Best of 2018: Marina Paulenka, Organ Vida festival

My list of the ‘Best of 2018’ I’d rather call my list of important ones…because living in a world with so many fantastic productions and artistic creativity, it is difficult to make lists and put in the same basket a number of great manifestations, works, initiatives, publications that do not have the same starting point, haze, significance, context, and visibility. So I will list some artists and works from my region, and exhibitions and books that I believe are important to be seen in the context they come from, which in some way contributed to the understanding of certain issues with a focus on those subjects that personally intrigue me – namely feminist, educational and socio-political.

Selma Selman
Feminism, gender and stereotypes are the main issues addressed in the works of Selma Selman, a Bosnian and Herzegovinian artist of Roma origin. One of her most stunning works is Mercedes 310, in which she pays her respects to and expresses admiration for the car that provides for her family and which, thereby, represents their subsistence. The two other works Self Portrait (Deconstruction of the Washing Machine) and Self-Portrait – AEG Vampyr show performances in which the artist destroys objects made of metal and separates usable from unusable materials. These cathartic performances, in addition to repetitive actions referring to a family way of life that provides subsistence and the knowledge passed on by her father, is also associated with the domestic servitude of housewives through the destruction of household appliances. This dual role, seen from the father’s and a housewife’s perspectives, provides a multi-layered meaning to all Selma’s works. She was presented at this year’s Industrial Art Biennial in Labin, Croatia and I had an oportunity to work with this amazing artist at the exhibition Her New East presented in Galzenica Gallery in Velika Gorica city, Croatia.

Viva La Vida Fhoto © Selma Selman and Dinko Hosic, 2016

Karla Juric’s Instagram feed
Karla Jurić, a Croatian artist, constructed a persona who manifests herself through journal entries in the digital realm of social networks, primarily Instagram. Over a one-year period, she created the series #BSBSK10 in her bathroom, virtually situated in her residence in the city centre. By challenging the ingrained social stereotypes, she sometimes takes on an active role, as an art director, with a tinge of subversive flirting between female and male bodies – strangers who were invited to her private quarters in order to be photographed. She is always open for discussing the authenticity of the images with the public, who then deem them as socially acceptable or not. By testing the limits of the feminist idea of self-representation, but also her own identity, she examines whether it is this other self or her true self that is accepted. At one point, the work comes out of the boundary of Instagram via guerrilla actions and prints stuck to the city walls. 

THE UN-HEROIC ACT: Representations of Rape in Contemporary Women’s Art in the US
In October this year I was with Lea Vene [her Organ Vida co-curator] in New York and we visited The Un-Heroic Act show at Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Curated by Monika Fabijanska, the exhibition examines representations of rape and the iconography of rape by presenting work of twenty female artists, different generations and ethnic diversity from the past forty years, such as Jennifer Karady, Ada Trillo, The Guerilla Girls, Naima Ramos-Chapman and many others. The focus of thir works is on the lasting psychological devastation of the victim: her suffering, silence, shame, and loneliness. Fabijanska’s research shows that rape constitutes one of central themes in women’s art, and the aim of the exhibition is to analyse its rich iconography in all mediums: drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, photography, video, film, new media, performance, and social practice. The exhibition presents subjects specific to American culture and explores such issues that inspired artists to treat the subject of rape as: fairy tales and art history, rape as a war crime and rape in the military, slavery, rape epidemic on Indian reservations, women trafficking, college rape culture, domestic violence, the role of social media…

Transformations: Exploring Changes in and Around Photography
The publication Transformations, Exploring Changes in and Around Photography is a product of ‘Transformations’, a project that was initiated by Rebecca Simons and Viewbook in 2016 to explore changes and support photography in a digitally connected world. I think it is a great iniative where photographers and photography professionals meet each other, talk and brainstorm, and reflect on what they see as the most interesting transformations in and around photography today. The publication was produced following several meetings in Arles discussing topics such as ‘What does the photographer of the future need?’, in which the necessary skills, knowledge and attitude of the future photographer were addressed, and the kind of educational support necessary to help them. Through essays, interviews, photographic work and short quotes, Transformations raises a conversation on how technological changes and shifts within the industry affect the role and work of the photographer today. Perfect for the the photographers, industry professionals or students who wants to engage in the conversation and rethink photography – and a digital version could be downloaded from the website.

Why Exhibit? Positions on Exhibiting Photographies
I’m very happy that the publication Why Exhibit? edited by amazing Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger and Iris Sikking, has finally been published. It offers different views on “how the myriad forms of exhibiting photographies can increase our understanding of how images operate today, as well as what they do to us when we interact with them”. After hard research and interviews with a group of curators, scholars, photographers, and artists based in the field of contemporary photography, this book aims to provide a great footing and principles for a wider discourse on exhibiting. It’s a great initiative since I think we should never stop (re)thinking how (and why) we can present some artworks in today’s digital age.

Why Exhibit? Positions on Exhibiting Photographies edited by Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger and Iris Sikking
Why Exhibit? Positions on Exhibiting Photographies edited by Anna-Kaisa Rastenberger and Iris Sikking