Bojan Sarcevic: Carlier / Gebauer

By Allen, Jennifer | Artforum International, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Bojan Sarcevic: Carlier / Gebauer


Allen, Jennifer, Artforum International


Does culture evolve like nature? Bojan Sarcevic seems determined to find out. His oeuvre reads like an attempt to test Darwin's theory of evolution on various cultural phenomena: clothing, music, design. Unlike the great naturalist, Sarcevic is interested in exploring how cultural practices adapt more than in affirming that only the fittest survive, as his previous works show. The DVD Il semble que l'animal est dans le monde comme l'eau dans l'eau (It seems that the animal is in the world as water in water), 1999, was an early experiment about changing habitat: The artist put a few of man's best friends into a church, where they barked, sniffed, and wandered. For the DVD Cover Versions, 2001, Sarcevic tackled the phylogeny of music by asking an Istanbul band to play contemporary Western pop songs in the medieval Arabic Maqam style.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Recently, Sarcevic has been turning his attention to the cultural equivalents of ossification: the printed word and image. His publications Zurvival guid [sic], 2002, and Une heureuse regression (A happy regression), 2004, are both survival guides written in phonetic English--not the international phonetic alphabet but what appears to be Sarcevic's own Serbo-Francophone interpretation of how English might be spelled. Or "zpelt." While every foreign accent attests to a process of adaptation, Sarcevic's own misspellings graphically suggest that written English is itself an adaptation of spoken English, even when spoken by native speakers. Any English dictionary guide would concur: The printed word is not a recording of the human voice but a formal manifestation of language, which can outlive a voice. English survives by eliminating the phonetic foibles of individual speakers but its future lies with a growing group of non-native speakers like Sarcevic, who are bound to introduce new peculiarities.

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