Dragana Jurisic is best known for her documentary-style photography, but her work extends into the subjective. Part Croatian and part Serbian, Jurisic was born in the former Yugoslavia. In 1991, at the beginning of the Yugoslav Wars, her family’s apartment was burned to the ground. In an essay, Jurisic cited the loss of her father’s collection of photographs as an erasure of her memory. She reported that while her amateur photographer father stopped using his camera after this incident, she started.(1) Her projects are often long-term investigations of how memories reflect our past into our present and construct our beliefs and identities.
“Black Lamb and Grey Falcon” is a canonical text in which British writer Rebecca West chronicled her journeys through the Balkans on the verge of the second World War. Beginning on the same day over seven decades later, Jurisic followed West’s itinerary from Slovenia to Macedonia. The result is Jurisic’s lauded series and publication, “YU: The Lost Country” (2011-13), a haunting visual record of her pilgrimage to her now disappeared homeland. Now, along with approximately 1.5 million people, Jurisic is an exile, displaced from a country that no longer exists.
Like West, Jurisic kept her own travel diaries, from which she included excerpts in the publication, ranging from bittersweet to incensed. In “YU,” Jurisic re-created her Yugoslavia, a metaphysical country through photography. Her journey took place two decades after the beginning of the violence that devastated her country for the second and final time. In a way the pilgrimage, which has been likened to a funeral procession, helped her mourn her past. At first out of place in her travels and conflicted about the role of place in relation to identity, she eventually found peace with her rootlessness. Much of her work revolves around questioning, perhaps because she believes that larger, societal constructs like “national identity, belief systems, [and] core values are bestowed upon us.”(2)
This impactful series only hints at the losses of an entire country. It is unimaginable to fully understand Yugoslavia’s tragic history. Jurisic has recalled traveling with a void passport and being treated as a sub-human while she and her family attempted to start a new life.(3) In the present moment, there are apparent correlations between “YU” and the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East. Evidently, the powerfully manifested themes and emotions in this series will be relevant for the foreseeable future.
Jurisic obtained her MFA in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales (2008) and recently received a PhD at the European Centre for Photographic Research from the University of Wales, UK (2013). Her work, “My Own Unknown,” has been the subject of multiple exhibitions at venues in 2016 such as the Wexford Arts Centre, Ireland, Oliver Sears Gallery during PhotoIreland, Ireland, Spot Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rijeka, Croatia. The series “YU: The Lost Country” has been exhibited at Belfast Exposed, Belfast, Northern Ireland (2013), the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland (2014), Feld+Haus Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany (2015), and Maynooth University, Ireland (2016); it is currently being shown at Meeting Point Cinema, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has also participated in several solo and group exhibitions throughout the United Kingdom and in select venues in Western Europe.
Sources: 1. Jurisic, Dragana. “YU: The Lost Country.” Dublin: Oonagh Young Gallery, 2015.
2. Jurišić, Dragana and Sandra Križić Roban. “Exile and photography intensify our perception of the world.” Contemporary Croatian Photography. 2015. http://croatian-photography.com/en/dialogue/exile-and-photography-intensify-our-perception-of-the-world/. Accessed March 12, 2016.
3. Jurisic, Dragana and Julian Marshall. “Interview with BBC World Service Newshour.” BBC. 48-53 minutes. September 20, 2015.
—Ashley McNelis – See more at: http://theheavycollective.com/page/2#sthash.cWkFKbgU.dpuf