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The Search for Identity

Ljiljana Ćinkul

Jelena Jureša’s projects What It Feels Like for a Girl in the Cultural Centre and Mozarts in the Zvono gallery have marked the month of January in Belgrade galleries.

One is impressed by the maturity and depth of analysis, which this young artist (born in 1974) uses to explore gender and cultural identity, applying in her work the language of time and its communicational powers: a visual-textual-auditory narrative.

Every generation searches for its own answer to the eternal questions about man and his identity – social constraints, gender differences in the Balkans (read: and elsewhere), twisted criteria of acceleration, ‘eternal youth’ and materialism, contagious alienation, feminist theories and/or the turbulent and problematic time of transition. These phenomena are accumulated in Jelena Jureša’s artistic projects.

The multilayered work What It Feels Like for a Girl problematizes the position of woman, her multiple roles and communicational power(lessness), multiplying in the world and in cyberspace. Photography, a medium suitable for the visual codification of a certain concept, articulates the first layer of this original exploration.
As a powerful visual testimony to female individuality, What It Feels Like for a Girl is conceived in the form of personal confessions about the destinies of the twenty participants, and the foreground documentary narrative is accompanied by the image, text and auditory record. Thus the establishment and readability of the female question are transposed from the personal/private plane to the social one and, by means of its social engagement, the question initiates the gradation from the general to the specific for the understanding of and urgent and immediate act of dealing with its malign creations.

The simple dramaturgy and authentic documentary quality of this auditory-visual installation, created between 2005 and 2009, emphasizes that, despite patriarchal and social conventions or the fragility of relationships in difficult existential situations, permanent construction of personal subjectivity (with complete faith and dedication) celebrates the uniqueness of one’s own life and destiny. This peculiar auditory-visual herstory, coloured by perplexing life experiences, is reminiscent of the recent TV statement of a famous actress who claimed that, despite everything, she would never change her life.

It is important to mention, as an affirmative fact, that What It Feels Like for a Girl was selected by the art historian Milanka Todić within the project Critics Have Chosen.

The communicational quality of the less provocative 2009 video project Mozarts, exhibited in the Zvono gallery, continues to explore the fluid question of the identity of the Other, developing a delicate dialogical form of recognizing sameness with small differences. Using the documentary form of the portraits of five young individuals from the Balkans, dressed up as Mozarts, selling tickets in Viennese streets, the artist articulates the two-way relation between the core of one’s personality and a sense of identity (language, culture) on one hand and the circumstances of unstable and displaced lives of migrants on the margins of other cultures on the other.

Jelena Jureša’s projects present her as a perceptive and serious person with a systematic character, ready to explore different social contexts through clear forms of visual arts. There is a possibility that the following idea lies at the heart of her art: while exploring the lost or regained identity of the Other, we are searching for and testing our own.

Politika Newspaper, 28. 1. 2010