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Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences University of Zagreb, Croatia

Nikola Bojic

PORTFOLIO application 2011

H A R VA R D U N I V E R S ITY G SD Master in Design Studies Art, Design and the Public Domain

personal info

Nikola Bojić BA in Art History & Information Sciences MA in Art History & Museology

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, Croatia Art, Design and the Public Domain Master in Design Studies Candidate (MDesS) Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA


spatial practices of public disturbance, collective memory flow, history of public destruction; hybrid space, social networks, future of collective design; spatial storytelling, heterotopia



0. The role of history observed as a romantic but closed point left in the ether of past is the same as the role of art whose only purpose is to please our senses. Producing the need for this kind of mental efforts means accepting the passive role in the anxious world defined by the decrease of democracy and the increase of inequality.

HORIZONTAL SOURCE OF INTEREST: memory flow 1. Walter Benjamin wrote that “memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theater�. Indeed, memory could be considered as an operating fluid - continuous flow which opens up historical points, enabling them to act and react, perform and tell stories which resonate responsively to the present moment. Performative nature of this theater unquestionably implies real-time processes of active socio-cultural engagement. Consequently, theater of past evolves only through its live audience, self-reflection, breathing identity, emotions and perspectives which are existing only in the point of the present. 2. Public spaces and monuments are urban setups where complexity of socio-cultural theater is taking place. They are tangible manifestations of active memory; links which connect the past and the present. Every intervention in their layered tissue unquestionably disturbs the narrative structure of such memory theater, but also the collective emotional sphere of its audience. By exploring and experimenting with effects that such disturbances could have on preordinated patterns of social behavior and perception, ART has the obligation to accept more active role in the present world, and affect the future.

VERTICAL SOURCE OF INTEREST: hybrid space 3. Making future projections of any kind presupposes processes of careful imagining the present moment. In order to do that, a few considerable zoom-outs have to be made. Without fear of losing authenticity of a detail, holistic approach reveals structure of our reality which is far more complex than a single point or even innumerable number of points. Instead of looking through particles, physical reality could be described rather as a dynamic formation of nodes which link identities, information, ideas, and events in an overwhelming network defined by the restlessness of social production. 4. Arguing against modernist urban planning Christopher Alexander came up with the mathematical model of semilattice: a partly-ordered net that reflects the inextricableness of social structure, interactions and activities. Back in 1965 he could not possibly assume that his model will dominate the homepage of virtual social network which today counts more than 500 million people. Recent technological development has generated a virtual sphere of public reality, which has not only reflected existing relations within our physical surrounding, but has also originated entirely new modes of communication, perception, and socio-cultural production. Overwhelming experience of the virtual present is starting to define the sense of public in general, causing dynamic collisions of virtual and physical space.


INTERSECTION OF INTERESTS: disturbance as a center of art & design practice 5. Manipulation with the public space by a private interest in the urban context, as well as the enormous privacy problems and inability to cover real(istic) social structure in the virtual sphere, reveal unstable, even fictional nature of the public. It becomes clear that public space does not necessarily need to be space of the Public. Rather, it is a space for expressing political power which galvanizes different kinds of misbalance in the existing social order. Public spaces, both virtual and physical, are therefore just fields for obtaining the Public. 6. Hence, I deeply believe that it is impossible to design a stabile public space. It is only possible to provoke the Public, as a temporal spatial practice, by introducing specific disturbance within the present social reality. Those strategies of making disturbance are placed in the very center of my interests. Around this subject I aim to develop an interspace for testing reality. Inside this area, design is considered to be an open process which has the role of provoking conflict in order to produce social cohesion as necessary condition for shaping the Public. With disappearance of disturbance from collective emotional sphere, the phenomenon of Public disappears too, causing reconfigurations of the socio-political realm. In such changes resides the potential for a future social development.

spatial practices of disturbance







GLASS PERISTYLE intervention / 08 KARLOVAC IDEA PARKS revitalization / 09 URBAN DE/CON/STRUCTOR installation / 10 SPACELESS installation / 10


By provoking incredible rage in the general public, this architectural anti-project rendered a virtual reflection of socio-political reality, where radical paradoxes are being produced, presented and accepted as something real and common.


