Palimpsest of ’89
Palimpsest of ’89 – Commons’ Institutions is an artistic installation exploring the role of cultural institutions in shaping the common heritage of Yugoslavia through the lens of Sarajevo’s cultural institutions. The underlying thesis is that the region’s history has been “written and rewritten” through the work of institutions that have been framing and preserving the common heritage. The installation is conceived both as exhibition furniture and as a conceptual structuring format that organizes the exhibition through specific historical contexts. The first idea translates into museum shipping crates, representing the museum as an institution that preserves cultural memory and frames common heritage. The second idea translates into a “palimpsestual carpet,” proposing a way of thinking about the creation of the common heritage on the ground through the weaving of integrative and disintegrative narratives and policies related to cultural institutions. Taken together, these two ideas inform the design of the exhibition architecture in form of museum shipping boxes painted with carpet patterns that provide the historical context for the interpretation of artworks on display.
Carpet iconography functions like a form of storytelling and history writing. The carpet patterns of this exhibition depict the creation of the common heritage through selected cultural institutions that were founded in each period of Sarajevo’s history: 1. The Pre-Modern (Pre-Ottoman and Ottoman), 2. The Modern / Austro-Hungarian, 3. The Modern / Socialist, and 4. The Post-Dayton Period (1995-2016). Each of these periods translates into one layer of the palimpsestual carpet – with each room, more and more symbols are added to the carpet, while others get revised or erased. The largest, central space of the exhibition focuses on the period of the War of 1992-95 as well as on the now, represented through an analog / digital carpet in the center of the space. This carpet brings together the constantly changing digital animation of all patterns from all exhibition rooms with the real-time crisis of the common heritage of today and of the future. For the exhibition opening, this carpet will re-enact Azra Aksamija’s Digesting Dayton project, inviting the exhibition visitors to eat away the inter-ethnic borders established through the 1990s war and institutionalized through the Dayton Peace Accord of 1995, which now stands in the way of peaceful coexistence. Throughout the exhibition, the analog dimension of this carpet will be created through textile encounters between Slovenian craftswomen with the Ljubljana-based Bosnian refugees from the 1990s and the current asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and other places.
Azra Akšamija, Palimpsest of ’89. Commons’ Institutions, 2017.
Mixed media: museum shipping crates, painted textile patterns, animation
Produced for the exhibition “The Heritage of 1989. Case Study: The Second Yugoslav Documents Exhibition” at the Moderna galerija / Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, SI / 26 April – 17 September 2017 /Curated by Zdenka Badovinac and Bojana Piškur.
Project author: Azra Akšamija.
Project development team: Blanca Abramek (patterns), Joshuah Howard (animation), Kristen Wu (patterns and stencils).
Conceptual contributions: Zdenka Badovinac, Bojana Piškur, project team.