Participants: Nevena Popović, Ivan Arsenijević, Nidaa Aboulhosn, Dubravka Radusinović



DISLOCATIONS 2015 A Photographic Residency at the village of Orlovat

The art manifestation ‘Dislocations: A Photographic Colony at Orlovat’ was founded in 2014 and it builds on the residency founders’ previous experience in organising traditional art colonies. That experience has indicated that art photographers integrate their practice into the village life and establish communication with the villagers through an entirely straightforward and interactive approach. The photographers move around, investigate the surroundings, life and habits of the people they encounter, creating their work in a direct collaboration with different generations of villagers.

The realisation of two photographic residencies at Orlovat shed the light on certain specificities arising from the very nature of the medium of photography, which concern production, presentation and archiving of the art work produced at the colony. It turned out that the number of photographs created during the participants’ stay at the residencies considerably exceeds the amount of works that can be physically processed and presented at the exhibition under the current circumstances. In that respect, the possible solution is emerging in form of use of new digital technologies for the presentation and analysis of photographs via a web site, or by application of new software used in the field of digital humanities.[1] The conclusions reached through a team work that brought together  photographers/artists and art historians/curators, will be taken into account upon determining the future course of the residency development, which will be steered towards approaching a study residence model that incorporates people of different professions, including programmers and web-designers.

From its beginning, an integral part of the residency’s programme was a psychological-photographic workshop, run by Dubravka Radusinović, both this and the last year. While the aim of the 2014 workshop was to teach participants how to attain a better understanding of themselves, others and the world around them by examining  photographs of other authors, as well as creating their own, the 2015 workshop aimed at enabling participants to learn about possibilities that photography offers in terms of developing emotional intelligence of an individual. The workshop was attended by 12 young people from Orlovat, and resulted in creation of 14 works.

The second photographic residency was held in July 2015. This year’s residency hosted three authors, photographers Ivan Arsenijević from Kragujevac and Nidaa Aboulhosn, who divides her time between Phoenix (USA) and Beirut (Lebanon), and a visual artist Nevena Popović from Belgrade. The works of these artists were created in intensive daily walks through the village and their realisation would not be possible without collaboration with local inhabitants and outing goers.[2]

The photo collages entitled ‘Tamiš’ by Nevena Popović show temporary and improvised dwellings of campers, or ‘newcomers’ as they are called,  who regularly spend the time between the end of May and the end of September at the banks of the river Tamiš. They come from the towns in the vicinity of Orlovat, but sometimes from the north of Vojvodina. Their temporary homes, hidden in a forest, are revealed by the artist’s colour photographs laid on the background of black-and-white photographs of the forest. The photo-friezes of their homes’ interiors, exteriors and surroundings look like an inverted page from a tourist agency catalogue. The organisation of their holiday arrangements, marked by self-initiative, includes occupation of river adjacent land; occasional access to power supply obtained in an inventive way and involving payment of a regular fee agreed with the villagers; a fish-based diet, with fishing and hunting licences included.  Although it seems that, under current economic conditions, this type of tourism is the only remaining alternative for the most people, it still involves certain risks, since ‘newcomers’ fear communal inspection and fines, as well as the possibility of being mistrusted by the villagers. The contrast between the natural environment, photographed in a black-and-white technique, and the colour photographs of the campers’ dwellings, can be interpreted as a form of distance at which we presently see the nature through a socially-formed constructs. Gradually deprived of its colours and exposed to pressure of the urban, accelerated way of life, the nature becomes distant. This contrast also reflects the relation of products of modern society, which, presented in colour, familiar and recognisable, made of artificial, perishable materials, seem so transient in comparison to the nature, which is, in its black-and-white display, portrayed as mythological continuity, measured by eons. A certain manner observable in the final appearance of Nevena Popović’s photographic work is also discernible in the works of other participants to this year’s photographic colony. It concerns the application of some sort of archiving/cataloguing approach to images in investigation of a phenomenon that is the subject of their interest, combined with certain contemporary strategies of advertising, within which the photographic medium presently occupies a dominant position. Independently from one another, without being aware of the elements of the common approach, the participants partly appropriate such visual organisation of images and use it to communicate the aporias of contemporary life.

