The Portrait of a Mountain exhibition will feature the first-time presentation of the two-channel film installation While the Pile of Rubble Grows Towards the Sky, created by Kristina Benjocki and Stijn Verhoeff.

For the past fifteen years, Serbian-Dutch artist Kristina Benjocki has been conceptually developing her artistic practice by exploring the potential of art to articulate and shed light on the forgotten and create space for new and diverse historical narratives. Her focus often revolves around archives, traces of historical and socio-political contexts found in material culture, and the memories of communities across various geographical areas from the former Yugoslavia to Western Europe. By investigating the conditions under which fragments of time are collected, recorded, documented, and the mechanisms through which they are selected and represented, Kristina’s work raises questions about the politics of remembering and forgetting, the construction of the past, and how these constructs are implicated in collective experiences of the present and projections of the future. Through a wide range of visual expressions, including drawing, sculpture, textiles, photography, sound and film, the artist creates ambient installations that immerse the viewer in the tangible relationships of factual and rematerialized archival content, facilitating a more comprehensive understanding of the complexity of historical narratives.

Presented across three levels of the Legacy Gallery of Milica Zorić and Rodoljub Čolaković, Kristina’s first solo exhibition in Belgrade and Serbia delves into her multi-year research on the geological and historical layers of Cannerberg, a mountain situated on the border of the Netherlands and Belgium. Although commonly referred to as a mountain, Cannerberg is part of the Custert Plateau, once home to one of the richest limestone deposits and has been quarried since the Neolithic period. In one of the quarries near the city of Maastricht at the end of the 18th century, the first known fossil of Mosasaurs, an aquatic reptile from the late Cretaceous period, was discovered. As industrialization intensified in the early 20th century, limestone extraction in Cannerberg ceased, leaving behind a complex labyrinth of underground tunnels. These corridors were regularly used for mushroom cultivation and livestock keeping until World War II when German troops repurposed part of this mountain as a storage and assembly facility for V1 rockets. In the years following World War II, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established its headquarters within Cannerberg, utilizing it for war operations during the Cold War, making it a “super secret” part of the Netherlands. Due to extensive asbestos contamination, the NATO headquarters was closed in 1992, the same year that the Treaty on European Union was ratified in Maastricht, whose twelve signatures are memorialized on the walls of Cannerberg.

Through meticulous research of the mentioned site, historical and personal records, and public and private archives, Kristina Benjocki explores the fragility of memory and the construction of history in a series of artworks. The exhibition features her drawings-maps that reveal an impressive network of underground tunnels, cadastral plots and associated buildings, along with visual interpretations of diverse historical and geological sources linked to the Custert plateau. The installation Sedimentation of Memory, a synchronized slide projection showcasing 400 drawings based on former NATO personnel’s private archives, thematizes memory and forgetting issues while tracing the genealogy of power etched within the dark corridors of the former quarry. Concluding the exhibition is a film essay titled While the Pile of Rubble Grows Towards the Sky, a collaborative work between Benjocki and Dutch artist and writer Stijn Verhoeff, which takes the visitors on an immersive journey through the memory of the Cannerberg, from the depths of the ancient subtropical sea to the limestone layers that gave rise to dwellings, villages, castles, cities, and further to the realm of military experimentation and geopolitical control – through the sediments of chilling, dark and muted events whose echoes revibrate and are palpable even today.

Kristina Benjocki (Zrenjanin, 1984) pursued her studies at the University of Arts in Belgrade, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and the Royal Conservatoire of Arts in The Hague. She was artist-in-residence at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Kristina Benjocki’s works have been showcased in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, Ambika P3 in London, the Art Gallery of the American University in Beirut, Izolyatsia in Kyiv and her latest solo exhibition at IKOB, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Eupen. She lives and works in Amsterdam.

The realization of the exhibition has been supported by the Mondriaan Fund.

Curator: Miroslav Karić

Guided tour through the exhibition and talk with the artist: Saturday, June 10, 2023 at 2 pm