PREMIKI / Photographic (Communities of) Displacement

MediaNox gallery, Maribor, Slovenia
13 Julij - 10 September 2017

The exhibition explores issues related to participatory photography, including questions of voice (whose voice is represented, recognized and heard?), and the dynamics imbued in the process of working collaboratively, including questions of authorship and relations of horizontality. Specific attention is given, first, to participatory photography as a tool of agency and emancipation through which a different kind of citizenship and community can be enacted, and second, to plants as catalysts for the activation of such citizenship and community.

The exhibition interrogates the often taken-for-granted distinction between photographer, subject and viewer and challenges traditional conceptions of the roles, responsibilities and power relationships that emerge between photographer, subject and viewer. In doing so, it also explores the possibilities for rethinking and re-contextualising photography and the photograph as critical, emancipatory practice that can engender a community grounded not in the self-sameness and closure of essentialised national identities, but in the recognition of unity in difference.

The works in this exhibition address these themes, and hope to act as catalysts for conversation, knowledge sharing and solidarity in relation to issues that concern us all locally and globally.

Works on display in the upper floor gallery explore the relationship between climate change and displacement. Produced as part of a two-part residency at Darat Al Funun Foundation (1) in Amman, Jordan, the works take as a starting point research from Columbia University (2015) that illuminates the connections between crop failure in Syria and immigration into Jordan (and further into Europe). Climate change, caused largely by consumption in the West has, between 2007 and 2011, contributed to the worst drought in Syrian history. The drought led to a mass exodus of rural farm-workers into the city, exacerbating existing social tensions and potentially contributing to the outbreak of civil war, which in turn, lead to further migration from Syria, including to Jordan.

In collaboration with fellow artist Corinne Silva and scientist William Nelson, (who prepared research on the future adaptation of plants to climate change), Sajovic worked with Syrian farmers who are currently living in Informal Tent Settlements in Jordan and provide the work force on neighbouring farms, with Syrian and Egyptian farmers involved in large-scale agriculture, and with those involved in smaller permaculture projects.

Coming into an area of displacement as an outsider, methodological issues around voice, representation and participation were amplified for Sajovic, who in order to process them, subsequently worked in collaboration with Chiara Perini and a group of men (largely migrants from Pakistan and Afganistan) living in ‘hospitality apartments’ in Cormons, Italy. Participants in this project used photography to narrate their stories, resulting in a collaborative co-production of a series of portraits and texts on display in the lower gallery and on the outside wall.

Photographs of plants interspersed throughout the exhibition space are analogue prints made from slides that the artist took in Jordan. The resulting images are negative impressions, a technique she uses to encourage a different kind of looking. Images of plants juxtaposed with images of a head of the Ain Ghazal (2) statue photographed in the Jordan Archaeological Museum connect with ideas of agency, activation, voice and the importance of considering the past in order to move forward. This is also represented by the image of the Roman city of Gerasa juxtaposed over the modern city of Jerash.

Over the course of both projects, which involved participatory photography and consideration of plant life, it became apparent that both participatory photography and plants can act as catalysts for the activation of communities and citizenship grounded in the not unrelated sharing of knowledge and experience of plant life and the shared experience displacement. Both participatory photography and plant life contributed to the creation of a common space between human beings, bringing the photographer, subject (and eventually viewer) into a social and political relationship, and indeed, a community that functions also as a call to action.


  • (1) Darat al Funun is an Art Foundation situated in six renovated historical buildings and a restored archaeological site in the garden, constructed in the 1920s by Jordanian, Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian families. One of the buildings was the official residence of a British Commander of the Arab Legion. The buildings and gardens have a direct link to the history of colonial expansion and designation of territory in the region.
  • (2) The Ain Ghazal statues are the oldest statues ever made by a human being, made between 6000 and 8000 B.C., Jordan Archaeological Museum (located in the Amman Citadel, built in 1951). They are formed by modelling moist plaster from limestone on a reed core using plants that grew along the banks of the Zarqa River.
Using Format