Ruins of former factories associated with dissonant rhythms and sounds, the distorted echoes of bygone work; underground galleries with thick walls, dug under mountains at the orders of a president authentically worried by the possibility of a nuclear attack; Chinese lanterns lit up in memory of a Yugoslavian Space Program that never was; cemeteries with futuristic built-in screens, trying to capture uncertain broadcasts from an uncertain dimension – these are just some of the visual and conceptual references comprising Accumulated History, the first personal exhibition of artist Igor Bošnjak in Romania.
The artworks, video installations for the most part, reconnect fragments of the former Yugoslavian history, or, better yet, reflect fragmentary images of this particular history. We are faced with an accumulated time, reassembled for the interrogation of both its dramatic or traumatic part, but also as subject of an exploration conducted from an ironically-reflective angle, in an attempt to come to terms with an overly debated and disputed past.
Exhibiting for the first time the trilogy It is not the literal past that rules us, it is image of the past..., title inspired by the words of philosopher George Steiner, the artist revisits the common places of former Yugoslavian socialism, from the latter’s self-management doctrine up to the transformations, confusions and successive ideological ramifications that have successively marked this space.
Text by Cristina Munteanu, curator
C.M.: Why Accumulated History? What threads of history are accumulated herein and how did you tie up their (loose) ends?
I.B.: There are quite a few threads of history intermingling in this exhibition. Some of its works are ironic in approach, they have a humorous twist to them, like the Yugoslavian Space Program. Some are not – the trilogy is not, and neither is Contemporary Cemeteries. These are serious in tone. The works that you see here, they were a way for me to cleanse myself of the past, with all its spectrum of commonplaces – former Yugoslavia, Tito, socialist self-management, etc. A past that even the newer generations of my area do not seem to be able to let go of, a past that they still invest a lot of energy in, by constantly disecting it and taking sides, whether it is at pointing fingers to establish who was responsible for what, or to blame and glorify figures such as Tito, Gavrilo and so on. As far as I am concerned, I have had my fair share of this particular accumulated history. These works are my way of expressing, projecting and releasing it, as a personal means of achieving closure.
C.M.: Getting to the first part of your trilogy, the video Hotel Balkan, filmed inside Tito’s former nuclear bunker – how was it to access and make use of that space for your particular purpose? Had you been there prior to that?
I.B.: That space was not even known of, not until rather recently. We had indeed organized a previous exhibition in there and it was that event, in fact, that facilitated me presenting my work here, with you. It is rather amazing, come to think of it, how that place was constructed and the feel you get when inside it, in the underground. Its aura, the fact that it was meant as the refuge of 350 people – Tito’s selected few, of which only one would have been a woman! – in case of some nuclear catastrophe that failed to happen. That high pressure inside the bunker, it being right below the mountains; the thickness of the doors and walls, the pictures of Tito hung at the end of corridors, the (kitsch) wallpapers and the futuristic furniture – everything translating the what-if terror of outside attacks. When the entire concoction, the regime together with the state, was actually destined to colapse from the inside.
Igor Bošnjak in conversation with Cristina Munteanu, June 2015