The Living Museum

History Museum of Bosnia & Hercegovina, Bosnia & Hercegovina, 2019

This project is a follow-on from ‘Art & Reconciliation’ in 2018. See the project website for more on this:

Milena Michalski artist

in a different light

Site-specific installation at the History Museum of BiH, Sarajevo, Bosnia

5 silver gelatin black & white photographs in mounts, 5 digital colour photographs in mounts, 5 photographic and text collages in mounts, Par light, 2019

Milena Michalski artist

My installation ‘in a different light’ considers the History Museum itself, architecturally and conceptually, in different lights. The Museum can be seen as an exhibit in its own right, and simultaneously also as a highly contemporary, vital entity, as evidenced in the title of ‘The Living Museum’ project, of which this work is part. The installation opened on 1st November 2019, the start of ‘Museum Month’ there.

The Museum of the Revolution, as it was initially called, was ‘based on contemporary museological principles within contemporary architectonic forms.’ This installation reflects on the shifting significance of this for the History Museum, as it is today, over half a century later.

I took the photographs in this exhibition in July this year, during my residency at the Museum. I shot the black and white section on 35mm film, they are silver gelatin photographs, whereas the pictures shot partially through coloured filters are digital. The latter also feature in the collages.

The text spread across the collages, ‘coloured glass destroys all hatred’, is a phrase from Paul Scheerbart’s 1914 treatise Glass Architecture, in which he imagined a utopian future filled with cities of crystal, and floating continents of chromatic glass. Scheerbart’s ideas on the link between glass architecture and a better future society influenced architects and writers, including Bruno Taut, Walter Benjamin and Mies van der Rohe. An early article on the Museum  of the Revolution labels it in the style of ‘Mies’, because of its modernist steel and glass construction. ’in a different light’ alludes to this early modernist period, visually, but also to the mid-1960s, as the collages with text relate specifically to Vojo Dimitrijevic’s abstract stained glass artwork with the slogan ‘Death to Fascism’.

My ‘Living Museum’ Residency, Museum of BiH, Sarajevo

In July 2019 I had a residency at the History Museum of BiH, as part of ‘The Living Museum’ project. I worked mainly in the Museum’s darkroom, printing from archival glass plates and negatives from the History Museum’s collection. I also made some experimental camera obscura photographs using adapted exhibits, such as war-damaged helmets and makeshift stoves, and took a series of architectural photographs of the Museum, including with its precious 1950s medium format Rolleiflex camera.

Work from my residency is being exhibited in two exhibitions in Sarajevo, together with other artists whom we have commissioned to make work in response to the Museum’s collection of socialist art. The first exhibition,  showing both the socialist art and the new interventions, is: ‘Contemporary Contexts: Re-Imagining Socialist Images’, History Museum of BiH, Sarajevo, Bosnia, 10-30 October 2019.

‘Contemporary Contexts’ is curated by Museum curator Elma Hodzic, and includes work by artists Dzenan Hadzihasanovic, Smirna Kulenovic, Andrea Mirnic, Meliha Teparic and me.


‘Reconciliations’, History Museum of Bosnia & Hercegovina, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Hercegovina, 2018.

The collage/print series ‘Reconciliations’ and sculptural installation ‘Safe Water for Sarajevo’ on display at ‘REconciliations’, in Sarajevo.


‘Reconciliations I’ and ‘Reconciliations II’ are pigment ink prints, displayed in the gallery space.

‘Reconciliations III’ is a translucent, acetate collage with a drawing of a cross-section of the History Museum. It is installed in the Museum’s main entrance, alongside Vojo Dimitrijevic’s war-damaged, stained glass, window artwork.

‘Safe Water for Sarajevo’ is a line from an article in the New York Times about the provision of clean water to homes during the siege of Sarajevo, in which ‘safe’ refers to the purity of the water, but also to not having to dodge snipers. In this installation, the crumbling concrete, protruding wires and broken glass allude to architectural ruins, while at the same time the glasses and bottles suggest a domestic setting for socialising — all made impossible.

‘Safe Water for Sarajevo’ installation in the gallery space of the History Museum.