Review: The Snake and the Lost War Diary / Hyperallergic

View of “Irena Knezevic: Night of the World” 2012, Alderman Exhibitions, Chicago. From left: Monochrome, 2012, inkjet print on aluminum, 27×36”; Table, 2012, 36x60x30″. (all images courtesy Alderman Exhibitions)

CHICAGO — Irena Knezevic’s exhibition Night of the World: Flatworks, Multiples and Music Programs embodies a heavy-handedness that could only come from the mind of a Serbian artist living in America post-Yugoslav Wars. The exhibition takes its inspiration not from a concept or image, but rather from the text of Jedenje Bogova, the diary of a chief officer at Jasenovac concentration camp. Written during World War II, the diary re-emerged in 1982 and became a popular text by the late 1980s. Atrocities documented in the diary are beyond appalling; gruesome doesn’t aptly describe them either. They are unthinkable — mothers confined in the Jasenovac concentration camp, manipulated into calculated starvation techniques, and later forced to eat human flesh including that of their own children. The last printing of the diary occurred in 1988; the Yugoslav civil war began three years later. Then the book disappeared. Knezevic looked for a copy of this book for nearly 10 years before finally locating one online; a Croatian man who wishes to remain anonymous sold it to her. Knezevic’s English translation of the diary and an albino boa constrictor snake form the foundation of this chilling exhibition.

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