Mrdjan Bajić. Angel. 2006/07. Stainless steel, iron, polyester. 153 x 134 x 106 inches.
Mrdjan Bajić. Yugomuseum. 1998/2007. Wood, steel, iron, textile, epoxy colors, print,
LEDs, electronics, video system. 169 x 59 x 134 inches.
Mrdjan Bajić. Backup. 1986/2006. Paper, wood, textile, collage materials, hardware.
1100x300cm. Reproduced courtesy of the artist.
Mrdjan Bajić was selected to represent Serbia at the 2007 Venice Biennale, which was Serbia’s first time participating as an independent country. How might a visitor to the Serbian pavilion react to Bajić’s work on display if the rhetoric of studio art as a form of research is on his or her mind? Before entering the exhibition it might be noticed that within the line of austere white-walled pavilions, just above the entrance to the Serbian pavilion the name Yugoslavia is still visible in brick relief. Upon entering the space it is the bold audacity of the pieces that cut up the space around the floor and across the walls that is first noticed; virtuosity and idea-rich might be responses that jump to mind. A large metal, polyester and wood sculpture titled, Angel, which looks a bit like liberty turned on its head, strikes out into space but remains well harnessed. Other freestanding pieces have parts that seem ready to go places, but are unable to move. Cornered on the wall are sketchbook snippets and collages that add mini structures to mini stories that seem to be traces of the artist’s personal and cultural memories.
A check of the catalogue indicates that the exhibition is titled Reset, and this hints at liminal spaces among historical events, cultural politics and image bits. According to the exhibition catalogue, Bajić was chosen because he “effectively connects the heritage, tradition, and identity of his native region to the most up-to-date global trends in his field” (Velickovic, 2007, p. 5). For Lorand Hegyl (2007), “Mrdjan Bajić has been operating in his tangled web of the historical flow. Personal elements can never be hermetically sealed from social, communal, collective, conventional, socio-culturally marked realities and their direct or indirect effects” (p. 11, emphasis in the original). On leaving the exhibition space, a side alcove called Yugomuseum might easily be missed, which would be unfortunate, for a wall of video monitors carries a catalogue of fractured cultural moments played out in real time.
So, might Mrdjan Bajić’s Venice Biennale project be a potential example of research inquiry into Serbian history and regional cultural politics, or explorations of textual, structural, and temporal materials that document and communicate, or maybe research into the creation of images and objects where meaning is embodied by the artist and re-interpreted by the viewer? Maybe Bajić’s work is predominantly philosophical in nature, or partly a series of exercises in material thinking where evidence is compiled about forms and their relationship to places and situations. Whether a conception of art as a research process includes all or some of the instances above, it is clear that theorizing art practice as research has profound implications and possibilities.
Extract from Art Practice as Research, Chapter 3, Practice and Beyond, p. 72.
Artist website: www.mrdjanbajic.com