, such as mobile phones, which inform us that there is “no network connection” available there. In such physical and psychological isolation, this space becomes a space of anxious reflection rather than a space of unhindered communication. This does not imply that an exhibition as such is not essentially a form of communication between the artists, their works and the space itself: the works will not “compete” with the space but initiate and keep a conversation with it. But, by emphasizing the ability of art to generate knowledge end emotions that mutually reflect each other, we would like to re-think the omnipresence of the rhetoric of “networking” as very often devoid of concentrated subjective solitude from which the artistic endeavour transpires. The artists invited to participate in the project are primarily those whose work is concerned with different aspects of “artistic research” and other “non-disciplinary” modes of inter-subjective production in the field of contemporary experience, which is otherwise increasingly being emptied of forms of reflexive communication in a “common language”.

Petar Ćuković (Podgorica)

When I first visited ARK (Atomic War Command) – D-0 Object as a selector of the 1st Biennale of Contemporary Art, my thoughts wandered in two different directions. Both lines of thinking derived from – or, rather, were mobilized by – the powerful experience of the internal structure and the character of the object itself.On the one hand, it was clear that the object enabled us to evoke the historical time in which it was constructed – undoubtedly, first and foremost, the political context which directly caused it but also the broader social environment, including its economic and cultural aspects. In that respect, it is not hard to discern that this gigantic object was conditioned by Cold War logic, in whose shadows it had emerged. But it was also determined by the logic of the Yugoslav political elite, which, apparently, and with or without good reason, viewed itself as critically important within the context of the global Cold War political atmosphere. The character of the interior, including its infrastructural elements (technical equipment, furnishings, etc.) indicated the “economic strength” of the Yugoslav state or its capacity to convince foreign “partners” to fund the construction of such an object. Recalling the logic behind this unquestionable expense – or behind, if that was the case, this absurd $4.6 M gift – while walking through the depths of the “Cave for the Chosen Ones,” I could not but wonder: if that money had been, by some chance, invested into highways, or into some other development projects, perhaps the latest war would have never happened … Similarly, the world of furnishings and technical equipment – solid, high-quality, well-designed – pushed me, even in its “military” edition, to think about the rapid post-war modernization of the former Yugoslavia, which coincided with the building of this object – 1953-1979 – and, therefore, about the history and aesthetics of the Yugoslav post-war “modernism” in arts and culture.The second direction that my thoughts had taken was much more utilitarian and presented itself as a matter of principle: is there any reason to stage an exhibit in this space, would “artistic wrapping” lend legitimacy to this absurd object which, fortunately, never had to be used, and then, if the answer is positive, how should it be represented to the invited artists? Fortunately, at least in my view, the answer to the first question was affirmative. This kind of re-animation puts the object into permanent public focus and, thus, enables us to critically examine the absurd historical context that caused it. The answer to the second question was a little bit easier: I knew that artists enjoyed challenges associated with site-specific projects. My task while communicating with them was to present the “place,” its history, to some degree my own experience in encountering it, and to encourage them to visit and “feel it” themselves. With most of the artists, I also discussed the works that would be installed in the bunker. At the end, we had no difficulties in reaching an agreement. I am incredibly grateful to all of them.I do, however, have one regret. I knew that the name of the main character’s grandmother in Orhan Pamuk’s novel, Museum of Innocence, was Fusun and that she was supposed to be from Bosnia. Given that the events and the historical frame of the novel, which chronicles postwar “modernization” in Turkey, coincide with the construction of Tito’s bunker; given that Pamuk himself faced enormous troubles in creating the actual Museum of Innocence in Istanbul; and, finally, given the powerful symbolic juxtaposition of the Atomic War Command and the Museum of Innocence – I was hoping that we could present Pamuk’s Museum in the ambiance of Tito’s bunker. With the help of Vladislav Bajac, publisher of Pamuk’s books in Belgrade, I tried to get in touch with the writer’s office. I received a polite answer that Mr. Pamuk did not wish to have any presentations of his Museum until the project was finalized in Istanbul itself …

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