The Imaginary Pavilion is the project by the TAČ.KA art group, questioning a professional capacity of BiH cultural institutions, their inter-ethnic collaboration and the identity within global art scene. In concrete case, the group rised the question of BiH non participation on the Venice Biennial. After digging into an institutional mud, and at same time performing different actions and performances, the project extended into the space (BiH, Italy, Germany) and time (2007-2011), resulting in critical texts, exhibitions, performances, multitude of conflicts and the virtual pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Here is a comprehensive text written by Igor Sovilj:
In 2007 the group of artists, members of TAČ.KA Artists’ Association visited the Venice Biennial and remained shocked that once again Bosnian artists were not represented on one of the biggest contemporary art events and that Bosnia was the only state in Europe not having its own pavilion. Wanting to raise awareness about this problem and eventually help solving it the group realized an artistic action: the carton dot of 80 diameter colored in black was created (TAČ.KA-dot, full stop) and positioned on the works of some of the most prominent artists exhibiting that year at the Biennial in Venice. The action was named by the artists as the Imaginary Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina and was supposed to announce on symbolical level the changes in the Bosnian cultural policy and to demarcate the presence of Bosnian contemporary art at contemporary art world scene, starting with Venice Biennial. On their back home, all the time having the idea of raising the awareness of the problem of non presence of Bosnian contemporary art on world art scene the artists of TAČ.KA organized an exhibition of the photo prints of the ‘ Venice action’ and of the some works of contemporary artists from Bosnia. The project was named Imaginary pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the well visited exhibition raised discussion on this topic. The media started to investigate the problem among cultural policy makers on the state, local and the level of the two Bosnian entities of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project started the public debate on the issue and revealed all the complexity of the Bosnian political and cultural situation. In the course of two years, from 2007 till 2009 the cultural institutions and ministries in Bosnia started to deal with the problem but due to huge political disagreements in Bosnian political and cultural structure in 2009 Bosnia still didn’t have its own Pavilion on Venice Biennial. During these two years the project was presented in Vienna and in Trento in Italy with special funding from the organizers of the Manifesta7 that in 2008 took place in region Trentino SuedTirol. In the same year the project was also nominated for the finals of the Bosnian prize for the best contemporary art project ‘Zvono’ organized by Sarajevo Centre for Contemporary Art. In 2009, in the same time when Venice Biennial the project was presented at ArteVerona contemporary art fair and in a separate exhibition in Palazzo Forti in Verona. Not only the action of TAČ.KA in Venice but also the works of some of eight young contemporary Bosnian artists was presented. For this occasion the TAČ.KA group realized a new action, the visitors of the Venice Biennial, and not only them but also organizers and curators of the single pavilions were interviewed and asked about the existence of the Bosnian pavilion in the Venice Biennial. Not a single person interviewed (in total more than 40 randomly chosen visitors and curators) know that Bosnia was not represented at this art event and all of them were convinced of the opposite. The videos of both the exhibition in Verona and action 2009 in Venice are visible on youtoube:
The project ‘Imaginary pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina’ seems to be concentrating on national problems of only one country. However, the events who followed it and were obviously caused by it revealed all the complexity of a state in transformation process that is exemplary for all the countries dealing with post communist transformation and is therefore of international importance. It is an indicator of the failure of European community to establish a lasting peace in Balkan Peninsula. Bosnia and Herzegovina is today fully divided country, politically, socially and more and more even culturally where nationalistic parties are ever stronger and have their hands free in pursuing the politics of further separation thanks to the refusal of the International community to accept the existence of this problem and fully deal with it. As the political system Bosnia today (and as such it is the result of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995) is a country with the most expensive political apparatus in Europe. It is divided in two entities (Republic of Srpska with the capital Banja Luka and Muslim-Croat Federation) and has one district. The Muslim-Croat Federation itself is divided in ten cantons, each having its own government and comprising the governments of the Republic of Srpska and Brcko District Bosnia has 13 governments in total. The power in these governments is divided by nationality which makes difficult the cooperation between them since the reconciliation process not only is not finished but never started on official level and the member of one national community still see the members of the other one as enemies. The main objective of the curator’s concept for the exhibition Imaginary pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the Cynetart festival is to present in an artistic way all the complexity of the today’ s Bosnian society. Its objective is also to explain which role the ‘ imaginary’ played in the escalation of the Bosnian conflict and which role it still plays in the present existence of Bosnian state on local and international level.
