The title of the exhibition is a quote by Gilles Deleuze and has once already been used to describe the state of affairs in the Balkans. As one of the most prominent philosophers originating from the Balkans, Slavoj Žižek has been often asked about the Balkans; and who could forget his claim that “every state needs its own Balkan”. Namely, the Balkans functions as an ideological symptom with an aim of displacement of social antagonisms. In the imaginary cartography of Europe, the Balkans and to a large extend also Turkey, function as an embodiment of a certain hindrance, preventing the dream of European society as closed and homogeneous totality to become true. However, artists presented at the exhibition, who are all coming from the Balkan region or Turkey, do not only react to this imaginary as well as real (geo-, bio-, and socio-political as well as economic) (ab)use of the Balkans, they are “identifying with the symptom” and as such work towards the critique of this ideology.
Damir Nikšić (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Nemanja Cvijanović (Croatia) remind us that until recently the majority of citizens of the Balkans have had to struggle with very restrictive migration policies of the EU. In addition, even if now people of the Balkans (with exception of Turkey and Kosovo citizens) could travel visa-free to the EU, the so called 2nd and 3rd world citizens are welcomed almost exclusively in immigration centres with an aim to keep them away from the centre.
“The European dream” has been introduced to the Balkans mainly through the idea of a “free market”, which transferred the societies in question in a seemingly endless transition, where few get it all, while the rest stays empty-handed. Milijana Babić (Croatia), Ozana Brković (Montenegro), Enisa Cenaliaj (Albania), Biljana Garvanlieva (Macedonia) and Kristina Leko (Croatia/Germany) with their work all point to different aspects of the newly established economic order, which has introduced poverty as well as influenced gender relations and other aspects of social tissue.
Social, political and economic processes of change have influenced also city topographies or even naming traditions; whether through introducing new (inter)national heroes and subsequent changes in personal or street names (Alban Muja, Kosovo), or through ethnical gentrification (Ivana Marjanović and Eduard Freudmann, Serbia/Austria; Rena Rädle and Vladan Jeremić, Serbia/Germany). Sebastjan Leban and Staš Kleindienst (Slovenia) go beyond the humanitarian façade of the presence of the international community in Kosovo and are on track of contemporary (post)colonial strategies. It is generally known that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. For the past sixteen years the international intervention in the Balkans called “Dayton Agreement” completed the ethnical division of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lana Čmajčanin (Bosnia and Herzegovina), offers an ironical opportunity to make a proper model of BIH according to individual’s means, desires, and needs.
Gözde Ilkin (Turkey) with her Cohesion Fund makes the dream of the European unification palpable and thus together with other works of the exhibition reminds us not only of the fetish nature of the European unification, but also that this unification could only be bearable for the people not yet belonging to the centre, if they had the right to critically co-work and co-decide on the unification process. Then, all too painfully, we remember that in Slovenia any comment or critique of the EU convergence process has been immediately discarded not only as a symptom of EU skepticism but also as rejection of democracy. Artists of the If you’re trapped in the dream of the other, you’re fucked! exhibition take democracy seriously and once again remind us that art is today one of the few spaces where politics proper takes place. How, if not with an artistic expression, is it possible to give a voice to the trauma of our times, which we so manically try to cover with words – war. In the closing section of the exhibition Lana Čmajčanin and Igor Grubić (Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia) will do so with shouting silence.
Katja Kobolt, curator