This September, SMK (Statens Museum for Kunst)
presents an exhibition featuring seven Danish artists from the former Yugoslavia. Taking their multicultural background as a point of departure, they create works about war, migration, belonging and asylum policies.
In the 1990s, the wars in the former Yugoslavia prompted more than half a million people to flee their home, primarily from Bosnia and Herzegovina. This year, exactly 30 years have gone by since 20,000 of them came to Denmark as part of what was, at that time, the most challenging refugee situation in Europe since World War II.
Many of these refugees eventually chose to stay in Denmark, and today the Danish contemporary art scene bears the imprints of several prominent artists from the former Yugoslavia. Artists who trained at Danish art academies, but who often venture beyond current Danish life experiences addressing themes such as war, refugees, migration and senses of belonging explored at both political and personal levels.
This September, SMK presents the exhibition Connections Danish artists from Ex-Yugoslavia, which brings together seven leading artists who have, each in their own way, distinguished themselves in Denmark and internationally. With a few exceptions, they all arrived in Denmark as children, their families having fled the war in the Balkans.
In a time of exile and migration, it is important to focus on the connections that can arise between different cultural, historical and geographical areas. Art can create meaningful connections across the gulf created by migration, paving the way for a more transcultural worldview, says Tijana Miković, who is part of the exhibitions curatorial team.
Tijana Miković is currently working on a PhD project at SMK and the University of Copenhagen, investigating how art can contribute to expanding our understanding of belonging and national identity. She arrived in Denmark with her family when they had to flee the Balkans in 1992
Topphoto: Ismar Čirkinagić, The House in the Forest by the Sea, 2021, Installationsfoto fra The Metrović Pavilion Zagreb, Kroatien. Photo: Ismar Čirkinagić. © Ismar Čirkinagić / VISDA
Connections between here and there
The artists featured in the exhibition all share a plural cultural affiliation but they take very different formal and conceptual approaches when creating connections between here and there, now and then.
For example, visitors can explore Nermin Durakovićs large video installation, which offers a birds eye view of a landscape with a border. In addition to marking out a geographical area between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, the subject also represents an ethical boundary in relation to Europes current refugee policy: this is the very border crossing that Middle Eastern refugees strive to traverse to enter the EU.
Visitors will also find a monumental work by Ismar Čirkinagić consisting of three large sails sewn together from clothes collected from fifteen countries afflicted by conflicts. An equally large work by Ana Pavlović takes the form of a Danish theatre in which a story of a migrant woman takes centre stage.
The exhibition also shows a model of an inn a house inspired by traditional Bosnian architecture which the artist Amel Ibrahimović has built in Denmark on the basis of his fathers architectural drawings from the 1990s; Suada Demirovićs hand crocheted world map, created in collaboration with her mother, depicting the familys migration history; Alen Aligrudićs photographic work presented in the form of postcards from a country that no longer exists, and Vladimir Tomićs video work Flotel Europa, in which the artist uses home movie footage as a key element in conveying personal and collective memories about life on the ship that, in the early 1990s, functioned as a temporary refugee centre in the middle of Copenhagen.
Four of the seven artists are represented in the SMK collection. The works on display are a combination of existing and new pieces.