“Heritage has become for everyone, not just the elite”
During the Remix Comix conference, one of our speakers will be Dr. Blaz Vurnik from Ljubljana. For Blaz, Comics and Heritage are interrelated in his daily work as a museum curator for contemporary history and a comics script writer. We are eager to hear his thoughts on how heritage can be used in comics, and vice-versa. Together with Zoran Smiljanic he wrote “Memories and Dreams of Kristina B.” about a young girl growing up under fascism in Slovenia.
You’re a historian and a curator. How and why did you begin writing scripts for comics?
I’ve always loved reading comics. It was even possible to grow up with comics, to fill part of the free time that today’s young people spend on social networks. As a museum curator, I had the opportunity to talk to many people who were either making history or experiencing it as part of their lives. I often asked myself what to do with all these stories, testimonies, how to pass them on. Of course, there are methods in the history profession to publish all of this. But I wanted something more. This is why and how the script for the comic Memories and Dreams of Kristina B. Ljubljana 1941-1945 was created.
How do you think comics can contribute to a better understanding and possibly reshaping of European heritages?
Comics are a great medium for conveying stories. Along with the central story, it is possible to include a multitude of contexts, which can also be visual and material. Heritage, however, is always made up of contexts; cultural, political, social, economic and others. By conveying stories in comics, we spread awareness of the role and importance of heritage to new audiences of museum visitors. Comics have become part of European heritage and undoubtedly contribute to awareness of the importance of heritage and history.
What have been your inspirations, in the world of comics, as a writer of scenarios?
The works of many authors had a great influence on the knowledge about the power comics can have in conveying stories, I would single out Joe Sacco, and in Slovenia Zoran Smiljanić and Tomaž Lavrič. Although these are very different works both in terms of selection and delivery of content, they are all united by an exceptional coexistence of narrative and drawing. I felt like I could contribute the content myself.
What can we expect from your seminar on comics and Slovenian heritage stories?
I will present three comics that Zoran Smiljanić and I created, published by the City Museum of Ljubljana, the last two in co-publishing with Stripburger from Ljubljana. I will talk about how I presented heritage and historical content in the screenplay, what know-how museums can offer in this sense and where it is good to look for synergies with different stakeholders, as well as what, according to my experience, is important in the cooperation between a screenwriter and an illustrator.
You’ve worked for quite some time in museums, curating exhibitions about the 20th century. How have, in your view, museums played a role in public perceptions in heritage, in Slovenia, and in Europe?
Museums are guardians of heritage. They used to be more self-sufficient and closed. People came to see beautiful or unusual things in them. In recent decades, the strategies of museums have changed a lot. Above all, they opened up and began intensively searching for their place in modern society. They have become part of the leisure industry; they are involved in informal and formal forms of education. The new museum definition adopted this year by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) even includes the word “enjoyment”. Museums act as partners of universities and research institutes, organize festivals. Heritage has become for everyone, not just the elite. As a result, of course, it also affects how society perceives it and what is learned from the lessons that heritage offers.
What do you expect from the Remix Comix Conference, in Novi Sad, the European Capital of Culture?
Such meetings are always an opportunity to see what is happening in a certain field, what is new, who are the people who know a lot about the subject. We can learn many new things, see how to work better. Perhaps create new partnerships. I expect that from this conference as well.