artist / participant

press release

From Occupational Therapy to Art Occupations

The terminology in use in the art world, particularly the notions defining the ways of artistic expression and approach to the art system such as strategy, tactics, or intervention, often finds its origin in military vocabulary. These terms, as appropriated and adopted by theorists and critics writing on art, have been translated and used in the context of conceptual definitions of artistic positions or explanations of artistic “strategies” or “tactics”. What would be the situation if the artist actually comes from this military background and follows the same process of appropriation of the language from this field and even more so, uses „military“methods in the invasion of the art system or public space with his works?

The artistic method Mladen Miljanović is developing is based on three overlapping points: personal/professional shift from the school of military officers to the art academy; socio-political context of post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina and new power relations in transitional society; translation of his art production built on narration that sublimates the former reference points in the form of objects, installations, actions, interventions or occupations into the broader global art context. The choice of such a method shows that the artist has, from his very first projects, already decided that his art production should inherently reflect (the failures in) his personal identity building process and the consequences on his position in art system and society.

After the period of nine months (2006/2007) of self-isolation in the abandoned military barracks in Banja Luka where he decided to serve art as he was serving people in the army in 2001, Mladen Miljanović conceived another project under the title Occupational Therapy. If the project I Serve Art was radically aiming at „purification and catharsis“ through repetition of the “existential” experience (“deferred action”) and quest for ways of anthropologically operating with his art, the Occupational Therapy project shows conceptual awareness of the possibilities of work with the chosen method in the art system. The theoretical background of the therapy that is dealing with re-socialization or ability for social adaptation of the patient through different working processes – art, sports or crafts, is here understood both as reflection of the individual position of a “traumatised subject”, a person coming from socio-political context of country that dissolved in ethnic clashes, as well as metaphor for the “occupation” of the art system with the production of works that is exactly taking this context as a source for materialisation of different artefacts. Thus produced objects or installations, visual representations, like Reproduction, Identification and Mechanism of Relation that were chosen for the exhibition from the Occupation Therapy series, could be seen as “sublimation of negative past”.

Finally, the title of the exhibition, Holiday of Discomfort, already discloses the feeling of unease, inner conflicts and contextual instability. It shows the decision of the artist to focus on social status of such a traumatized subject and conceptually refers to the “occupation” of “psycho-social space and therapeutic reconstruction of its shattered fragments” as the artist himself has been pointed out in his statement.

Zoran Erić

Mladen Miljanovic
Holiday of Discomfort
Kuratorin: Antje Wachs