October 18, 2018 -
November 24, 2018
La Balsa Arte Medellín
Panoramic Scenarios for failed utopias, La Balsa Arte Medellín

«The expectation disappeared, whereas experience has taken the form of a field of ruins»

Utopias aspire for a better world. However their existence is only possible in the imagination. Their failures obsess us, but also motivate us to construct anew. Historically revolutions have been the cradle of utopia. They have forged new imaginations and ideas filled with expectations and hopes, and paradoxically also barbarisms. Nevertheless, the end of the 20th century clarified that the events of the seventies never answered this condition but, contrarily, proves the paralysis and frustration of it. Thus, "instead of projecting themselves into the future, these revolutions created societies obsessed by the past". Today, social and political awakening and movements inevitable carry the defeats of the revolutions of the 20th century. The historical narrative that prevailed and established reason as their crux end up ceding against the precarity and the overwhelming weight of failure, which appears to impede whatever possibility of utopian imagination.

Scenarios for Failed Utopias proposes a dialogue between the recent works of the artists Radenko Milak and Pablo Mora who live on apparently unconnected geographical ends, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Colombia. They produce singular contexts articulated thanks to their shared interests in the most relevant moments and historical short-term processes of the 20th century and the present. In their work, tension is placed through their interest which approaches from the signaling towards the crisis of the project of modernity and its mythos of ethical and political progress on which the contemporary western world is cemented.

In this sense, Milak's presented work for this exposition reiterates the central preoccupation that has moved his work in the last few years: historical revision from the perspective of disaster. Framed within this project of large breath The University of Disaster3 –initiated in 2011 and has counted multiple international collaborations, like in this case with the work of Mora–, this grouping of work introduces new lines of reflection. Around the current phenomena of African migrants, in the series Rhapsody for a new Exodus Milak constructs images that not only invoke the tragic scenes of moving towards exile, but also recalls the evolution of a territory colonized multiple times, denied and undermined by the same states that have evaded their historical responsibilities to this very today.

With a series of works composed of monochromatic watercolors and even his most recent animations From the Far Side of the Moon and Dreaming of Prey to Grasp Shadow4, Milak brings us close to his vision of a society that, like the one suggested by Paul Virilio, prodigically privileges the present in detriment so much to the past as to the future, also privileges catastrophe. The last film, produced in collaboration with a group of young Ugandan artists, constitutes the metaphor of a trip in time in which the figures of migrants are perceived so much in the memories of the colonization of the African continent, through the risks in transition to arrive at the European coasts in a fight 'to death' for survival.

On the other hand, artist Pablo Mora proposes a convergence on two recurring themes: political history and memory. Issues that serve to signal the tension and contradiction in exercising power. This project in particular presents a critical view on what could be called 'the architectures of power.' To speak of the physical and symbolic breakdown of the state and of the national projects, in general, Mora parts with the concept of architecture as an ideal material projection; solid, monumental; that corresponds, in principal, with the utopian projection of societies and that specially at the end of the 20th century has some significant scope in terms of, as proposed by Enzo Traverso, «(…) the years from the end of the 1970s to September 11, 2001, witnessed a transition whose result was a radical change of our general landmarks, of our political and intellectual landscape».

Nevertheless, here the crisis or failure is not presented through images of imposing architecture –conditions that which conventionally have been associated with the housing power–, but with everyday objects belonging to such environment that, brought and converted into remnants, recall the reality of said structures that are today more decay than ruined, putting the present in its fragility and precariousness. Although on other occasions the artist resorted to using archives and documents, elements he handled for their indexical possibility6 to question the banality and normalization of violence; this time with his containers –places of registration– that which, in a fortuitous metaphor of the vacuum, of negligence and time, anul their function. Mora’s work, the object implies the trace; the materials and support are treated like evidence in which they underline the indifferent abandonment, the ideological failure and, in the last instance, the collapse of a fundamental part representing the 20th century.

From the artist action as a place of resistance, Milak and Mora find a sense of exchange that, postulated from specific and individual interests, permits them to question as well as replicate history; a history like today, different from the preceding centuries, that has been shaped as a time of disillusionment «molded by a general eclipse of the utopias»7: a present charged by memory but unable to project itself towards the future, and similarly, a time that cannot avoid constantly looking back.

Melissa Aguilar

Selected images

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Radenko Milak
The primary source of Radenko Milak’s research on the role of historical images as detonators of XX century aesthetic sensibility were, originally, the books and films produced in his native Yugoslavia.  He developed a keen eye for images, mostly in black and white, whose reproducibility made them ever-more memorable in the general global conscience that those of official histories.  The aesthetic of the XX century, created between two world wars and eventually encompassing the whole world, has reached hyper-developed proportions as we are all immersed in the permanently expanding fields of...

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