The Art of Justice in the Western Balkans

Vladimir Miladinović, Rendered History, series of drawings of newspaper covers from the 1990s relating to the Yugoslav Wars, ink wash on watercolour paper, 2014 (Image: courtesy of artist)

Iva Glisic, Australian National University

This project examines contemporary political art that engages with the legacy of ethnonationalist violence in the Western Balkans. Specific focus is placed upon the ways in which war crimes committed along ethnic, national, and religious lines during the conflict that followed the dissolution of socialist Yugoslavia in 1991 have been interpreted in contemporary artistic production in this region. Attempts to examine and openly discuss these crimes in successor states have often been undermined by a politics of erasure, by which inconvenient historical episodes are eliminated from public discourse. As a consequence, the domain of art has become a critical channel for documenting and rendering visible a complex and forensic account about the recent past, and advancing public debate about these events. This phenomenon is examined through a set of case studies and an exploration of the concept of ‘emergency aesthetics,’ which has emerged through this artistic production as a strategy for countering the political neutralisation of urgent issues. By bringing the experience of the Western Balkans into focus, this investigation contributes to the debate on the role of art in promoting human rights and justice.

Dr Iva Glisic is a Visiting Research Fellow in the School of History at the Australian National University. She is a 2020 recipiant of the Freilich Project ECR Small Grant

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