If you haven’t already seen it, please take a walk by the northernmost windows of the Gerber building along Broadway - future home of Chicago Market - to see our latest art display from artist Bojana Ilic (aka BOJITT).
BOJITT is a Serbian-born and raised, multidisciplinary artist with more than 20 years of experience throughout the art and fashion worlds. Though she hails from elsewhere, she made the move to Chicago in 2006 and now considers herself a true Chicagoan. After having the pleasure of speaking with her while she worked on her art installation for the Market, I certainly agree!
She describes her move to Chicago as a bit more luck than one would expect and goes so far as to say, “...the funniest part about the story of moving here is that I didn’t choose Chicago...Chicago chose me!”. She was traveling the globe for her work and, after finishing up a fashion show in Toronto in 2006, came to visit her sister. That visit, intended to be a 2 week stay, changed dramatically when she “...fell in love with Chicago looking out the window of the plane.” Once here, she continued to fall in love with the people, the culture and especially fell deeply in love with the architecture (which she had studied in school as well). She speaks fondly of all aspects of the city and said a number of times that she feels Chicago is such a WARM city when it comes to the people (though she chuckles when she talks about winters).
We spoke for a while about all the amazing items Chicago typically brings us and that we miss currently with COVID-19 protocols in place, but she (as we all do) certainly looks forward to the day when we are able to get out and enjoy the city, the culture and the people again.
On to the new art installation. BOJITT and I spoke at length about “I See You” and she gave me some insight into her thoughts and feelings about the project. It’s worth noting that the boards in the windows of our building are only one part of the overall project and a video will be released shortly which will also help to tell the story. Keep your eyes on her Instagram (and ours too - because we love her!) for that!
BOJITT explained that art is her voice and is her way of communicating. She (half jokingly and in her sometimes thick Serbian accent) laughed as she told me that when it comes to words, she, “...may not speak as well as some and could never be a politician, but CAN speak in her own way through art.” While I would argue that first point (finding myself caught up in listening to her words so much I had to remind myself to take notes), I understand her point. We all communicate in different ways and her way to bring a voice to her thoughts, her emotions and her feelings is through art!
Before starting on this project she worked to gather her thoughts about what is going on today - speaking with many friends and family and members of the community, trying to read and educate herself even further about the USA in general (beyond her own experiences), learning about cultures and how they are viewed and about Black Lives Matter. She then started to organize her feelings and allowed her emotions to take over when the art creation started. She connected with friends in the art world who helped her to create her overall vision. She mentioned that she asked for dancers to be a part of the project (especially important for the forthcoming video) because she feels that dancers are the best at both creating action as well as reaction and emotion throughout the session!
In speaking more about the piece itself she continued to hit on important notes that #BLM is not about Black lives being more important than anyone else, but is more about bringing awareness that Black lives (and lives of all people of color) are not, even in this day and age, being treated the same. BIPOC are not being or feeling valued in the same way. They are often not looked at and listened to in the same ways as others. Lastly, and most importantly, the movement as a whole is about bringing about CHANGE!
Her message, through her art, is her own way of standing up and saying some important things during these trying times such as...
I Appreciate You
I Acknowledge You
I See You
In her words, “If I am able to say that, as a White person, I am able to show what I KNOW - that all people are equal. That I do see you and want to listen, want to walk alongside of you, and want to help enact change! Not because of color, but because we are all people and should all be treated the same, ALWAYS. No matter what, we can come together, we can still fight for what is right...and we can still win! We CAN make a difference and we (as White people) can LISTEN. We CAN see you, no matter who you are or what your skin color!”
She believes (and we agree!) that if people of all ages and races can stand up and say “I See You”, we are taking a step in the right direction!
BOJITT is working with Cortney Lederer at CNL Projects to make her artwork available for sale and soon you will be able to purchase “I See You” with 100% of all proceeds being donated to Black Lives Matter Chicago.
In closing she spoke a bit about the Gerber building and Chicago Market in saying how much the space inspired her and her team throughout the project. Where they, “...initially came in with an expectation of a limited space and scope, we ended up using so much of the space and just fell in love with the location!” She wanted to thank Justin Weidl with Explore Uptown, Anthony Standifer (production manager), Keith Purvis (video production), the dancers and choreography team (Kristen Cone, Shelby and Asha Martin), Aaron Olewnik (carpentry), everyone else involved with this project and bringing this voice forward, Cortney Lederer at CNL Projects and Chicago Market for the opportunity to use the space and have her art featured!
You can see more of BOJITT’s amazing work on her pages: