Text and interview by Jelena Veljković / May, 2009

The discourse of ideas of a young artist from Prijedor, Mladen Bundalo, outspreads between the borders of the dualisms such are nationalism and globalism. By paraphrasing the traditional, daily and historical moments, and using them as metaphors, the author approaches to many current paradoxes of demands and values of the dominant cultural and political attitudes. Using video art, installations and performance, Bundalo antagonizes the mechanisms of the functioning of the societies, on the one hand the Western culture that is usually assigned as the civilized one, and, on the other hand, the Balkans society, which is the most frequently seen through a prism of something magical. There, it is about some kind of a chronotope, out of which a specific artistic performance (behavior) is born. In his creativity, the author starts from questioning the efficiency of the folk rituals, which still do evolve and exist (the cyber project Fear smelting), and the manipulative powers of a contemporary spectacle (Colour TV), ceremonial (The Anti-ceremonial proclaim planet Earth), and he reviews the extent of the adoption and the necessity to perform through a specific system of traces and meanings. Bundalo believes that all of the discourses, starting from the political ones to the artistic ones, have been compelled by some kind of a fear which is used as a manipulation of each and every social class, as the matter a fact, all of these discourses can be transferred to the contemporary society in general. In his work “Ben Ferato”, the author questions his own position, ironically pointing out the general aptitude to enter the system of art market, in which the gallerists, critics and curators operate with big “package of young and old East-European art.”


Jelena Veljkovic: Does the young artist from Prijedor feel “Ben Ferato” (“Well equipped”) for the questions by a Belgrade curator? And what kind of “equipment” is expected from a Balkans artist?

Mladen Bundalo: For the questions posed by Jelena Veljkovic it is not necessary to be ‘equipped’ only because I do not identify her principles with the work of the uniformed, depersonalised army of young curators who classify and recruit young artist throughout the world.

J.V.: Do you think that the Balkans and its inhabitants are an “ethnographical museum” of mythical-magical ritual, out of which the Western man keeps a safe distance, but is also keen to visit?

M.B.: The Balkans, in any case, are becoming a “museum”, and it is not because of the high genuineness of the range of folk rituals and the depths of their mystical colourfulness, which are quite average, but the Balkans are more like a mythical, warlike monster through which the Western hypocrisy is filtrated, and, just like its Western European alter ego, the Balkans themselves became hypocrites.

J.V.: How do you explain the need to materialise the phenomenon of the fear in the ritual acts of the fear smelting in the Balkans and in the visualisation of the flag sticking in the Western constellations? Is that about the similarity between the “anatomy of the spirit” of the past and the present, respectively, about the rituals in general? (I see you are applying the theories of Levi Stross).

M.B.: Ritual is a constituent part of a man’s behaviour, and being as such, it only changes the formal procedure, while the purpose of the ritual evokes the unchangeable, constant state of mind. It is a fact that we have the urge to express ourselves through the ritual formulas, and we make a ritual of almost anything. That is silently implied and I have absolutely nothing against that. What is emphasized in this particular case is the manipulative power of the ritual range (especially political), which is more complicated as the purpose gets less justified; therefore it makes one easier ‘devoured’ into its system. The ritual evolves and adapts to the new sociological conditions, it becomes slyer, less obvious, it even becomes the negation itself, and that is all for the purpose of the manipulative power, which is the nature of any society engaged ritual.

J.V.: Where is the connection between the proclaiming the Moon ‘American’ and the repetitive proclaiming the planet Earth? Is the often repetition driven to make the mechanisms of the manipulation of the public absurd? As we know it, a word repeated numerous times loses its magical powers, but, as well, it can easily slip into a kind of a belief…

M.B.: In its observable representation of a Western ritual, the committed act is, by its structure, ritual, as by the epithet ‘anti-ceremonial’, the type of the formal procedural action is questioned. My endeavour is to, through a constant repetitive proclamation of the planet Earth (The Anti-ceremonial proclaim planet Earth), in a shamanic manner, cure the meaninglessness of the rich arsenal of the political rituals. The dimensions of the flag are the same as Armstrong’s flag on the Moon.

