Sarajevo – Zurich Unlimited

Invitation_unlimited-2 copy

Jelena Petrović – Breaches of Parallel Realities

Geopolitics of the unlimitedconnects incompatible spaces wherein different realities simultaneously operate, in this case the cities of Zurich and Sarajevo. The exhibition Zurich – Sarajevo Unlimited evokes the novel The City & the City by China Miéville, a British author of socialist dystopian science fiction. It tells the story of two imaginary cities, Besźel and UlQoma, which exist side by side, within one another, and perhaps most accurately without one another. The citizens of both cities have been taught to ignore, not see and not to co-exist with each other. There is a clear rule of Unseeing, and failure to comply with this rule is called a Breach, while a police organisation sanctions such transgressions and reports them to the superordinate Oversight Committee, that is, to the authorities. In the video work based on the novel, made by two artists, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, together with China Miéville, this committee for preservation of mutual invisibility, that is of the unavoidable invisible borders of the new democracies, is called a state within the state, shadow government, or deep state (after the Turkish term DerinDevlet). Deep state occurs as a supervisory authority, in which the elected representatives of both cities actually coexist in their positions of power with the sole purpose to define the past, sanction the present (so-called breaches, or interruptions of reality) and create the future. The City and the City thus remain invisible to one another in their daily existence, not physically, but rather psychologically, through the power of free choice and established morals which make any breach be defined as a transgression, or a crime. Mutual invisibility of the cities thus prevents social, historical, material, or any other coexistence. Furthermore, it testifies to the impossibility of the common, impossibility of the unlimited, which is essentially evidenced by any attempt to breach borders, or to abolish entrenched geopolitical realities, both in everyday life and in art.

The artists, whose works deal with geopolitical (in)visibility, memory and social, mutually conditioned individual and collective trauma, ruthless drawings and erasures of borders, the war and the dystopian future ensuing after the most recent war, thus create a social space in which Sarajevo becomes a shared city. This is the location of the search for the politics of hope, for the sanctuary of friendship and community, for the poetry in the wake of the war, i.e. as phrased by Marx, poetry from the future in which some new social revolution needs to win over its ravaged past[1].The historiography of such past is still entrapped in institutional systematisations of historical knowledge,and is produced today from the positions of power based on the neoliberal structure of post-transitional changes. Subjugated knowledge resurfaces as the politics of error, a counter-historical trigger, and calls for the defence of the society which, following the war and the so-called transition, has ended on the global periphery[2]. Accordingly, the exhibited works which commonly address the city of Sarajevo use different strategies to investigate liminal spaces, their boundaries and assigned geopolitical borders, in the confines of which war by all means and war by other means are alternately being led[3].

In her video work entitled Geometry of Time, Lana Čmajčaninuses geopolitical factography: the choice of 32 geographical maps which evidence the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the previous 551 years. The maps which succeed and overlap one another, instead of evidencing precise and clear borders, in fact demonstrate their ebb and flow, the inconsistency and instability arising from colonial, imperial, expansionist, migratory, wartime, but also “peace-making” efforts and revisions. The grey areas of separation are revealed through the artistic strategies of opposing the great historical narratives, and they indicate the necessity of our permanent fight against what instrumentalises, controls, shapes or quite clearly oppresses and socially exploits us, leaving behind its visible marks.

On the other hand, the historiography of (dis)continuous resistance and struggle is figuratively presented by DženanHadžihasanović in his series of paintings Blank Title, mapping the mass movements which caused emancipatory shifts in society throughout history. An open sum of individual scenes from the past to which we refer when we talk about mass social movements serves to compose a single picture, structurally open to future inscriptions of revolutionary narratives. White banners, simplified human forms, blank faces, they all testify to the instability of the battles won, emptied out emancipatory politics, the inability to claim victories in the devastation of the present moment, in other words, to the faultiness of talking about revolution, unless this revolution is permanent. Therefore in his new series of paintings entitled Moving Back, Hadžihasanovićopens the chasm of inversion, painting people in queues, people on the move, migrating people. Forced and violent mass movements in society breach into prior images of the victorious past, confirming both the instability of the victories won and the necessity of permanent struggle.

The series of photographs entitled Nostalgia by Adela Jušić and Lost Things by Jim Marshall introduceinto the preconfigured historical map a social forensics of blurred individual and collective relationships with their constant shifts and violent displacements caused by war, and their impossible politics of memory. Both these works follow and document the objects lost in the course of wars: the former tells the story of the things abandoned in the war zone, possessions left in a 1990’s Sarajevo apartment after the family had gone into refuge, while the latter traces the objects abandoned and lost along the Balkan route of the present mass migrations. (In)visible objects, bodies, spaces depicted in the photographs and their mutual relations become in themselves witnesses of the events that produced them, creating the space for forum, the locus of discussion following material evidence. What follows in this forum is material rhetoric, forensicsin its original meaning: the space in which the truth about an event is built upon the object which simultaneously represents an outcome of the conflict and negotiation of its meaning. On the one hand,Adela Jušićexhibits personal belongings of a Sarajevo family to testify to thenostalgia which appearsas a particularist colonisation of politics and history; and on the other,Jim Marshallleaves the photographs of objects as forensic records of our everyday existence. Objects from both artworks emerge as a locus of political articulation of time and space within the global cartography of the permanent war.

The artwork of JusufHadžifejzovićshows different kind of things, countless and different objects such as empty bottle, wrapping materials and similar, which be can summarised in the words by Peter Brook – All begins and ends in emptiness.[4]They are in fact the substrate of our emptied out reality, the parodist images of the neoliberal social economies. With its massive nothingness, this dystopian materialism serves to camouflage the images of the bygone war, and finally comes to break the deadlock through parody and humour, utilising them as artistic strategies of political struggle and everyday survival. The vacuity of the objects and their images reveals the essence, the initial spark of overcoming the very same fear which, in the performance entitled The Fear of Drinking Water, highlights the value of human relationships, as well as the changes in social life conditioned by the deflating economy of the war which perpetuates.

This forensic intersection of cartography, historiography and their objects, at the place where every BREACH of borders is a matter of personal and social responsibility, contains common ground wherein a politics of hope can be articulated. This is the politics of hope which resides in the distorted geopolitical zones suspended between utopian and dystopian future, not unlike the one informing the work of BojanStojčić and its poetic sights of everyday situations and landscapes. The title of his work: No Trace promises the Pathmaybe is the best way to conclude that the society in which we live, with its borders and politics, actually depends on us, on our transgressions and inscribed messages. What disables us to be ready – to mine for the poetry from the future, massively and permanently – is alienation: the moment from the City and City in which we decide to accept the rule of Unseeing.

Translated by Milan Marković and TijanaParezanović

[1] Cf. Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, 1852, (last viewed on 2 March, 2017).

[2] Cf. Foucault, Michel, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France, 1975-76. St. Martin’s Press. 2003.

[3] Inversion of the thesis made by Clausewitz of “War as politics by other means“, to suggest that politics is in fact continuation of war by other means.

[4]Taken from the artist statement of Jusuf Hadžifejzović.

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