Balkan Art Scene
Farah Noor Cemer ⎯ Design Is My Structure Which I Can Nourish And Explore Creatively
Project Karim Zaimović implemented by Museum of Literature & Performing Arts in B&H serves to remind future generations about atrocities of war, and artist's lives affected by it. Could you share with us more information about this project?
This project was started by Ifeta Lihić who has for 2 years worked on forming the collection of works by Karim Zaimović. She has been the one with initiative and knew how important it is to have his works displayed and available for next generations. The project is made up of several components. The first is the purchase and formation of the collection, then archiving and digitization, and finally the exhibition.
For those who may have not heard about Karim Zaimović, he was a short story and comic book author, literary and music critic, journalist and prominent figure in Sarajevo’s cultural scene, particularly during the siege (1992-1995). His exceptional talent provided a brief refuge from the harsh reality of war and humanized human existence throughout the challenging war years. His young life was tragically ended on August 13th, 1995, as a result of wounding. He was one of the war’s last civilian casualties. Karim is one of the first post-modern writers in Bosnia and introducing him to the younger generations I see as a great contribution to the cultural scene in Bosnia.
We have planned a multimedia exhibition which will include the wide variety of his works and interests. It is important to say that we are working on a tight budget. The project is fully supported by external donors. We know that people are looking forward to this exhibition and we have received so much positive feedback on the project. This does motivate us to continue working and making this exhibition that will represent Karim and his works in the best way possible.
What is your assignment in this project?
My main job on this project has been the visual identity of the exhibition. Besides helping and assisting as much as I can on the project, my focus is on the creation of the exhibition identity, translating Karim’s wide world of interests into one exhibition and finding that one thing that glues all of it together. I am responsible for everything from the posters, catalogs, exhibitions prints…everything a multimedia exhibition would require. Sort of being the middleman between Karim and the visitors who will see the exhibition. I was welcomed by Ifeta who leads the project with open arms, and she has given me much freedom in the creative process which has been super challenging and also out of my comfort zone, but I have enjoyed the process very much so far. I am looking forward to seeing the results, after we’ve been working hard on making this exhibition a new experience for the visitors.
Has the overall process of this exhibition affected you in any way?
Yes! It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions really. Karim’s book was something that came to me very spontaneously about 7 years ago. I read it in one take, and was mesmerized. I could not find one single thing about these people mentioned in the book, it all seemed so real to me. It was like a treasure hunt I have been on all these years. I have to mention I did work on a project during my bachelors that was an experimental take on Karim’s book “The Secret of Raspberry Jam”. So, long before this project I did my own in depth research about him and mostly his book. Having the opportunity to tap more into this world he has created through his other works that we have been going through and preparing for the exhibition has just been very special to me. It has also been very hard to set boundaries between what is ok and how far I can take my interpretations. This person is very much alive within the people who knew him and I always remind myself of this. I want to translate the world he has created from words to something more visual and touchable. I really hope that this exhibition will bring more young people to discover this extraordinary person, read his book, and hopefully be inspired.
How did you start your journey as a visual artist?
It’s cliche to say I’ve always done art. It’s true, but it was never something I thought I would do in life. It was a thing I did and it was fun. I was sort of good at it, so I continued practicing. Later on I started to discover different media, I painted, made jewelry and started sewing . There was a period of time when I was very obsessed with street art and graffiti. I was fortunate enough to continue my education in Norway where I had the opportunity to choose my classes very early on in my education. I remember taking a “design & redesign” class in junior high. Here I was introduced to many materials. It was also my first introduction to clay, which happened to be something I became very fond of later on in life. I have been practicing pottery for 3 years now, and it has been a joy. Clay is a very fun material to work with. There are endless ways to experiment with different colors, glazes, tools... And the best part is, you can recycle clay as many times as you want. This is perfect for me as it gives me enough space for failure. I can fail and try again, until I am satisfied with the results. I can go from an idea in my head to sketching it on paper, then have a full standing raw product in less than an hour. Pottery is also a slow process, so it helps me practice patience, and understand that good things require time. A very crucial point in life was also my high school, because it led me to everything else I accomplished later. I went to design school where I had great teachers, great classmates and space to learn and practice. It was here I realized that design is what I want to do and everything else would be a wrong path. Everything I learned there helped me a lot when I applied to arts academies both in Norway and Croatia. Of course, during my time in Split I learned a ton of things, which I am implementing today in all of my work. I don’t think there was a start to the journey, the journey and experiences I had over years was what led me to trust myself more and continue to practice.
