• A political scene

  • As a witness of recent history – motivated by territorial claims, devastating on a personal level – Ibro Hasanović has chosen a politically engaged form of artistic practice. It focusses on micro-events, thus making History with a capital H graspable on the level of the personal, even anecdotal – a masterly technique described namely by Theodor Adorno and largely employed by seminal artists and writers throughout the 20th century in an attempt to tackle with excruciating and torturous events such as war, loss, persecution, displacement and torture. If ‘God is in the details’ (Aby Warburg), Evil is, too – rather than addressing the full-blown horror of recent armed conflicts and ethnical belligerency in a moral or activist mode, the artist casts a closer look at what this entails for the individual or certain groups who are exposed to violence, or the sheer memory of it. Drawing conclusions from the observation of the Living around him pertinently feeds into Hasanović’s politically informed art-making.

    His artistic endeavour focuses on the human aspect in what he points out to be a genuinely archetypal situation and maybe one of mankind’s most stringent characteristics: interpersonal Violence. This, the artist assures us, comes in many forms, ranging from daily newspaper-reports (Black Chronicles, 2014) to gruesome tellings from ancient mythology (A Short Story, 2011). It is delivered in large quantities straight into our living rooms and onto our screens, ready-to-be consumed by an ever-growing audience. Yet, violence, when omnipresent, is not detected anymore as being outrageous and blameful. Rather, it is perceived as a routinely performed act by ordinary people in situations that have ceased to appear exceptional to us. Violence, under certain conditions, can become the norm and can even entertain. This is what the series “Black Chronicles” – deployed in uninterrupted rows of framed newspaper- -clippings on the gallery wall – shows.

    Photography is the medium that best lends itself to document, testify, archive and preserve. It is supposed to be the accurate reproduction of reality and has status of proof in most legal courts. Furthermore, it aliments the official archives of History. But even in their early days, photographic images were lying. More precisely, they were purposefully made to lie by the very photographer who produced them, or else, by the news agency that selected and published them. There are many famous examples of photographs which omitted the tiniest of details for the sake of a clear, non-ambiguous – yet certainly propagandistic – message. Just think of that infamous photograph taken back in 1945 when Red-Army Soldiers liberated Berlin. Before climbing onto the Reichstag, they had been looting the city, so that each of the soldiers on the picture was actually wearing two wristwatches. The published image of this historical event was the retouched and re-arranged version of the original cliché. That one detail hinting at the looting was gone. The Devil is in the Details, and when we look at the vast Archive of about 200 pictures that constitute Black Chronicles we understand that we are actually looking at images whose purpose is pure propaganda: far from being neutral documents, they operate a telegenic staging of violence through standard codes (black mask, gun, knife...).

    Silence is another element in Hasanović’s artistic repertoire. It stands for the unspeakable - scattered memory, and loss, all those fragments of the past that have not yet been assigned their place in collective memory. Disturbing elements cannot be easily named. When History is in the making, we walk on slippery ground. So, again here, to grasp the Bigger Picture, the artist observes the details: abandoned furniture and insignia of power on the ex-Yugoslav Navy Yacht Galeb - “Bauk” (2014), a silent and re-cut version of “Spectre” (2012), or the re-enactement of the clapping of hands of Statesmen, applauding themselves for having just sealed the future becoming of the Ex-Yugoslav nations (Study for an Applause, 2013). Silence, paradoxically, is a marker of attention – with all our senses constantly solicited, it’s the lacking of sound that we are drawn to and that makes us stop to “listen”, both mentally and visually, to the artist’s voice in his videos, films, photographs and installations.

    Marlene Rigler
    Paris, October 2015.