Excerpt from the text- Aspects of Contemporary Art in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its Reception Outside the Country by Rainer Fuchs
The Balkan War and its consequences created precarious living conditions in the countries of former Yugoslavia, conditions that have brought to the fore deeply existential and socio-political questions, also in the sector of the arts. If we look at the arts in ex-Yugoslavia’s successor countries, we can see the extent to which the struggle for mere survival, the constant confrontation with death and destruction, and the subsequent coming to terms with the consequences of this scenario have left their mark. The fact that art in general is inextricably linked with its societal context has been – and is still being – made clear in concrete and painful ways. However, despite these dramatic and traumatising conditions, it is important not to succumb to the temptation to view art created in this context from a one-sided, psychologising perspective as just a mirror of the soul or a therapeutic means of expression for a threatened generation. Working through a trauma, in itself, cannot suffice as grounds for artistic legitimation and quality. “After the war, Western curators eagerly turned to the artists from ex-Yugoslavia in hopes of finding political art that had been ennobled through the experience of having suffered the effects of the war at close quarters. However: Suffering does not automatically produce goodness, either in the moral sense or in art. All too often, Western art has made a habit of transforming personal traumas into artistic added value and marketing them accordingly.” The artistic positions roughly sketched in the following have to be distinguished from the aforementioned cases of romanticisation mentioned in an essay by Anselm Wagner about Šejla Kamerić, since they use sensual symbols of both analytic and intellectual explosiveness to oppose nationalist and fundamentalist ideologies. This will hopefully be illustrated by means of a brief, necessarily fragmentary look at the history of the transregional reception of this art.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes Republika Srpska, the multi-ethnic population and its various manifestations of nationalistic separatism present a particular barrier and challenge to any kind of transregionally or internationally oriented art. Having been the core country of military conflicts between Croats, Serbs and Bosnians as well as between Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim groups of the population, the wounds of war went particularly deep and the healing process is a long one; enormous efforts are still required to overcome ethnic and religious differences. Under such conditions, one cannot expect the country to have an art scene with functioning structures and institutions or, for the same reasons, an art scene that focuses only on internal issues. On the contrary: it is precisely the most recent developments – which have led to the closing down of established institutions – that are threatening to undermine what has already been achieved. Since internal preconditions and infrastructures for an intact scene of culture and the arts are for the most part still lacking, external contacts and institutions are all the more important to the country’s artists. They promote reciprocal exchange, which in saturated societies can also be recognised as an opportunity to critically question the market mechanisms of those same societies and the role they play in the making of art.