Text by Igor Sovilj after the first edition of the Ars Kozara back in 2007. The project has undergone eight editions. Read more on the Tac.ka's website.
Ars Kozara is an art in nature laboratory held in Kozara National Park since 2007. It was conceptualized as an “open air gallery”, with artworks exhibited along the paths of the Glavuša area. The project was started by the visual arts collective Tač.ka from Prijedor, comprised of artists from the cities of Prijedor and Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
Ars Kozara started as an experimental art laboratory in nature with a central aim being to refine the surroundings of Kozara mountain. The role of the organizers and participants was to question the singularities of that very space. In one week though they came to realize that refinement is not as applicable as the environment's need for protection and highlighting of the specific context. By developing artworks from natural materials, the artists gave up absolute control over their creative process, allowing nature to take over the appearance and fate of the works.
Art in Nature
The most simple answer to those questioning the meaningfulness of the first land art laboratory on Kozara mountain would be that it tries to enrich its natural environment. The first laboratory is meant to be experimental not without reason. The organizers and the participants had the primary role to investigate the features of the environment in which the laboratory is to be held every next year. Therefore, beside a number of material artifacts, the result of this first laboratory is one new experience accompanied with several new informations that caused the redefinition of the starting idea on the meaning and objective of the laboratory. The truth is that Kozara mountain has no need for enrichments of any kind, in first place thanks to its rich biodiversity and its glorius past. What this enviroment is actually crying for is the apprecitaion and protection. The monument on Kozara wont be able to compete much longer with the horizontal monumentality of the landfill created nearby while the descendants of the warriors, whose names are today inscribed in the walls of the memorial, perceive this ex-battlefield as a synonym for a "no man's excursion and picnic site". On the other hand, there is countless possible measures to preserve Kozara's natural beauty. The most extreme one, and not the worst one taking into account the direct results it could offer, would be to forbid the visitors from entering the memorial area.
The idea of the organizers of this laboratory is, however, also extreme but maybe more sustainable. Creating artworks of natural materials found in the area of National park offers the visitors a different perception of their natural environment. The artists involved give over the right of finishing the artwork to the nature that decides according to its own laws. Therefore the materials and the space that the artists use are only seemingly physical. Plastic bags that the visitors leave in the natural environment of the Park reveal the existance of the plastic disorder in their mental landscape that becomes the real area of intervention of our artists. Physical removal of the irregularities in such an environment is out of the question. The only considerable field of action is spiritual and therefore the methods have to be of the same nature. An artwork created here, with its composition, size, or some other quality, directs the attention of the visitors on the surrounding environment. The strict use of natural materials and its destiny once the artwork is "finished" gives also a clear, sometimes subconscious message that we are part of the nature and have to live in harmony with it. The project Ars Kozara 2007 hasn't been created all of a sudden. It's the result of almost a decade long decentralized cooperation between Trentino Province and Prijedor. For the first time, thanks to this project, the association Arte Sella has been involved as well as the Association Project Prijedor (as cofinancers) and National Park Kozara and Ministry of Education and Culture of Republic of Srpska as main sponsors. Including other different partners in achieving the main goals of the laboratory will be our practice in the future too. Investing in any area of human activity must include not only material but also what we call spiritual means of action. Without that the financial investing becomes nothing but a cultural holesterol that could make this project become nothing more but one of our many "obese" cultural manifestations.
In all this reflection on spaces there is one more to be mentioned. It's a space given to young people and their ideas, that is more than narrow at present time. Therefore we hope this project will serve as a good example to all those who decide about the dimensions of that space.