News 12 May 16

Absurdist Exhibition Pictures Croats on the Moon

The artists behind the exhibition ‘God and His Croatian People’ have created a series of absurdist images satirising nationalism and the glorification of former President Franjo Tudjman.

Sven Milekic
Croats set up a shrine on the moon. Photo courtesy of Masa Barisic and Jurica Markovic.

Masa Barisic and Jurica Markovic, the two artists behind the exhibition ‘God and His Croatian People’, which is currently showing at the Greta gallery in Zagreb, said they want to trigger critical thinking about nationalism in contemporary society.

The exhibition is made up of large-scale photographs which tell a story about how God gets angry at the Croatian people and punishes them with a storm that results in a new Ice Age, causing them to be exiled from Earth.

The Croats then settle on the moon, where they establish a tourist shrine, and on Mars, where they erect a monument to the first democratically-elected Croatian president from the 1990s, Franjo Tudjman, and rename the planet after him.

It’s a sort of Monty Python or South Park moment. We’ve taken it to the verge of absolute absurdity so that it becomes funny,” Barisic told BIRN.

The title is a reference to the slogan “God and Croats”, coined by 19th century Croatian politician and founder of the Party of Rights, Ante Starcevic, who is commonly known as the “father of the homeland”. The slogan is still used by right-wing parties and groups today.

“We could say that this is a sort of critique of society at the moment… Culture is suffering in our country, the state budget [for culture] has been cut, which is never good,” Barisic said.

“They are naming every street and square after Dr. Franjo Tudjman. I think there should be a place somewhere for Croatia’s first president, but not everywhere,” she added.

Croats erect a monument to Franjo Tudjman on Mars. Photo courtesy of Masa Barisic and Jurica Markovic.

In recent years, a number of public spaces and monuments have been dedicated to Tudjman, and Zagreb airport has been renamed after the former president.

To highlight this alleged glorification of Tudjman, the Zagreb-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights opened a public tender in January for an alternative monument, focusing on alleged human rights abuses under his rule and Croatia’s role in the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

When an article about the exhibition was published on the website, it attracted comments accusing the artists of insulting Croats and Catholics, and calling for their public funding to be cut.

But Barisic insisted that she doesn’t want the exhibition to be seen as an attack but as a constructive critique, because both artists are “really concerned about the situation in the society we live in”.

“This could be understood as a provocation, but primarily this is our own opinion on the events that are unravelling in Croatia. Our aim was not to insult anyone personally but to wake people up and make them think,” she said.

‘God and His Croatian People’ is showing at the Greta gallery in Zagreb until Friday.

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