Series, 2004-2008

Cause and reason... Wasn’t the assassination in Sarajevo, which happened on Jun 28, 1914, “typical” example of how these two terms should have different meaning in historiography? We have been learned in school that Sarajevo’s assassination had “only” been the reason for the beginning of the World War I, but that there were a lots of causes: geopolitical circumstances, antagonisms and the need for a new sharing of colonized territories done by powerful countries, in general “late imperialism” and incapability of civilian political parties to carry out policy of peace, and who knows what else... However, the event itself, as a unique point of intersection of local reason and planetary cause, was a moment of bringing closer of what was singular, marginal and uncontrolled and what was universally relevant. The assassination itself was, first of all, an act of participation: participation of poor, desperate and infatuated enough Bosnian Serb in creation of a planetary fate.

Dialectics of causes and reasons is interesting also in the field of art theory. The reason for creation of an art work is in a scope of personal initiation, decision, in creation of events, in possible revelation of oneself, even in some accidental outburst. The cause is, on the other hand, in the domain of “other”, that is others. It lies in a domain of interpretation, and reason is in a domain of intention: but intention not only understood as some rational intention, but also as “revived situation”. The reason is the question of “interpellation”, the moment of recognition and reaction. Cause is in the field of culture, reason is in the field of art.

The series of Milak’s paintings,“inspired” by (this worn out word perfectly fits here) Sarajevo’s assassination, is all about relation between cause and reason: the event itself, as well as contemporary artistic cite of this event. The paintings were created on the basis of well known movie and photographic, documentary material. Their look is defined by “aesthetic” of the material, so the paintings are achromatic and, in composition, bounded to the model. But also, they are “artistic” paintings, paintings which imitate/reflect one epoch in art, period of the first significant and accepted breakthroughs of contemporary artistic language in the territory of, at the time, future Yugoslavia. Milak’s paintings evoke, in a specific way, those first “free strokes” first excitements about visibility of a brush move on the canvas that it was the indicator of artist’s particularity, introduction of quick stroke in order to “catch” a specific moment and all those questions of individual observation which separate modern painting from a photographic presentation. Such an artistic language would be, in the south Slavic territory in the first half of the 20th century, a sign of one intimate experience, one limited and subjective comprehension of modernity, modernity not only related to universal project but to narrow spheres of privacy. In that way Milak’s paintings do not only represent the evocation of the event itself but the evocation of breakthrough of a new comprehension of painting connected to the time of the event.

In the extent in which Princip’s act was an act of transformation of local to planetary, the painting style which Milak evokes was the act of transformation of planetary (modern art in that time still was not planetary phenomenon but it became later) to local. When asked about his “reason” for creation of these paintings Milak said: “I have always felt personally some sentiment for that event which was passed by a time, but is still relevant today. And, really, in the scope of that paradox, we can rummage into associative-political-cultural layers and talk about the current issues of the event from behind the time, which is either current enough or not current enough for someone to paint it. Milak is Bosnian Serb. He is also a painter. That is how there is an interpolation. The cause. That is how there is also the relevance of the events and the potential of its intimization trough the question of the identity. But there is nothing in the domain of causes that can particularly attract us to this painting. But, on the contrary, what is in the domain of reasons can do that indeed. No matter if it is about the reason in the field of unique ambivalency which can be articulated by the art or it is about political outburst by which one intervenes in too stifled field of existing interpretations of this event which have been based on standard divisions – the assassination is a shot on Europe, it is the heroic act of spite of small nation, the act of modern terrorism and, by that, belongs to a modern world. It is the attack on modernity from the position of primitive Bosnian nowhere land, assassination is authentic anarchic-nationalistic act, it is the event which had been planned in Serbia, etc. Aren’t all of these topics typical even for disagreements about more contemporary historic events on the same territory?

Cause and reason... Dr Martin Papenheim, a psychiatrist from Teresienstadt where Princip was imprisoned and had died a long time before the war, which was caused by his act, was over, testified about the mental derangement of assassin who was torn by the feeling of guilt for the revenge over Serbs: “The news about killing of his people completely destroyed him: He consoled himself that the war would broke out even if there hadn’t been the assassination”. However, the central question evoked and stated precisely by Milak’s paintings is the questin of manner in which this event can be presented as the event of modernity, that slow, late and just partially started and than neglected modernity. Is there anything that can better illustrate this articulation of modernity than that stale cyanide which was given to the assassins by Serbian mayor Tankosic, in order not to get alive in the hands of imperial police, and which , in Princip’s and Cabrinovic’s stomachs, only induced pain?

However, what is important in Milak’s paintings is the fact that they are the paintings of the beginning of modern class society: for example, we can notice on them at least 6 – 7 different caps, hats or fezs which denote class picture of Bosnian society: rulers in uniforms and their instruments of power, merchants in fezs and brand new civilian class and policemen in civil clothes wearing hats, and the class opposed to them, wearing caps, etc. All of them are on the current scene of the event passed by the time. But as well, in the situation of intimacy, fragility, instability.
And so, on one small and seemingly quickly painted “impressionistic” painting we can see Ferdinand and Sophia coming down the stairs if front of which the car is waiting for them. They are coming downstairs carefully, with their heads bowed. Taking care not to stumble.

Branislav Dimitrijevic