Edina Seleskovic, a contemporary artist from Bosnia and Herzegovina with an international career, is the winner of the World Citizen Artists Award 2020, presented by seven esteemed foundations and cultural institutions of Great Britain: Belgravia Gallery, Gandhi Foundation, PeaceDay365, Bristol Student Union, Emmanuel Jal, Martha Gomez and “This is Mi Brave”. Seleskovic won this global award for the project of a unique art installation Beating Heart tat connects new technologies and contemporary art, audience and creativity.
The Art world has been profoundly affected by this COVID-19 crisis but moreover across the globe its effects are felt in so many other ways: fear, disbelief, economic hardship, struggle, and loss of human life. Yet, incredibly the entire world is connected in this tragedy in the same way. We have realised that we are in this together.
In these difficult times, we need to be reminded of shared values and experiences. My selected piece for the award, Beating Heart, has a symbolic title which gives a sense that our collective heart is still beating strong and bold – our values undiminished and the solidarity stronger than ever.
My art piece is a multimedia installation which focuses on ideas of connectivity. It was first exhibited in front of the National Theatre in Sarajevo, in the Susan Sontag Square, a place that tells a story of Sarajevo’s tragedy but also of Sarajevo’s survival and pride.
I have used contemporary aesthetics and new technologies to send a powerful message through my installation. Through the combination of sculpture, light and sound on a large scale, Beating Heart provides an experience for the viewer that can be shared in both an offline and online world. In trying to encourage the interaction between the artwork and the viewer, my installation strengthens the idea of solidarity.
Art uniquely crosses all borders and can connect us beyond limitations, it is a language understood beyond the time and spaces we find ourselves. People often ask me how messages written on my installations differ from one another. I know that the answer to this question seeks to segregate the public into separate categories.
After talking to thousands of people from countless countries and backgrounds, I know that those messages are proof that we are all allied in our hope for a better world. I strive for my work to be the voice for human rights and freedom, to generate a shared space for us all to engage in a global dialogue.
My fight for human rights began after I was struck by the hand of abominable censorship and political debate. I realised that we don’t consider our rights until they are threatened. I turned to the public, to young people, and in doing so my work was no longer about a solitary studio practice, it became a belief in our basic human rights, a journey, an experience; it became my mission.
I became an artist out of the primal need to survive. I was a teenager when the Bosnian war broke out; I was far away from my homeland, stranded and engulfed in an emotional storm. I turned to art as a way to digest this incomprehensible tragedy. Art was my voice, my lifeline, and ultimately became my form of life. In 1991 I moved to the United States as a high school exchange student. Due to the Bosnian War, I remained in the US and found a new home as well as my life’s calling. I later attended the Corcoran School of Art in Washington DC. After graduating I moved to New York and since then my works have been exhibited in over 50 solo and group exhibitions in galleries throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. New York was the place that became my true home away from home, I immersed myself in its creative influences and complexities. New York shaped me and impacted my work through collaborations with photographers, dancers, fashion designers, filmmakers and performance artists.
After being an exhibiting artist in the United States for 20 years, for the love of my family, I returned to Bosnia, but I found my homeland to be very different. However, I quickly realised that art could be the catalyst for change, that culture can reach far beyond the art world. I felt a duty to replace my studio for the community and my internal narrative for a collective one. On this journey, I found that new technologies combined with large scale installations can engage society and create a meaningful dialogue. I think that it is because of the duality of my experiences in Bosnia and the United States, the union of cultures of my childhood and adulthood, the junction of the East and the West, that I can connect different mediums and allow them to build upon one another.
I strongly believe that solidarity is what will lead us out of this crisis and make us stronger. I have seen solidarity during the Bosnian war when people under siege, who witnessed inexplicable devastation, stayed united in their resolve to overcome while erasing their differences.
My work encompasses various materials with different approaches, but I always include a single idea of an emotional narration of my life experiences. I find inspiration in everything I do every day. I am certain that without art I would not be complete. At the core of my site-specific installations is always sculptural work. I view these sculptures as platforms for diverse mediums, with light, sound, and interactive applications as integral parts of the installation. My multimedia approach extends the life of each piece, providing different experiences at night and during the day, viewed from up close or afar, in physical and digital spaces. In each piece I am trying to break down barriers between the creator and the viewer. I don’t expect the audience to come to me, I wish to go to them while temporarily changing the spaces that they know well, spaces which carry special meanings.
I believe that art can be the paramount vehicle to demonstrate the importance of solidarity, even when our lives are not in danger. Art is our light in a time of darkness.
Life has shown me how important ideas of freedom and solidarity are, but also that they are often disregarded in our contemporary society. Solidarity among artists can intensify our voices and allow our collective voice to reach further afield. Undoubtedly, art touches us on a primal level; it is inherently a form of communication and connection. Ultimately, it can teach us how to cherish the connection between people beyond cultural, historical, political or economic barriers. For me, art still has the universal power to inspire; I believe that it can help to restore trust by giving us hope, imagination and creativity in order to build freedom and connectivity. I believe that art can build a better world.