Back to Other Spaces

May 2012 (Mom, Jelena, and I on the couch in the living room: I invited my mom and my sister to sit with me on the couch in the living room in our apartment, where three generations of our family have lived. I invited them to look at each others eyes without a prescribed time limitation, as long as we are able to stay concentrated on our relation and the space between us.
15 November 2015 (In front of Jasenaš community hall): Sometimes it seems uncertain where Jasenaš is: is it one particular village or any village, is Jasenaš where it is marked on the map or is it everywhere its inhabitants are displaced? This village was, like Croatian villages in general, hit by a wave of emigration. According to The Croatian Bureau of Statistics, in 1931 Jasenaš had 1094 residents. Since then the number of residents has been decreasing, and in last population census in 2011, Jasenaš had only 77 residents, from which 7 residents younger then 19 years, and 50 residents older then 55 years.
Displaced residents of Jasenaš have left a large number of empty homes, some of which are in better condition, some in worse; some still have furniture and personal belongings in them and most of them have neither doors nor walls. On 15 November 2015 I gathered the villagers of Jasenaš and made a group portrait of the villagers in front of the community hall. I also gave a copy of this photograph to the villagers to display it in their community hall.
19 August 2016 (Brunch in the vinery): In the room the workers use to gather and have a brunch every day, in the closed factory of Dalmacijavino in Jelsa, on Hvar Island in Croatia or just vinery — as the workers call it — there are a lot of reminders of some obviously past and very lively times, amongst other things:
- the wall cabinet with photos, postcards, and accompanying items (I recommend that you smell the colander because it smells like vinery), - the bell which the workers used every day to announce that it is time to have a brunch, - calendars that have the dates of death of their colleagues marked on them, - posters of scantily clad women, etc.
Lab 852 & Kaunas Biennial / Networked Encounters who have produced this work, invited me to make an intervention in the spaces of closed factory of Dalmacijavino. I decided to organize one more brunch for the ex workers of the vinery. On 19 August 2016 they prepared lamb on a stick, like they use to do it before on special occasions, and we added one more reminder of one more brunch.
October-December 2016 (Stuttgart, Folklore classes): Since being in Stuttgart I’ve met Ivanka, leader of the Croatian folklore group »Krešimir« which operates in the parish Bad Cannstatt in Stuttgart. Ivanka leads groups for children, youth, and adults. Numerous Croatian children and youth in Stuttgart go to Croatian folklore dance classes. Since I’ve never danced Croatian folklore dance before, I’ve asked Ivanka if I can try to dance, she said yes, so I was coming to dance in the adults beginners group on Tuesdays.

20 February 2017, Writing a Text for Gatherings [1]

What is gone can only be re-enacted, repeated, reconstructed, reshown, rethought and restored by an artificial act, by mimesis. In other words, what is past comes along with the present, via re-presentation, a present that contracts parts of the past in its actualization, and can also include imaginations of the future. Katharina Niemeyer [2]

We’ve all had the experience of repeating a word over and over again until it loses all meaning. But what happens when the repeated object is not a word, but an experience, a ritual, a film, a work of art? The result is not a loss of meaning, but rather meaning’s multiplication: echoes, reflections, unexpected resonances.

Ana Kovačić’s exhibition is a gathering of previous gatherings. It is, ultimately, a meditation on space and time. The exhibition itself is located in a particular place, for a fixed duration of time. But the works that make up the exhibition refer back to other spaces, and to the very specific times in which very specific gatherings took place. And some of these gatherings are themselves recreations of other times, other spaces: Croatian people in Stuttgart, Germany, re-enacting traditional dances in a new location, in an uncertain present; workers returning to their former workplace, re-creating a traditional brunch. The exhibition – and the gatherings represented within it – involve multiple acts of spatial, temporal and linguistic translation: of rural routines to the city, of outdoor cooking festivities to art studios and gallery spaces, of Croatian dances to southern Germany, even of this text itself (from English to Croatian).

The echoed and multiplied times, spaces and languages of these gatherings are mediated by memory, by nostalgia, and by human bodies and human minds. In this way they are intensely personal. They are personal for Ana herself – they include interactions with her mother, her sister, her friends – and also for those who appear in these gatherings: workers struggling to find new jobs, expatriates building a new life while holding on to the rituals of a previous one, villagers grappling with an increasingly empty home. And yet these gatherings are also deeply, inescapably mediated by the political, by events far beyond the control of any individual: by war, by mass migrations, by decades of economic turbulence brought on by an increasingly unstable capitalist world system.

Ana’s exhibition thus sits at the uneasy but inescapable intersection of the personal and the political. It reflects the ultimate artificiality of any boundary put up between the two. It is an intimate exploration of the formation of “imagined communities,” to use the memorable phrase of Benedict Anderson. [3] Though Anderson was referring specifically to the social construction of nation and nationalism, the phrase captures more generally the shaping of identities by the (re)invention of the past, through the (re)creation of larger groups with which we can identify.

The gatherings gathered here show, in the end, the deeply ambivalent nature of nostalgia. Nostalgic acts of reconstruction can have a dark side: they can open the door for jingoism, xenophobia, harsh cultural exclusivism. But, they also represent a potent way of processing and refiguring past and present traumas, even, paradoxically, of working towards a new, more promising future. The works gathered in this exhibition seek to recapture a set of spaces, and a set of times, with the full knowledge that this is, strictly speaking, impossible. This nostalgia is somehow bending the space-time continuum – but it is poignant, because it never really returns, in a full sense, to the original gathering. The exhibition is old, and at the same time, completely, irreversibly new.

Thomas Crowley

  1. Jump Up Revised 23 February 2017.
  2. Jump Up Niemeyer, K., ed Media and Nostalgia – Yearning for the past, present and future, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Memory Studies Series, 2014.
  3. Jump Up Anderson, B. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 2006.