AZRA AKŠAMIJA | Palimpsest of '89. Institutions of the Common.

Azra Akšamija

Palimpsest of '89. Institutions of the Common.

Artistic installation



Project team: Blanca Abramek (patterns), Joshuah Howard (animation), Kristen Wu (stencils)


Palimpsest of '89. Institutions of the Common is an artistic installation exploring the role of cultural institutions in shaping the common heritage of Yugoslavia through the lens of Sarajevo’s cultural institutions. The underlying thesis is that the region’s history has been “written and rewritten” through the work of institutions that have been framing and preserving a common heritage. The installation is conceived both as exhibition furniture and as a conceptual, structuring format that organizes the exhibition through specific historical contexts. The first idea translates into museum shipping crates, representing the museum as an institution that preserves cultural memory and frames common heritage. The second idea translates into a “palimpsestic carpet,” which proposes a way of thinking about the creation of common heritage through the weaving of integrative and disintegrative narratives and policies related to cultural institutions. Taken together, these two ideas inform the design of the exhibition architecture in the form of museum shipping crates painted with carpet-like patterns that provide the historical context for the interpretation of the work on display.


Carpet iconography functions like a form of storytelling and history writing. The carpet patterns of this exhibition depict the creation of a common heritage through certain cultural institutions that were founded throughout various periods of Sarajevo’s history:

1. The Pre-Modern (Pre-Ottoman and Ottoman),

2. The Modern / Austro-Hungarian,

3. The Modern / Socialist, and

4. The Post-Dayton Period (1995–2016).


Each of these periods translates into a layer of the palimpsestic carpet. With each room, more and more symbols are added to the carpet, while others are revised or erased. The largest, central space of the exhibition focuses on the period of the War of 1992–95 as well as on the now, represented through an analog / digital carpet in the center of the space. This carpet brings together the constantly changing digital animation of all of the patterns from all exhibition rooms with the real-time crisis of common heritage today and in the future. For the exhibition opening, this carpet will re-enact Azra Akšamija’s Digesting Dayton project, inviting exhibition visitors to eat away at the inter-ethnic borders established through the 1990s war and institutionalized through the Dayton Peace Accord of 1995, which now stands in the way of peaceful coexistence. Throughout the exhibition, the analog dimension of the carpet will be created through textile encounters between Slovenian craftswomen with the Ljubljana-based Bosnian refugees from the 1990s and the current asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and other places.


Descriptions of the carpet patterns [PDF].

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