Rajkamal Kahlon

Rajkamal Kahlon
Dear Yugoslavia, I regret to inform you….

The project, Dear Yugoslavia, I regret to inform you… reimagines ethnic portraiture and popular depictions of folk costumes in the former Yugoslavia through the lens of the country’s civil wars. The Croatian illustrator, Vladimir Kirin (1894-1963), created a five part series of painted illustrations of Yugoslav ethnic types, titled Narodne Nošnje Jugoslavije I-V, (Yugoslav folk costumes I-V.) I have purchased Volumes I-IV and I propose to make paintings directly onto the Kirin illustrations – infecting the picturesque and romantic representations with references to the violence committed in the civil wars.

Some of the references include scenes of mass grave exhumations, forensic anthropology, anatomical imagery, military weaponry and uniforms. The mixing of disparate visual languages, painting styles and iconographies of political violence and anthropology is an attempt to create unexpected meanings and point to new ways of processing traumatic histories. This project is my response to the materials I have been studying in the archive of SENSE – The Center for Justice in Transition in Pula.


In the work of the American artist Rajkamal Kahlon, we witness an autopsy, a dissection of the visual legacies of empire. The body – injured and transformed – is a recurring motif throughout Kahlon’s work. Subject to political and intimate forms of violence, the body also becomes a space for transformation and resistance. Her work reshapes the boundaries of political experience, creating an emotional arena shifting between anger, grief, revenge and humor.

Kahlon is a past participant of the Whitney Independent Study Program and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She received her M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from The California College of Art. Kahlon’s work has been exhibited widely in museums, foundations and biennials in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, including the 2012 Taipei Biennial, Meeting Points 7, HKW, MUAC Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, the Edith Russ Haus Für Medienkunst, 21er Haus, the Museum of Modern Art Warsaw, NGBK, Queens Museum, Bronx Museum, Artists’ Space, Apex Art and e-flux.