Postyugoslav Contemporary Art Practice as a Generating Force of Emancipatory Memory and Politics, Katja Kobolt

2010, 2016


In the post-Yugoslav context, works of contemporary art as well as literature, especially when they deal with genocide and radical violence, face a problem not unlike Adorno’s famous stance about the impossibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz.  Nevertheless when talking about memory (anti)culture in the post-Yugoslav space, a creative and socially productive role should be attested to post-Yugoslav art and literature, which since the early 1990s has offered a well-articulated critique of memory practices of the 1991–1999 wars in ex-Yugoslavia as well as critically addressed the rewriting of historical narratives and offered resistance to the dominant state building and ethnocentric memory politics.  Since the formation of the national capitalistic states, the official memory politics of  – I dare to claim – all post-Yugoslav countries has gone hand in hand with nationalism, racism, and the evacuation and erasure of memory aspects which cannot be used as a retro- or prospective legitimating tool of a (mono)national, neoliberal and capitalist way of being. This paper aims to discuss some of the critical positions towards the process of ethno-national evacuation and fragmentarisation of memory of the 1991–1999 wars within contemporary art in the post-Yugoslav context. By doing so I hope not only to outline selected positions by contemporary post-Yugoslav artists towards the 1991–1999 wars in ex-Yugoslavia and their aftermath but also to critically contextualise national memory politics and a neoliberal process of neutralisation and evacuation of memory aspects and, in particular, the depoliticising efforts of this process.

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