Lucian Comoy: Bosnia and Herzegovina return to Venice after ten years

In Venice, as in reality, Bosnia is almost next door to Slovenia, in the Palazzo Malipiero, and it is participating in the Biennale for the first time in 10 years. Mladen Miljanović’s exhibition, “The Garden of Delights”, explores the message to be gleaned from the apparent collective absurdity of the motifs appearing on over 100 tombstones he recorded around Bosnia. The underlying idea of the project is “people’s unbridled desires” and the way they give material form to unattainable wishes (on tombstones, for example). Using lapidary carving techniques himself (in the past he did this as a trade to make ends meet), he has created a composition based on Bosch’s famous eponymous painting.

Mladen Miljanovic The Garden of Delights, 2013. Photo by Drago Vejnovic, courtesy by artist

In the artist’s words, “the graveyard is an area storing an encyclopaedia of images of individual lives joined into a garden of collective eternity”. Miljanović looks at what it means to be Bosnian today, and how he has been formed over centuries of history. The resulting “collective memorial” is at times not pretty, at times endearing, at times bewildering.

Mladen Miljanovic The Sweet Simphony of Absurdity, 2013. Photo by Drago Vejnovic, courtesy of the artist

While producing this work, Miljanović also produced a video, Sweet Harmony of the Absurd, in which members of the Banja Luka Philharmonic simultaneously play their favourite pieces. The multiplicity of these harmonious pieces make for cacophony and reflect, of course, the heterogenous and stimulating, but also crippling and potentially disastrous nature of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s society.

I found it hard to like the installation, but on many levels it does indeed reflect the reality of this heartachingly beautiful country.

Worth seeing.

Lucian Comoy is is the director of Words of Art and a correspondent for the Antiques Trade Gazette

Published Thu, 30 May 2013 14:54:00 GMT

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