Taking Common Matter into Your Own Hands (Uzeti zajedničku stvar u svoje ruke) is a research archive and series of open talks made for SPAPORT Biennial: Where Everything is Yet to Happen, 2010, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. On an invitation of curators Ivana Bago and Antonia Majača, STEALTH went on a journey along the life story and archives of Ana’s grandparents – Rajka and Vukašin Borojević, who in the times of socialist Yugoslavia started up a number of economically viable initiatives involving workers, peasants and women. Taking Common Matter into Your Own Hands is not so much about highlighting the personal achievements of these two people; in the spirit of that time, they were obviously not the only ones. It is more about reflecting on the different aspects that motivated their activities and a possibility to use them as an inspiration for today – in the context of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

[Rajka and Vukašin]

Through their life, Rajka and Vukašin Borojević lived in Belgrade and many places in former Yugoslavia and actively contributed to these environments. Starting from scratch every time, like nothing was ever done before, they embarked on a number of endeavours in the zeal of building a new society after the WW2. Following their pre WW2 experiments in Kačanik, Kosovo, in 1946 they established and built Vitaminka, a fruit processing factory in Banja Luka (the factory still exists today), and as its directors team accomplished the first five-year plan. In the early 1950’s, in the far away mountainous village Donji Dubac, Serbia, they self-initiated the Orlujak, herbal production and processing cooperative (Orlujak, zadruga za proizvodnju i preradu lekovitog bilja) and the Dragačevo women cooperative (Dragačevska zadruga žena) – the latter which grew to a couple of hundred female members who would through weaving make their own economy, and would travel the world. One of the remarkable documents from this time is a documentary film The Best Husband (1968), by Vera Jocić.

 

[resonance]

(Ana:) “I knew these stories since my childhood, but now looking back we detected that they resonate quite well with current, even ‘fashionable’ strands present in the contemporary art world like self-organisation, collectivism, radical education, the socialist project as an emancipatory opportunity, or the empowerment of women. However, these concepts do not easily connect to concepts like competition and profit making.”

Is this ability to connect all of them, and entrepreneurship (the act of organizing and managing an enterprise, esp. a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk – to undertake, attempt, begin up on, fall, initiate, set about, set to, take on, take over, to take upon one…), something that made Rajka’s and Vukašin’s life story exiting and worth telling to the others? Entrepreneurship is usually related to a certain economy and can be even translated as ‘capitalist’. But how does it work when entrepreneurship has a social relevance or is even primarily based on it?

[social entrepreneurship today]

In last two decades in Bosnia and Herzegovina (or Serbia or Croatia for that matter) little has been left of any social trace in entrepreneurship. However, since the start of the economic crisis in 2008, the socially relevant side of business has become more and more important and present in the global discussion. What would socially engaged business and economy be in Bosnia and Herzegovina today, beyond humanitarian crisis, foreign support and external funding?

Starting from fragments originating from Rajka’s and Vukašin’s rich private archive, Taking Common Matter into Your Own Hands constructs a personal and subjective interpretation of the possibilities and motives of entrepreneurship from the life of these two people – and bridges it through a set of ‘open talks’ to the current context of Banja Luka and Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Archival materials that document these initiatives are not just notes from the past but a proposal for the future, examples of a committed and emancipatory entrepreneurial activity as a possible signpost for being able to come to grips with the present social and economic situation of the region, which has been violated by the aggressive and frequently rapinous privatisation and transition to a neoliberal model. With a series of open conversations, the archive, through the interventions of the participants, is activated and transformed, opening up a potential for the imagination of a self-organised and emancipatory activity now and in the future” (Ivana Bago and Antonia Majaca in the exhibition catalogue).


  • [team ] Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen
  • [thanks to] Branka Borojević-Džokić and Zvijezdana Veselinović
  • [curators ] Ivana Bago and Antonia Majača (DeLVe)
  • [organisers ] Protok Association, Banja Luka
  • [background ] Made in and for the context of SPAPORT Biennial: Where Everything Is Yet To Happen, 2nd chapter: Exposures, in Rudi Čajavec factory, Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within the project three ‘open conversations’ sessions were organised with participants from different backgrounds (economy, art, history, tourism, architecture, cultural management). The installation included the documentary film Najbolji muž (Dunav film, 1968), by Vera Jocić.
    Following SPAPORT, Taking common matter into your own hands was exhibited at the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development at the University of Banja Luka, 13 December 2010 – 28 February 2011.
  • [timeline ] exhibition: 30 october – 30 november, 2010, open talks: 2 – 6 november 2010
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