Today I walked around the Museum of Contemporary Art in Banja Luka with Mladen Miljanovic. He described it as a safari for me, being driven around Banja Luka, meeting the artists; animals. I think he was referring to Bosnia in general too, which has always been my worry with this project: gazing at another ‘culture’. His work is particularly relevant to my project on New Regional Geographies, as it involved collecting and archiving decorations engraved on tombstones, a regional peculiarity the artist used to shape the major artefacts that constitute the work. The idea of using tombstones in this way, reminded me of the poetry of Mak Dizdar, and Stone Sleeper. Although, Mladen dislikes poets, so I doubt he would enjoy that comparison. Poets are about the symbolic, the imagined, the glory of the nation, region, people – Radovan Karadzic was a poet. Prior to becoming an artist, Mladen trained in the army. In a peculiar quirk of life, the art department at the university, is now located in the old barracks where he trained. This is reflected in his art. It lead to him producing I Serve Art – a series of photographs taken over 268 days living on the former army camp. The photographs are of him standing to attention, in different locations across what is now the university campus. Also, in the retrospective collection of contemporary art from the region, is a larger canvas, artistic-military reaction, artattack. What, I find most important in the work from this period, is how his projects emphasised that the Serbs are routinely identified as a single body, vilified, and identified as the sole aggressor. If my project is about anything, it is to show up the absurd idea of collective identity, deconstructing it for what it is, a myth, through a deeply ethnographic study of the region. In the catalogue, from the Venice Biennale, the final lines say this about Mladen:
The personal truths the artist identifies and singles out are collective absurdities, perceived as instruments of a collective paradox, the current peculiarity of all of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its adjacent region.