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Exhibition About History ▪︎ Darija Petković, Neja Tomšič, and Vladimir Živojinović

Galerija Artget, Belgrade
Thursday, July 18th
10:00 – 18:00


History is a peculiar science. In today's world of fast communication and information abundance, it seems almost trivial and harmless. For most people, events from the past are always gently removed from reality and do not have the same impact after years, decades, or centuries have passed. On the other hand, it is clear that every ruling regime seeks to control historical discourses as they are an integral part of the national and cultural identity of a certain group. Therefore, history is always monitored from above. The victor in a conflict strives to control history to be remembered as the winner, and in this process, manipulation of contexts often occurs. This is probably the reason why today the boundary between history and mythology is so unclear and undefined.

Therefore, history is never entirely static and defined. On the contrary, it is quite dynamic and mutable. The current situation can easily transform the perception of the past. Historical revisionism appears in every regime and every zeitgeist; newly formed states aim to create their own historical narratives that are often linked to conflicts, struggles, and sacrifices; the contemporary woke movement calls for a reexamination of traditional historical canons and advocates for a revision of history based on today's ethical standards; more powerful corporations, which now own the majority of media and online communication platforms, create their own history based on their short-term interests, concealing the role of big business in turbulent events from the past.

An impartial, objective, and non-linear historiography can reveal a series of paradoxes that seriously undermine established and idealized heroic narratives. The three artists in the exhibition titled About History, Darija Petković, Neja Tomšič, and Vladimir Živojinović, each in their own distinctive way, explore historical narratives but always differently and far from commonly accepted interpretations. They also often deal with hidden episodes of major historical narratives, always looking at them from a critical distance. They question different representations of history and its role in shaping political and public discourses of the present, addressing specific episodes of local and global history (which are inevitably interconnected). Although their practices are completely different, all three combine image and text to further contextualize the content.

In her work Damnatio memoriae, 2017-2024, Darija Petković deals with ways of constituting memory. Using photographs, found objects, archival material, and texts, she analyzes selected historical events that are inscribed in collective memory through public and media discourses. The work follows and comments on the consequences of social, ideological, and economic transition in Croatia, and the broader region, characterized by the rejection of the social values of egalitarianism and historical revisionism. The central point of the series are symbolic locations that have marked the recent history of Croatia. The exhibition features three elements of this series; one of them is the work Uvala Slana (2018), which depicts the location of the first concentration camp of the Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945), whose silhouette is featured on the currency from that time.

In her interdisciplinary artistic practice, Neja Tomšič often explores suppressed and neglected episodes from history. In the work Opium Clippers, 2015-2024, she uses multi-layered approaches, such as performance storytelling, artist books, appropriated photographs, and texts, to collect and tell stories that examine the legacy of colonialism, hidden and ignored in official historiography, providing answers to numerous complex questions related to current geopolitical relations. Opium Clippers deals with the period when East Asian countries were forced to enter the global free market, relinquishing a significant part of their sovereignty in the process. The work reveals the legacy of opium wars today, as some of the largest banks, insurance companies, investment, and transport companies have built their power on opium trade.

Vladimir Živojinović, in the series Danube Division, 2022-2024, reflects on historical events from a very personal perspective. He focuses on the events surrounding the breakthrough of the Salonika Front at the end of the First World War, in which his great-grandfather participated, resulting in the liberation of Serbia in 1918. The series of photographs, combined with explanations in texts, offers a microhistorical perspective and presents events that are ubiquitous in literature today in a different light. To counteract any kind of oversimplified narrative, Živojinović applies different approaches, such as landscape photographs with context, portraits, family archives, and creates a personal topography that demonstrates the interconnectedness of official and personal history.

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* If you do not find the contacts of the organizers in the event description, then you can buy entrance tickets at the entrance