Renata Poljak

The day before Omi Opening Sunday (OOS), OhMI went to the opening of Philippe Parreno at The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (not far from Omi, not far from NYC, but far enough from both together), where she met Renata again, after their first encounter some time ago at Art in General. Here is Renata in Parreno's 31 Janvier, 1977, 2009, Vorwerk "Bingo" wall-to-wall carpet, color IE56, 9500 square feet:

OhMI apologizes for the clandestine quality of her photos

Renata is watching June 8, 1968, an immersive, mesmerizing 70 mm film based on documentary photographer's Paul Fusco's footage of the funeral train of Robert F. Kennedy. It's a static journey.

Split History
Renata Poljak was born in Split, Yugoslavia. She inscribed her earliest historical consciousness in-between two patrimonial signifiers — Tito and Tata (“Daddy” in Croatian). Josip Broz Tito was the authoritarian President of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia since WWII till 1980; in resistance to the USSR hegemony, he split with his namesake, Joseph Stalin, and maintained “the third way” in between the two sides of the Cold War. His national communist federation has been balkanized between 1991 and 1995 into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. Tito’s personal signature has become an artifact during his long reign, as it was widely reproduced on pins and other propaganda items, and much imitated. 

As Renata was learning to write, she also learned that Tito was her Big Daddy. The rocking sound of tito, tata, tito, tata turns menacing as a double patricide is graphically executed in the form of writing that mimics Tito’s telltale signature bearing a pronounced strikethrough: tito, tata. After the execution, a celebration — signifiance of writing is erased in the tito-tata rhythm of a pop song and dancing.

Souvenirs, Memories, 1999
Living in France since 1998, Renata returned to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia after the split of Yugoslavia, in the 2000s. While there, she experienced an everyday suppression of emotional reactions to the events of the recent history — the man who she asked for directions to Vukovar not only showed the way, but also volunteered that he “marched on Vukovar” many times (the 87-day siege by the Serbs purged the city of its Croatian population). Renata realized that she, too, is no longer on a neutral ground, that she has been conditioned to take sides, even in Nice.    
Most of Renata’s film and video work evolves in a dual narrative, often installed on split screens — the Vukovar travelogue in Suppression, 2006, is juxtaposed to an enactment of a seething domestic resentment by a couple of actors in a nice apartment set; another two-channel video installation, entitled Ruta and the Monument, 2007, parallels a grotesque interpretation by a tour guide of Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin to a dreamlike underwater sequence of a cow’s tongue licking a girl’s foot: “…When the people from the tourist agency came to take her on a trip, all that was left of Ruta Teitelbaum was her right foot. They loaded her onto a cattle wagon…”
On a storyboard in her studio, Renata is investigating a construction of identifications via cinema, embodied by two actors - Slavko Stimac and Ivan Kujundic, and the roles they played. Kujundic became an idol in Tito’s Yugoslavia in the role of the child partisan Bosko Buha. During and after the split, heroes have turned into criminals, and vise versa; while former icons have lost their projective power and disappeared from the public view. Kujundic stopped acting, and teaches Croatian in Belgrade. Renata is looking to reconstruct his (and hers) identity via interviews with Kujundic, as she plans to present his story, scripted by her, and told by him, but in which role? 


Renata is showing work in an exhibition by an international group of artists who met one year ago at the summer artists' residency Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in rural Maine.

Saint Cecilia’s Convent, 21 Monitor Street, Brooklyn, NY
July 9th through July 14th, 2010

Opening Reception & Performances, Friday July 9th, 6-9 pm
Video Screenings, Saturday July 10th, 3-5 pm
Guided Tours, Sunday July 11th & 12th, 2 pm & 5 pm