The Portrait Room. Portrait#3: Mladen Miljanovic

Mladen Miljanovic

Mladen Miljanovic has Daft Punk’s “Get lucky” as his mobile ringtone
and loves to consider things from different points of view.

Mladen is 32 years old and is representing Bosnia and Herzegovina at the 55. Venice Biennale.

In conceiving his pavilion, named The Garden of Delights, the artist focused on the notion of wish. Which form does a wish take? How can we balance between individual wish and collective absurdity? These are questions he started to wonder about and to research two years ago; moreover, he is still intentioned to deepen the topic. In fact, if the realization of an exhibition is the end of conceptualization and  production process, it is as well the beginning of something else. To him, this is what makes the difference between a good exhibition and a bad one: behind the fact that there is always something to gain in every experience, Miljanovic thinks that an exhibition should be the place for exchange of thoughts and reflections, an opportunity to share impressions, locate the problem, choose the tool to articulate it and finally enter the space of reality through imagination. “I think it’s very important to enter the space of reality. Suppose I am in my dark flat, thinking that it’s a very beautiful sunny day, but it’s all in my head: outside it is raining and there’s a storm. When I decide to get out of my flat, my dreams disappear .Why was I putting myself into imagination? Now I am completely wet and I will be sick in an hospital for the next two days.” Even though he highly estimates “the masochism of the formalization of thoughts,” this final phase does constitute the most important part: the day after, the quiet after the storm, the dénouement. A fundamental moment to take stock of his position’s evolution throughout the whole process.

Experience, above all that of war and military service,  is extremely important for his artistic practice. Most of his works are, in fact, “contextual, rooted in circumstances that basically correspond to reality.” Born in Zenica in 1981, after high school he attended the Reserve Officer School till he earned the rank of sergeant. He trained 30 soldiers for three months; then, when the service in the army was over,  he decided to give the military career up completely, because of the tragic situations it had him involved in. So he became, for around one year and a half, a tombstones engraver.  This is at the base of The garden of delights project, and one of the funniest and most serious in his life. As an engraver, he initially felt ashamed to exploit death for money, but then he understood that “people need to die” and that “one should have the right to express the wish to be immortalized for the rest of his life in the image he prefers of himself.” Gradually he realized that he was making the portrait of his own country, composed of these wishes of pleasure and delight. An introspective but cathartic vision of a collective past was brought back to life through the artwork. After this job, he tried twice to gain access to the Academy of Arts (Department of Painting, BA -MA) in Banja Luka. He became then Veso Sovilj and Sonja Briski Uzelac’s pupil: the first was arrested by Mladen Miljanovic in his film Do you intend to lie to me? (2011) and was responsible for his practical artistic education; the second, more important for his theoretical training, taught him how to consider things from different points of view. During his third year there, the art academy space moved into his former barracks Vrbas. “I was in the same space again, but as an artist now. I realized that I could not run from myself. Therefore I put myself into voluntary isolation in order to repeat and remove my personal  trauma, which was also a collective one. I was using art as a mean of decontamination of the space, and of its deconstruction. This ended with my work I serve art (2006-2007).” The same repetition between military and artistic experience happened for the second time when he started teaching in that same Academy of Fine Arts in Banja Luka where he had trained 30 soldiers as a sergeant. That is what he is currently doing, in parallel with his artistic practice: teaching intermedia art, and gaining a lot of satisfaction from it. “Banja Luka is a small town of 35000 citizens; the art scene is basically absent. I feel like I have to build it up, otherwise I would just waste my time. I want to grow colleagues up to make the debate vivid and create a dialogue around art. I do not like monologues.”

And he does not like vernissages as well. He prefers to stay just a bit apart: almost outside in At the edge (2012), hidden behind a stone in The pressure of wishes (2013), or in the role of a taxi driver in his performance Museum Service (2010). It is a also way to expose his statement with his own body, “otherwise you’re a cheater, if you do not prove personally what you are showing through art.”  And, at the same time, it is a model of physical and moral resistance: which is what really interests him, more than the reason for any resistance to be.


Useful links I went through getting ready for this interview:

Mladen Miljanovic’s website:

About Bosnia and Herzegovina’s pavilion at Venice Biennial 2013:

Mladen Miljanovic’s channel on Youtube:

Photo credit: Renato Rakic.


Monday 07/22/2013, more than 30° C, Skype call between Marcellina (Italy) and Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

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  1. June 11, 2014 at 1:17 pm

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