An Exhibition that Travels, Grows and Constantly Changes
The curator of EVROVIZION.CROSSING STORIES AND SPACES Sabina Klemm spoke with “Novi magazin” about the project.
The exhibition EVROVIZION.CROSSING STORIES AND SPACES by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) is currently being presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina. The exhibition, which can be viewed until 27 February, deals with the current socio-political situation in Europe and the idea of European identity. It is being organised in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Serbia and is part of the Novi Sad – European Capital of Culture 2022 programme. Curator Sabina Klemm spoke with “Novi magazin” about this project and the work of ifa.
How did the idea for the EVROVIZION exhibition come into being before implementation began?
The idea for this project came into being gradually. Over the course of many years managing projects at ifa, I have had the opportunity to produce and oversee numerous travelling exhibitions. This helped me to recognize the unique potential of a project like this one. After all, we change as we travel. By getting to know others and the other, we are forced to confront ourselves and our own prejudices. Why shouldn't the travelling exhibition and its protagonists go through the same process? This is what gave rise to the idea of a format that enables transformation. The focus was on creating “empty spaces” within the project for co-creative processes and local contexts. And from the very beginning it was clear that the topic was Europe, and that it should be re-examined through views from outside the West. That is why it all began with an idea for the format: an exhibition that would travel, grow, and continuously change.
You curated the exhibition with Sanja Kojić Mladenov. What does a joint curation process look like and how did you make decisions?
The collaboration with Sanja Kojić Mladenov began back when we met in early 2019, at the presentation of the ifa travelling exhibition Kunstraum Deutschland in Novi Sad. We presented the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Serbia. I travelled to Novi Sad not only to take part in the opening of the exhibition, but also to explore the region’s art scene for the newly planned exhibition. Curator Sanja Kojić Mladenov does exceptional work and her knowledge of the region is more than impressive. You could say that this marked the start of our collaboration. Then ifa invited Sanja Kojić Mladenov to Stuttgart. We quickly began with the development of concrete concepts and topics related to Europe and conceived the core exhibition. Together we chose all the artists, selected existing works, and supported new productions. We are always engaging in an intensive co-creative process, both amongst ourselves and with artists, technicians and local partners, and we decide everything together. The strength of our teamwork lies in respect, trust, openness to the new and unknown, and a shared goal.
The exhibition is appearing in twelve cities − how does it change as it travels through space, and what is specific to the Novi Sad presentation, i.e. the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina?
There are various factors changing the EVROVIZION exhibition. Firstly, it is clear that the spaces themselves change the exhibition, because it is being presented in a different venue each time. These changes are essentially nothing new for a travelling exhibition. What is new, however, is the addition of (new) local works to the exhibition that then travel with it: the works of artists from Serbia, including Monument: No One is Lost by Ivana Ivković and Disturbed Soil by Vladimir Miladinović, will also be shown in subsequent cities, and thus placed in new local contexts.
Another example of the co-creative artistic process is the work Room to Negotiate by the artist Adnan Softić, which will change and grow through exchange with local artists during the tour. Whereas in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Softić collaborated with the writer Darko Cvijetić to create the new work The Red Solitaire, in Serbia he worked with the writer László Végel to produce the artwork Novi Sad – Atina. Finally, I would like to mention the work of the artist Johanna Diehl. We can see three of her photographs in the exhibition: Braclav, Souskiou, Cyprus (South) and Karavas/Alsançak, Cyprus (North). This photo series will also grow over the course of the tour: Diehl will explore spaces in selected cities that will also be visible in her new photographs. In Sarajevo, for example, she photographed spaces of resistance that can be seen in the Archipelagos of Resistance series.
Both the magazines and the website of the project underscore the tour’s “archival character”. In collaboration with local protagonists, a new local magazine is published for each city, and the website itself reflects the procedural nature of the project. Hence, Novi Sad will itself be rendered more visible through the local artworks, the magazine, and the website.
