In collaboration with Lana Čmajčanin
Original title: Priče za laku noć
6 channel sound installation
Sound recording: Adela Jušić and Lana Čmajčanin
Sound editing and music: Ognjen Šavija
Language: Bosnian-Herzegovinian, English
Voice over: Neda Tadić
Translation assistance: Mike Iacavone
Year of production: 2011
Special thanks to our friends for the stories: Leila Čmajčanin, Emir Kapetanović, Aida Vežić, Šemsudin Maljević and Jasenka Paralija.
Special thanks to: Haris Bilalović, Dejan Vladić, Sloven Anzulović and to Vladan Jeremić for finally making it happen.
During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina the people had to spend a lot of time sleeping and living in basements sometimes for days and weeks without leaving those spaces at all. Sarajevo was under the siege during 1395 days, longest siege of one capital city in the history of modern warfare. Living in apartments and houses was mostly impossible due to the constant grenade attacks.
Most of the basements in buildings had small spaces, one for every apartment. These spaces were transformed into sleeping rooms. The size of these spaces could be as little as one meter wide and two meters long, cause their natural function was storage. These storage places were usually full of old things or things that just don’t belong inside apartments. They were emptied as soon as the first grenades fell on Sarajevo. Because of the size of interior spaces only the bed could fit inside and nothing else. Most of these spaces had wooden bars and not real doors. Sometimes even three people slept inside.
The one can not easily imagine this life inside basement. People form special community with its own rules established.
Through written and sound interviews we are collecting the stories that happened in the basements during the war.
Photo by Dejan Vladić
STORY BY AIDA VEŽIĆ
I cannot tell a basement story since the building that I lived in during the aggression on BiH and the siege of Sarajevo did not have a basement. That time I would have spent in the basement, I spent on the dining chair in the corridor of the building, in front of door number 99, on the 6th floor, which is atypical and architecturally different, but according to the coldness of the tiles and roughness of the walls is still typical of a Sarajevo apartment.
I cannot tell a story because one does not exist and I am not able to make a plot with the beginning, middle, or morels at the end, with characters who are going to be sad or likable. I don’t have completed anecdotes.
Only fragments exist and traumas collected over 1000 and more days of the siege of Sarajevo. I am trying to remember the beginning and the end of some interesting event, but I only see a murky mass of feeling, or the lack of feelings, numbness. The fragment and trauma, like sudden sound, coldness, waiting, confusion, anger, hatred, whateverness, misanthropy and the rest. I don’t have pretty memories from the corridor.
I envy those who tell the stories of friendship during the war, about the romantic love, and neighbors’ solidarity. I was neither a child nor the grown up. Confused teenage girl between 14 and 18 years of age.
I remember, for example, how I hated them because they didn’t allow me to sleep. It is 3 a.m. and I angrily put on the trousers over my bare legs, under the night gown which I try to tuck in the trousers but this old, blue, velvet night gown, makes wrinkles and bumps because of its length and creates discomfort around my waist. I am too lazy to take it off, so I put some old, woolen sweater over it and I grumble and protest, wanting to sleep. That is the reason I am quarrelsome and want to bite.
In the middle of the night when the dream is the sweetest, they are starting to throw shells on me. I am not afraid but my mom is and because of that, because of her, I am dressing up and exiting in front of the entrance of our apartment in the corridor, only 2-3 meters away from my bed. Apparently this spot is safer, even though this is not proven but only the result of our overnight gained knowledge of ballistics and military tactics.
I hate them, but have nowhere to release the feeling. I only have anger and powerlessness, so I listen to the detonations of the tank grenades of the biggest caliber, and I know their goal is not only to kill, but to torture with insomnia, restlessness and fear. I don’t remember how long the shelling continued that night, which was one of many with the same scenario but for some reason that night in particular is imprinted strongly in my memory.
I can still feel the anger, inability to act and that confusion, as well as physical sensation of the crumpled cloth under the layers of my clothes. I feel I have no voice while everything in me screams with anger.
The second fragment of my experience is the detonation of the shell, my first close experience with the heat of the explosion. It was hot summer day and we were sitting in the same spot in front of apartment door, in the same corridors and are waiting for hours. We can hear sporadic detonations, but they are in the distance, not close to us.
My building had 8 floors and a glass ceiling on top. It looked like a little glass house. Because of its position, the building is imprinted in the hill, so the stairs connect two streets and the building has two entrances, from the two street levels. I have no clue what the subject of the conversation was on that day and hour… sometime in the early afternoon, or maybe we were silent.
The thing I cannot forget is deafening explosion, the sound of crushing glass and tumbles down and the terrible heat of detonation on my bare hands and on my skin. The shell fell on the street and the glass was broken. No one was hurt, but I was in shock. In shock over terrifying strength of the detonation that caused everything in me to vibrate and buzz, I hear nothing, understand nothing, and have no clue where the grenade hit. There was too much dust, and smoke.
The neighbor lady is screaming, some children crying… ohhhh… that was my closest explosion so far. As if the death has touched me with the rim of its cloak and I froze seeing its power. The swift of its sickle can touch anyone of us at any moment.
They say you never hear your own shell so you know you are alive when you are aware of the explosion. There are so many of those moments in my memory.
They often come to the surface by themselves, the fragments.
Exhibition view “I will never talk about the war again”, Fargfabriken, Stockholm, photos by Rena Raedle
Exhibition view “I will never talk about the war again”, Kibla, Maribor, photos by Rena Raedle
“Za laku noć u POGON-u možemo čuti priču o dvoje osmogodišnjaka koji su uspješno organizirali podrumsku stripoteku koja je, osim djece, od dosade spašavala cijelu podrumsku zajednicu. Naoko veselu priču, presjeći će detalj o susjedu koji je za zlatno izdanje Zagora djeci dao vrećicu makarona. Tu je i priča o nesanici, “priča koja nije nikakva priča” kako kaže jedna od sugovornica umjetnica koja s posjetiteljima dijeli tek album metafora. Ili ona posve drugačija o “tri i pol godine u podrumu, pola djetinjstva otprilike” propovijedana kroz lica susjeda okupljenih u skloništu.”
Link to full text by Petra Novak
Exhibition photos 51st Zagreb salon of visual art, 2016