Balkangreuel – Balkan Cruelt
Installation, print on textile wallpaper
Lana Čmajčanin’s artwork is based on the graphic portfolio Balkangreuel by Gottfried Sieben, created in 1909 after Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed to the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the outcome of the Berlin Congress, which redistributed colonies among the European powers. Balkangreuel was intended for the elite and very popular. It contained pornographic material for the purpose of wartime propaganda: it dehumanized the enemy, who was portrayed as the Balkans savage, while a woman's body stereotypically assumed the role of a territory subject to usurpation and conquest.
Balkangreuel – Balkan Cruelty reclaims these motifs and off-sets the notion of “exotic” Balkan countries, which is still very much alive, against floral motifs: twelve endemic flowers known to have grown on the territories of the 19th-century Balkans. By employing such dual ornamentation, the installation calls attention to the popularity of prejudice about the Other and the East, which at the same time serve to highlight one's own exceptionality and alleged civility.