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'RHA X' Artist Dragana Jurišic On The Importance Of Photos In The Creation Of Our Own Self-Narratives

"Photographs help us recall our past experiences, they serve as proof of identity and as material evidence of the past."

Yugoslavian-born and now living and working in Dublin, Dragana Jurišic will, this month, collaborate with world-renowned fashion designer, Roland Mouret on RHA X.

The first in a series of immersive installations – entitled 'RHA X' – kicks off on 15 November will see acclaimed Irish-based visual artist, Dragana Jurišić collaborate with world-renowned fashion designer, Roland Mouret, to present an 'innovative international art experience', which will then continue to evolve year on year.

We spoke to Jurišic ahead of the 'art meets fashion' experience at the Royal Hibernian Academy, about why the project came about, the weight of our collective sense of identity and how the act of creating can transform both the artist and those experiencing the work.

Get tickets to the inaugural 'RHA X' here

Q: how you were approached in relation to the

RHA X project? 

DJ: Vanessa Moss, Head of Development at the Royal Hibernian Academy tentatively approached me to see if I would be interested in a potential collaborative work with Roland Mouret.

I think at this point, she has sent him a portfolio of four Irish artists, including myself and asked him to choose one he would like to collaborate with. He chose me.

Q: What was your initial reaction in finding out who the other half of the collaboration would be?

DJ: Curiosity. Both about Roland as a person and about the world of fashion. I had some stereotypes I needed dismantling.

Read More: Art Meets Fashion At The RHA's Immersive Installation 

Q: Are there creative values or themes you and Roland share that might have made you an obvious pairing? 

DJ: We are both questioning individuals, with a shared personal history of displacement, interested in themes of environment and also of the Surveillance Capitalism.

 Tarantula, 2017 © Dragana Jurišić.

Q: The story about how you first became interested in photography is such an emotive one, could you share how it’s gone on to influence your work? 

DJ: The story of me as a photographer begins on the day when our family apartment got burned down together with thousands of prints and negatives my father, an ardent amateur photographer, had accumulated.

On that day I became one of those 'refugees' with no photographs, with no past. Indeed, my memories of the events and people I encountered before that Sunday in September 1991 are either non-existent or very vague. I learned then the power photography has over memory. The day after the fire was the last time my father took a photograph, a perfunctory snapshot to record the damage for the insurance company. Where he stopped, I started.

The act of photographing, of looking at the world through the camera lens, helped provide a semblance of control over an otherwise unpredictable world. 

For this reason, I have been interested in the relationship between photography and memory, since the very beginning of my art practice. Photographs as it is widely believed, do not only stand in for memories, they also help us recall our past experiences, they serve as proof of identity and as material evidence of the past. Photographs are important in the creation of self-narratives.

Q: The concept of identity is something that’s focused closely in this project, why do you feel that’s so relevant to our lives today? 

DJ: I believe that we as individuals are not a fixed thing, but an everchanging process. I believe that we owe it to ourselves and to the other people around us to try and learn about what we are, and how we can help ourselves, help others, help this planet which is in a free fall.

I see how much energy a lot of people utilise to avoid asking themselves some very rudimentary questions, on how they were formed, what motivates them (is it fear, is it anger, is it love), and why is that so? Where are we all going? Our lifespan is a short one and I believe that we owe it to ourselves at least an attempt at some degree of self-knowledge.

Q: The project is described to intersect between cultures, perceptions, aesthetics and art forms, what do you hope those who experience the work at RHA X take away from it? 

DJ: My hope would be that participating in the project Roland and I have created for the RHA X, would be a self-reflective experience. 

Q: How do you see this international art experience evolving year on year to positively affect Ireland’s reputation in the creative world? 

DJ: I think the idea of bringing Irish artist and prominent international cultural workers together and giving them space and time to work on something new is a brilliant opportunity for both parties to learn and grow, and for some of that collaborative magic to rub off on the audience who experience these events.

Museum, by Drgana Jurisic and Paula Meehan 2019

Tickets are available for the RHA X Official Launch Party on 15 November and the RHA X Q&A with Roland Mouret and Dragana Jurišić, hosted by Oriole Cullen on 16 November, click here for more

Read More: The Controversial Artist Behind The Instagram Portraits You've Seen Everywhere