Jusuf Hadzifejzovic

Kunst-Werke, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Cinema Arsenal

Jusuf Hadzifejzovic started to make his “depots” in 1984 in Sarajevo, where he lived before the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began. The series of installations—each named after the city in which they took place (Sarajevo, Belgrade, Dubrovnik, and many other sites in former Yugoslavia; and Berlin, Cracow, Graz, Milan, and Antwerp where the artist now lives)—is intended to expose the state-run “art system” in former Yugoslavia and to examine the economic and political situation. Hadzifejzovic entered the museum’s vault to show what was preserved in this “forbidden zone.” By exhibiting works that had virtually never been seen before—kept there often for political reasons, or out of historical neglect, or simply because they were waiting for “better times”—he has been systematically airing the museum’s “dirty laundry.”

In his first Sarajevo Depot, 1984, Hadzifejzovic exhibited the wooden boxes in which the museum packed works by Yugoslav artists when they represented the country abroad. Besides the artists’ names, the labels on the boxes contained the names of ambassadors in nonaligned countries. Taking the art museum as “center of distribution” (not of art but of politics), Hadzifejzovic put the manipulation of artists on display.

Sarajevo Sevdah—Berlin Depot, 1993, was based on the same working principle as the artist’s other such works. Hadzifej-zovic comes to the city with “empty hands,” and in uncovering its strata he acts as an archaeologist from the future, who “couldn’t tell any more what is art and what is not.” His procedure which has been called “depography,” doesn’t consist of making objects, but selecting them—a method of “dislocating already dislocated objects.” The selection is always conditioned by his previous knowledge of the country or city, by his attentiveness to the things he associates with the city. In Berlin’s case it was the Berlin wall. The 15 works belonged to both the public and private spheres: those dedicated to public use (like national flags) are placed next to objects belonging to individuals (German history books, kitchen knives, beer bottles, decorative kitschy home objects) or even more personal items (bathroom towels, brassieres). The state flags, which Hadzifejzovic has used in several “depots” had been washed so often that one could no longer recognize which countries they represented. They were placed on a shelf like towels, and on each pile there was a heavy object (a hammer, a piece of metal) that prohibited their use.

In spite of the title Sarajevo Sevdah—Berlin Depot, there was only one work in this installation in which Hadzifejzovic directly referred to his own country. Inside a museum vitrine, he placed 12 unused kitchen knives, arranged in a row like in an archaeological collection. Next to them was a state flag of former Yugoslavia (bought in east Berlin) folded in such a way that the insignia (a red star) was partly visible. The flag had never been used and now never will be used.

Bojana Pejic