The Lebanese artist Nidaa Aboulhosn, who emigrated to the USA over twenty years ago, but still visits Lebanon every year, found at Orlovat many similarities with her home country in the local food, habits, nature, people’s mentality. One of the links with her past spent in Lebanon, were the cars of a characteristic 80’s design, which she once drove with passion. The idea for a photographic work ‘Frequency (Yugo/Zastava)’ emerged in the course of Nidaa’s walks through the village of Orlovat, during which she saw numerous red cars, manufactured in a car factory of the automotive industry ‘Crvena Zastava’ in Kragujevac. These cars, since 1988 all named Yugo, were considered a product of domestic expertise or national class cars, although the factory Crvena Zastava has been cooperating with the Italian car manufacturer Fiat, presently its majority stakeholder, since 1956. The reasons for Nidaa Aboulhosn’s interest in those cars can be found in several sources: on the one hand, they represent, as the artist says, familiar elements found on the unknown territory of the village where she stayed; and, on the other hand they are an exemplar of a characteristic local spirit and a symbol of the period of the economic and political past and prosperity, which has been constantly declining since, and dating from the time when Serbia was a part of Yugoslavia, dissolved in the meantime. However, the past is reflected in the present in a new fashion and the fact that the majority of the Orlovat inhabitants still own these cars, tells about their low social and economic status, as well as about their inability to afford cars of more recent make. In that respect, Orlovat can be seen as an exemplar of other villages throughout Serbia and the increased frequency of their permanent pauperisation. Nidaa Aboulhosn’s decision to organise the photographic work ‘Frequency (Yugo/Zastava)’ in form of repetitive matrix into which she placed photographs of cars, arises precisely from the rhythmical pattern of the car’s occurrence in the village, with which she has established a harmonious bond. At the same time, this frequency of occurrence enabled her to experience, in a certain manner, the portraits of cars parked in front of the houses, as likeable (self) portraits of the villagers. The fact that the final appearance of her work takes over the character of an advertising poster, points out to the fact that, in a contemporary capitalist society, the majority of messages conveyed by the photographic medium are communicated precisely through advertising strategies.

His stay at Orlovat prompted Ivan Arsenijević to make a series of photographs of people and agricultural machinery they own. His work includes photographs depicting machinery, as well as those which, in addition to combine harvesters, tractors and trailers, present male persons. From the series ‘People and Machines, Orlovat 2015’, the portrait of Radoslav Damljanov was produced for the collection of the Legacy of Uroš Predić. In this and other photographs from the series, the selected villagers were photographed in their household gardens, which in that way became scenes for staged photographs.  Every shooting was preceded by detailed preparations (search for potential participants, shooting arrangements, preparation of a ‘stage’, selection of machinery, decision-making  on location and position of people), which artist managed to complete with the generous help of his host Dragan Živanov. In addition to that, it was necessary to attain mutual understanding, trust and patience of all participants: artists, protagonists and the chief organiser. The result is invaluable in the sense of creating a multi-valued art work, making some sort of documentation of the existing machines and people and collecting data as the basis for some future socio-cultural anthropological analysis. The filtrated colour photographs depict parts of houses, machinery and, mainly, young and happy people. The poses that the models take on photographs can be recognised in catalogues or billboards of the leading fashion industry brands, while the photographs themselves communicate with the mechanisms of attracting attention, that inseparable segment of the market of goods, brands, and ideas. They show the flexibility of the market, whose capacity for renewing interest for certain phenomena is contingent solely upon the self-interest as the driving force. Young people returning to villages, enjoying doing the farm work, being proud of living close to the nature and close to themselves and their love ones, cities that has become over-polluted, cramped, hopeless – these are only some of the messages that can be read from this blending of agriculture, art and industry.

[1] Digital humanities are concerned with the development of theoretical basis and practical application of digital technologies in research, teaching and promotion of philological, lexicographical, literary and other humanistic sciences. accessed  on 7 December 2015 at 19:20

[2] The photographic works created by the colony residents were stored at the Legacy of Uroš Predić at Orlovat.