As a graphic designer educated in Split, you have knowledge about art scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Norway. Please share with us your thoughts about art scenes on these territories. What are similarities or differences?
All of these places carry their own style. I would assume people think of one as better than the other. I would not agree. I see them all as equals, but with different specialties. Norway is a relatively young country, many traditions are carried on through mythology and fairytales. It is extremely interesting to learn and experience a whole different world than one I knew before I moved here. On the other hand, I can speak mainly about design as it is my expertise. Scandinavian design has been the blueprint for many years. You can draw a parallel between this and Yugoslavian industrial design that has gone unnoticed in the design world at that time or was not given as much attention as it should’ve, but still holds a fantastic quality in both aesthetic and functionality. Many of these products are still very much in use, both in interior and graphic design. What I see as an issue in the Balkans is that people very often look further away for something good, when they in fact have so much great just where they are. After saying this I can so to say call myself a hypocrite. After 3 years in high school where I learned and practiced Scandinavian design I realized that in order to learn more and become better, I needed to see what was “at the other end of the stick” so I moved south. I thought, okay minimalistic design is great and it works, but try designing a logo that will stand out in hundreds of blinking signs on your neighboring building anywhere in the Balkans. That takes good practice. By all means, that does not mean the design and art scene in Croatia or Bosnia is bad, it is just not seen as equally important in the environment we share. The space for it is very narrowed, but design has been slowly getting its credits and now being seen as a more important part of the space and environment we live in. It is a crucial communication tool, and it’s everywhere and I really hope people will start to recognize how helpful good design can be in their day to day life. The main difference between Norway, Bosnia and Croatia is the space and resources given towards the visual artist and designers. The quality of work is unquestionable, there are great artists everywhere. Norway only provides enough space to present these works. Croatia too has given the creative world bigger platforms than the ones I see in Bosnia, but I see young artists there taking charge and creating their own space. I have met and worked with people from Croatia and Bosnia that create things that are so cool! I keep thinking if more people knew how many awesome artists live in this part of the world they would be creating the next blueprint!
As you are currently resigning in Norway, please share with us your connection with Balkan cultural scene - many of your works are focused on it.
I have been torn between the North and South for the majority of my life. The questions of identity always follow me, and the sense of belonging to one place has been lost a longtime ago. I have just recently learned to see this as a benefit rather than something bad. I love the contrasts of culture I live in and the perspectives I gained from it. I love the Balkans, it is forever my inspiration. My works have been mostly connected to the Balkans, because my network expanded more and led me to different projects and people while studying in Croatia. I am a big fan of history and the Balkans is a place where history was made over and over again. The culture there is something so unique. It's like this folklore being passed on to new generations and is a part of every single person who has their roots there. If we just take our time to nourish this I think it can be a great source of inspiration. Being from this special place on Earth is forever something I will be proud of.
What are your career plans when it comes to your graphic design expertise and creative outputs?
I finished my bachelor’s degree in visual communication design last year at the Arts Academy in Split. I decided to “gift” myself a very needed year off after a lot of hard work. I wanted to give myself time to try things I have seen and work more on projects I wanted before deciding what path to continue. Lately I have been tapping into the film world. I had a great opportunity to work with and learn from great young people at the Film Center Sarajevo for two months and I have been very inspired and motivated by the great work they do. I always loved film, and would love to explore more towards that direction, from creation to postproduction.
I have also been dedicating more of my time to pottery, and after 3 years of practice I am now designing what I hope to be my first collection of product design that I am planning to put out in the early summer. I have been “the Jack of all trades” my whole life. It was something I was very insecure about before, but I think it has given me such a fresh view on things. Design is my structure in life. It is one place that I know I will always love to do and enjoy. It is a place that is so wide and fun that you always have something new to learn, see and do, but is again structured and defined. It is my main focus, but I will forever want to explore and nourish my curiosity with new knowledge.
One thing I am sure of is I want to continue my education at some point, maybe and hopefully in a new country. It’s scary and challenging to move to a new place but you get so much in return later on. At the end of the day, I would just love to have the opportunity to do what I love. Good things always come out of love.
Author: Hana Tiro