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

Galerija Artget, Belgrade
Tuesday, July 16th
10:00 – 18:00


History is a strange science. In today's world of rapid communication and information overload, it seems almost trivial and harmless. For most people, events from the past are always lightly distant from reality and do not have the same impact once years, decades, or centuries pass. 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 surveilled from above. The victor in a conflict strives to control history to be remembered as the winner, and in that process often comes manipulation of contexts. This is probably the reason why today the boundary between history and mythology is so unclear and undefined.

Thus, history is never entirely static and determined. On the contrary, it is quite dynamic and changeable. The current situation can easily transform the perception of the past. Historical revisionism occurs in every regime and every zeitgeist; newly formed states aim to create their own historical narratives that are often linked to conflicts, struggle, and sacrifice; 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 most of the media and online communication platforms, create their own history based on their short-term interests, hiding the role of big businesses in turbulent past events.

Unbiased, objective, and nonlinear historiography can reveal a series of paradoxes that seriously undermine established and idealized heroic narratives. The three artists in the exhibition titled About History, Darije Petković, Neja Tomšič, and Vladimir Živojinović, each in their characteristic way, explore historical narratives, but always differently and far from widely accepted interpretations. They also often deal with hidden episodes of great historical narratives, always observing them from a critical distance. They question different representations of history and its role in shaping political and public discourses of the present, dealing with 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, Darije Petković deals with ways of constituting memory. Using photographs, found objects, archival materials, 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 social egalitarian values and historical revisionism. The central point of the series are symbolic locations that have marked the recent history of Croatia. Three elements of this series are presented at the exhibition; one of them is the work Uvala Slana (2018), which depicts the site of the first concentration camp in the Independent State of Croatia (1941-1945), whose silhouette appears 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 multilayered 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, offering 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, thereby relinquishing a significant part of their sovereignty. The work reveals the legacy of the opium wars today, as some of the largest banks, insurance companies, investment firms, and transport companies built their power on the opium trade.

In the series Danube Division, 2022-2024, Vladimir Živojinović 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 World War I, in which his great-grandfather participated, resulting in the liberation of Serbia in 1918. The series of photographs, combined with explanations in texts, offer a micro-historical perspective and present events that are ubiquitous in literature today in a different light. To counteract any kind of oversimplified narrative, Živojinović employs various approaches, such as landscape photographs with context, portraits, family archives, creating a personal topography that shows 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