The “Environment of Remembrance” project features the works of about fifty artists created as a reaction to their visits to the concentration camp on Goli Otok from 2016 to 2019. With their works, performance art pieces and site-specific art installations, the artists are sending the message that places where crimes have been committed should become places of remembrance, learning and memory.

From 29 January 2020 to 31 January 2021, for the entire duration of the official programme of Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture, the 25 best visual solutions will be displayed on billboards at various locations in Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. A total of 120 billboards have been commissioned throughout Primorje-Gorski Kotar County. The photographs featured on the billboards will be changed every two weeks.

The “Environment of Remembrance” project is organized by the Goli Otok Ante Zemljar Association from Zagreb, in partnership with the art organization Art De Facto (Zagreb). The project is an art production by project manager Darko Bavoljak (CRO), curator Jasmina Bavoljak (CRO) and designer Igor Kuduz (CRO) launched in 2016 that focuses on presenting art posters on large billboards to convey messages to as wide an audience as possible.

Following the presentation of the billboards in 2021, the final stage of the project is envisaged – the release of a publication featuring the works of all the participating artists. The publication is planned to be published by May 2021.

The first three billboards will be displayed from 30 January to 14 February 2020 at the following locations: Bosanci (old Rijeka – Zagreb road), Jurdani Petrol Commerce gas station (old Rijeka – Trieste road) and Sušačka draga (old road through Draga, Pod Ohrušvom 15).

The first three photographs to be displayed are by Milomir Kovačević Strašni, Borko Vukosav and Darko Bavoljak.

The project will be presented to the public on 29 January 2020 at 2 p.m. in Sušačka Draga, at the address Pod Ohrušvom 15, next to the first billboard displayed. On this occasion, the “Environment of Remembrance” project will be presented by:

Emina Višnić, Director of Rijeka 2020,

Slaven Tolj, Artistic Director of the Rijeka ECoC 2020 project, and

Darko Bavoljak, Project Manager of the Environment of Remembrance project and the artist behind the first billboard.

The following artists took part in the project: Damir Bartol Indoš, Darko Bavoljak, Katija Bušlje, Marijan Crtalić, Boris Cvjetanović, Tajči Čekada, Petar Dabac, Darko Fritz, Boris Greiner, Petar Grimani, Igor Grubić, Tea Hatadi, Josip Pino Ivančić, Đorđe Jandrić, Duje Jurić, Igor Kuduz, Jelena Lovec, Milomir Kovačević Strašni, Siniša Labrović, Toni Meštrović, Davor Mezak, Kata Mijatović, Marijan Molnar, Maja Moro, Bojan Mucko, Mejra Mujičić, Nadija Mustapić, Ana Mušćet, Predrag Pavić, Zoran Pavelić, Vesna Pokas, Ivan Posavec, Jasenko Rasol, Frane Rogić, Marijana Stanić, Sandra Sterle, Sven Stilinović, Vlatko Vincek, Mirjana Vodopija, Tanja Vrvilo, Borko Vukosav, Vlasta Žanić, Jakov Žaper.

Detailed description of the project:

Invited to respond to the historical and symbolic situation of Goli Otok island, engaging with the specificity of the site, and collective and intimate contextualizations and imaginations, the artists have, through various interventions and procedures, re-activated the space by blending their traces with the identities, memories and bodies that remained there.

Repeating their gestures symbolically or literally, they re-actualize them, re-write and re-contextualize them, creating new memory configurations, as well as a new environment. In doing so, the artistic treatment of space and the body has proven a key constitutive element of the discourse that the project establishes.

The artistic focus on the body and space, as a medium and a tactic, arises from the nature and structure of the site: the specificity of the geographical space of the island and the institution of the prison.

Prisons are an instrument of state control and political camps are their ultimate deviation, with the implemented disciplinary measures, public humiliation, extortion of ceremonial repentance and physical torture having a representative, theatrical or performative function, while the suffering body of the prisoner becomes the actualization of the regime ideology. Therefore, the redemptive deconstruction and re-construction of the site implies a structural engagement of the space and the body. The absence of ideology as a standpoint is a further feature of the entire project, which brings it closer to understanding trauma.

Although present in the collective memory as a symbol of political repression, suffering and martyrdom, Goli Otok, like certain other historically political configurations whose ideological positions are not unilaterally inclusive in the dominant political paradigm, has been institutionally neglected and exposed to political manipulation. This allowed the wilful devastation of a structure perceived solely as a relic of the previous unwanted system, the continuation of the exploitation of its economic and symbolic resources and the practice of self-organized dystopian tourism.

The presentation of the project through the medium of the billboard as part of the “TIMES OF POWER” flagship will introduce a wider audience to this painful topic by directly confronting them with the past in order to allow the expansion of democratic freedoms and truth. Without democracy, dialogue and freedom, the truth is permanently lost and the ramifications of the rule of undemocratic regimes are, unfortunately, felt in Croatian society to this day.

On the artists behind the first three photographs to be displayed on the billboards:

Darko Bavoljak

Born on 28 March 1961 in Zagreb. He graduated in Cinematography at the Zagreb Academy of Dramatic Art. He began doing photography in the 1980s. During his studies, he published photographs in Polet, Studenski list, Svijet, Start and many other newspapers and magazines of the time. His photographs have been published in newspapers, journals, monographs, catalogues, books and professional publications, and his works are included in private collections, as well as the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, the Split Art Gallery and many others. He is active in the fields of photography, film, conceptual art and curatorial concepts. Of his films, particularly noteworthy are Stupid Antonio presents (2006), Goli otok (2012) and Urbi et orbi (2013).  He is a member of the Croatian Freelance Artists Association and the Croatian Association of Visual Artists.

