The past is a foreign place

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The violent and lamentable implosion of fabricated nations continues apace. Artificial borders incised by western imperialism on non-historical entities are unravelling. Syria and Iraq are undergoing violent disintegration.

Sadly this is nothing new. The recent past has seen the same fate befall those countries existing on the European fault line between Soviet and Western spheres of influence. In some cases the recalibration of nations was benign and to the benefit of all inhabitants and new states emerged. In others it led to catastrophe. To lose your country, to see it cease to exist, is in a sense to lose your identity. This is what the photographer Dragana Jurisic, as a former citizen of what was once known as Yugoslavia, has experienced.

In an attempt to recapture some of that loss she returned on a photographic journey to the land of her parents – her mother was Serbian, her father Croatian. The result though was a sense of exclusion. Her Yugoslav past is an unwanted anachronism on census forms. Revisiting a lost-land requires a guide or aide memoire. In this case the photographer structures her own journey around a seminal account of life in Yugoslavia, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, A Journey Through Yugoslavia. Written by travel author Rebecca West, herself a rootless inhabitant of a disappearing Anglo-Irish world, the narrative vividly depicts the conglomeration that was Yugoslavia before all hell broke loose in 1941.

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The resulting photographs by Dragana Jurisic’s are cleverly mounted in a form of verse and chorus – call and recall – between textual extracts and contemporary scenes. An image of life today followed by accounts from a narrated past. Jurisic is caught between a foreign past and a contemporary, globalised but anachronistic present. The photographs are of lost people and places, of those that survived and the displaced that will never witness the same country again.

The images display a sense of the calm after the storm of war but with a palpable mood of melancholic and poignant sadness. There are some things painting can’t do and for which photography is best placed.

This is outsider art. View it before it gets put back into archive boxes.

Photos: Dragana Jurisic. (diver) Dragana Jurisic, YU 18, 2013, C-Print, 100 x 100 cm; (polling booth) Dragana Jurisic, YU 37, 2013, C-Print, 100 x 100 cm; (lion) Dragana Jurisic, YU 19, 2013, C-Print, 50 x 50 cm

Dragana Jurisic – YU: The Lost Country

Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin

http://www.rhagallery.ie/

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