I had the impression that the new national states, new religious identity, wars, transition, and poverty in the region were a huge step back for what were, in large part, emancipated Yugoslav women, and I was very curious to find out more about this through this research project. I wanted to find out, among other things, whether access to education and employment, and working conditions had changed after the workers’ self-governance and Yugoslav Socialism vanished, and especially with migration, if and how this has influenced the position of women in families and in societies that have been transformed.
With these initial questions Tanja Ostojić embarked on a long term multi-disciplinary artistic exploration along with 30 other Tanjas Ostojić worldwide. These name-sisters are of diverse nationalities, diverse ages, different levels of education, profession, social background, and life experience, but all of them are able to communicate in Serbo-Croatian, and they, or their parents, are from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In individual discussions, workshops, group performances and jointly organised exhibitions, Ostojić investigates their connection and transforms the tension between individuality and collectivity into an act of solidarity practiced across national borders. And she adds:
My recent project, ‘Lexicon of Tanjas Ostojić’ develops further strategies of a conscious ethical politics in artistic production, the creation of a community with shared authorship and ownership, and the emancipatory potentials of collective autobiographical methodologies as the basis for art-making.
Photo: © Egbert Trogemann, VG Bild-Kunst Bonn
Photographer: David Rych
Ostojić's interpretation of Courbet's The Origin of the World, which shows an abdominal part of naked woman with her legs spread wide, displays the artist's lower abdomen dressed in blue underwear featuring the European flag’s circle of stars. This artwork was shown on rotating billboards in the EuroPart exhibition in public spaces in Vienna in December 2005. The work was removed after two days as a result of an enormous media scandal at the point when Austria was about to take over the Presidency of the EU. Over one hundred articles and over a thousand readers’ comments witnessed it in a very interesting way. The poster / print on LKW plastic, 3.5 x 4 metres in size, was re-mounted on the façade of Forum Stadt Park in Graz from January until March 2006 and discussions around this censorships were hosted there. With this artwork, Ostojić continued to refer to the exclusion of people from non-EU countries caused by (bio)politics.
Tanja Ostojić, born in 1972, is a Berlin-based artist, researcher and educator. Since 1994 she has been creating research-led, performative art projects that engage with issues of gender politics, feminism, migration, displacement, labour, and ethical participation. Her works have been featured in multiple formats as well as at Brooklyn Museum (2007), La Biennale di Venezia (2001, 2011), Busan Biennale (2016).