By merging art, social entrepreneurship and web 2.0, the project tends to provoke sitespecific empathy and participation in the general public, in order to investigate potentials and effects of virtual public leisure in future urban development.


By presenting public destruction as a constructive act, the project raised the question of historical and future perspectives of destruction as an important media of socio-cultural progress.


By fusing physical and virtual space, the project induced a series of micro-conflicts in order to interrogate functions of the human body and the social interaction in in the emerging hybrid environment.




Nikola Bojic / Glass Peristyle / 2008 / independent project



“ is not even an exterior, inasmuch as when you seek to look at the hotel’s outer walls you cannot see the hotel itself but only the distorted images of everything that surrounds it.” Frederic Jameson on Bonaventure Hotel, 1984

GLASS PERISTYLE media intervention / 08

What does it mean to interpolate a tumor into the urban tissue of vital importance? What are the consequences of that act in social, cultural and political terms? This (anti)project predicting a worst case scenario by interpolating a private commercial facility in the volume of the Peristyle – an ancient Public Square under UNESCO protection, the very heart and soul of the city of Split in Croatia. Simulations of the architectural project launched throughout all the accessible public media provoked incredible discussion, anger and frustration in the general public, as well as in professional and political circles. The virtual project generated a powerful reflection of our political and social reality determined by spectacle and paradox. The project was featured in all important Croatian media in 2008; it was exhibited on the 29th Youth Salon Zagreb – Salon of the Revolution, 2008; the 4th Zagreb salon – Anti design / Permanent alternatives, 2009; and presented on the international conference “Designing the Hybrid City” in Shanghai, China, 2010.

Peristyle is a square situated in the centre of the Diocletian’s palace (295 AD - 305 AD), a housing complex built for a retired Roman emperor, out of which the city of Split has been evolving over the past seventeen centuries. It was designed as a monumental cult square surrounded by antique colonnades, placed in the middle of the temenos, an antique sacred space with four roman temples around it. The Peristlye used to be the only accessible open area in the Palace, and moreover, a polygon for expressing the emperor’s political and divine power. Today it presents one of the foundations of the Croatian cultural identity and the heart and soul of the city. It is protected by UNESCO since 1979.

Context - Heart of the City


Nikola Bojic / Glass Peristyle / 2008 / independent project




Problem Similarly to other countries “in transition”, one of Croatia’s biggest problems nowadays is lack of political control over the private capital related to public space. Development, usually completely unaware of any form of sustainability, presents itself as something necessary, attractive, a “must-have”. Correspondingly, obsessive enjoyment of shallow visual fruits in today’s era of information baroque results in the blurring of our sense of place. Unfortunately, the NGO sector and responsible professionals’ warnings on this topic hardly ever reach broad masses due to media policies and inadequate professional discourse use. Inventing new ways of communicating is crucial for sending a clear and powerful message to the general public.


Project Glass Peristyle is a radical artistic act, aimed to provoke a public discussion about recent problem of extortion of the public space and deconstruction of multilayered urban identity. By expanding the notion of the city into a virtual space, this project anticipates the worst scenario by simulating the interpolation of a contemporary commercial facility into the existing parameters of the ancient public square. (3 commercial floors + 2 luxury apartment floors - Peristyle) (1 underground garage floor – substructures of Diocletian’s P.)

Nikola Bojic / Glass Peristyle / 2008 / independent project




A new building functions like a tumor in the urban tissue of vital importance.

* Project Glass Peristyle - Producing DISTURBANCE in the sphere of public media!

The project started on October 1st, 2008, by sending visual simulations of the Glass Peristyle project and the accompanying architectural study (website) to 3000 private and professional e-mail addresses, including those of the important Croatian media and professional institutions. The following day, anti-project groups were created on Facebook and Google (which gathered several hundreds of members in no more than a couple of hours); new topics were opened on four Croatian internet forums, and within ten days, all relevant Croatian media services reported about the the project.

Nikola Bojic / Glass Peristyle / 2008 / independent project

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Public response - Virtual Sphere From the high intensity of rage in comments posted on Internet portals and from very disturbing answers received by e-mail, even from some professionals, it is possible to conclude that the project is not understood as a socio-political criticism, sarcasm or joke, but as a very serious architectural proposal!


