The Association for research, documentation and artist representation SKLOP marks the beginning of its work with a solo exhibition of the artist Nina Komel (1986, Slavonski Brod/HR). Komel is the award winner of The ZVONO Award 2016 and as such, in her solo show at SKLOP, will be presenting recent works, dealing with borders and identity. The work raises the issue of visibility and invisibility of certain structures within the socio-political and the art system, and negotiates the identity of both, the artist and citizens.
Four works have been put on display. Three of them are installations in space, created in the last four years, while one is a casted sound sculpture, created only last year during Komel’s residency in New York as part of The ZVONO Award. Nina Komels artistic work is characterized by a conceptual approach, dealing with current and relevant socio-political events and circumstances and raising critical questions that are seeking for the active participation of the citizens.
Was ist Princip? / What is Princip? (2014) is an installation in the form of an oversized mousetrap, which was name-giving for the the exhibition. It’s title is a conscious word play, referring to one of the most important events in the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Europe and the world, namely the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo in 1914. Although the outbreak of the First World War was preceded by a series of events and the assassination “just” marked the climax, in history writing it was given much more attention than the very causes, ie. economic, military and geo-strategic interests of the great powers. Thus, the assassination serves as an example of how a single historic occasion can eventually happen to obscure a much more complex international situation and thereby simplifyand reduce a complete picture of the historical truth to just one spectacular event.
Komel, in that sense, draws parallels with our time, pointing to the very principle of writing, manipulation and perception of historical narratives. Was ist Princip? asks, who, from whose perspective, in which time and with what intention shapes a particular narrative in a certain way. Moreover, the mousetrap implies the tendency towards falling under the influence of certain narratives, which – despite the historical facts on which they are built -, are constructed primarily with the goal to achieve and strengthen personal interests and power.
Kada je koncept pod upitnikom, iskoristi prvu pomoć / When concept is questionable, use first aid kit (2012) consists of 52 wooden cubes – 51 black and one white -, arranged in space in the shape of the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Each of the black cubes is labelled with an adjective, describing the current political and living situation in BiH according to the artist. Lethargic, simple, static, black, limited, banal, uninteresting, and conceptual are just some of the assumptions and interpretations. Especially the word “conceptual” examines how and under what circumstances the political concept and reality of the Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is based on the principle of territorial and ethnic division, came into existence; and further, how natural or constructed such a concept is and to what extent it was imposed by the constituent people of BiH, respectively by the external factors, i.e.the International Community. The latter, in Komel’s work, has been symbolically represented by the single white cube with a red cross on it, as symbol of first aid kit, while the black cubes resemble the black boxes, thrown out of airplanes in case of emergency.
It is the absurdity and unstable situation of Bosnia and Herzegovina over the last 20 years, that the work Intermezzo (2016) points at. A small cast, shaped after the form of Komel’s ear, naturally characterized by a small anomaly, for the artist symbolically represents the abnormality of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, the Constitution marks a unique precedent in the history of the state formation based on the European model, since it was not conceived to protect the rights and equality of all citizens, but rather to protect the interests of individual constituent peoples, preventing and hindering the development of common interests and by doing so potentiate stagnation.
By leaning your ear on to the sculpture, the anthem of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be heard silently. It’s title Intermezzo, which in the theory of music relates to the pre- or interlude between two main acts, seems to be faithful for Bosnia-Hercegovina, a country, which find’s itself stuck between two different political systems, standing for its status quo rather than the intended transition from one into the other. The fact, that the anthem is an instrumental melody, lacking any lyrics, can be perceived as just an other ironical hint to incompletions of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The work in the last room of the exhibition space entitled Zasjeda / Ambush (2013) consists of nearly 200 video cameras, arranged on the wall in the shape of the Bosnian word for “ambush”, namely “zasjeda”. The ambush is a long-established war tactic in which one side of the forces conceal themselves in ambush in order to attack the unknowingly enemy.
The discomfort that occurs when exposed to such a large number of cameras inevitably provokes a sense of caution and fear, which precisely comes from not knowing whether and from which side the room is been monitored. Komel thus deliberately creates an atmosphere of latent threat and uncertainty, forcing the observer to beware of the situation and their perception and behaviour of/in it. Thus, the artists transfers and depicts tactics of manipulation in the exhibition space and leaves the audience in doubt whether and from which side exactly the danger lurks.
Nina Komels with her work does not prepare answers, but raises questions, and perhaps most importantly, offers free space for reflection to those who are willing to engage with it, which the artists makes easier to do by creating suggestive settings that intuitively cause physical and emotional reactions. She deliberately irritates the viewer and activates his or her understanding and at the same time examines if and in how far art itself can affect the awareness and influence the opinion making by the citizens.