RADENKO MILAK - University of Disaster Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina 57th International Art Exhibition La Biennale Di Venezia

May 10, 2017 4:24PM

We proudly announce that Radenko Milak, who is represented by | PRISKA PASQUER since 2014, is participating at this years Venice Biennale.


Radenko Milak, with guest artists

Official Opening: Palazzo Malipiero, San Marco 3198, Venice

Friday, 12 May 2017, 6.00 P.M.

Radenko Milak, Fire (Series University of Disaster), 2017, quadriptych, watercolor, laminated on dibond, 200 x 140 cm, ©Radenko Milak, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

Radenko Milak, Earth (Series University of Disaster), 2017, quadriptych, watercolor, laminated on dibond, 200 x 140 cm, ©Radenko Milak, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

Radenko Milak, Water (Series University of Disaster), 2017, quadriptych,watercolor, laminated on dibond, 200 x 140 cm, ©Radenko Milak, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

Radenko Milak, Air (Series University of Disaster), 2017, quadriptych,watercolor, laminated on dibond, 200 x 140 cm, ©Radenko Milak, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

Radenko Milak, University of Disaster, 2017, quadriptych, watercolor, laminated on dibond, each panel,  200 x 140 cm, ©Radenko Milak, courtesy | PRISKA PASQUER, Cologne

The Image as Matter

Radenko Milak is a complete artist who makes of the Image the very matter of his creation. In this sense, it would be too facile, if not to say intellectually lazy, to only see in Radenko Milak’s artistic practice a variety of paintings, watercolors, washes, drawings or animation films. He thinks of his works as installations that put into play the symbolic power of images, their aesthetic potential, in an epoch when they are gradually replacing articulated languages and when their production has gotten out of control with the coming of the digital age. Hundreds of thousands of images are produced every second. A camera can capture one thousand billion images in a single second. I advance the hypothesis that images are about to become to consciousness and human memory as “Dark Matter” is to Physics: a mysterious mass, unknown, undetectable, yet constituting what is essential in matter. Radenko Milak works Images like the Dark Matter of individual and collective memories. In this sense, his artistic practice corresponds quite precisely to Aby Warburg’s definition of art: “art is the act of reproducing a mnemonic image of the social organism”. In a visually saturated society, images are called on to become the major unthought, the malediction of consciences. It is at this precise place that art can have its say; it can help us to reflect on the Image or the images by creating relationships necessary to their general perception as social, political, but also aesthetic, fact.

The Image as Memory

For “University of Disaster”, Radenko Milak immediately affirmed the importance, even the necessity, of sharing, of being open to others in the elaboration of the project and the exhibition, be they artists, curators, researchers, writers. Each new work created for the occasion was the subject of research and lengthy discussions between us. If they follow in the continuity of certain of his previous series, such as “365 – Image of Time” or “So close and yet so far”, they remain distinguishable by their aura and their ambition. “University of Disaster” is born of the works of “365 – Image of Time”. This project consisted in the artist painting for a year, every day, a black and white watercolor of the image of an event that happened the same day, related to modern and contemporary history. The event could be political, related to conflicts, to the life of ideas and arts, to scientific development or technological. The ensemble is striking; it reads like mental landscape of the images of the brief, intense, extreme and violent history of the 20th century. This landscape unfolds like a single fresco despite the diversity of its sources. The eye of the painter is no longer a mere witness of his century but reveals the aesthetic ties that subterraneously bind representations of history together. The use of the unique technique of black and white watercolor, which allows no repentance, is not trivial and does not stem from the desire to reproduce images, but rather, to reinterpret them somewhere in-between effacement and highlighting. “365 – Image of Time” is a Mnemosyne Atlas set in the 21st century that draws on the contemporary global iconographic repertoire in the sense that the artist collects the images and assembles them in the form of a panorama that is both a singular and collective landscape of memory. The goddess Mnemosyne, goddess of memory and language, is also the mother of the nine Muses; memory is the very matrix of art. With Radenko Milak you find the undertaken role of the memorialist.