J.V.: In which way does your performance coincide with the global artistic matrix and is your art aware of its temporal conditioning? (Does your art perhaps give a desired answer to the mechanisms of globalisation and the consumers of the mass culture/art?)

M.B.: What I believe in is that, not only my own art, but all the art in its imperfect terminological meaning, is the absolute reflection of the current space-time condition. In order (not) to joke, art actually exists in that fourth dimension called “space-time”. At this moment, I agree, to a great extent, with the theories of neo-behaviourism. Our behaviour is conditioned by the actual provocation. By not reacting to such bearing, is, theoretically, a ‘un-behaviour’, I would say, ‘disobedience’.

J.V.: By bringing forth an UFO black box in front of the visitors, the box which contains the history and culture of the Serbian national identity, the notion of the Serbian people as the oldest and celestial, becomes rebuilt. A question rises: is the black box UFO, the fall which happened in the nineties or the same box can be opened today?

M.B.: My point is not to criticise nationalism or globalism directly, but to make conditions where the values of such politics would be mutually opposed. Nationalism is forced in order to make the globalisation faster, onwards; they (the conditions) impose in the forms of dualism, the dualism exists for the mass/mob which is not able to divide the nuances of pluralism. By the dualisms it is easy to manipulate, as when you have globalism-nationalism, something must be good, something bad. And when you manage to manipulate the good and the bad, you have the mob that “digs the diamonds” for the privileged. Art, in such sociological-deterministic range, should be looked for especially in a metaphor, with which a range begins from your question. The intensity of a metaphor out of which a paradox radiates, as well as irony, even a sarcasm, that is art, especially in such an engaged work, such is mine. Contextual photography “Black Box” plays exactly with such ranges, where ones see the work as nationalistic-oriented formula of Serbian origin, and the others see it as ridicule to the newest Serbian quest for the final identity.

J.V.: Can Serbian/Bosnian art, through the work of the contemporary artists (group Point), finally exceed the notion of the Second? (Since an impression can be made, through the 3 cycles of your work, your art posits as a sort of a counterpoint, even in a geographical sense, by comparison to the West, or the universal ONE?)

M.B.: It is the question of an overall will to surpass the status of the Second, our artists are enjoying the status of the Second, as in that position, they are able to endlessly criticise or idealise the values of the First. To us, it is important to quit the romanticised image of a Bosnian artist created in Sarajevo, in the ninth decade of the past century and that is how he is seen now by the West. Such an artist is, by his humble Balkans nature, bright but emotional and spontaneous/ clumsy. By the status of a victim he affectedly manipulates the war situation and the general social mayhem, whereas the explicit critic and the solution are omitted. Again, what do we actually want? In the digital word, the world where formally we belong, “The Other” nearly does not exist. However, it is obvious that not only many artists in Bosnia have not reached the digital era, but they are still in the basements with no electricity and water, waiting for the war to be finished, an imaginary war for the imaginary Balkans.

J.V.: Doesn’t it seem that fear is the most productive platform to manipulate the masses, starting from the cultural, artistic to the political discourses? Besides, it seems like that the Balkans, for the West, have always played the role of a fantasmic, virtual space for projecting the fears (in the end, you smelted the fear to the Italians)?

M.B.: To deconstruct fear is a pretty ungrateful job, as much talk about the fear produces new fear, the fear of its indefiniteness. In this sense, fear cannot be any information with exact references, but, according to Karl Pribram’s formation of the ‘fields’ of energy, it is all exactly about the fields, and the conduct of fear is closest to the conduct of ‘energy’. Besides, it is about the conditional, destructive energy which, with ease, travels through the different forms of interpretation.

Text and interview by Jelena Veljkovic