Crystal Clean: Signs of Change
October 18th - November 6th 2023
Crystal Clean is a multidisciplinary art project launched in 2019 by graphic designer Dora Bilandžić and cultural manager Andrea Šarić, engaged around the topic of new relationships with nature in society. The project is motivated by response to the climate crisis, the loss of biodiversity and other consequences of the modern consumer society. The main purpose of the project is to empower individuals to take individual action, advocate a stronger connection with nature and community building. The exhibition in Prostor is the result of a residency visit and several months of research in Split and Dalmatia, in the framework of the project “New Eco Realities: Crystal Clean”. The authors of the project have talked to the people from the local community, food growers, and individuals who embrace alternative lifestyles. They have distilled their impressions and thoughts into a series of new experimental media works that address the problems they encountered, possible directions, and solutions.
Given that for the purposes of this exhibition you have been dealing with issues of consumerism, climate crisis, environmental pollution in the area of Split and Dalmatia for several months, what kind of reactions and answers did you encounter?
We are grateful for the opportunity to explore the topics we deal with in Dalmatia. It is a place that is very close to us, that we love very much and that is abundant in natural beauty. However, the process of artistic research gave us insight into some difficult and disappointing realities. We all know about the possible problems created by mass apartment building, overfishing, pollution of the sea with waste water and plastic, etc. But staying in Split outside the summer season and talking to the local community, growers and people who live an alternative lifestyle helped us to better understand the extent of the problem, and the fact that as individuals we are often unable to react to the ecological challenges that are in front of us.
Crystal Clean deals, among other things, with the collective attitude towards the environment and living beings in it, and now that focus has been directed to Dalmatia and the Adriatic Sea. Do you notice any prominent determinants, phenomena in society's relationship to the sea?
We were forced to face forms of carelessness about the sea that we knew about, but also those that we didn't, such as the problem of disposal of wastewater and sewage, which most often ends up in the sea. If it was only about the local population, this would not necessarily create a worrying problem, but this summer Croatia was visited by over 6 million tourists, which greatly burdens the existing systems and significantly affects the environment. Also, overfishing has terribly devastated the living world of the Adriatic Sea.
How demanding was it to find individuals who advocate an alternative lifestyle in these areas? In your opinion, is this a reflection of the general state of awareness of Dalmatians?
Due to Dora's networking with permaculturists, it was not difficult to find individuals who advocate an alternative lifestyle in Split, however, these individuals are very few. During regular visits to the market and conversations with older farmers, we learned that the lifestyle close to nature and home-grown food is quickly being lost, and many older people note that their children and grandchildren are showing less and less interest in their fields or gardens, and that on most of the arable land, olive monoculture and conventional agriculture are still promoted. This is certainly a reflection of the general state of the consumerist society, including Split and Dalmatia. In general, both in the north and in the south of Croatia, people who live outside the cities have a much stronger and closer relationship with nature and more often grow their own food.
What does your creative process look like, from the research process to translating the results into visuals? During this months-long research and communication with people from the local community, did you come across any surprises, any unexpected results?
It is fun and intuitive. We are guided by things that make us happy, we look at problems that are collectively avoided by society and we search for simple and powerful ways to convey the messages that we consider important. The result that we really did not expect are the signs that we present at the exhibition. Retrospectively, we recognize the pattern in a series of photos we took during our stay in Split, but we really didn't expect to get involved in making real "traffic" signs. Also, in the process of research, we discovered a real self-sustaining property in Solin, managed by Ivan, who generously shared his knowledge and perspective with us. Already during our first visit to Split and residential stay in January 2023, we felt the beginning of a dialogue regarding the topics we are dealing with, and we hope to show the exhibition in other cities in Croatia as well. (in conversation with Željka Vuko)
The exhibition is part of the "Spaces of Sustainability" program that Platform "Culture Hub Croatia" is implementing in 2023 as part of the creative hub Prostor. The program "New Eco Realities: Crystal Clean" is supported by the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia. The work of the Platform "Culture Hub Croatia" is supported by the National Foundation for the Development of Civil Society and the Kultura nova Foundation.
Curator: Jasmina Šarić / Technical setup: Marino Vukasović / Assistant: Željka Vuko
Photos: Karla Polić (Kartolina) / Glorija Lizde