Irena Lagator Pejović


Occupying/Liberating Space and Time

C-prints: 2005/2008/2010/2013/2015
70 x 100 cm, each (ongoing series)
the sea is My Land - Artisti dal Mediterraneo. MAXXI, spazio D, Rome, Italy. Curated by: Francesco Bonami and Emanuela Mazzonis.
D´une Méditerranée, l´autre - FRAC - Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Marseille, curators: Francesco Bonami, Emanuela Mazzonis, Pascal Neveux, Ricardo Vazquez.
Photo: Irena Lagator

Occupying/Liberating Space and Time, 2005-2015, is a series of photographs visualizing an ongoing life, but also the relation between human beings, material conditions of their lives and environment. I took these photographs over the course of ten years in an almost abandoned town in Montenegro, Rijeka Crnojevića, whose social, cultural and economic life deteriorated after the construction of a new magistral road in the 80’s between bigger towns in its vicinity i.e. “business” and “cultural” capitals of Montenegro, Podgorica and Cetinje.

In the windows of an abandoned space the only remaining form of life was the collection of plants that grew freely over time. The outside layer of the window glass contains a layer of gray color that had initially been laid on to cover the windows, but that has been removed by the remaining townsfolk day after day, in order to give light and foster life back to the plants. A simple act, in a small deserted town, that takes on a universal significance while exceeding reflections upon societal structures in Montenegro.

I returned at regular intervals to photograph this twofold process that shows a peaceful occupation by the plants from the inside, and simultaneously a poetic liberation by the anonymous passers-by who felt the responsibility to interact with it. In this photographic staging, my intention was to make the freedom of thought and the independence of civil judgment visible, which celebrates and protects non-human forms of life, as well as to discuss the effects of inequalities.

The occupation of space is not just geo-political; it is personal too, if we occupy the lives of others with existential questions fostering displacement of people like it happened here. Therefore, I’m interested in redefining the role of the citizen by showing the importance of her critical presence, perception and awareness of political and economic structures that shape our lives. The question that comes to mind here is how we can modify the meaning of the occupation and escape as processes toward their more inclusive and human version, while celebrating common values and space in the common world.