Milomir Kovačević Strašni

Born in 1961. He began doing photography at the age of 17 at the CEDUS university photography club. He became a member of the Association of Fine Artists of Applied Arts and Design of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1989. From the very beginning, his oeuvre has been dedicated to life in the streets, as well as to cultural events in Sarajevo. His photography series on the subjects of Međugorje, prisons, flea markets, rock concerts, the Horde zla (FC Sarajevo supporters), graffiti, the Yugoslav pioneers, Tito’s photos in store windows, photographs of the last Day of the Republic etc. are just some for which he became famous.

In the early 1990s, he created series dedicated to the first democratic elections, party rallies, the emergence of new parties, new governments and peace events.

In early 1992, he closely followed everything that Sarajevo would be tragically known for around the world. Day after day, he used his camera to bear witness to the life within the city under siege. His photographs differed drastically from those of his foreign colleagues. While they preyed on catching moments of death in ever more curious ways, he recorded the city’s life and resistance during these difficult times. In this chaos, he attempted to create, at least in photographs, something harmonious and visually pure.

Several photography series were created during this period: Tito at War, No Name, Ase leži, War Architecture… His works were exhibited at several wartime exhibitions in the Artisticum Gallery and the Obala Gallery.

In 1995, he left for Paris, where he continued his photography and exhibition activities in new surroundings.

Here, he creates new photography series: Portraits of student scholars of the Soros Foundation Scholarship for the Former Yugoslavia, Portraits of Thonon Les Bains residents, My Friends from Rumilly (Singles Home for Foreigners). He photographs graveyards as a continuation of his war series from Sarajevo.
In 1998, he received the CCF Foundation Award (today’s HSBC) for Photography and exhibits throughout France and at the International Centre of Photography in New York.

In 1999, he spent three months in Mexico, where he produced a series of portraits from Cerro de Leon and the Last Race series, depicting the killing of a horse that breaks its leg in a local race held as part of a village celebration.

His second portrait series from Paris is Gens una sumus, in which he photographs people playing chess – those he first met when he arrived in Paris. In each of the series, Kovačević fascinates with his ability to draw the best from every human being. Regardless of the circumstances various people have found themselves in, he always finds human beings with all their virtues in them. This is perhaps best expressed in the series At the Paris Bistro Petit Trou de Bretagne (3rd arrondissement), as part of which the people in the photographs later actively participated in setting up the exhibition in the same bistro, which no longer exists. The series would later continue with the same subjects, in the same arrondissement, but in the Bistro Tizi, with a series on Tamobur, a dog who loved bars in the Saint Gvrais, and today the Chez Josette, with all the patrons posing and participating in the preparation of the exhibition. Wanting to change the image of Sarajevo natives in Paris and beyond, he created the project Sarajevo in the Heart of Paris, as part of which Sarajevo natives who live in the city, using their favourite and most intimate souvenirs, write and talk about their former life, the history of Sarajevo and their cultural heritage. The project continued and expanded to Europe with the aim of changing Europe’s view of our region. During almost his entire stay in Paris, he has taken night photographs of monuments and everything that makes Paris the city of light. Among others, in 2007 and 2008, he took photographs of the famed museum Louvre at night, which would later be used as official promotional material by the museum itself.

Kovačević is a photographer of contradictions. He is a photographer of death and life, past and present, eternity and transience. His photographs are both very violent and highly serious. Their quality lies primarily in their pictorial power, removed from any form of stylization, allowing the photographer to share his personal history with others. He has received numerous awards for his work, most recently from the President of the French Republic, who made him a Knight for his contribution to photography.

Borko Vukosav

He was born in 1984 in Dubrovnik, where he finished elementary school. He graduated high school in Rijeka, where he also studied history and philosophy at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Rijeka. He graduated from the undergraduate and graduate cinematography programme at the Academy of Dramatic Art of the University of Zagreb. During his studies, his work was shown in a number of exhibitions and he received several recognitions and awards, including the Dean’s Award. Vukosav is a member of the Filmmakers Association of Croatia and the Dubrovnik Branch of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists. He has been actively pursuing a career in photography and exhibiting his work publicly since 2006. Throughout his career, he has been awarded a series of recognitions and awards. Among them, particularly noteworthy is the THT@MSU Contemporary Art Award, won in 2015, when his “Lakes” project was purchased for the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. His “Edge” series won the 2013 Erste Fragments purchase prize, as well as first prize in the Landscape category at the Rovinj Photodays festival. With his work “P”, he represented Croatia at the NEU/NOW festival in Portugal in 2012 and at the 15th Biennale de la Mediterranée in Thessaloniki in 2011. The same work would later become part of the touring exhibition Aftermath – Changing the Cultural Landscape. For the same work, he was awarded the Special Award for Young Authors Under 28 at the Rovinj Photodays in 2011 and was a finalist for the ESSL ART AWARD at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Notable exhibitions include a solo exhibition at one of the world’s most prestigious photography festivals the FORMAT International Photography Festival in the United Kingdom, as well as the Photomonth Athens and the Finnish Backlight exhibitions. He lives and works in Zagreb and is actively involved in the local and international cultural and artistic scene, participating in panels and conferences, giving lectures and organizing workshops.

“The photography series represents a sort of diary record of my three-day stay on Goli Otok, during which I walked alone through the island in complete darkness all night, using a flashlight to illuminate the spaces and objects that would find themselves in front of me. I used the darkness as a filter from the knowledge of the history of the island, and with the light, I was symbolically opening up new insights into what the island really is in the contemporary context.”