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Dragana Kojičić - AIR on the Edge residency in Ireland

Updated: May 3

Serbia based artist Dragana Kojičić is artist in residence with Aras Eanna in Galway, Ireland in April 2024.

AIR on the Edge is a one-month international artist residency exchange between Denmark, Finland, Ireland, The Netherlands and Serbia. It focuses on artists professional development, creating opportunities for artists to engage with rural communities and is rooted in rural places and cities on the edges of Europe.

Dragana shared some of her first impressions of the residency:

I waited 77 days to get a visa for Ireland, almost giving up several times. Although the residency was offered for February and March, the wonderful hosts from Aras Eanna gave me the chance to be here in April.

Before coming, when I heard from my sending organisation (Novi Sad Cultural Stations) that less than 300 people live on the island, I thought that it must be so small that I would be surrounded by the sea on all four sides, and I wondered if I would enjoy that, coming from the Pannonian Plain where everything is flat, hard and constant wherever you look. However, the island is much bigger and more beautiful than I could have imagined!

I have travelled a lot, and when I talked to people about the next destination, opinions were always divided. However, when I mentioned to people in Serbia that I was going to Ireland, everyone was thrilled - both those who had been there and those who think of coming. It seems that for us, Ireland is one of those dream countries, not only because of its nature and architecture but also as a symbol of free, resistant and proud people! Completely rightly so, I would say: everything is like being in a movie, just like the dreams we have about Ireland!

And primarily the power of nature. We from the mainland sometimes forget that. But when you feel the strength of the wind here, the intensity of the rain, when boats and planes can't travel due to the gale, then you realize how powerful and wild nature still is, and how dependent we are on it.

At first glance, everything seemed more or less the same. And then, as the days pass and as I get to know the island, I realize that there are so many different landscapes and sceneries, so many ways to stack stones, and that so many seasons can fit into one day!

And the turbulent life from my huge window: at one moment it's sunny and the view extends to the next island; in the next, only the rain-glistened rocks are visible, and beyond is thick fog, there's no beyond. And between these two extremes, there are countless magical variations and jackdaws and seagulls alternating in flight and song.

For someone who works with the earth, the story that it didn't exist here once and that people made it, mixing seaweed and sand, is particularly powerful. That's the way I would like us to continue working with nature.

Today a local festival starts and next week I will start with small workshops with children and I'm really looking forward to it all.

As her residency concluded, Dragana shared about the rest of her experience:

Another three weeks have flown by. I was fortunate to participate in the community festival "Féile an Phobail" from April 12-14 and hear Irish music, see several performances, a film, a photography exhibition of almost all the people on the island, road bowling, learn to tie knots, and above all - help Aisling lead a kite drawing workshop with children. That was my first encounter with the local community.

A few days later, at the elementary school with 28 students, I held my first workshop, which began with an exchange of stories about the similarities and differences between Serbia and Ireland (their island and my plain, primarily). Then we went to the beach to find families of stones, which we then painted, and after school, the children placed them in the stone walls.

We met again at Áras Éanna on April 22, for Earth Day. First we talked about the similarities and differences between houses made of earth and stone, and then I took them to see what an artistic studio looks like. I showed them the earth and sand, and then together we made bricks, and later houses from local earth and clay from Dublin.

My next workshop was with women, where we made small tiles with earth plasters - with the logos of Áras Éanna and Inis Oírr, and other motifs. We took the opportunity to get to know each other better, especially with the other artists in residence, writer Réaltán Ní Leannáin and dancer Bernadette Divilly, with whom I arranged further cooperation.

On April 25, I had another workshop with 11 high school students. First, we talked about houses made of earth, and then they made dorodango balls and earth tiles.

The plan was to have a third meeting with the elementary school children, where we would talk about Slavic and Celtic mythology, and then paint stones again, but we ran out of time. However, I painted many stones and on the last day of my residency, I placed them all over the island. I sent a message to the children to continue painting stones and placing them in walls, and to keep playing the game we started: which is every time they see a painted stone in the wall, they must move it to another wall. That way, the stones will travel around the island too.

The kite workshop inspired my little diary in photos from Inis Oírr, with countless beautiful, initially invisible details. With all this, the written part of my doctoral dissertation progressed well, inspired by the constant changes at the studio window.

I am infinitely grateful to the Air on the Edge project, the Cultural Stations for their trust, and the best hosts at Áras Éanna - Dara McGee & Aisling Nic Craith for their hospitality, time, and help in everything, as well as to all the people I met on the island.

With numerous walks, at all times of day, and in all weather conditions, this was a residency that leaves no one indifferent. As each next time is something better, I only wonder what can be better than this?!


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