“Sarajevo Tranzit”, Celle Group, Colegium Artisticum

The exhibition Sarajevo Tranzit, produced by the members of the artists’ group “Celle”, whose membership is comprised of those affiliated with the Vienna Künstlerhaus, opened last night in the smaller of Colegium’s two spaces.The theme of the exhibition, the physical and cultural distance between Vienna and Sarajevo, the relationship between artists and the dynamics of a group working together to produce a show, are discussed in a dizzying array of drawings, photographs, installation and video that crowds the space.

The old Hapsburg Empire, which governed here between 1878 and 1918, has left an indelible imprint on the centre of the city and its infrastructure. Trams were trialled here first, before being built in Vienna; sumptuous Hapsburg apartment blocks and offices, familiar West from Galicia and south from the Czech border to here, dominate the old city. The labyrinthine bureaucracy in contemporary BiH is a faint echo of the micro-managed Austro-Hungarian state. It is interesting, therefore, to see the relationship between Sarajevo and Vienna re-calibrated, for the twenty first century, in this exhibition.

In any group exhibition, the offerings can be rather hit-and-miss, and this show is no exception. There are some outstanding drawings on display, both in terms of portraiture and manipulation of existing images. There are two particularly good “Sarajevo Tranzit” images using old maps of the city. There is also some sensitive portrait photography and, at the entrance, two very interesting video productions, one relaying heavily on medical and scientific imagery.

In terms of installation, a pile of red chairs, crazily interlocked, acts as an apt metaphor for the unexpected dissonances and harmonies of group activity. The show is also steeped in references to Viennese and Bosnian culture both past and present; Kafka and Ivo Andrić, the best known authors of the two countries, feature in several pieces- including a project where internet screenshots are reproduced through drawing. At the opening itself, all the group’s artists were present, clad in fluorescent lycra yellow, branded with the “Celle” logo, as a means of differentiating themselves from their guests. This was an interesting way to point out the loss of an individual creative profile within a group, and the benefits and disadvantages of that loss. During the opening, a performance piece, featuring an artist, clad from head to foot in this neon yellow, reading from a text at defined intervals; an interesting intervention.

This is a very wide ranging and stimulating exhibition, valuable not only for some of the individual works on display, but also as an experimental-laboratory-in-progress on the ever-changing profile and activity of an artists’ group, and the way that such a group can insert itself into cultural and market activity. The on going experimental nature of the “Celle” group will make watching their progress and development in the future very worthwhile. Too often, artists’ groups are formed with little obvious common purpose or collaborative possibility beyond collective and individual branding. This is not the case here.

Perhaps most importantly, this exhibition represents a new stage in the cultural relationship between Vienna and Sarajevo, with a return exhibition of Bosnian artists in the Austrian capital scheduled for September. It will be very interesting to see their response to the spectrum of creative group activity that the “Celle” group have brought to this city.

Jon Blackwood

“Sarajevo Tranzit” is open now at Colegium Artisticum and runs until the 30th June. Entry is free, as is the brochure produced by Celle to accompany the exhibition.

If you are on facebook, a gallery of photos of the exhibition can be found here.

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