NMMU: With the exhibition “A Stone on the Branch,” you continue your “work in progress” - a complex artistic project that you intend to develop across various mediums and disciplines, through several consecutive exhibitions and different exhibition spaces. Which artworks will you showcase in this exhibition at the Josip Račić Gallery?
AMELA FRANKL: The four artworks I am showcasing at the Josip Račić Gallery are part of the project “Black Glass on the Way” which I started developing in 2019 after my first trip to Mauritania. This exhibition is titled after an artwork that summarizes the feelings and thoughts that preoccupied me there. The piece “…if I were to close my eyes now” is one of the first works in which I describe my astonishment and excitement with the desert. “PK22” presents a recording of the local fishing method, simultaneously capturing a beautiful choreography and the harsh realities of life. Then there is a video recording of a performance from 2022 that I staged on the way to the geological formation of the Gelb er Richat. “The Last Motif but One” is a work in which I attempt to erase the traces of car tires on a sandy road, envisioning my own disappearance, getting lost in space.
NMMU: Those who visit Africa say that it is an invaluable experience that generally changes a person’s perception of the world and their outlook on life, and that from that point on one always longs to return to Africa. Is that the case with you, and what does “your Africa” mean to you?
AMELA FRANKL: Oh, yes. I remember friends and acquaintances asking me, “...so, how was it?”, after my first return. After taking a deep breath, I was pleasantly perplexed that I remained speechless. My encounter with Africa was thrillingly shocking. I immediately decided to convey this personal experience through my artwork, which is how the project “Black Glass on the Way” was born. “A Stone on the Branch” represents me in Africa. Each artwork is my somewhat unusual, quirky, liberating African self-portrait.
NMMU: What was going through your mind during your stay in Mauritania? Which encounter did you find most impressive?
AMELA FRANKL: I found everything impressive: the heat that enveloped my old European bones, the orange haze rising over the city, the Socrates-like figures in long robes, the camels, mythological animals…
NMMU: How do you incorporate personal stories and life situations into your artwork?
AMELA FRANKL: Exactly as the project “Black Glass on the Way” and the works I present at the “Josip Račić” Gallery are created. Each person I mention in the texts is real, every situation I talk about was experienced, and I myself am a participant in each one. Of course, there is always the question of how to make a distant, unknown world and my personal stories interesting to the audience. This is a principle that applies to all of my work. Being present in my own work is the best way for me to be authentic.
NMMU: After the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, you continued your training in Cologne and Paris: how did this influence your work and what impression did those two cities leave on you?
AMELA FRANKL: Temporary departure from Zagreb was definitely a new life experience for me, but also an additional process of maturing in my work. Cologne is a quiet university city, and my stay there was regulated by my student status. More than any attractions Paris has to offer, I found its bookstores and the accessibility of books and knowledge fascinating. Perhaps this is the reason why I find it difficult to conceive of a work without incorporating some form of writing.
NMMU: Is there an artwork that you find particularly fascinating?
AMELA FRANKL: Perhaps the composition “Les Barricades mystérieuses” by François Couperin, maybe because of its mysterious title.
NMMU: If you had to name an artist whom you greatly admire, who would it be?
AMELA FRANKL: Definitely Pier Paolo Pasolini, an exceptional 20th century artist and intellectual.
NMMU: Favourite writer or literary work?
AMELA FRANKL: Albert Camus’s novel “The Stranger” resonated deeply with me.
NMMU: In your works you communicate with Greek gods: why are you particularly interested in Greek mythology?
AMELA FRANKL: The theme of Greek gods and heroes permeated the work “Diary from the Edge of the Desert.” Greek mythology opens up a realm of imagination, the stories are unfinished, and the heroes are perpetually transforming. Greek myths reveal how the Greeks regulated their relationships with mighty gods, they echo another world and set of values... In Mauritania, I found traces of Greek heroes and gods.
NMMU: The focus of your work is the relationship between the individual and the community, as well as our responsibility towards the past and history. In that regard, what does freedom mean to you?
AMELA FRANKL: Yes, in some of my works, particularly those concerning the theme of the Holocaust, which has been a constant preoccupation, the past and the present intertwine and are in constant interaction. Being aware of this interaction is freedom to me.
Interviewed by: Lana Šetka © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
A Stone on a Branch, 2022/2023
Poster series, digital print on paper, jet coat 200 gr, 70 x 50 cm
Videostill: Miran Krčadinac
Poster design: BilicMuller Design Studio
Proofreading: Martina Fryda Kaurimsky
Translation and adaption into English: Ljiljana Culjak
Tisak: Kvikprint, d.o.o., Zagreb