Maja Bajevic

Saturday, 04 June, 2005:

4-12 June 2005
11 am - 6 pm daily,
The Foundation for Women’s Art
4th Floor, 53-56 Great Sutton St, London EC1

The Bosnian Institute is pleased to be a partner in the UK solo premier show of Bosnian artist Maja Bajevic and of her new work commissioned by the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles, to be made in Bosnia-Herzegovina in May 2005 and shown in London in June 2005. The project is part of Arttextiles 3.

The project will be produced as a site-specific work at a house on the periphery of a tannery and leather garment factory, in Visoko, Bosnia-Herzegovina. The project will last for 5 days in May 2005 during which the artist will work with members of the Visoko local community, former workers of the factories, to produce a leather structure to encase a house on the periphery of the factory site. On exhibition in London will be the documentary video and photographs of the event and its process of being made.

Visoko is only 20km NW from Sarajevo. Following the war, the area is attempting to again become viable for economic and cultural re-development by re-establishing ties within local infrastructure. The region has a tradition within the textiles industry, specifically tanning in historical trade and industry, which dates back over 1000 years. KTK Visoko is the largest factory of its kind in the region, employing 5000 before the war and only 1800 today due to the damaged infrastructure, materials, and buildings.

Bajevic’s work will involve collaboration between the artist and members of the local community in order to produce the project. Such a method is extending elements of her practice that she employed previously with Women at Work (1999-2001), where Bajevic worked closely with five women from Srebrenica who had become refugees during the war. Her work will evoke the recent history written into the structures of the landscape (buildings visibly scarred by violence, and invisibly damaged by collapsing infrastructure). The project attempts to engage with the economic losses by making physical the experience of mourning a community’s traditional livelihood.

Maja Bajevic’s commission is presented in London as documentary photographs of the site-specific project made by London-based Belgian photographer Thierry Bal and as a DVD projection shot by a local videographer.

Maja Bajevic has exhibited widely internationally and has recently had her US solo premier at P.S.1 in late 2004. She has also participated in the 50th Venice Biennale (Bosnia-Herzegovina Pavilion), Venice, Italy, Blood & Honey: Future is in the Balkans, Sammlung Essl, Klausterneuberg, Austria (2003); Looking Awry, ApexArt, New York (2003), Biennial de Valencia, Valencia, Spain, the Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey (2001), and Manifesta 3, Ljubljana, Slovenia (2000).

Curated by Kim Dhillon and Jessica Wythe

Project supported by the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles, and Arts Council England, in partnership with The Bosnian Institute and The Foundation for Women’s Art, with the kind support of Visiting Arts, The Step Beyond Mobility Fund of the European Cultural Foundation, east city investments, and The Great Eastern Hotel.

For further information please contact Kim Dhillon or Jessica Wythe on +44 (0) 207 033 2920, Unit 310 Anlaby House, 27-39 Boundary Street, London E27JQ,

Photograph: Double Bubble, Maja Bajevic, 2001, video still, courtesy the artist

NY Arts Magazine, May/June 2005

Maja Bajevic: New Ways of Working

Kim Dhillon

Maja Bajevic left Sarajevo in the early 90s to study in Paris, and then found she couldn’t return because of the war. Much of Bajevic’s work is about this exile and the social and political conditions surrounding it. She had her US solo premier at P.S.1 in Fall 2004, in which she set up thirty sound systems simultaneously blaring different nationalist anthems from the Balkans and beyond. Bajevic is now preparing a new work that will start in May with a performance–or, as she sees it, a "making-of"–in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and end up in an exhibition in London in June. The project is a commission conceived for Arttextiles 3 Platform 2, a series of exhibitions and commissions set up to critically challenge the relationship of textiles and contemporary art.

In the small town of Visoko, near Sarajevo, Bajevic will work with former employees of the town’s once thriving leather factories to sew together 150 square meters of leather around the structure of a house on the periphery of a factory. All the workers who Bajevic will collaborate with–and they will be paid–have suffered economically following the collapse of infrastructure after the war in the 90s. KTK Visoko, the largest leather factory in the area, employed 5,000 people before the war; today it has 1,800 workers.

Kim Dhillon: Can you explain a bit about the site where you will be working on this new project?

Maya Bajevic: The site I have chosen for the project is Visoko, a village close to Sarajevo that had a big leather factory before the war. The factory produced leather clothes for the ex-Yugoslav market as well as for export. It was one of the rare examples where industry fell in sync with the region’s traditional occupation. The treating of leather is something deeply interwoven in the region’s traditional skills and sources of economic benefit.

The factory is empty and out of use now. Some Italian brand will build a new factory close to the old one in the near future. It will probably employ the workers of the ex-factory, profiting in that way from the country’s knowledge and resources. It is very close to the colonial methods only now it is not anymore a country that is colonizing, but a company. It is a kind of capitalistic colonization. Globalism seems to have legalized the law of the stronger. In a not so long-ago past, the underdeveloped countries still had a chance. They were maybe slower but going in the same direction as the developed ones. Today they don't stand a chance anymore. The moral questions that one would make in consideration to a country do not apply towards companies or capital. Anything is possible and it is nobody’s fault.

KD: I think it’s very important that you always pay people you work with, especially given the concept behind this project.

MB: I think that is the minimum one can do. I always present my project to the people I invite to work with me and I always pay them. I consider that they will spend their time and energy on the project and therefore should be paid for it. That makes the beginning point clearer and fair.

KD: I’m intrigued by your approaching the project not as a performance, but, as you suggested to me, as a "making-of." Can you discuss your ideas of process and of production in the project?

MB: The process of production has always been very important for my work. It is during that process that things happen on a human level. Working together is one of the strongest links between people.

KD: In one of our first emails, you said something like: textiles are a slippery subject, they can either be really great or completely useless. Could explain further what you mean?

MB: For me, as a women, textiles, and especially working together with other women, is a great excuse to work on something else while staying in the natural surrounding of these women. For me the final "product" has never been the work we have done in textiles but the process and the context of doing it. In this project it will probably be a man’s world since working with leather is traditionally more of a "man’s job," and that is one of the reasons I am particularly looking forward to it. It will be like entering yet another world.

KD: The project is going be developed and produced in Sarajevo, and then immediately launched and exhibited in London. Could you discuss what two different types of/locations of audience mean to the work?

MB: I think that the audience on the site will be the audience for the site. The whole village is deeply into the leather business for centuries, so it will be a skilled eye looking at us. But I expect also some joy in making something that has no use whatsoever in a concrete sense. For skilled people, the joy is always in resolving the problem, in "doing it" much more then in the result, so I am curious to see what the reactions will be when the result is something that, from the beginning, was meant to be somewhat absurd.

This text was adapted from an email exchange between Kim Dhillon, co-curator of the project, and Maja Bajevic.
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