Irena Haiduk’s project Yugoexport explores material history, collective memory and the challenges of corporate modernity. Haiduk describes Yugoexport as “a blind, non-aligned, oral corporation: incorporated in the United States (where corporations are people), launched in Paris and headquartered in Belgrade, it is a copy or an avatar of Jugoeksport, a defunct Yugoslav apparel manufacturer and weapons exporter.” Yugoexport makes use of the artefacts of material culture created for the Yugoslav regime. The lace-up Borosana shoe, for example, was developed in the 1960s at the Borovo Rubber Industry Headquarters in Vukovar, now in eastern Croatia.
The shoe, created to provide comfort and spinal support during nine hours of standing labour, was designed and tested by the Borovo female workforce and an orthopaedic surgeon, and was mandatory for Yugoslav women working in the public sector. In the declining years of Yugoslav communism the model was withdrawn from mass production, and fabrication was abandoned when Vukovar became a war zone in 1991. Through Yugoexport, the shoe has come back into existence: as part of the performance Nine Hour Delay at Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel all women (or anyone happy to wear women’s shoes) employed at Documenta were eligible to receive a pair of Borosana shoes.
Haiduk’s project not only draws on the political and historical meaning of wearable artefacts, but also opens up discussion on the issue of female labour, both in the past and within thecontemporary corporate reality. As the capitalist crisis in the West provoked in part by the global overproduction of goods becomes part of everyday reality, Yugoexport’s motto — “How to surround yourself with things in the right way” — seems increasingly on point.