Accumulated Years of Production
„This possibility of anticipating the future makes us pile up, mostly in a random fashion, every possible trace of our existence that may testify about what we are or what we shall represent to the ones from our future. Simultaneously, this acceleration of history detached us from the past, which is no longer an integral part of our life. We can communicate with it via its traces alone and the only way of recalling it includes its detailed reconstruction and using the aid of documents and archives” Boris Buden, Introduction to History
Landscape photographs from the “Import Desert” cycle are one of the layers of the project in which, primarily through observing the environment and recording the landscape of the city of Kutina, artist Bojan Mrđenović problematizes complex social relations conditioned by the ways of industrial production. Through their curious beauty, these photo fragments attract interest; however, they also represent a document of a time.
Being the main foundation of Kutina’s development during industrial modernisation after World War 2, Petrokemija factory represents a rare exception in the context of privatisation and deindustrialisation since the ‘90s. Despite the efforts to privatise the factory, resilient and unified workers’ syndicates prevented any such attempt. Hence, Petrokemija represents today one of a few strategically important companies still owned by the state. The mineral fertiliser factory uses a quarter of total national gas consumption, and is therefore an important social factor in context of managing energy sources. Nevertheless, the future of the factory and, consequently, the entire city’s economy is unclear. Petrokemija employs 3000 people, one fifth of the Kutina population, so it remains to be seen how the city’s daily life will look like in case it is privatised or shut down.
The focus of Bojan Mrđenović’s artistic research includes the question of how economic-political relations influence the transformation of space – landscape, as well as urban and social infrastructure of a city. Alongside economic, there is ecological aspect of the story as well. While the production of mineral fertilisers means growth and life in the context of food production, and brings prosperity and development to the city economy, on the other hand it has devastating consequences. Such ambivalence of economic and ecologic, natural and artificial, alive and inanimate is summed in the abstract photographs showing industrial waste landfill. Imported African sand is used in order to produce mineral fertilisers, and phosphor-gypsum, suspension created as by-product in the process, has been deposited on this site since 1983, resulting in over 6 million tons of material to this date. The landscape has been completely transformed and the photographs testify about its present state, preventing us completely from placing it in any familiar context. Shots displaying seemingly estheticized landscape are deceptive, appearing like abstract reliefs or unfamiliar landscapes. We can regard the accumulated waste as an ecological problem; however, simultaneously, it is a basis of this urban community’s existence.
The intention of this complex project is to create a visual narrative by photographing and archiving visual material. Through the practice of documenting landscapes and spaces, the artist makes a step forward in the interpretation of the history of the factory, i.e. the city and its community. Such interpretation is a move away from official historiography because it deals with a subject outside of the focus of media and spectacle, describing a wider social image and current zeitgeist through specific local example.