There is a gravitas that comes with the role of interpreter of experience, which is understood to require a discerning and insightful author. The artist as interpreter extraordinaire is, among other things, given permission to publicly personalize the collective cultural experience. If the intentions behind such an interpretation are undefined, what is at stake is the connection between the representation and the truth. It is this relationship that Cibic interrogates through In the Gorges, highlighting her own role and responsibility as an artist who seeks to redefine representations of a national entity.

Cibic produced a series of pencil drawings in collaboration with a former police sketcher whose profession required him to extract information from often-traumatized witnesses in order to draw portraits of suspected criminals. In this case, the raw material for his work were Cibic’s personal accounts of imaginary locations immortalized through literature that are associated with the Balkans. The results are fictional landscapes, architectures and cityscapes elucidated by a draftsman whose skilled precision aspires to the representation of an essential truth. While the truth is complicated by what is being depicted, the responsibility for how these geographic fictions are interpreted is passed from Cibic to her collaborator.

Cibic’s choice of fantasy locations originates from the book In den Schluchten des Balkan (In the Gorges of the Balkans) by German novelist Karl May. In this novel, May projected popular assumptions and prejudices about the region that were connected to its geographic and cultural position as an interface between the Orient and the Occident, Islam and Christianity. As the novel’s depiction of the area strayed so far from a real experience of the culture or landscape, May’s interpretation of the Balkans qualified for inclusion in A. Manguel’s and G. Guadalupe’s encyclopedia of fantasy lands from world literature, the Dictionary of Imaginary Places, a book that Cibic has used as a reference point for many of her works.


Michelle Deignan