PROJECTS - Lana Čmajčanin - visual artist

Geographical Indication

Lambda digital print on Kodak Endura paper mounted behind Plexiglass │ 2016
Dimension 1000 X 860.98 mm

Photography by Almin Zrno
Photo manipulation by Vladimir Lepušina 

The composition of the horizontal portrait photo refers to the photographs meeting the requirements of the photograph specifications for the official identification with photo issued by an official authority. It also exposes the link with my latest experience with the respective immigration, citizenship, and registration offices of the Austrian administrative apparatus.

The traces and drawings disseminated over the face and body display formations and development of the territorial borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina through the course of history. 

A white line of borders, perhaps, at first sight, seems subtle, an almost hidden thread of identification, but yet these lines are very visible, easily distinguishable as they serve as a recognition of woven national identity.

Borders imprinted on the skin are like a permanent geopolitical body inscriptions, scars, inevitable geographical areas with the past that defines ethnicity.  

The borders consolidate demarcation of not only a very specific geopolitical territory, but also a much deeper demarcation–the demarcation of us, its citizens. 

The boundary system creates a variety of types of economic and social boundaries; stoking the generalization and simplification that have led to the creation of stereotypes and establishes the image and narrative about the others. It is the system of oppression imposed by the political, nationalistic, and ethno-religious elite and power structures that has the strongest impact on the lives of us all, but in particular on the lives of some of the society's most vulnerable individuals and groups deprived of political and social justice. 

Art perhaps cannot explain things, but it can expose them and serve as a catalyzer. What I intended to delineate with this work is not a position of helplessness, withdrawal, or passivity since these are not options for me, living in such a socio-political context. Borders as deeper cuts define and limit us at the same time. If we don’t deal with them, they deal with us. The borders of our countries should not be the boundaries of our life. Borders are nothing but vagueness in the perception of others towards us, and how we view ourselves. 

As we know, one cannot choose one’s gender, ethnicity, and/or religion; these are granted at the moment of birth. Yet, in the 21st century, privileged citizens of the world do have the possibility to choose or change all of these things while the least privileged, the Third-World citizens, are deprived of an elementary human right:  the freedom to move.  

The artist’s manipulated self-portrait familiar gaze meets that of the viewer unswervingly; her face is traced and overwritten by a network of hatched cartographic lines. This portrait relates programmatically to the work done recently by the artist on the related themes of identity, nation, gender and social scripting. 

Whilst much contemporary political discourse attempts to flatten out the interesting dissonances and problems in national, cultural and gender identity, Čmajčanin’s work attempts to reveal such seemingly straightforward “truths” as hollow, empty and capable of manipulation to suit the particular political or social imperatives of the day. Moreover, this is a portrait which attempts to show identities not as fixed, or pre-determined, but as complex, layered and as part of a process of continual evolution and development, rather than as a fixed, unchanging set of clichéd “certainties”. This artist’s work insists on the shaping of our current identities as active citizens and people, of identities as a sum of human qualities shaped by social processes, rather than as a set of moronic ethno-religious bullet points handed down to us by the political classes.

Jon Blackwood