Mladen Miljanović: Holiday of Discomfort

Mladen Miljanović: Holiday of Discomfort

Gallery MC

May 14, 2024
Mladen Miljanović
Holiday of Discomfort
Curated by Sara Reisman
May 20–June 1, 2024
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The Column performance: May 20, 7–9pm
Gallery MC
545 West 52nd Street
Ground floor
New York City, New York 10019
United States
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Holiday of Discomfort at Gallery MC New York centers on Mladen Miljanović’s latest socially engaged and subversive cinematic project called The Final Battle, and is presented alongside a performance piece titled The ColumnHoliday of Discomfort is a solo exhibition by Mladen Miljanović, whose conceptual artistic practice calls into question social, cultural, and political environment.

The Final Battle is a two-channel video installation that documents a collaboration between Miljanović, who initiated five staged performances through a series of casting calls, and Greg Blakey, director of photography and producer, who captured the casting process through masterful film and video production. The film component of the project, aptly titled The Final Battle, unfolds both in reality and in the exhibition through two channels: a trailer, and projected in the gallery is the longer film of the staged casting calls, reminiscent of familiar Hollywood tropes. Through a mashup of historical references, the trailer alludes to historical clashes like the Battle of Cannae (216 BC) and the Battle of Waterloo (1815) to more recent conflicts such as the Battle of Stalingrad (1942). The trailer enumerates these battles alongside smaller places in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bihać, Trebinje, Bijeljina, and Doboj, where the casting for this imagined film took place.

As a full-length film, The Final Battle documents five staged auditions featuring participants who are both directly and indirectly affected by war: veterans, civilian victims, disabled individuals, those traumatized by the conflict that wracked Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s, and others whose lives have been shaped in part by inherited generational trauma. Additionally, the “cast” of this socially engaged film project includes those who performed in casting calls that Miljanović orchestrated for an imaginary film. As part of their engagement, the “actors”—many of whom are not trained but have had proximity to the political events detailed in the film—agreed to be part of an experimental film project that doubly operates as a subversive cinematic social experiment. The film and the exhibition coincide with wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, both of which have come to normalize accelerated militarization and expanded conflict as a fact of everyday life. Miljanović’s artistic project attempts to contend with this deadly spiral of violence, which has a widespread psychological effect that prevents purposeful articulation and functions to undermine processes of reconciliation and social repair. 

With this poignant cinematic depiction of the personal and far-reaching impacts of war, Miljanović raises questions about the allure of violence and war that is so frequently simulated in the media surrounding Western culture. The encounter with real-life victims of violence forces a reckoning with their motivations and exposes viewers to the raw realities of trauma. The project emerges as an inexorable impasse, not for those who perish within it, but for those burdened by the enduring scars of trauma and violence.

On May 20, the evening of the opening reception at Gallery MC, Miljanović will perform The Column, which aims to bring viewers into a space of unrest and discomfort. The Column and The Final Battle, two formally and representationally different but related artworks, explore the tensions inherent to the moment when social conventions and limitations are transferred onto the individual, and imposed on the body.

A prominent artist in Southeast Europe, Miljanović’s earliest projects build on the knowledge he acquired in military school. Formally trained as a painter, he now combines new media, film, performance, and conceptual strategies into a pluralistic, socially engaged, and often subversive approach to contemporary art.

Miljanović exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale, the 15th Video Biennale in Busan, and recently at the 13th Biennale in Cairo. Other exhibitions include solo shows at: acb Gallery, Budapest (2022); MSU, Belgrade (2021); WORM Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen (2019); A+A Gallery, Venice (2012); Antje Wachs Gallery Berlin (2011); MUMOK, Vienna (2010); MSURS, Banja Luka (2008); Neue Galerie, Graz (2007),  among many others.

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May 14, 2024

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