The About the Commission: Garden of Delights
The idea behind the complete project of the artist Mladen Miljanovic, representing Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, is that of unbridled people’s desires, of personal truths of the collective absurdity of the contemporaneity, as perceivable across Bosnia.
The conceptual framework of the project is realised as an evocation of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous Renaissance triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, and is firmly rooted in today’s material world of a range of common people’s experiences, as the most authentic and the most banal realities of post-transition society. The selected project is an engaged work of art penetrating deep into the socio-political, ethical, economic and cultural tissue of the Eastern European society the artist comes from. His up-to-date, relevant, global insight, “filtered” through the local context, transforms into a new, clear artistic vision, which is a significant determinant of the entire work.
A long exploration preceded the exhibition, which involved collecting and archiving decorations engraved on tombstones, a regional peculiarity the artist used to shape the major artefacts that constitute the work. The inherent idea of afterlife representation is conveyed through the ready-made aesthetics, borrowed from the mass media, everyday and some popular circumstances of life of Bosnian people. The subversive sociological, ethnological and ritual features of the pictures read as the existent representations of a mass culture that has taken over post-transition society, reflecting the failure of its economy and privatisation, political paradoxes and intolerance, and the nontransparent reality of the new models of private ownership.
What we are to encounter in the days to come, what kind of reality we are living today and how it is represented are the major issues found in this artificial post-communist paradise, in which art, according to Boris Groys, often appears innocent, inadequately critical or radical, following the utopian logic of inclusion, instead of the realist logic of exclusion, struggle and criticism. Spatial and temporal relations, their homogeneity and heterogeneity, are merely formal aspects constituting the social particularities against which real life happens.
In his work Mladen Miljanovic “vivisects” human life in the manner of an anthropologist; he is engrossed in what people have in common and what sets them apart, how they live, what they think, and how they relate to the things they indulge in as individuals. Culture is the key term of his anthropological attitude discerning similarities and differences within a specific community, in which he also lives and operates. His allegorical substitution, within which he finds and singles out tools of people’s personal pleasures, is a premeditated effort to create an encyclopaedia that would contain the total sum of human knowledge, and in this particular case also personal desires and unfulfilled potential.
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.
—Sarita Vujkovic, Commissioner
Image credits: 1) The Garden of Delights (engraved drawing on granite 2013), courtesy the artist; 2) Detail: The Garden of Delights (engraved drawing on granite 2013), courtesy the artist.