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4601986220_680x680Last night the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA)  was buzzing with activity at the opening of five exhibitions. One stood out for many –  YU: The Lost Country by the talented photographer Dragana Jurisic.

This extraordinary exhibition is a photographic exploration of identity, displacement and memory. Jurisic has a personal interest in these topics as she herself is from Yugoslavia, a county that no longer exist, a home she can no longer return to.

Formed after the first world war Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991, splintering into seven countries, leaving three whole generations struggling to figure out who they where and where they belonged, many deciding that they belonged nowhere.

Since Yugoslavia was, as Mussolini put it so eloquently “…cobbled together in Paris” after World War I, it was always a country that struggled with identity, artificial borders forcing strangers and enemies to become one.

Fascinated by this the Anglo-Irish writer Rebecca West wrote her masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon based on her travels to Yugoslavia and it’s publication in 1941 coincided with the Nazi invasion of the country she had grown to love, even calling it her motherland.

Jurisic used West’s book to retrace her own journey around her lost homeland in an attempt to recreate something that was lost but soon found that the sense of displacement and lost identity was stronger there, than in the country she now lives in.

This shows in Jurisic’s work: ” Photography, contains elements such as fleetingness, which allow it to capture that sense of rootlessness and dislocation with relative ease. Both exile and photography intensify our perception of the world. In both the memory is in its underlying core. Both are characterised by melancholy.”

The result of this ambition journey is the wonderful exhibition YU: The Lost Country , a visual journey into the past and present punctuated by West’s prose and Jurisic’s own words. The attempt to answer the universal question about identity in a very personal way.

And since Jurisic herself follows Roland Barthes’ assertions “that photography is more akin to magic than to art“,  it is no surprise that many of the photos have an otherworldly feel to them and leaves the viewer wondering about their own memories and identity.

Dragana Jurisic YU: The Lost Country

September 05, 2014 – September 26, 2014

RHA Ashford Gallery