Domagoj Burilović / Terraforming
When low and heavy sky weighs like a lid
Upon the spirit moaning in ennui,
And when, spanning the circle of the world,
It pours a black day sadder than our nights;
When earth is changed into a sweaty cell,
In which Hope, captured, like a frantic bat,
Batters the walls with her enfeebled wing,
Striking her head against the rotting beams;
When steady rain trailing its giant train
Descends on us like heavy prison bars,
And when a silent multitude of spiders
Spins its disgusting threads deep in our brains,
Bells all at once jump out with all their force,
And hurl about a mad cacophony
As if they were those lost and homeless souls
Who send a dogged whining to the skies.
—And long cortèges minus drum or tone
Deploy morosely through my being: Hope
The conquered, moans, and tyrant Anguish gloats—
In my bowed skull he fixed his black flag.
With the exhibition “Terraforming,” Domagoj Burilović presents a series of fourteen digital photographs (each 53 x 80 cm) of the same name, printed out on Forex boards. The name of the exhibition itself, “Terraforming,” is taken from scientific and science fiction jargon. It signifies a hypothetical process which refers to the shaping and treating of extraterrestrial earth in order to make it suitable for human life, or rather to make the living conditions as similar as possible to those on Earth. The literal translation of the term means the formation of soil, of earth. The irony rests in the fact that the scenes of devastation which we observe on these photographs were not taken in some bleak, dehumanized, remote location on the edge of a galaxy which we are attempting to make inhabitable. Instead, they were taken in Slavonia which is trying to be made uninhabitable – in a once-rich, pronouncedly agricultural region which is connected to the earth and fertility in the collective memory, and which has all the natural prerequisites to be one of the wealthiest, not one of the poorest regions in the country. Seen from such an angle, these photographs are a portrait of our disgrace in a concrete space and recent time, a disgrace that has been ongoing for decades, and to which there is no end in sight. They announce and denounce the political, economic, demographic, ecological, cultural, and social tragedy, inferiority, infirmity, and indifference which have been imprinted into the earth and thus created a hostile environment for human life: war (a bunker, the Ovčara mass grave, a minefield), a failed economy (the Agrokor agricultural company, a closed tilery, artificial lakes created as a result of clay excavations, an abandoned clay digger), floods, neglected culture (a devastated medieval church), ecological pollution (an illegal dump), negative demographics (villages disappearing, cemeteries expanding). They were created in a span of two years and cover the area of Eastern Slavonia in which the artist himself lives, and which was to the greatest extent affected by war, a failing industry, poverty… Which finally resulted in a mass emigration of the population, an exodus that provides the framework and trigger for these photographs which emanate entropy; with the focus being on the earth, and the fog suggesting an atmosphere of alienation, the unfamiliar, unearthly, and unabiding. The process of incubation – noting, sketching, and deliberating upon the work – lasted almost a year. The author knew he wanted to do something with the earth as his basis since Slavonia, being an agricultural region, is stereotypically related to the earth. Initially, he thought of just photographing all the repercussions of the tragedy of our recent past which had imprinted themselves upon the earth. Contemplating the name of the series, he reached the term terraforming and, from it, derived the final version of the work considering how to depict Slavonia as an extraterrestrial surface and so present a dismal atmosphere which also depicts the mental state of the people left in the region. What followed was an exploration of the locations and photographing which lasted slightly over a year, or rather the duration of two autumns. During that time, the foggy atmosphere entirely suited him because, as Domagoj himself says, the fog erases everything unimportant from the camera frame; or it respectively gives an overtone of versatility, mystique, and secrecy even to that which is not important. Given that fog is s scattered and transitory occurrence, it proved extremely problematic to photograph certain locations (some of them were covered with a very dense fog which gave Domagoj the opportunity to take photos only once or twice in a given year, on top of which he had to get the timing right). Fog is a morning occurrence, which meant getting up at four or five in the morning so he could arrive at a specific location on time. And he often did not have the opportunity to do so if he had to work the morning shift. In the final version, he chose the visually and contextually most appropriate locations, whereby many of them were, of course, abandoned. The series depicts Slavonia as a destroyed land as well as everything that brought this about (war, floods, a broken industry, ecologic and cultural decline, and an aging population). Every photograph in the series also carries the location description in its title. Such as the grave with an epitaph on its tombstone bearing witness to death which ceases to be a specific, individual fate. Life itself thus becomes a kind of parallel world, something unusual that beckons to us as we are burying its remains. Such are the two parallel dimensions of any existence: that of its history and its visible unfolding, and that of its becoming, a transfusion of forms towards these parallel universes, a devolution, an anamorphosis of the will. Double life entails the notion of double death. In one of these two lives you may already be dead, doubtless without knowing it. Sometimes it is the dead element that pulls the living along. In faces even, often one part is alive and the other already dead. A double life entitles you to two deaths – and why not two amorous passions at the same time? So long as they remain parallel, all is well. It is when their paths cross that the danger arises. You may from time to time desert your life – one of the two – and take refuge in the other. (…) Just as the person who loses his shadow becomes the shadow of himself.
 Charles Baudelaire, Spleen (IV) / The Flowers of Evil, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford, 1993.
 Jean Baudrillard, The Intelligence of Evil or the Lucidity Pact, Berg Publishers, Oxford, 2005.
Born in 1987 in Vinkovci. He earned his graduate degree from the Painting Department of the Arts Academy of the University of Split, in the class of professor Dean Jokanović Toumin. He is engaged in conceptual art photography and pedagogical work. In his artistic work, he deals with social and political topics.
Important Group Exhibitions:
2019 HT award – Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb,
2019 Triennial of Expanded Media – Cvijeta Zuzorić Pavilion, Belgrade,
2017 Photodays finalists – Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb,
2016 3rd Croatian Youth Photography Biennial, Zadar,
2014 Slavko Kopač Gallery, Vinkovci,
2013 Split Salon, Split,
2012 Triennial of Croatian Sculpture,
2012 Galić Gallery, Split…
2019 Photon Gallery, Ljubljana,
2018 Museum of Arts and Crafts, Zagreb,
2018 Italian Association of Rovinj, Rovinj,
2013 Rovinj Heritage Museum, Rovinj,
2012 Gallery of Fine Arts, Split,
2007 Multicultural Center, Županja
2017 Rovinj Photodays Grand Prix
2017 1st place for the artistic concept of Rovinj Photodays
2017 2nd place at the Photography Salon, Vinkovci
2012 Young Artists Award – Rovinj Heritage Museum, Rovinj
The work Post Factum is part of the collection of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb
2019 HT Award – Finalists Exhibition
2018 – relief of the memorial plaque for the writer Miroslav S. Mađer
2019 – relief of the memorial plaque for the pharmacologist Julije Domac