Špela Drnovšek Zorko on Maja Zeco’s ‘In Search of the Sun’

Part of ONE WORK

Maja Zećo ‘In Search of the Sun’ 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.

ONE ARTIST | ONE WORK is a series of online discussion events to think more deeply about how an artwork came into being. Focusing closely on a single work, these generous discussions provide space for an artist to present a recent work and talk through the work’s creation. The events are accompanied by a month-long online screening and specially commissioned written response published on the LUX Scotland website.

Maja Zećo took part in a ONE ARTIST | ONE WORK event with us in March, presenting and discussing their film, In Search of the Sun (2021), that draws on the sculpture Eastre (Hymn to the Sun) (1924) by JD Fergusson, a work from Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums’ collection. The film explores how the meanings associated with the figure of Eastre have changed significantly over time and geography, complicating JD Fergusson’s depiction of her as a Saxon goddess.

We commissioned anthropologist and writer Špela Drnovšek Zorko to respond to In Search of the Sun and we are delighted to publish Špela’s response below.

Špela Drnovšek Zorko is an anthropologist and writer whose interdisciplinary research explores the politics of race, migration, and memory with a specific emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe, contemporary Britain, and the Yugoslav region. Her work on intergenerational post-Yugoslav memory and postsocialist migrants’ articulations of race and geopolitical coevalness has appeared in leading journals including Ethnic and Racial Studies, Comparative Migration Studies, and The Sociological Review, and her collaborations include the Birmingham-based Centrala Space and the Dialoguing Posts network. She is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Warwick and an incoming JSPS Fellow at Waseda University, Tokyo.

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Eastre, as you travel West to be reborn, not for the first time, I have a question: do you also sometimes forget which direction you’re coming from?

There is a line on Google Maps, which I assume is a border, though it only matters sometimes. In the past three years it has mattered not at all, then very much, then VERY MUCH, and then somewhere in between, depending on which road you were taking (of course this is true for me; for some, it has mattered VERY MUCH all along), and so I peer especially closely this time, at the line on Google Maps. I am plotting a route from here to there, from Ljubljana to Venice (but how romantic that sounds!) and I stare at the map for a full three minutes before I understand why it makes no sense: I am trying to locate my starting point on the wrong side of the line, the West, not the East. I am trying to plot my route in the wrong direction.

Ishtar, golden woman, golden cockerel, you have been here before: you have arrived on a windy coastline in your emergency cape and it looks like the end of the world, you have travelled far. You have been Many, have been Mnoga. Do you ever feel this same disorientation, an affliction of cardinal directions? It makes you see from the centre looking out, even when you know there is no centre, and no way out. Ten years on the Island have done this to me. How many years for you, Ostara? How many years of the sun?

This matter of the wrong direction, it bothers me more than it should. It has brought something with it, a miasma or perfume, a comet tailing fire (see: I can do solar metaphors to make us feel closer). It has brought the question of letters, such as the letter š’ or the letter ć’, which I always have to copy/​paste, absurdly, as if in danger of forgetting them. It has made me think of the accents we apologise for – not the e grave – and the accents that we don’t but feel strange about anyway. It glances obliquely off all the border-stories of direction and arrival. I am uneasy about collapsing (leaning my own slight weight on them would make them falter) but also uneasy about dismissing. How do I know just by looking what weight another body carries?

Speculative goddess, I know you understand.

Offscreen, Vesna winds her banner, a ball of yarn, a flame. Watchful children in Duthie Park ask her where she is from and secretly hope that the answer is space. The flame is an Olympic torch is the torch we carry for our pasts. Almost ten years ago I sat in a classroom in London alongside restless children – on a Saturday! – whose weekly task it was to discover that they were Bosnian as well as British children. To persuade them of the desirability of this fact: a lecture on the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, when the whole world came to Yugoslavia”. To those children, 1984 might as well have been space – but then they already knew about the other thing that Sarajevo is famous for.

Is periphery ever a choice? Yes – sometimes we are the ones making it, sometimes the ones refusing it.

Inanna, I have tried to make this a different sort of text, one that honours you with references and footnotes, an incantation of words ending in ‘-ize’. But I am not convinced that you would care for the linear story, that most modern of conceits. In its place, I offer you this thing: a touch as we pass, sliding tongue to tongue.

Part of ONE WORK

ONE WORK is a series of online events that focus closely on a single work. These generous discussions provide an opportunity for an artist to present a recent work and talk through how the work came into being. Each work is available as a month-long online screening, followed by a specially commissioned written response that serves as documentation of both the work and the discussion.

Learn more