Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991. With the disappearance of the country, at least 1,500,000 Yugoslavs vanished, like the citizens of Atlantis, into the realm of imaginary places and people. Today, in the countries that came into being after Yugoslavia’s disintegration, there is a total denial of the Yugoslav identity. My practice looks at the effects of exile and displacement on memory and identity, and it's produced from the position of an exile. Now, more than twenty years after the war(s) started, I feel at the safe distance to recall and question my own memories of both the place and the events personally experienced. I am calling myself an exile, and not an expatriate – because I can't, even if I wanted to - return 'home'. During the 1990 census, I was also denied the right to be Yugoslav, the nationality I identified myself with since birth.
Central to this project is a work of an Anglo-Irish writer Rebecca West and her masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941). “There proceeds steadily from that place a stream of events which are a source of danger to me,” she wrote in 1937. Realizing that to know nothing of an area that threatened her safety was a calamity, she embarked on a journey through Yugoslavia. The resulting body of work, initially intended as a snap book, spiraled into 500,000 words, a portrait not just of Yugoslavia, but also of Europe on the brink of the WWII, and widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.
YU: The Lost Country was originally conceived as a recreation of a homeland that was lost, a journey in which I would somehow draw a magical circle (I was following Roland Barthes’ assertion that photography is more akin to magic than to art) around the country that was once mine and resurrect it. Instead, it was a journey of rejection, of displacement and exile that was stronger back ‘home’ than in the foreign place where I chose to live.
At Easter in 2011, In search of both the lost country and the lost identity, I started retracing West’s journey and re-interpreting her masterpiece by using photography and text in an attempt to re-live my experience of Yugoslavia and to re-examine the conflicting emotions and memories of the country that ‘was’.
Since receiving a distinction for her MFA (University of Wales, Newport) in 2008, Dragana Jurisic has won numerous awards. Most recently, Dragana received funding from Belfast Exposed, the Arts Council Ireland award, and a Bursary Award. She has exhibited internationally and her work is part of the Irish State Art Collection, University of Michigan collection and many private collections. In December 2013, Jurisic completed her PhD research at the European Centre for Photographic Research.