The project has generated and virtually memorized a vivid reflection of disturbances in the social lethargy, where radical paradoxes are being produced, presented and accepted as something real and common.

To protect his personal identity the author used an alias, Majorian 458*.


„this is stupidity…Diocletian must be rolling in his grave right now... Horror, I can’t believe that they will destroy our palace.” Aneloza

*Majorian was a Roman emperor who first enforced radical laws against those who were destroying public spaces and monuments in Rome, in order to obtain private space, in 458 AD.

It’s horrible! We have came to phase in which no one asks if this is a joke? Is it?? Pile “If I only knew who made this...I would break his legs ” ribaK

“...for the mother of God, don’t fuck around with the Palace!” Kineski zid “Person has to be real retard to do something like this. This is never going to be happen!” nyby

“If they approve this, we can shoot ourselves one by one…” Gogich

“Build yourself a glass brain; it is better than no brain at all!” mrgud

Obviously, the simulation used to uncover manipulation within public space, became a manipulation itself!


The city’s major Ivan Kuret was also active in the public discussion. First he posted an opinion on a local web forum and shortly after used the same idea for political promotion in the following elections.

(„NO to shopping malls. We have chosen the town. “) He lost the elections.

GLASS PERISTYLE: Objet trouvé for Politiciens Objet inconnu for Professionals

The author, playing the role of a worried citizen (amateur!), sent an e-mail with the project description to an architectural institution of national importance, and got this answer from a highly positioned professional: “Hello, I assume you don’t expect to hear just our opinion! Is there anything you suggest? Sincerely, Arch. XY “

„Intoxication of esthetics generates esthetics of intoxication.“ Neil Leach, 1999

Nikola Bojic / Glass Peristyle / 2008 / independent project

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And what if public response leaks from virtual to physical space? Battle for Varšavska Street!*

*Varšavska Street (it should be Warszawska) was named in 1946 as a recognition to the martyrdom of the Polish capital in the World War II and the Slavic brotherhood in general. In 2010, during a period of two months, Varšavska Street has been overtaken by citizens and transformed into the urban ghetto of resistance and progressive cultural production.

“Architecture 2.0 or Revolution?” May 17th, 2010, almost two years after launching the Glass Peristyle Project, the quiet Varšavska Street in Zagreb’s city center became a site of mass destruction. Hundreds of angry people demolished the fence behind which important public space was being transformed into a private building site. According to the “development” project, Varšavska Street is planned to function as an entrance gate to an underground garage which would serve a nearby shopping mall and luxury apartment complex, also in construction. Spontaneous collective rage of this kind resulted not just in pure destruction, but also in the creation of a structure whose demonstrators temporarily inhabited the site in order to retain public space. Even though the new structure made of folded parts of the torn down fence was not fixed in space, time or even users (who fluctuated on a daily basis), it generated a set of urban occasions which made the diversity of socio-cultural events possible to take place in the public domain of Varšavska St. (concerts, public readings, performances, social games, exhibitions). For a short period of time (2 months) Varšavska St. became a powerful source of socio-cultural production.

This collectively designed environment produced in free time and characterized by sensation, flexibility and change, undoubtedly recalls utopist visions from the second half of the 20th century, but also makes a strong link to the logic of socio-cultural production in the contemporary networked society. As a complete opposite to the Glass Peristyle project, latter connection could open a discourse on preventing, analyzing and moderating social processes related to the crucial issues of urban design in the emerging era of networked, hybrid reality. further research

virtual ? “Whatever space and time mean, place and occasion mean more.“ Aldo van Eyck, 1962


“Whatever space and time mean, place and occasion mean more. “ Aldo van Eyck, 1962

public revitalization/09











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Nikola Bojic / Karlovac Idea Parks / 2009 / commission

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“Take proper care of your monuments, and you will not need to restore them. … bind it together with iron where it loosens; stay it with timber where it declines; do not care about unsightliness of the aid; better a crutch than a lost limb; and do this tenderly, ...” John Ruskin, 1849

