Aleksandar Denić
Exposition Coloniale

★★★☆☆

Curated by Ksenija Samadržija
On until 24 November 2024

The theatre scenographer Denić took the Biennale’s theme literally, as though he was not in on the art world joke. Yet his Colonial Exhibition makes a joke of its own by conceptually reprising the 1931 event that infamously included a human zoo. The pavilion’s spacious interior houses a reconstruction of the commercial arteries of an Eastern European border town of the 1990s, a time when Yugoslavia which once again brands the building’s façade was choosing its economic and geopolitical future. 

Denić’s 2024 cast, however, fled over the border in search of better lives. There’s an abandoned fast-food joint to cater for the absent masses where the equally unabundant grub is as garish as the interior décor. Another corner hides a spa sauna for the nouveau-riche merchant class but fails miserably in its attempt at luxury. Elsewhere, an empty bedsit room decked out in ‘70s patterns plays a Coke ad ad nausem until it is hard not to wonder why anyone would – or did – choose this aesthetic life over any other. 

The European West’s betrayal of the Eastern imaginary remains an unexplored sore point. Denić’s theatrical gestures could thus be welcome or even poignant. But the artist worked with a poor script that called for cheap props and far too many visual clichés. A start or two for daring, sure, but this show won’t last more than one season.


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

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