Hinging on social and economical issues, Croatia-born Brussels-based Hana Miletić’s work explores the residues and upheavals of political changes in Europe. Often describing her artistic practice as “street photography”, Miletić documents the objects, stories and phenomena generated in the aftermath of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the global financial crisis. While the artist employs photography as a tool to conduct her investigations, her artistic outcomes aren’t always strictly photographic. For Miletić, photography essentially functions as a means of orientation in her ongoing exploration of social reality. During her residence at the Van Eyck in Maastricht, for example, Miletić worked on the durational project Tenir Paroles, which was born out of an exchange with La Frénétick, a collective of young rappers from Brussels. The collaboration resulted in a publication in which the artist considers the artistic and political potential of poetry, and for which she was awarded the Bozar prize in the Young Belgian Art Prize 2015 competition.
On the occasion of her solo exhibition at RIOT, Miletić presents works that are born from her practice as a street photographer, but which are all surprisingly sculptural in nature. One example is Columba, the most prominent work in the show, a large installation built with CD’s. Referring to the improvised scarecrows used in small Croatian city yards and terraces for repelling pigeons, the installation again speaks to Miletić’s interest in street observations and DIY culture. The CD’s are mix tapes, collected by the artist from different individuals, artists, musicians, curators and collaborators, and which will be put into service during a hands-on DJ Workshop for Women. The format challenges the stereotypical role of women within music culture, encouraging women to deconstruct the myth of the male DJ-guru.
Kolona, also distributed in RIOT, comprises a series of sculptures inspired by objects that are symptomatic of the current economical crisis in her home country. In the last decade, former Yugoslavia has gone through a de-industrialization process causing socio-economical asymmetries in Europe. Croatians are forced to come up with inventive ways to deal with scarcity. Buckets or flowerpots are used as molds to cast concrete mooring bollards, characterized by a very specific, almost neoclassical look, and thereby villagers succeed at bypassing official fees and taxes for mooring their boats.
Miletić’s references may be specific, her subjects are universal. As much as Miletić’s cultural roots inform her work, her research conducts a reflection on the consequences of political failures and economical recessions, which have recurred across historical time periods and geographic locales. As Jeremy Till points out, the conditions of austerity have always – be it in Weimar Germany, in Austerity Britain, or in contemporary Europe – enticed people to look for other ways of working and to approach scarcities as opportunities rather than obstacles. But, in reenacting or scrutinizing these minor actions and practices, Miletić is committed not only to bring these to attention, but also to the subversive potential of finding alternatives and outlets to the existing measures, administrations and ideologies. – Laura Herman
Street Photography is on view at RIOT in Ghent until 16 January 2016.
The DJ workshop, organized by curator and writer Amal Alhaag and artist Maria Guggenbichler, takes place at the finissage 16/01/16 at 3 pm followed by b2b DJ set at 7 pm. Sign up at email@example.com to participate in the workshop.
Street Photography, RIOT, Ghent, 2015
Open Studios Van Eyck, Maastricht, 2015
Poppositions Off-Fair with RIOT, Canal Wharf, Brussels, 2015