Context At the end of the sixteenth century, numerous Turkish attacks in northern Croatia prompted the building of a new fortress named Karlstadt (Karlovac). The fortress was designed in the shape of a six-pointed star, which was in accordance with the Renaissance architectural theories. From the time the Turks no longer posed a threat to the town’s safety, its walls were pulled down and the town itself underwent a gradual transformation. All that was left behind the old fortress is a ring of defense trenches, which took on its shape and which we recognize today as the green star of Karlovac parks. The parks of Karlovac are therefore not only oases of peace, but layered historical spaces which represent the cultural heritage of the town and are the very source of its identity. Nowadays, Karlovac’s green star is recognized as a part of Croatia’s national heritage and any architectural intervention within its borders is forbidden. Yet, the starshaped space has been divided, with some parts of it transformed into town parks and others left to decay. One could almost say that what remains of the green star today is its name.

Nikola Bojic / Karlovac Idea Parks / 2009 / commission

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Project The project was conceived as a virtual hub for the exchange of local knowledge, identities and ideas with the aim of revealing, articulating and communicating different values inherited in the socio-spatial environment of Karlovac parks. The environment of Karlovac parks is converted into Web 2.0 structure divided into three basic categories, which correspond to three forms of public participation: stories, problems and ideas. Altogether with relevant scientific information, intangible heritage collected through this open site-specific data-base serve as groundwork for seven related interpretation units (parks) called identity frameworks.



All units (frameworks) have their main themes, which arise from the specific contexts, and function virtually as categories of the public competition for installations or interventions addressing a particular problem.

Transposing Karlovac parks into a virtual environment could lead to a more extensive exploration of the local landscape but also to point to the contemporary problems, needs and creative potentials of the town. In this way, virtual discussions of the matter would precede any physical interventions in the environment.

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Nikola Bojic / Karlovac Idea Parks / 2009 / commission

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Methods of Spatial Storytelling Each unit examines one historical theme related to a particular park, therefore can be considered independent from the reminder of the route. However, having walked through all the thematic units enables one to “read” the complete story about the ideas that shaped the town during the course of five centuries. The process of “reading” activates a minimum of text and maximum of context, and is stimulated by people’s interaction with the environment. The context of each spatial unit is brought into view by means of various interventions on the already existing objects or by new installations in the park.

An instance of such a theme is “Freedom”, representing the twentieth century unit and alluding to numerous ideological struggles and politically motivated name changes of the park that took place during this time. It also is a reference to a damaged antifascist post-war monument erected in the centre of the main park (the sixth unit) and dedicated to Freedom. The monument will be used as a contemporary organic screen for various site-specific public projections.

Art + Social Entrepreneurship = Revitalization 2.0 Historical perspective of heritage preservation has shown that values inherited in historical structures are unstable mental constructs determined by the “taste” of a specific historical period. In general, the use of traditional preservation methods on a particular monument or within a historical environment leads to ascribing a fixed set of values to them. During the scientific procedures, the question of dealing with the reality or “contemporaneity of memory” is often avoided or left unanswered. Consequently, many historical monuments are preserved as structurally and conceptually closed parts of the urban system. Methodological sketches drawn in the background of Karlovac Idea Parks project, instead of attempting to come up with new functions that would solve the problems of the historical environment in question, are rather arguing for a moderated discussion of the existing cultural layers. The communication is considered to be the main tool in attracting contemporary functions. In order to establish an atmosphere in which the historical structure could breathe freely, the project proposes projecting the existing structure not to the past or future, but to the present moment of virtual social reality.

Virtual public responses can reveal or generate entirely new cultural layers, functions and design methods, and thus determinate the critical attitude towards the scale and the nature of the proposed physical interventions into the sensitive historical environment.

further research

“When you give everyone a voice and give people power, the system usually ends up in a really good place.” Mark Zuckerberg, 2008

The only remaining piece of 16th century walls.

Nikola Bojic / Urban De-Con-Structor / 2010 / commission

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URBAN DE / CON STRUCTOR urban installation / 10 Urban De / Con Structor is an interactive installation designed through the idea of encouraging destructive behavior in an urban context by presenting it as something common, desirable and productive. Is there even such a thing as productive destruction in the public domain of urbanity at all? And if there is, what are its limits? Or better yet, what is beyond those limits? Having these questions in mind, the installation was placed on the Peoples’ square in the old city center of Split.

“Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” Salvador Dali, 1929

Context – Exhibition of Salvador Dalí Between 1957 and 1963 Salvador Dalí made a series of watercolors depicting Dante’s Divine Comedy. In 1964, a hundred works from this series were printed as lithographs and separated into three thematic units (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise) which illustrated a luxury edition of Dante’s masterpiece. In order to construct the exhibition flow the author has followed Dalí’s concept but also the spatial logic of Old City Hall, which is a three storied palace originally dated in the beginning of the 15th century. The late gothic palace was therefore transformed into a spatially and emotionally organized system which dragged people into its interior and then spirally hoisted them from Dali’s surrealistic visions of Hell, via purification to the final brightness of Paradise. Hence, the spatial interpretation started with the installation placed on the “Pjaca”, the historical Public Square in front of Old City Hall.

Form: Cylinder / Dimensions: 200 cm / Material: Polished inox

Nikola Bojic / Urban De-Con-Structor / 2010 / commission

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Layer 1 - Signalization Because of its reflective surface the installation was an intensive attractor of attention but also an information provider since all important facts about the exhibition were inscribed on its surface.

Layer 2 – Interpretation The installation became an interpretative public intervention which extensively used Dali’s visual and symbolic language, decoding it and making it “user friendly” to each citizen.

Nikola Bojic / Urban De-Con-Structor / 2010 / commission

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Layer 3 - Participation - Provoking the Public Destruction! “Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.” If previous layers of the installation operated in the field of visual communication, latter quotes inscribed on the installation surface tended to expand that field to a domain of public participation. In order to make it more clear and suggestive to the general public, at the opening event, the author performed an act of “destroying the shackles of our visions” by hitting the installation with a baseball bat. Recesses on the polished stainless steel surface resulted with expressive distortions which provoked the most peculiar ways of seeing ourselves and the vivid dynamic of urban surrounding.


The beating of the installation was followed by a message stated in the middle of the overcrowded square during the opening event:

“Not every breaking of the mirror ends with a million of useless pieces on the floor. There are possibilities beyond prefabricated images of reality. Active involvement could induce new visions; open personalized niches in the public domain of given and predetermined.�

Nikola Bojic / Urban De-Con-Structor / 2010 / commission

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Sustainability of Public Destruction = Layer 4

Dynamics of public destruction (installation, Pjaca, Split, Croatia / per day)

In the beginning of the 7th century due to great migrations and wars, the population of the ancient town Salona was forced to escape and inhabit the only fortified and safe structure in its surrounding – the Palace of the Roman emperor Diocletian, built in the 3rd century. During that time palace was still a vivid and monumental antique system, designed according to strict rules of Roman urbanity. Short after, the new population overtook existing objects - few of them were radically transformed (pagan temples became churches), but much of the structure was used as a pit for quality stone, especially marble. High density and chaotic urbanity of the early middle ages destroyed much of the monumental Roman structures but also created living and working units that continuously function to these days. When productive destruction within the Roman framework reached its peak, a new urban system started to expand outside the western wall forming a new political and public center – the city square today known as Pjaca. The idea of placing the installation on the Pjaca therefore not only corresponds with the symbolical sphere of public participation in urban environment, but also with fundamental historical processes that physically engaged the public in the creation of the urban image by radical transformation or even destruction of existing urban layers.

Historical perspective, cultural policies, questions of sustainability and management of those processes are few landmarks in further research.

further research









The art installation should have stayed on Pjaca for 2 months. However, it was removed after only 15 days due to total destruction which has made it dysfunctional.

Dynamics of public destruction (south-eastern quadrant of Diocletians Palace, Split; Croatia / per century)





“Living substance conquers the frenzy of destruction only in the ecstasy of procreation.� Walter Benjamin, 1928


Nikola Bojic / Spaceless / 2010 / independent project

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spaceless a body / social network / spatial installation

where spaces end ... we begin


Interrogations in Hybrid Space Leaking of the logic of virtual space into the logic of physical space and vice versa, is unquestionably starting to determine our era. Think of what would happen if those two spaces become consciously fused together? Where would be points of collision between them, and will new hybrid space emerge in that process? How would that new space look like and who would define its rules? What would be a position of human body and how would it interact in socially and spatially hybridized environment? Project Spaceless explores these questions by putting a human in spatial installation designed directly by Facebook users. Potential answers are presented in a performative composition of contemporary dance, light and sound design. Project is presented on the art event Night LAB 2.0 in Zagreb, 2010.