As the opening to the exhibition “University of Disaster”, a quadriptych by Radenko Milak is displayed. Each panel, of imposing dimensions, is composed of black and white watercolors that constitute a single image, made up of different images. Each panel is dedicated to one of the four fundamental elements – Air, Fire, Earth and Water – through the prism of a contemporary catastrophe, a recent disaster. Gaston Bachelard brilliantly demonstrated in his different essays that that it was possible to understand poetic creation, from its origins to today, through the four fundamental elements. He constituted, beyond the usual divisions of epochs and territories, poetic communities and symbolic families that are connected to one or another of these four elements. Closer to us, the last book Edouard Glissant wrote is an anthology of the poetry of the All-World, which also bears the name of the four elements, Earth, Fire, Water and Wind (La Terre, le Feu, l’Eau et les Vents, Editions Galaade, 2010). It reads as a single piece, without logical or chronological order, without belonging to a language or a country, and underlines the existence of a community of imagination that draws its raison d’être from the excessiveness of the world that precedes all humanity and that can be understood from the point of view of the four fundamental elements in the presence of which all human creation asserts itself.

With his quadriptych, Radenko Milak reminds us of the importance of the four elements in our symbolic perception of contemporary disaster, beyond even the evidence of the present ecological catastrophe, that the water is contaminated, the air polluted, the earth poisoned, and that the fire consumes the planet’s last resources without being able to exert its regenerative power; also beyond the fact that we could connect the contemporary micronarratives of disaster to the significant narratives of disaster in the founding texts to the four elements, such as for example, the Flood for Water, Sodom and Gomorrah for Fire, the Plagues of Egypt for the Earth or Air.

Radenko Milak’s first panel, dedicated to the Earth, plays with cinematographic narrative codes and presents, what is for the artist his first memory of a disaster, the dire consequences of the largest oil spill in history, in 1991, tied to the Golf War. The second, dedicated to Fire, is the landscape of the city of Hiroshima ravaged by the nuclear fire of the first atomic bomb, interwoven with mathematical equations, cartography, but also desire, with the embracing of two bodies. The third, dedicated to Water, mixes the classic codes of Marine Painting with contemporary representations of those drowned in the Mediterranean, these migrants who are today the shame and the dishonor of the European continent. The fourth, dedicated to Air, appears at first glance as pure abstraction, yet it is the scientific microscopic view of atmospheric pollution that is the plague of humanity’s overcrowded megacities.

The Image as Movement

For “University of Disaster”, Radenko Milak also created an animation film directly on paper, in black and white, with an original soundtrack by Gaël Rakotondrabe, entitled, “From the Far Side of the Moon”. If the quadriptych can be tied to “365 – Image of Time”, the film can be seen in light of his very long-term project, “Endless Movie”, begun four years ago. With “Endless Movie”, Radenko Milak used The Movement Image, drawing from the world repertoire of cinema, multiple images that he links together in order to create the mental Image of cinema that borrows from all the cinema that has shaped us and continues to define us – Hitchcock, Godard, Bergman, Antonioni, Welles, Kalatozov, Laughton, Tarkovski. In constrast to the overused formula that consists in defining cinema as a mirror of society, the artist considers cinema as a single image factory from which he created his own aesthetic, his own memory. As a cinematographic iconographer, he unveils the human truth of cinema, which is paradoxical, telling of our proximity and our remoteness, our presence and our absence, our profound solitude in being observed, in observing and our desire for a relationship with the other. Each of the works that make up “Endless Movie”, that often stage a man and a woman alone, seen from the back, remind us of our contemporary human condition that is no doubt knowing that we are strangers to ourselves and to others, so much images separate and unify us at the same time in a contradictory movement.

The film, “From the Far Side of the Moon”, created for “University of Disaster”, literally places us in movement in a succession of sequences where all linear narration disappears, replaced by a chaotic narration within which the darkening over to black becomes the metaphor for what cannot be seen, because unrepresentable, in other words, beyond our human mesure, our imagination. “From the Far Side of the Moon” is a film that plays with the symbolic perceptions of opposites, opposed and reconciled – the masculine and the feminine, the moon and the sun, the light and the dark, absence and presence, the far and the close – and brings us back to this mysterious couple, desire and disaster, that we could resume with a chiasm: desire for disaster and disaster of desire. The film can be seen as the metaphor for a voyage of memory, one that would go from a catastrophe to another, these never appearing in a literal sense, but more often suggested or metaphorical. If the image is matter, it has to do with memory, which only takes on meaning when put into movement. In these dark and menacing times, our humanity persists because we resist the worst or at least, attempt to avoid it.

by Christopher Yggdre