The six aspects of Imaginarity as presented in the exhibition are the following:
Bridges in Bosnia/ Imaginarity aspects once and today Bridge over Drina
Since 2007 the bridge over Drina, a masterpiece of the architect Mimar Sinan built in 1571 became UNESCO's World Heritage. To the only bosnian Nobel Preis winner for literature, Ivo Andric, this bridge served as leitmotiv for his book „The Bridge Over Drina“ in which he describes, among other things, the atrocities that Ottoman rulers did to local serbian population in Bosnia. The book became the most cited source of justification for the crimes against non-Serbs in the last war from Serbian intellectuals of all levels. The imaginary, partly fictitious past as described in the book (and in books in general) served as an inspiration for revenge.
Bosnian Sun Pyramide / Imaginary project of Bosnian identity
Under one hill in Visoko near Sarajevo an amateur researcher of Pyramidal construction Semir Osmanagic claims to have discovered a Pyramid. Osmanagic imagines, since there is no scientific prove for what he says, that the Bosnian Pyramid of Sun is the oldest and biggest in the world. It is common place in the post-Yugoslavian political and historical discourse for the nations to claim, always without any or with very suspicious evidences that their people is the oldest, the first, the only. Though, never before such thing became a project that led people to destroy an entire hill and even got financial support from the authorities for doing it.
Bosnian „gastarbeiter“ in Germany / My personal Bosnia
The part of Bosnian citizens that cultivate the most unrealistic image of their country of origin are the Bosnians living abroad. Most of them live in between, not fully integrated in the new homeland and lost connections with the reality in the country of origin. In the Zeppelin flying statements belong to some of them that were asked to say what is so special about Bosnia. Many of them give unrealistic statements that depict a country that doesn't really exist in that way and what is actually a response to their inability or refusal to integrate where they live at the moment and to fully accept the fact they no longer live where they used to live and where they pay a visit once a year.
Ars Aevi/An imaginary museum of Contemporary arts in Sarajevo
One of the most important collections of contemporary arts in Southeast Europe is in Sarajevo. It's being collected thanks to the ArsAevi project that united some of the most famous names in the world of contemporary art that donated their artworks to the city of Sarajevo during and after the war such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Marina Abramovic, Dennis Oppenheim, Anis Kapoor, Cindy Sherman, Daniel Buren, Sol le Vit, Joseph Kosut and many others. Although it's been there for almost two decades there is no museum of contemporary arts built yet and it is not always possible to visit this collection. Here presented doors that stand between different rooms of the Zeppelin are the photos of the Janis Kounellis art-installation that this artist added to the collection as a present to the Sarajevo city. The city authorities had to temporarily refuse this millions of euros worth present due to a lack of an adequate space for its preservation.
Imaginary Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Venice / Action by TAČ.KA in 2007
Shocked by the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina even at the Venice Biennial Bosnia is not represented the members of the TAČ.KA association placed a paper black dot on the works of the artists exhibiting in Venice in 2007. In that way they simbolically created an Imaginary Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the discussion about the non-representation of Bosnian art started. In 2009 the members did an enquiry: the visitors of the Venice Biennial were asked to show where the Bosnian Pavilion was. All of them were convinced of seeing it somewhere at the Biennial (or was it on TV?).
Top List of the Surrealists / Game Over?
Shortly before the escalation of the conflict in Bosnia the most popular TV-show of the Balkans was the so called Top List of the Surrealists. A group of musicians, actors and other artists organized a comedy show in which they predicted almost everything that would happen in the coming years. At the end of the show they always played an improvisation of the Pacman video-game. In this improvisation the 'negatives' were having national colours of the republics of Yugoslavian federation and chasing all together the wite figure (Pacman) representing Yugoslavia. At the end, after apparent successes of the 'negative ones' the white figure would suddenly eliminate all its (nationalistic) opponents. The question is: if the Surrealists were brave enough to predict all the negative outcomes of the Yugoslavian conflict does the final victory of Pacman means the idea of brotherhood and unity will win and nationalists will be defeated?
Bridges in Bosnia / Imaginarity aspects once and today - Old Bridge in Mostar
More than 400 years old bridge in Mostar was destroyed in 1993 by Croatian forces. It was rebuilt in 2004 and put the next year on the UNESCO's list of world heritage as a “Symbol of reconciliation and international cooperation and also as the symbol of coexistence of different religious, cultural and ethnic communities“. Mostar town is nowadays and despite the beliefs and desires of the International Community a town almost fully divided in Eastern part with Bosniak and Western part with Croat majority and almost no Serbian community living in it.