One of the stated aims of the exhibition is the “continuous development of space for dialogue”. What are these fields of dialogue from the standpoint of the artwork, that is, in the EVROVIZION exhibition setting?
The answer to this question is, basically, contained in my previous answer. I can only add that both our diverse programme and the artworks themselves create “spaces for dialogue” within the exhibition, although these are not necessarily physically connected to the space in which the exhibition is taking place. That is because these spaces are created wherever people with different knowledge or people from different cultures come together and discuss meanings within the context of the project. It is in this context that a new space and new content are created – creations that are dynamic at their core. That is why the EVROVIZION project itself can be considered as a starting point for the creation of a dialogue, with its travels engendering a continuous stream of new content that can also be seen at the exhibition.
If we look at the Balkans as a semi-periphery, what are their relationship with the centre and in what way is that relationship addressed by the works in this exhibition?
These semi-peripheries and places of diversity (Orte der Vielfalt) are neglected by many international theoretical debates and exhibition practices, and EVROVIZION strives to shed light on these marginalised and less visible geopolitical and cultural spaces. Places in southeastern and eastern Europe – to which the Balkans also belong – play a special role here. The artistic positions presented in the exhibition shed light on this topic through various aspects: origin and identity (Nevin Aladağ); personal memory and collective belief (Igor Bošnjak); histories and mythologies (Vajiko Chachkhiani); the politics of memory and the neoliberal handling of trauma (Lana Čmajčanin); the presence of the absent (Johanna Diehl); personal experiences and collective memory (Petrit Halilaj); the deconstruction and reconstruction of gender roles (Ivana Ivković); a reconsideration of collective memory (Vladimir Miladinović); the mechanisms of radicalisation (Henrike Naumann); the colonial past, present and future (Janine Jembere); posthuman mythologies and archaeology of the future (Emilija Škarnulytė); the collective self-emancipation of oppressed women (Selma Selman); languages, rituals and identities (Slavs and Tatars); and historical and political memory (Adnan Softić). One example that I would like to highlight is the work Balkangreuel – Balkans Cruelty by the artist Lana Čmajčanin, which explicitly focuses on the Balkans. Čmajčanin’s installation combines the Viennese toile de jouy style with motifs taken from Balkangreuel, a series of lithographs that were published in 1909 in relation to the Austro-Hungarian annexation. These include scenes in which Balkan soldiers carry out acts of barbarism, including brutal attacks on women. In doing so, Čmajčanin depicts the creation of prejudices and reveals the mechanisms behind the supposedly civilised self-representation and unmistakable diversity of the people of the Balkans.
The exhibition deals with the current socio-political situation in Europe and the idea of European identity. What does European identity mean to you, and what are its key aspects in terms of the exhibition?
EVROVIZION strives to shed light on less visible spaces whose complex history, multiculturality, and ethnic and religious diversity, coupled with the transformative processes they are undergoing, give them an important role to play in new ways of thinking and in the creation of communities. We hope that through trips to selected cities – Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Novi Sad (Serbia), Nicosia (Cyprus), Athens (Greece), Varna (Bulgaria), Tbilisi (Georgia), Chisinau (Moldova), Brussels (Belgium), Kraków (Poland), Kaliningrad (Russia) and Vilnius (Lithuania) − we will end up with a collection of different stories that allows us to expand upon the concept of European identity.
What awaits us at the last stop in Berlin, and will that setting represent a form of epilogue to the tour?
We do not know what awaits us, because everything is unforeseeable; it is all part of an ongoing process and in a state of transformation – and that is our goal. The fact is that at the end of the tour, the exhibition being presented will be different to the initial one, because it has been collecting the stories of southeastern Europe as it passes through these spaces. We believe that new discourses will be initiated in Germany, and that a new, heretofore unknown image of Europe will be presented.
Interviewer: Nikola Marković
Shortened and updated interview.