A Day in the Life @ Historical Museum of BiH

Rare are the places in the world where you cannot take photos, and that by doing that random, current neighbors react violently to flash camera: light cameras today became closer to us more than the thunderbolt . We photograph practically everything mechanically, anytime, anywhere, and from all the mechanical processes we draw the most appropriate scenes again to “decorate” our internet profile. Photography has become an essential tool for self-portraiting, and it is from this raw material that the exhibition A Day in the World was created.

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The project organisers encouraged people around the world on 15 May 2012th to take pictures of their everyday life. The material for this exhibition was selected from 100,000 photographs from 160 countries around the world. The relationship of time and space in which the photos were produced is really interesting .The works were timed, but not limited by the spaces in which they were taken. As a result, the exhibition is a complex, beguiling mosaic. Images and narratives, which at first glance seem familiar and generic, makes an image-saturated world, seemingly so familiar, strange again to the viewer.  Paradoxically , we know more about things we have never experienced then form the things we see close, thanks to the ability to create a visual record by using photography.

Playing with the “instant ” records and text that explains the same record, opens the possibility that the observer overcome initial fascination towards the icy window of the image, re-writing the meaning of the scenes.  Through photography we can learn a lot. In Finland people regularly drink birch juice, Indian rickshaw also generates a lot of traffic jams, schools in Stockholm are equally stressful as here. In the relationships of strangers we find echoes in the narratives of our own lives; in the disappointments and frustrations of life in strange cities, the nature of our own struggles are thrown into relief and put in perspective.

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We live in an age of social media narcissism. Rather than new media and digital technology expanding our horizons, we have turned the focus of multiple lenses onto ourselves, projecting our own image across differing digital platforms and media sites. The exhibition A Day in the World takes advantage of the speed, portability and accessibility of photography,  The works here are made up of several thematic blocks: work, home (food, my wall, my room), connections, countries. In addition to the stylistic and thematic diversity, it is necessary to mention that the works differ in terms of the quality of the camera, sometimes a picture were taken using a cell phone, and others with professional appliances. Entering amateur works into the gallery, removes the expensive packaging of art and art becomes close to us again, the messages contained in these images more immediately accessible.

Strategically, this is an important exhibition not only in terms of its content, but also in terms of the growing trend it marks in the work of Sarajevo’s galleries and museums. The Historical museum of Sarajevo had to work very hard to bring this exhibition to their space, and they were rewarded with a very well attended opening night, with a much higher contingent from the international community than is normally the case at exhibition openings. Taken alongside the two excellent international exhibitions at Collegium Artisticum last month, and the high international profile of duplex at present (currently mounting a major show in Quebec, and appearing at the Paris art fair), this marks a trend of growing international engagement by both public and private institutions in the city. It is no longer enough to complain about the lack of resources in the domestic market and cultural polity; the way for such institutions to survive and thrive is to become internationally networked, and globally visible.

Often, we can be guilty of being inward looking in our city, and with the scale of the problems facing culture, that is understandable. But exhibitions such as these show the way out of the deadlocked cultural impasse; to open out to other institutions, to build relationships and exchanges, to take international exhibitions here, and take our cultural products outside of BiH in exchange. Live in Sarajevo, work as much as possible abroad seems to be the strategy emerging from these three cultural institutions, and an increasing number of individual artists and cultural workers based in this city. Over time, such a strategy can only bear fruit, and it is vital to set it in motion now, before the razmatazz of next year’s 2014 “cultural” events moves on somewhere else.

This is a rich and stimulating exhibition, revealing much of the complexities and arbitrariness of daily life. And, in looking at it closely, it is an exhibition which unexpectedly reveals a lot about the viewers themselves, too. Looking engagedly at the lives beautiful and ordinary of these curated strangers, one can enjoy a brief Proustian moment.

Jon Blackwood with Elma Hodžić

More information on this show can be found at http://www.aday.org/#exhibition, where the images accompanying this article have been taken from. The show is now open upstairs in the Historical Museum of BiH, open daily from 10-1800, and is accompanied by a lavish catalogue, available for purchase from the museum shop.

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