Friday, 4 November 2016, 24:00 | midnight

#79: Katarina Zdjelar

As it typically happens with Katarina Zdjelar’s videos, we are engaged in the placid duration of a self-enclosed and orchestrated situation. Bound by the tones and rhythms of the music or the spoken word, a temporal vacuum and a sense of expectancy are shaped, which take place in the social space of an extended in-betweenness. Zdjelar’s films work as some form of backstage to the ideological imaginary of these changing, dynamic, and accelerated times of ours. The filmmaker consistently deals with alternative chrono-geographies, denouncing the flaws of the ideological acceleration, while unearthing its unrepresented realms.

Katarina Zdjelar presents:

Untitled (A Song), 2016, 10:45 min
In this depiction of a music band in a rehearsal setting, nothing really happens. But this “nothingness” is impregnated with details and fragments as the silence is packed with noise and its musical organization. Anxiety interlaces with harmony. When the musicians very loosely control the sound they produce (isn’t music making the very ability of controlling sound, of organising noise?they are actually searching for the moment in which the music and the silence could co-exist, in which both are there, indicating the relationship between our subjective rhythms of existence and the rhythms of the multitude.

My Lifetime (Malaika), 2011, 5:37 min
My Lifetime( Malaika) features Ghana’s National Symphony Orchestra recorded in the National Theatre in Accra. The musicians play Malaika, originally a cheerful and empowering postcolonial composition that was famously performed by musical celebrities like Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, Boney M. and many others. The orchestra was funded in the late 1950s when Ghana, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, had become independent from the United Kingdom.  Nkrumah’s government introduced new cultural structures in order to establish and enforce national consciousness and accomplish the shift from colonial rule to independence.

As in Zdjelar’s other works never fully comprehend a whole stage, but are only provided with some fragmented clues through details and close-ups. Again we are almost haunted by the rhythm of a temporal and social in-betweenness. It is as if we could discern traces of events that have already happened, but somehow remains and resonates with the music – an undecided waiting-room for some delayed future or possibly a suspended one.

Act II, 2010, 5:00 min
A Serbian immigrant, land surveyor by vocation, appears. Encouraged by his role-playing for the agency he decides to become a movie actor. The video follows roles he has been offered. They all have something in common: either the films were never released or he has been cut out from the final edit. When he does appear however, he appears very briefly and then he either dies or is drunk. Recorded in an empty film studio, the video discloses the voice of the protagonist with the camera mainly focussing on the empty space next to him where the leading actors are supposed to appear.

Shoum, 2009, 7:00 min
Shoum starts with a blank, we see no image, but hear the sound of the 1984 Tears for Fears mega hit Shout. Then we see an iPod, a sheet of paper and the hands of two men from Belgrade, holding pens. Over the course of the next seven minutes we witness the two attempts of deciphering the lyrics of ‘Shout’ as though they contained a coded message. Given that these men speak no English they phonetically transcribe what they hear, based on their own vocabulary and capacity to vocally interpret the unfamiliar. Cut off from the lingua franca of a globalized world, these two men preserve in creating something of their own, something that lies between the foreign and the familiar.

Everything Is Gonna Be, 2008, 3:35 min
Revolution is the song in which John Lennon warns against the radicalisation of the late 1960s youth movements in the West, criticizing their extreme actions and closed-minded political views. It is a song that reminds us of the predominant trajectory of those in the Western middle classes who experienced a flirtatious infatuation with the radical leftist politics but have gradually abandoned their youthful enthusiasm for the tranquility of life that the very belonging to this class allows for. The singers in Zdjelar’s film lethargically re-enact the humanist message of the song with a sense of a detachment. The song’s soothing promise turns into something quite eerie: Everything is gonna be alright, alright, alright… One of the singers at the end of the film keeps opening his mouth in the shape of the further “alrights” even when the music fades out. Zdjelar points out again that this past future is behind us; that since this Beatles song hit the radio waves nothing has become really “alright.”

The Perfect Sound, 2009, 14:30 min
In The Perfect Sound we see a grey-haired man chanting monosyllables, over and over again, while a young man is mimicking him. The sing-song that we hear is captivatingly primal and intensely humane. We witness an accent removal class for an immigrant conducted by a speech therapist in Birmingham. The men are engaged in a similarly mysterious endeavor. A young and an older man face each other while making peculiar gestures with their hands. The coach is helping his client to perfect an accent in English.

One or Two Songs, On Someone or Something, In Particular, 2007, 4:46min
The film shows the close-up of a young woman completely absorbed in her attempts of compose a song on an electric guitar. The video follows her engaging with this new instrument, improvising tunes and rhythms, and humming a song, for which she has not found the words yet. The laborious but still pleasurable act of learning to play an instrument – the picking out of harmonies on the fingerboard, the voice groping for possible melodies – shows us the process of articulating a meaning of one’s own. The work thus celebrates the possibility and desire of charting an unfamiliar territory.

Stimme, 2013, 17:00 min
Stimme records a session between a voice coach and her client, in search of the client’s “natural” voice. The phonetic iterations are punctuated by the two bodies touching hands—as if the young woman’s body was a musical instrument to be played or experimented with by the coach. Where is voice actually located? Katarina Zdjelar is interested in those moments when the voice is perceived as personal property, while at the same time it acts as a public agency. Her work interacts with the instances when the dialectical interactions between the socio-political and the personal stage and shape the voice through the materiality of the body.Communication between the women is set as a repetition of voice games played through different parts of the body. This is mirrored in the manner in which the camera keeps returning to parts of the body coming in and out of darkness. If this is a vocal game, playing it involves a choreography of minimal muscular responses.


Katarina Zdjelar (b. 1979 in Belgrade, SFRY) studied Painting at University of Applied Arts (BA) in Belgrade and Fine Arts at the Piet Zwart Institute (MA) in Rotterdam.

Zdjelar has had solo and group exhibitions at such institutions as Busan Biennale, Busan, Museum Of Contemporary Art Vitoria-Gasteiz, Serbian Pavillion at the 53rd Venice Biennial, MACBA Barcelona, Kunstverein Bielefeld, MNAC Bucharest, De Appel Contemporary Art Centre, Amsterdam, 5th Marrakech Biennale, Muzeum Sztuki Lodz , Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade,The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery Toronto, Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, TENT Rotterdam, HMKV Dortmund, MSUB Belgrade, MuHKA Antwerpen, Total Museum of Contemporary Art Seul, Stedelijk Museum Buro Amsterdam, and screenings of her videos at the ICA London, Rotterdam Film Festival, Frieze Film, London…

Works by Katarina Zdjelar are held in the collections, among others, of  Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, MACBA, Barcelona, MSUB, Belgrade, Museum Sztuki, Lodz, the collection of Isabelle & Jean-Conrad Lemaître, London, fluentum collection, Berlin.

Zdjelar has been a core tutor at MFA Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam and Master Artistic Research, Den Hague.