Contexts Gallery, Paris, April 2 – May 14, 2016
Renata Poljak’s film and photo collages titled Partenza (Italian for departure, as used in many of Croatia’s coastal dialects) express the global insecurity of contemporary society and the fragility of human existence. Metaphorically, they address a story about departure, anticipation and separation, dictated by migrations. In the early 20th century, it was usual yet traumatic for men to leave Croatian islands due to poverty and hunger. One of these tragic stories is weaved into the artist’s own family history; this series of works is inspired by the life story of Renata’s great-grandmother who lived on the island of Brač and whose husband went to Chile looking for work in order to secure his family’s future. Like many of the island’s women, she waited for her husband who, like many of those men, never returned.
Partenza is simultaneously the homage to the contemporary tragedies of migrants at sea. The author uses this phenomenon as a connecting thread and a reminder that not so long ago, and even nowadays, we are in the same boat. Therefore, Poljak links two stories about migration – the one of Croatia from the early 20th century and today’s plight of African and Asian refugees. The work utilizes migrant and refugee stories that constantly repeat throughout history. It powerfully and suggestively points to the human condition as fragile and susceptible to political, economic and social changes.