Smirna Kulenović. Umwelts
Curator: Irfan Hošić
Organization: Center for Contemporary Culture KRAK
The intervention takes place at several different locations in the City of Bihać on Tuesday September 21st 2021, from 12 to 4 pm
Art intervention Umwelts by Smirna Kulenović represents a spontaneous walk of the artist with sheep through Bihać city center. It is an experimental journey in which the artist and other possible participants dismiss their everyday established relationships and indulge in the instinct of the appeal of urban landscape. Such action implies the spontaneity of the development of unpredictable relationships and of different encounters which include other types of organisms within a given space. Very consciously, the artist embarks on an unconventional journey in which, together with the sheep, she makes decisions by negotiating which spaces they want to explore and visit.
Umwelt is a German word which means "environment". Using it as a title of her activity, the artist refers to the biologist Jakob von Uexküll (1864–1944) who defined this term as a designation of a specific physical, emotional and semiotic environment in which an individual and any other species live and work.
In her research and experimental work, Smirna Kulenović is concerned with the overlap of different species within one "Umwelt" and interferences that arise as a set of forms which are not part of a separate "Umwelt". The artist is interested in the coexistence of two different species. In such cooperation, participants of different species do not follow the same protocol, but rather create a new protocol of collaboration and cohabitation. By deconstructing anthropocentrism, the artist tests the self-proclaimed practices of human domination on Earth and conceptualizes the collaboration with other species.
The work was created as part of the artist's residential stay at KRAK Center for Contemporary Culture in Bihać and imposes itself as a simplified act of abandoning the material aspects of a piece of art within the gallery space. Artist’s stay in Bihać serves as a framework for getting to know the environment – mapping urban space and detecting points that could be suitable for the cooperation with other species (interspecies collaboration). Besides criticizing the art system and its protocols, this art work brings into question man's self-proclaimed center in the world, within whose perspective a hierarchy of "higher" to "lower" organisms is deeply rooted, with a strictly established superiority of man. The artist insists on the interaction with other and different organisms, while trying to maintain compatibility as one of the main priorities. By collaborating with "lower" species, it attempts to achieve the desired outcomes through listening and talking to the species' behavior, always remaining open to surprises. In such a relationship, it is possible to read the relations between "nature" and "society" in the local, i.e., Bosnian context, and beyond.
The project is funded by Foundation for Arts Initiatives from New York.
Smirna Kulenović is a transdisciplinary artist and activist. Her practice focuses on participatory strategies in performance and art in public space. She is the founder and artistic director of the Association for Sustainable Interactivity in Public Spaces Dobra Kota (Sarajevo) and the international Nomadic Collective for Public Performance TAZ 22. Currently, Kulenović is engaged as a researcher at the Institute for Interactive Art, University of Art and Design in Linz and as Associate of the Angewandte Innovation Lab in Vienna.
Smirna Kulenović; Photo: Ajla Salkić, 2020