Interview with Mila Panic, September 4th, 2014, Banja Luka
Mila Panic was one of the artists of the Art Guerilla Camp and Banja Luka Art Festival 2014 at INCEL.
Please, tell us something about your work
I´m very interested in folklore and tradition. Daily habits of the people, traditions, folk music, modern folk music – that is what occupies me. It´s weird – I have been to different countries, for example in Germany, and when I come back I could really see the difference between culture here and culture there. The music people listen to, the way they act every day and so called tradition – I think all those things are strongly connected. By observing the people, by observing their every day life, I want to find out how society in Bosnia works. If you have a family habit, that habit turns into tradition, and tradition again turns into culture. This is the process I´m really interested in. I want to look behind our daily habits: Why do we act like this? – What is typical for our people?
There are differnet regions – different areas in Bosnia, different countries that all once belonged to Yugoslawia. Are you going to different places to watch people and their habits?
I think that the mentality in Bosnia, in Serbia and even in Croatia ist the same – even if they do not like us to claim that. I have friends in other parts of the country and in Croatia – There is no big difference. Me, I always work with my family first. That´s more intimate, more honest. May family is a prototype of a Balkan family. What I can observe within my family, above all the habits that seem absurd for me – those are the things I´m trying to capture. A habit I investigate is for example: Why are the people of my family always so interested about what is going on at the neighbour´s houses? Why do they rather want to talk about the others than about themselves? – Or traditions. Here, when you become 18, you get a pig for your birthday. If you are a boy you can even slaughter it by your own hand. It has to do with pride and being adult. Those are the things I collect. People sometimes ask me: But that´s not art! – For me art and tradition cross. There are so many paradox things in our traditions, and there are many paradox things in art….
I´m interested as well in music. 90 % of the population are listening to music from here. It´s not traditional music, it´s a mixture between pop, rock and folk. It´s not just music of Ex-Yugoslavia even though you can still hear it everywhere, everybody knows this music very well. Young people are really driven into extrasy when dancing in the clubs and listening to this ridiculous music. People get very emotional, they rembember their lifes and their lovers. You would have to listen to the texts of this music, than you could understand. With my art I want to react on that behaviour.
Can you tell uns some singers or bands?
Yes, there is for example Ceca*, Mitar Miric* or Jelena Karleusa*.
So – after collecting habits and traditions – How does your work proceed?
After collecting I work with different medias. I work with short movies, I create installations and sound works.
Since when do you collect habits you observe within your social environment?
I do not know exactely. There was a time I got interested in this kind of art. I wanted to do more than just paint…
In the first year of art university we learned about techniques only. In the second year we got introduced to media arts and learned to think about what we were doing. I started to collect things instinctively. I had many ideas, but then I realized what I am really interested in. It´s not that I am just waiting for things to happen – I do not like just to sit and wait, that´s not my personality. I always listen to people, what they say, which is funny for them. Everything can be a symptom, a spawn of your society and the reason why we can´t develop. I am 24 years old – since when I was a child this country hasn´t changed, everything stays the same.
Are you interested in politics?
I think art is politics. My art is my way of reflecting on this state, on the people and on the way we live. I´m not so interested in criticizing the system, I rather work subtile. People chose the system by themselves – for me it´s all about people.
Most people here see future somewhere else. As a young person you always get the advise to leave the country. I want to go aut as well! I wouldn´t like to live my whole life here. I want to go abroad for master studies. Maybe I will come back. You can live here very good with a paycheque of 500 Euros, but most people are unemployed, and even if they have work, they do not have such a paycheque. As an artist – maybe it´s even better here, in Banja Luka. Here you can start something new. There are not many artists in Banja Luka…
Today, when you live as an artist in Bosnia-Hergegovina everybody is expecting you to reflect on war. I´m living today. Who cares about war today? I cannot refelct on the 90s for I cannot remember. Besides, I cannot see the differents between the people.Art should not separate people. For me there is not difference between Bosniaks, Serbs or Croatians. My father sees the difference quite clearly, but nevertheless, we still have Muslim friends. So, you see – it has a lot to to with parents, how they educate their children. That´s why you still have this kind of people – listening folk music, behaving like nationalists …
Let me tell you something else that is quite odd. People of Bosnia still dream of going to Austria to work on road works. Bosnian people build your country! They cannot wait to get a passport to leave the county and build streets and houses in Austria and Germany. Why don´t they work here? Why don´t they build streets and houses here? There definitely has to be changed something.
In Bosnia you go to elementary school for 8 years and then to high school until you are 19. Now young people feel depressed. We have so many graduated perople and no jobs. Nowadays it is common that people finish university. 20 years before just 1 out of 20 had diplomas. Since 2000 nearly every boy or girl is going to university. If you do not go to university, everybody asks you, if you are pregnant!
But it will probably need another 50 years until politicians have diplomas …
The Banja Luka Art Festival is starting today … How do you feel?
I have a problem with an alternative space like INCEL. When the medias come here – what will people think? It´s like with songs. When you listen to music that tells you „poor Sarajevo“, you will get influenced. There are beautiful rooms in Banja Luka as well. There should be more contrast. People should think: That´s really beautiful there – even though it is in Bosnia.
There was an exhibition of Mladen Miljanovic called „Garden of Delights“. People asked: How can you call Bosnia „Garden of delights“? I would like to represent a different site of Bosnia. If people in your country will look at the old ruin of INCEL, they might think, that all of Banja Luka is still destroyed.
I went to Salzburg last year – there I have been asked if it was not horrible to live in Banja Luka, that it was not safe here. They still thought that we live in war – 20 years after! It´s not only in Austria, it´s also in Germany.
Gavrilo Princip and Franz Ferdiand ….
Last year the topic of the Banja Luka art festival was „awareness of art.“ This year everything is about Gavrilo Princip. In May we participated in a project in Sarajevo. I was singing songs about Sarajevo through the decades – songs written by people of Sarajevo but as well by people of Russia and other countries. I am not interested in 1914. Why shall we remember the assassination this year and forget about it next year? It´s all about money. If you say it´s an anniversery it´s easier to get money. There is an artist who has been working on this topic 15 years ago. Nobody was interested until the anniversary this year. When they broadcasted a documentary about Franz Ferdinand , my father was sitting in front the TV bathing his feet in a bowl of warm water. Maybe I will do something about that!
*examples – Ceca, Mitar Miric,Jelena Karleusa