“PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS (2018)

Gallery MuzeuMM, Los Angeles

November 2018

“PRAYER FOR TRAVELERS: Diary of an Immigrant” was a recent solo exhibition by Vojislav Radovanovic a.k.a. Mr.Voice Love that featured two related series; an art-installation featuring hand-painted flags and more traditional drawings on the gallery walls, creating a dialogue about the exhibition’s themes. As a recent immigrant to the USA, Vojislav explored themes of displacement, identity, cultural heritage, and memory. The undercurrents touch upon his own Serbian country’s war-torn past, the pain of Native American history and the genocide brought on by settlers, and contemporary political topics like the current US immigration policy.

The main motif among the featured works are weeds, wild plants generally defined by growing places they are not desired. While weeds are often seen as unwelcome and intrusive, they come in an amazing and beautiful variety, some of them containing beneficial traits, medicinal properties, nutritious value, and most of all possessing the strength to survive harsh conditions and adapt to new surroundings. The weeds become poetic representations of marginalized people and immigrants. The weed knows no boundaries, no borders; they are universal.

As Terence McKenna once wrote, “We can begin the restructuring of thought by declaring legitimate what we have denied for so long. Lets us declare Nature to be legitimate. The notion of illegal plants is obnoxious and ridiculous in the first place.”

 

The solo exhibition's central feature was a piece entitled “Waiting for the Wind,” which featured a handmade acrylic painting of weeds on a large white textile flag arranged in the center of the gallery surrounded/imprisoned by a chain-link fence. Flags are objects used to define a collective group, ideology, and/or country. The weed-covered flags defy the traditional emblematic constructs and patterns of the flag used to mark territory, for weeds free to roam on the fabric as they wish organically. Trapped within the human-made chain link fence, the flag drops on the floor, waiting, as the title suggests, for the winds (of change) to come along and bring it aloft again. A fence (or wall as people want to build to keep out immigrants) can not stop the wind or flag from eventually flying once more. The current policy of imprisoning illegal immigrants in detainment cages is hopefully merely a temporary lapse in humanity, although it shines a light upon the countries numerous past atrocities, like the genocide of indigenous people of Turtle Island (what is today called America). A small pile of soil lies on the ground next to the flag. The soil is full of human-made chemical fertilizer, a commentary on the terrible mismanagement of the environment by human hands and symbolizing man’s attempt at “improvement” upon the natural world. Upon the small pile are two actual arrowheads, found in the cornfields of Iowa by a farmer in his fields and gifted to Vojislav on his travels, a further commentary to the fate of many of the land’s indigenous populations.

 

“We are all immigrants,” the artist relates (in a review by author Genie Davis for the publication Art & Cake magazine). “I’ve been depicting weeds in my art for years as a representation of minorities and immigrants; we see weeds as bad plants, and yet weeds have the power to survive and are natural.” He notes that contemporary agriculture, with its focus on weeding-out, “is all about the many poisons on the earth that you can now buy in Home Depot.” In short, in his analogy, wiping out weeds may wipe out the very essence of agricultural life, and in the same way, driving out immigrants may indeed eliminate the healthy diversity, growth, and natural migration of the world’s population.

 

As part of the flag series, Vojislav created pictures and videos while traveling across the United States waving the weed-covered flag among picturesque Los Angeles cityscapes and places beyond, redefining territory claims and ideas and conquest. In this way, Vojislav stakes his own claims using the boundless properties of weeds to champion the immigrant's determination to survive and thrive.

 

Series two from his exhibition involves works on paper, possessing another conceptual dimension: the process of recreation from destruction. When Vojislav Radovanovic came to America two years ago, he brought his own unique currency; a portfolio of previous works on paper. Inspired by modern and contemporary American art, abstract expressionism, and mid-century modernism, he began a new series of drawings based on tearing apart the old works. He destroyed the past to create a new body of work in his new home country. This latest series involves a collage procedure that reassembles dozens of past works, new drawings and paintings, pages torn from the bible, and various travel maps.

 

One of those drawings depicts a boat made out of a folded map floating upon a dark ocean of the phrase “I want to grow old” over and over again. Vojislav explains that the piece harkens back to his experience growing up in his war-torn country of Serbia. He was born a Yugoslavian but woke up one morning with a “new identity” as a Serbian. He was just 17 years old when NATO dropped bombs upon his hometown close to him, and he recalls just wanting to escape the chaos and have the opportunity to grow old.

 

“Prayer for Travelers” proposes many questions, offering forth a different point of view for consideration while setting out on a very universal quest for love and understanding. Like previous work, Vojislav’s new series is oriented towards environmentalism, social ecology, and understanding ancient and contemporary culture.