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On utopian realism: the art of Mladen Miljanović.

Blackwood, Jon



This essay accompanies the first solo exhibition in Scotland by Mladen Miljanovic, a post-conceptual video and performance artist based in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The exhibition can be read, in one way, as a mini-retrospective; starting with the documentation of the durational performance and installation Museum Service / Taxi, (2010) and concluding with works which are being shown for the first time- the video piece Sounds of Homeland (2018/19) and the new performance Column (2019) which forms part of the opening night. This exhibition, however, is so much more than a mini-retrospective. It presents work which follow lines of enquiry not just of concern to the Western Balkan region, but which scratch issues that itch contemporary politics and society in Scotland. This is work shaped by past experience of violence, conflict, division and military service; work marked by the loss of a collective past in the former Yugoslavia, and which negotiates a divided and much reduced fragmentary present; work that finds humour in the contemporary absurdities of ethnic-nationalist politics, and seeks to imagine the possibility of a better, more tolerant, unified future; this is not work made as a naïve projection, but with the full knowledge of how long it will take to achieve such a transformation in practice. Mladen’s work is marked by a natural empathy with histories of suffering and the mark left by politics on the individual. It also imbued with a deep commitment to service; that the artist must engage with contemporary social realities and engage critically with them, if it is to be of any value at all. His practice, manifested here in performance, video and documentation, is both relational and performative, inviting interactivity and engagement, and always resisting final definition, in order to provide space for the audience’s response. In this essay, we will spend some time considering the roots of Mladen’s art, offer some perspectives on the work in this show, and conclude by suggesting parallels between this work and our own experiences and perspectives as an audience from another European periphery.


BLACKWOOD, J. 2019. On utopian realism: the art of Mladen Miljanović. Essay produced to accompany the exhibition: 'Mladen Miljanović: Utopian Realism', 8 February - 14 March 2019, Peacock Visual Arts [online], Aberdeen. Available from:

Exhibition Performance Type Other
Start Date Feb 8, 2019
End Date Mar 14, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 29, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 10, 2019
Keywords Post-conceptual video; Performance artist; Exhibition; Contemporary politics; Contemporary social realities
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