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Željko Beljan & Rebecca Merlic

Truth is a Forgotten Memory


 “Zidnjaci” are embroidered textile ornaments, commonly featured in rural Croatian kitchens of the past. Beside their practical function of protecting the wall from splashes of cooked dishes, wall cloths adorned with different witty, instructive (and often sexist) messages served the role of promoting “good housewife values”. 



Željko Beljan and Rebecca Merlic, Truth is a Forgotten Memory, 2022. Photo: Sanja Bistričić Srića / Courtesy of the artists.

Truth Is a Forgotten Memory (2022) approaches these embroideries as a reflection and materialization of the social state and memory of a certain period, tracking the habits of domestic life, relationship between the sexes, marriage dynamics and even political situations. Focusing on their role as carriers of stereotypes, Rebecca Merlic and Željko Beljan reinterpret and modify them into a murky glitched hybrid world of archived past and present.

Based on an extensive collection of embroidered textiles of the Museum of Brodsko Posavlje, artists created a series of embroidered “zidnjaci” adapted for contemporary times, presented as textile artworks and 3D models, embedded within virtual space resembling a video game. While retaining the traditional format of text and images placed on fabric, analogue mediums of embroidering were intertwined with digital production techniques and the outcome of AI generators. Digitally modified scanned shapes of original “zidnjaci” were combined with newly created sayings, generated by an autoregressive language model GPT-3 that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. Generated texts consist of the most common terms we were exposed to during the pandemic. Reflecting the pandemic reality, heavily reduced to virtual representation, “new-normal” sayings replace questionable traditional proverbs and establish yet another layer of everyday life saturated with stereotypes and misinformation.
Željko Beljan and Rebecca Merlic, Truth is a Forgotten Memory, 2022. Photo: Sanja Bistričić Srića / Courtesy of the artists.

Željko Beljan and Rebecca Merlic, Truth is a Forgotten Memory, 2022. Photo: Sanja Bistričić Srića / Courtesy of the artists.


Željko Beljan and Rebecca Merlic, Truth is a Forgotten Memory, 2022. Photo: Sanja Bistričić Srića / Courtesy of the artists.

Željko Beljan and Rebecca Merlic, Truth is a Forgotten Memory, 2022. Photo: Sanja Bistričić Srića / Courtesy of the artists.
Željko Beljan (1984) received his MA from the Department of Animated Film and New Media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 2021. Interested in craft, folk art, outsider art, traditional handicraft techniques, and their position and perception in the contemporary art world, Beljan also uses his work to express, explore and question ideas about identity.

Rebecca Merlic (1989) is a European digital artist and architect, experimental filmmaker, and university assistant in the core team of Experimental Game Cultures at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Her work is strongly influenced by alternative societies and transgressions of socioeconomic conventions as well as by new forms of artistic and architectural production employing new technologies. Merlic won the Marianne.von.Willemer Prize for Digital Media in 2020 and is currently working on DigitalHumanism x FutureLiving in collaboration with the Austrian Cultural Forum in Tokyo as well as on her new video game GLITCHBODIES.


Etc. is an annual magazine, dedicated to showcasing current artistic production from the Baltic to the Balkans.
Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, each issue is dedicated to a relevant topic in art and life. Founded to promote emerging artists, its goal is to initiate a dialogue, inspire collaborations, and challenge set views.