October 29 - December 18, 2011
Irena Knezevic: Here Comes the Darkness features an architectural installation inspired by the labyrinth of Greek mythology. A labyrinth's design forces one to wander and stray on a non-linear path, both physically and metaphorically, making choices based upon available information. As viewers traverse this exhibition, they become entangled in a complex maze of associations that weave together Knezevic's personal histories and authentic relics with our collective historiographies and constructed traces.
Informed by histories of architecture and art, landscape, trauma, memory, lost economies, nationalism, feminism, and institutional authority, Knezevic densely layers references that range from conceptual artist Sol LeWitt to Marxist theorist Leon Trotsky, and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer to former Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Broz Tito. She asks pertinent questions that not only draw parallels between contemporary global concerns and their historical precedents, but also allow one to imagine alternative histories. Throughout Knezevic's body of work, she explores the political implications of imagination and revolutionary thought.
Knezevic's work stems from her experiences growing up in Serbia: as a survivor of the 1999 NATO bombing and a student protestor against Slobodan Milosevic, she has witnessed firsthand the atrocities of power and the failures of ideologies. The idea of revolution considerably permeates the works in this exhibition—whether directly as in Obama Sailor, which posits President Obama as a failed revolutionary figure, or abstractly as in Pirate, which includes the artist's Misfits t-shirt flag that she placed on top of the national assembly in Belgrade during the Bulldozer Revolution. As a Serbian citizen now living part-time in the United States, Knezevic perceives parallels between both countries and explores the potentially simultaneous narratives of the two nations.
On another level, Knezevic subtly evokes a ball of lightning—something which is unpredictable, highly charged, and can permeate architecture—throughout Here Comes the Darkness. Its spherical form recalls the disembodied heads in Knezevic's photographs of residents at a Belgrade mental institution and her fictionalized news account of Donald Judd's decapitation. Flashes of lightning cut through her video, Here Comes the Darkness, while a charge of static electricity activates Minotaur and passes to those who walk through its dark tangles. Knezevic even chose the chunks of marble that secure Mountains Will Give, Open Form/Welt Schmerz, and Dark Matter for their lightning-like striations.
This program is co-sponsored by the Illinois Arts Council, the Alice and Fannie Fell Trust and MECCPAC, a Dean of Students Office Diversity Initiative.
This exhibition was organized by Kendra Paitz in close collaboration with the artist.