Two Exhibitions

Sarajevo is really coming to life again, as a long and sleepy summer drifts into memory. With the coming of October, it’s time for the SOS Design Festival again, a busy round of lectures, workshops and exhibitions around the city, One of the most eye catching shows in the exhibitions programme this year is the project “Jugoslovenski Standard”, by Marko and Darko Miladinović, of Slovenia’s Studio Armada, which opened last night at Galerija Java.

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Java’s irregular space is filled with crisp, clean designer’s profile drawings- all of products from former Yugoslavia. Whilst the visual, and nostalgia, appeal of the exhibition is very apparent, this is not a directionless trip into the forms of past design, The show makes two or three very important points; firstly, on the squandering of a strong and inventive design heritage from Yugoslav times, in the two post-Yugoslav decades; secondly, to try and encourage younger domestic designers from the ex-Yugoslav republics, to re-discover some self-belief. In showing the pragamtic innovation of past times, the exhibitors here try to undermine the sense of inferiority that can be felt in a comparison of local with international products. But finally, and most significantly, the show seeks to focus back on production and the object; perhaps to recall a time when things were less readily available and perhaps more appreciated by those who consumed them.

The choice of the Fiča car, by Zastava, as the dominant icon of this exhibition is interesting. Of course the little car that put Yugoslavs on the road in their hundreds of thousands in the 60s and early 70s, was not in any way a Yugoslav design; it was built under licence as an exact copy, from an obsolete Fiat design. Yet, the development of the Fiča in Yugoslavia marked out the differences between two design cultures. In Italy, Fiat’s designers were working on the Fiat 500’s replacement not long after the car was launched; in Yugoslavia, in different economic circumstances, the aim was to prolong the life of the original design through adaptation and innovation, for as long as possible. Zastava continued to make the car up until 1985, twenty years after the last Fiat had rolled off the Turin production line. Bigger engines and a baffling range of interiors, kept the little car alive in Yugoslavia long after it had died and re-emerged as “retro cool” in Italy. Only in the last ten years has the Fiča become retro-cool here, with showroom-condition examples now fetching as much as 3500 euros.

It may be argued that the later Stojadin hatchback (based on the Fiat 128) or the Yugo 45 (based on the Fiat 127) were more authentically Yugoslav designs. But the package exemplified by the Fiča- the production of an all-Yugoslav car, with different parts coming from all six Yugoslav republics- make this an icon of a newly founded domestic car industry.

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Elsewhere in the show, visitors are confronted with familiar Yugoslav brands- the likes of Gorenje, Tomos and Iskra- and less well know ones, such as the LIV cement mixer above. In presenting a range of the familiar and unfamiliar, this is a stimulating show of beautiful designs that re connects a younger generation of visitors with a forgotten or little remembered design past.

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For those who prefer nature and the countryside to the products of industry, head for the small but perfectly formed show of landscape and nature photography at Black Box. The World Wildlife Fund is involved in the exhibition of three photographers- Andrija Vrdoljak, Elio della Ferrefa, and Michel Gunther. The subjects of their work are the remarkable landscapes between Livno and Drvar, their nature and ecological systems.

The work of Vrdoljak really stood out for me, both in terms of its versatility and range of different subject matter. His photograph of the cracked, caked mud of a riverbed reads almost as an abstract painting; a picture of nature that almost seems to exclude its own subject matter. Vrdoljak’s timeless landscapes, produced with a profound knowledge of the area, and inventive photographs of wildlife, were the memorable pieces in a delightful show well worth half an hour of anyone’s time.

Jon Blackwood

Jugoslovenski Standard is now open at Galerija Java until the 21st October; the gallery is open from 12-2000hrs, every day except Sunday. “Voda Polju Život Znači” is open now at Galerija Black Box, for an indeterminate period. Admission free for both shows. We are planning a more extensive report of the events of the SOS Design Festival, which will appear on here in the next fortnight.

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