Davor Mezak: Disturbing Earthquake Reality


Davor Mezak: Disturbing Earthquake Reality

16.03.2022 - 01.05.2022 / MSU, Black Box

With his exhibition Disturbing Earthquake Reality, the multimedia artist Davor Mezak presents the current post-earthquake reality of urban and rural parts of Banovina. In the form of interviews, residents of Banovina present their personal experiences and the consequences of the earthquake on their everyday lives and work, while a series of photographs shows the consequences of the earthquake on residential and commercial buildings, as well as cultural and sacral goods. 

Aerial photographs show changes that occurred in nature and in the urban and rural fabric of the area. Prompted by the universal need for assistance and support, which mobilized numerous associations, NGOs, individuals – volunteers and representatives of local and state authorities, Davor Mezak visited the threatened towns and villages of Sisak-Moslavina County immediately after the earthquake in 2021. He documents and follows the state of reconstruction and living conditions of the local population, as well as changes in nature caused by this natural disaster. A magnitude 6.4 earthquake that struck Sisak-Moslavina County with an epicenter 3 km southwest of the town of Petrinja on 29 December 2020 at 12:19pm caused human casualties and enormous material damage. The scale of the damage to buildings revealed the consequences of poor management and embezzlement committed during the reconstruction after the end of the Homeland War in the 1990s, as well as the neglect and poverty of rural and industrial parts of Banovina. However, all these misfortunes mobilized huge solidarity of people who came to rescue, alone or as part of volunteer groups and associations.

From conversations with participants in the interviews, we learn about inaction and inefficiency of state institutions in repairing the damage and rebuilding destroyed housing and infrastructure. In addition, problems are revealed that have not been solved for many years–some villages do not have public lighting, water supply or roads, while some houses do not even have electricity. The development, which experienced great growth in some parts of Croatia after the 1990s, bypassed this area. Due to poor economic policy, high unemployment and poor living conditions after the 1990s, the depopulation of inhabitants increased, which was only intensified by recent events. Valuable natural resources, water, fertile and unpolluted land, livestock, and industries that provided at least minimal living conditions, were not used for the development and prosperity of these areas.

Jadranka Lajtman from the association People for People, who lives in Zagreb but originally comes from Banovina, volunteered and wholeheartedly helped even before the earthquake. Knowing the local conditions, on the same day when the earthquake struck, she arranged with IKEA to donate furniture. She also helped with hygiene supplies and assisted in enabling a free cell phone signal for inhabitants of the affected area, as well as other donations important for the normalization of their lives. Elizabeta Pezo Paliska, owner of the family farm Majske Poljane, launched a charity project to establish organic production and biodynamic cultivation of vegetables in greenhouses to employ women living in the area, with financial assistance from the Croatian branch of dm drogerie markt. Branka Bakšić Mitić, Deputy Mayor of Glina and a representative of the Serbian minority, points to numerous problems that hinder the development of the region, as well as to the slowness and inefficiency of the system in implementing reconstruction and ensuring minimum conditions for a dignified life. Renata Martinović and her husband Miloš Martinović, owners of a demolished sawmill and the house where they lived in Donja Mlinoga, talk about the life of their family–consisting of members of three generations–in one container home, as well as about problems they face in starting their business all over again.

Photographs on light-box objects show the extent of the consequences of the earthquake on residential and commercial buildings, as well as cultural and church goods in Petrinja, Glina, Sisak, and the surrounding area. Using the collage technique and Google Maps, Davor Mezak interpolates the state of the city center of Petrinja before the earthquake and the state he recorded after the earthquake. Residents who had to leave their ruined dwellings now live in container homes or caravans that were supposed to be only a temporary solution. Organized and systematic reconstruction of housing did not begin even after the first year following the earthquake. A container settlement with only visible traces of life looks as a post-apocalyptic reality. Time passes, nothing happens, and thus uncertainty, fear, loss of meaning and hope of solving problems in the short run creep into people's minds.

Aerial drone footage of damaged buildings, but also of collapsed sinkholes that occurred after the earthquake in the village of Mečenčani look like a view from the sky, thus departing from the media announcements that we most often had the opportunity to see. Circular-shaped sinkholes, created by natural imbalance, and regular square-shaped plots of cultivated land created by human labor make this landscape abstract and surreal.

In addition to the documentary and interpretative basis of the exhibition, computer-generated footage from San Francisco, a musical drama and disaster movie (1936, director: W.S. Van Dyke) about the earthquake that struck San Francisco in 1906 and about the consequences for the lives of the upper strata of society is screened as a visually disturbing and retraumatizing element.

The entire exhibition brings a critical look at the disturbing current earthquake reality of an area some 50 km from the Croatian capital, which, under the pressure of breaking news constantly coming from new European and global trouble hotspots, is increasingly left to oblivion by the general public.

Participants in the interviews: Jadranka Lajtman from the association People for People, Elizabeta Pezo Paliska, owner of the family farm Majske Poljane, Branka Bakšić Mitić, Deputy Mayor of Glina, Renata Martinović and her husband Miloš Martinović, owner of a sawmill.

We thank everyone who participated in the interviews and helped in the organization of this exhibition, especially Dubravka Periša and Jadranka Lajtman.


Davor Mezak (born in Zagreb in 1968) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1995 where his mentor was Professor Ante Kuduz. He is engaged in painting, video, video installations, photography and media art. He has been awarded many times for his work. He is a member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists (HDLU). In his works, he comments on social phenomena in a bitterly humorous way. For this project, he received an incentive from the Ministry of Culture and Media in the 2021 Public Call for Encouraging the Work of Visual Artists.


Exhibition curator: Nataša Ivančević, Museum Advisor

The exhibition is organized with the support of the City of Zagreb and the Croatian Ministry of Culture and Media.