Ars Kozara: Seventh Edition
The seventh edition of Ars Kozara was held, despite the odds against it, from 23rd-31st August 2014 in Kozara National Park. Ars Kozara is an ongoing project of the art group Tač.ka, from Prijedor, which started in 2007 as an art in nature laboratory to both provide a platform for artists, and to connect their work and practices with the politics and place of Kozara National Park. With a focus on creating a dialogue between artists and space, the Ars Kozara project connects people from all over the former Yugoslavia and provides freedom of expression and display, due to its position outside of formal institutional structures.
This year fourteen artists (Goran Čupić, Aleksa Gajić, Miodrag Jović, Davor Paponja, Aleksandra Kukoljac, Bojan Matović Fligler, Melita Matović Fligler, Irena Mirković, Bojana Radenović, Vladimir Sekulić, Ivana Živković, Tanja Marić, Danka Terzić and Suzana Vulović) from a range of locations and creative backgrounds, including poetry and comic illustration, gathered to create both individual and collective works at the Glavuša site, and two additional locations.
The choice of natural space in which to realise work provides a unique creative backdrop because ‘to engage directly with natural materials… to make site-specific ‘sculptures’ in open spaces, is to open up a space in which meanings are unpredictable, and in which the histories and associations of location become a part of the work.’1 Of course, all artists applied with a concept, but the park provides a dynamic workspace because it requires that they adapt and develop those concepts when confronted with the physical space.
The project is not only unique to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but internationally too. Whilst many land art/art in nature projects exist, these are usually one-off, isolated events. Over the last seven years, Tač.ka has transformed Kozara National Park into an open-air gallery. This creates a more open space for the public and interpretation because visitors to the park do not have an imposed gallery, but are free to happen upon and interact with the works on their own terms. The works are openly available for viewing at the Glavuša site in Kozara National Park, along with all previous works since 2007. An interesting feature is that no two viewings will ever be the same, as artists agree to leave their work in the care of nature. Works from all previous years can be seen as they appeared on completion on the Tač.ka website, and images from this year on the Ars Kozara Facebook page.
This year’s works reflected the range of backgrounds and layers of meaning present in the context of nature generally, and Kozara specifically. Despite a wide range of ages and experience, all of the artists lived and worked as equals. For many it was their first experience working in nature with mostly natural materials, which perhaps served as an equalizer of sorts. All came ready and excited to experiment, showing that there are still experiences and contexts in which art can be created collectively with enthusiasm and without ego.
The work “Pucanje Nečega“ by seasoned land artist and third time Ars Kozara participant, Goran Čupić (Banja Luka) was a response to the floods and the terrible devastation they caused. Using segments of tree trunks cut in varying sizes, he created a flowing installation along one slope amongst the trees of the Glavuša site, with cracks amongst the carefully orchestrated collection of circles reflecting the damaged earth. The work draws attention to the power and fragility of nature and is a welcome tribute to the damaged land and livelihoods during the 2014 disaster.
Goran Čupić Pucanje Nečega, 2014
Diverting from his original concept, Belgrade comic artist and illustrator Aleksa Gajić was inspired to erect a giant smiley in the trees. Whilst Davor Paponja and Miodrag Jović (Banja Luka) drew on the history of Kozara for their installation of children’s toys, hung from the trees, relating to the children who died and/or suffered during WWII, specifically in the Kozara area. Bojan and Melita Matović Fligler (Zagreb) created a dwarf figure out of broken mirror glass, in order to play with reflections and light, and man’s connection to nature. And Bojana Radenović (Belgrade) simulated the constellations in the earth by digging a circular ditch and inserting specially powered LED pins.
The work “Enter the Wood” by Vladimir Sekulić (Krupanj) plays on ideas of openness and space. By erecting a fence in what was previously open space, the artist invites us to enter the space of Ars Kozara. The concept was related to gates and access through land in rural areas, and responses to the often irresponsible behaviour of those who pass through. Although related to cattle and farming, the erection of a fence and stile at one of the main entry points to the work sites at Glavuša raises questions of preservation and responsibility towards art; whilst at the same time welcoming us with the “Welcome” and “Enter the Wood” signs.
Vladimir Sekulić, Enter the Wood, 2014
This year’s event also included two collective works, involving friends and volunteers as well as the artists themselves. One was the installation “Samonikla Umetnost” (“Spontaneous Art”) along the main road entrance to Mrakovica; the other was the mural “Jam Session” on a wall of the National Park workers’ office and residence, which is also home to participating artists during Ars Kozara residencies. The design and production of these works is emblematic of the cooperative atmosphere not only between artists, but between artists, the National Park staff, and the guests and volunteers that Ars Kozara attracts. With funding, flooding and politics all working against the project, the week and works that resulted from it all serve to show the energy and drive present amongst Tač.ka members and the Ars Kozara participants.
Charlotte Whelan is a PhD student (UCL) based between London and Prijedor. Her research (working title: “Experimental art practices and alternative space in Bosnia and Herzegovina”) examines art from a geographical perspective, exploring the relationships between art, space and identity in contemporary BiH . Although she mostly works with the art collective Tač.ka from Prijedor, she is interested in the broader contemporary scene and how it functions in relation to these issues.
All photos courtesy of Tač.ka