The Didactic Wall, 2019
installation, handbooks/manuals, engraved drawings on marble, books
The project Didactic Wall by Mladen Miljanović is a subversive educational installation that focuses on the issue of migrants, refugees, displaced persons and apatrids, and the difficulties they face when moving towards their desired geographic destination. This is an engaged set of illustrations that address directly those who are trying, in an “illegal” way, to cross national borders to get to their “land of dreams”. The Didactic Wall is a kind of instruction on how to overcome natural and artificial barriers a “person on the move” may possibly come across.
The project was shown first in Bihać as site specific, as the place of massive blockage caused by the fact that the green border was closed by the border authorities of the neighboring EU/Croatia. For the migrants and refugees, Bihać has become a place “on the edge” in the literal meaning of the expression. The place of imprisonment between two realities – one that they are headlessly running away from, and the other – they are madly running to. Essentially, Bihać has turned into a dangerous place that reflects a difficult and unpleasant position of the “people on the move”. It has become a symbol of enslaved human freedom, although it is a transit location, where migrants don’t want to stay for a long time.
It is this artistic context where the Didactic Wall has its place, and Miljanović confirms his own rule that art can, but also should be, a criticism of disastrous policies, unethical rules and immoral values. The Didactic Wall is an engaged action that clearly and vocally takes position of sensitive and vulnerable population that has, by chance, been stuck not only in Bihać and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in numerous other places on this planet. As the artist says in the text of the exhibition catalogue, “in the City of Bihać, this project/exhibition acts like a “site-specific” intervention or as art in context, aimed to act as a space for education and assistance in overcoming the practical obstacles and situations faced, or threatening to face by migrants.”
Miljanović's intention is determined by the motive to create a functional and effective instruction for overcoming natural and artificial barriers, such as water bodies, injuries suffered in the wild, fences, infrared rays, radars, etc. This is a utilitarian pictorial mission with an engaged prefix that is carried out in the medium of didactic illustrations.
Mladen Miljanović (r. 1981, Bosna in Hercegovina) was born in Zenica. He completed secondary school in Doboj. After secondary school he attended the Reserve Officer School where he earned the rank of sergeant. As sergeant he was responsible for the training of 30 privates. After the completion of his military service, he enrolled at the Academy of Arts (Department of Painting, BA-MA) in Banja Luka. He lives and works in Banja Luka where he is a professor of Intermedia art at the Academy of Arts (UNIBL). He participated in many group exhibitions. Selected solo exhibitions and projects include: Utopian Realism, Peacock Center for Contemporary Arts, Aberdeen, Scotland (UK) 2019; Strike, Museum of Contemporary Art Vojvodina, Novi Sad (Serbia), 2017; In Low Flight, ACB Gallery, Budapest (Hungary), 2017; The Garden of Delights, 55th La Biennale di Venezia, Bosnian Pavilion at Palazzo Malipiero, Venice (Italy), 2013; Good Night / State of Body, MC gallery, New York (USA), 2012; Museum Service, MUMOK, Vienna (Austria), 2010; Occupational Therapy, Museum of Contemporary Art RS, Banja Luka, (BiH) 2008. He is the winner of the Henkel Art Award Vienna, 2009; the 2007 Zvono Award and the Award of the Museum of Contemporary Arts RS, 2005.