ROCK’N ROLL ETHNOLOGY or Marija’s filigree pavements
When Marija phoned me recently, a long time after she graduated at the Institute of Ethnology where I was her assistant, it took me some time to realize who she was – that’s not so odd, having in mind that for me, and for many of her generation, she was and still is not just “Marija” but Marija Azra, due to the earring she had made for herself, presenting the name of her favorite band. It would be equally true if she would present herself as Marija Haustor, EKV or Partybreakers. But after our last meeting, she is registered in my mobile as – Marija Filigree.
Stereotypically, the term “tradition” has a conservative tone, it is considered something that is transmitted from generation to generation, that could be extinct, but never changed. The eager “keepers of tradition”, through defining a certain way of doing things as traditional, somehow seal its destiny, hibernating it in time and space, and not allow it to “breathe” and adjust to the new circumstances. Although this list of virtual, or even imagined traditional elements contains some that are not traditional at all, insisting that things should be done in a pre-arranged, repetitive way, that does not allow individual creation, is in fact an attempt to provide a certain artificial stability and continuity, in a life and in a world whose only constant feature is change and instability. Finally, even the “folk genius”, although anonymous, is not an abstract entity, but a human made of flesh and blood, someone who has let his or her mark in the creation and transmission of folk works. Tradition could be a foundation upon which individual creation is built. The technique or the tools could be traditional, but the artistic expression could still be contemporary – like when a musician uses a bag-pipe to play techno. How will the result of this experiment be estimated, either as a vulgarization of tradition, or as its new aesthetic achievement, depends on the talent of the author. And Marija is surely talented.
The combination of filigree and ex-Yugoslav music is somehow strange, to say the least. Some of the pieces literally create music (they tinkle, vibrate or knock), but they are, above everything else, a personal, materialized interpretation of the words of each chosen song – materialized poetry. Those who are in love with these verses, the same way Marija is, either as a souvenir from their youth, or as their present preference, will immediately “translate” the objects’ forms and colors into the well known, legendary lines. The filigree girl in a summer dress can only be the one from “Djevojke u ljetnim haljinama volim” (“I love girls in summer dresses”), the tiger eye honey-colored piece can only associate to “Ochi boje meda” (“Honey-colored eyes”), while the long slim cigarette and the pair of spurs can only be Shein’s (“Shein”). In the middle of them all, the great Phantom of Liberty (Johnny Stulic), who requires from everyone to show what they are able to do.
To complete the story, musicians are being photographed together with the works, that are in turn inspired by their own works. Is there a better way to close the circle made of thin silver thread? Lajner and Hrnjak, Rambo, Rundek and everyone else whose music inspired Marija were thrilled by the idea. The instruments that she “plays” may not be musical, but her passion for music and her respect for the people that create it is huge. How can anyone be indifferent to this?
Enjoy the exhibition and the jewelry. “There’s wood in the stove, dew on the window, let the light become”…filigree!