Hana Miletić | Dependencies
Dependencies – Konzum supermarket, Zagreb (white cottolin, red, cottolin, cream cottolin, metal, royal blue cottolin and cobalt coloured viscose and silk), 2018, hand-woven textile, 520 x 1050 cm, courtesy of the artist. Installation view, Hana Miletić: Dependencies, WIELS, Brussels, 2018 ©Riet van Gerven
18 May 2018
by Riet van Gerven
10.05 – 12.08.2018
Curated by Caroline Dumalin
Exhibition review | Blog
WIELS, in Brussels, hosts the first major exhibition to date of Belgian artist Hana Miletić. Dependencies is centred around the textile works that Hana Miletić made over the last three years. She recently became active in communal textile workshops in Brussels, where she works together with women from different backgrounds. The exhibition includes these collaborative efforts, as well as a series of large-format works, that Miletić wove on a handloom over the course of ten months. The artist modelled the large scale works after the photographs she took in the streets of Brussels and Zagreb, documenting makeshift solutions for fixing broken car parts or protecting buildings that are under construction.
Hana Miletić works depart from a feminist perspective on labour and care. She studies how certain tasks conventionally assigned to women and/or migrants are undervalued in patriarchal, capitalist societies. In her practice, Hana Miletić takes a critical look at social and political issues in European cities and focuses mainly on the careful (re)presentation of stories of migration. Hana Miletić wants to investigate the emergence of subjectivity, both at the level of the individual and at the level of the community. Her approach reveals the parallels between our practices of looking and our perception of value. Previously, documentary photography was at the heart of her artistic practice. Nowadays, she uses photography as a working tool to do socially engaged work that leads to new areas of interest. Given her relation to the changing social reality, she considers exchange and collaboration in her artistic practice a necessity.
Hana Miletić became active in community weaving workshops in Brussels three years ago, reconnecting with a craft from her childhood in Yugoslavia. Working with textiles weaving has been passed down through generations of women in her family. After the fall of the Communist regime in Croatia, many textile factories were forced to close as a result of the privatisation process. For many women, however, it meant an incentive to enter into and intensify partnerships next to developing alternative DIY production methods. Typical of this transition is, for example, is the Croatian women’s association ‘Open Kamensko’, a self-organising collective of former factory workers who are now freelance textile workers.
Warp and weft
Weaving on a handloom is a repetitive and lengthy process, which allows Miletić to reflect on issues of social engagement and reproduction. She has developed a weaving practice that allows her to connect with a family rooted craft on the one hand and, on the other hand provides her with time to engage with its metaphorical social implications. Her cultural roots inform her work, while her research reflects the consequences of political practices and economic influences that recur across time and place. Via re-enactment and scrutiny, she addresses inventive approaches to scarcities, damages and obstacles. Her goal is to bring minor actions and practices to attention and committing to the subversive potential of finding alternative modes of dealing with existing measures, administrations and ideologies.
She describes weaving as “reproductive labour”, a term associated with the materialist feminist tradition of the 1970s, which sees gender as a social construct. Specifically, she looks more closely at how care work – a role conventionally assigned to female and/or migrant workers – is undervalued in patriarchal, capitalist societies. Re-evaluating the relationships between working, thinking and feeling, care-giving and care-taking are at the core of Hana Miletić’s practice
In Dependencies we see handwoven works. Some on a very large scale, red and white stripes, together with the pitch-black/blue cloth in a large installation. Both consists of many meters of linen binding, woven by the artist herself on a 6 shaft loom. These two bodies of textiles, striped and plain, agreed to meet upon the artist’s invitation. It’s a very lively and inviting combination incorporating a very stark contrast. It refers to identity, nationality and home, as this tactile work cleverly divides the artificial lit WIELS space on the 2nd floor in compartments of different sizes. Some diagonal some parallel. In doing so the installation produces angles and corners in which the viewer becomes part of the shielding provided or is starkly exposed.
In this exhibition, there are also some intimate, sampler type works in pastel tints on show. They remind me of the early Sheila Hicks mini-works. In contrast to the installation, these small works are displayed on the walls in a space where bright daylight enters. These small works demonstrate callowness as the artist purposefully adds irregularities and “mistakes”. These add the sensitive aspect of eminent imperfection to the works. Hana Miletić practises similar interventions with large scale works. These interventions feel more treacherous as they result in draping and in doing so state opposition, cruelty and force.
The felt works, that are community workshop products made from imported pre-dyed Irish wool, somehow do not fit the story and may not reach into the deeper layers of socio-cultural critique. Although collaboration is the keyword, the presentation on tripods is far fetched and feel alien to the textile materials used. The way the works are positioned in the space is deliberate, with a balanced colour scheme. To me these works represent an artist directed communal transient event.
Hana Miletić (b.1982 Zagreb in Yugoslavia), lives and works in Brussels and Zagreb. With a background in documentary photography, she creates work in various media, including sculpture, textiles, performance, printed matter and text. In addition to photography, she also studied art history and gender studies, all of which inform her practice. In 2015 she was a resident at Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht.
In addition to this exhibition Dependencies, the reading group Knowledge Is A Does, that started in 2014 at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, including Miletić, presented an accompanying event. This evening for theory and poetry called Disassemblies took place in the Beursschouwburg in Brussels a few days before the opening of the exhibition at WIELS.