Chantal Denise Simić

Fine Art BA (Hons)

The juxtaposition of childhood and war, using the warming nature of a child’s blanket fort interpreted as a mass grave that visitors are invited into.


profile picture of Chantal Simic

“When I was born, the War ended!” is a multimedia installation dealing with my personal indirect connection to the Yugoslavian War. I was born in Austria on the 20th November 1995, one day before the Dayton Agreement was reached that formally ended the war. My childhood in the 90s was shaped by regular visits to Bosnia and Serbia where my grandmother was born. Words like warm, sunshine, carefree, laughter, togetherness and love come to mind when recalling these memories. Through the sound of my three year old self talking to my mother, I hope to evoke a sense of youthful obliviousness.

The mass grave is reminiscent of the encompassing quality of a blanket fort, traditionally built by children as a comforting hiding space. Visitors are invited to go inside. Through this, I underline the absurdity of people going about their day while others are brutally killed. By shaping raw clay and clothing with my bare hands, I am developing an intimate and spiritual connection to the individuals that have fallen in war. The wheat is symbolic for death and resurrection, hopefully offering some atonement. The human heart is a marker for the grave, an abject symbol for life, bruised by the horrible fate of the people that lie beneath.

With the recent war breaking out in Ukraine, my work has become even more relevant today. Unfortunately wars aren’t a thing of the past. By staying aware of them we can hopefully find ways to minimise the pain and suffering caused by them.

When I was born, the War ended!

large clay and wheatgrass covered structure with an opening in the front surrounded by two baby baths and a tall metal anatomical heart

Seeds of Rebirth

Dirt Under Their Fingernails

Metal Heart

Building the metal heart was a way for me to cope with the loss of my grandmother Jadranka. This process was time consuming and exhausting, but gave me peace. By allowing intense concentration on the technicalities of welding and hammering it into shape, I had time to process my thoughts. Through this making, I found more from my material of metal in a metaphorical sense: Metal is forgiving and tough yet easily dented and scratched, nevertheless it is hard to break. My grandmother was the most loving and kind person I’ve ever met, strong in spirit but soft, which I want to reflect through the grandness of this anatomical heart.

Walkthrough of 'When I was born, the War ended!'

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