Nikola Bojic / Spaceless / 2010 / independent project

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data visualisation theater

performing space




4 Building the performing space 3 Data visualizations 2 Network incubation 1 Facebook group Facebook group named Spaceless will be created in every city in which performance will take place.

Network incubation begins by opening the Facebook group about a month before the show. Incubation implies virtual promotion of project i.e. spreading the word about the project among local Facebook members.

Social relations established within local Spaceless Facebook group will represent geolocated structure in virtual space which will determine design of physical space, choreography, light design and electronic soundscape.

Every group member must point out his/hers location on Google maps which is essential for site specificity of every performance. By joining the group, members become show creators and its potential public.

During the incubation time data visualization software will be used to visualize hidden social structure behind Spaceless Facebook interface.

Few days before the premiere, incubation will end and Facebook group will be closed. Last image of virtual social structure will be taken as a model for designing physical structure of installation made of translucent plastic strings.

Published and shared, images of social interactions will depict evolution of social structure throughout time and will also present additional visual impetus for establishing new relations between unrelated subgroups or members. More friendships among the members mean more complex (attractive) social (visual) structure.

New physical structure will be implemented in the volume of performance hall regardless particular spatial organization or stage audience orientation. Installation will simply follow the logic of virtual structure framed within the walls of theater. Therefore the whole theater simultaneously becomes the stage and auditorium.



If theater is considered to be the most common model of performing space, it is possible to characterize it as a traditionally closed physical system with strictly defined rules, even if it’s designed as flexible and adoptable space.

String entanglements become the main tool which determines every movement of the dancer and help him/her to build a narration during his/hers variable progression through space. Therefore choreography consists in free motions through networked space in which dancer follows his/her own feelings and body sensations in search for personal path through layered and exuberant fusion of virtual and physical social relations.

Set-Installation Social network transformed into material state and interpolated in physical space of “theater” does not care about mentioned rules, it represents distinct entity, physically inextricably structure which occupies physical space and transforms “theater” into neutralized physical box. This means that points, each one representing particular Facebook group member, will be dispersed all over the theater (stage, entrance, auditorium, proscenium, passages, walls, etc.) depending on their Google map placement and connected with plastic strings depending on their social relations established on Facebook (friends). Fusion of those three layers of public (social, urban and physical), or more precisely the fusion of main characteristics of those spaces, will form a new - hybrid space.

Audience Social relationships that were promptly and easy established in virtual space, in material space represent almost insurmountable barriers - a heavy net of obstacles for movement and obstructions to communication. The dancer and the audience, mainly Facebook group members, are treated equally in this context.

Sound & Light design Microphones will be hanged above a few freely chosen spots of the string network transmitting sounds to audio processors and rhythm machine, controlled by the soundscape designer. Just like the light, the sound follows dancer’s movements, breathing, body sounds and interactions with strings, objects and people in performing space creating real-time atmosphere that turns the interior of performance hall into a live organism that following the sensibility of body movement.

Costume design Dancer’s naked body is wrapped in 40m of 7cm wide white fabric that unwinds from her body while she moves. Therefore her costume, left behind lying on translucent strings on different heights and distances, becomes a visible mark of her path through the space.

Nikola Bojic / Spaceless / 2010 / independent project

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Performance ends with unwrapping the last centimeter of fabric from dancer’s body. The only thing visible to the audience are contours of her naked body in the dark, and neon light colored fabric - trace of her path which freely floats (on strings) in the air.

Neon lighted drawing is image of new space shaped by individual sensibility ... the logic of Spaceless.

REZ, Croatia / 2010

Nikola Bojic / Spaceless / 2010 / independent project 34 35





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Portfolio__Nikola Bojic  

Art, Design and the Public Domain / Graduate School of Design / Harvard University. Application portfolio / 2011.

Portfolio__Nikola Bojic  

Art, Design and the Public Domain / Graduate School of Design / Harvard University. Application portfolio / 2011.