Ten woven tapestries, 165 × 247.5cm each, wool and metal, 2014
Reframing the contested issue of Yugoslav history by weaving textiles based on excerpts of the history textbooks, Study of Focus makes misinterpretations of past events into palpable material.
Study of Focus looks into both tapestry traditions and history textbooks of former Yugoslavia as parallel yet interrelated phenomena in Yugoslav history. Both tapestries and history textbooks assume a variety of approaches to illustration, narration, interpretation, and appropriation of historical events. The tapestry tradition in Serbia has seen a reintroduction over the past two decades as a vehicle for the reconstruction of national identity since the country’s disintegration in the early 1990s. In conjunction with the ongoing commercialisation, tapestry designs are now protected as a trademark, and along with a post-communistic religious revival, have reappeared in many households.
Similar to the ideological implications of the revival of tapestry in the post-Yugoslavian context, history textbooks narrate historical events in accordance with the dominant ideology of the time. The motifs and ornaments used in these new Serbian tapestries present subtle, but integral parts of the interiors of governmental and religious buildings. Such symbols and ornaments are used to promote tradition and to signify a bond with the land and country with the past.
Throughout the period of transition to a neoliberal economy, this form of craft has been reintroduced to the tourist industry, establishing a line of more affordable, small scale souvenir items. These little tapestries can be found in many households and are sometimes thought to possess and emanate mystic powers. The craftsmanship that has been passed on to the new generation, typically through the maternal line, had already become assimilated into the textile industry by the nineteenth century.
Traditional Serbian tapestries remind us of those of the Middle East, but the forms contained therein and interpretations vary. The ornaments in Serbian tapestries are drawn from Slavic mythology and Orthodox Christianity and bear a complex relationship to Islam dating back to the time of Ottoman rule. Some ornaments introduced later similarly reflect their times, such as for example “German Boxes” or “Russian Bombs.”
An influx of influences starting from the end of the nineteen and beginning of the twentieth century reflect the need to create a scheme of national motifs and ornaments in order to preserve the tapestry tradition. They led to the publishing of the Album of Pirot Kilims prepared my Mita Zivković and published in Austria in 1902 with the support from Queen Draga Mašin.
The second part of the research Study of Focus is based on fragments of history textbooks from Yugoslavia and more specifically, on the photographic reproductions published from the 1952s to 2002. By examining history textbooks and the changes they embody, I have made a record of the various approaches to interpreting and illustrating WW II and its aftermath.