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.

The work is part of Collection Besieged Sarajevo, History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina (scroll down to read more about the Collection)
Photo by Zijah Gafić, exhibition view, collection Besieged Sarajevo, History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2018

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.

1 (4)1 (1)Photographs of the basement in residential building in Sarajevo by Dejan Vladić

(…) 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.

 – Story by Aida Vežić used in sound installation, excerpt

Exhibition view I will never talk about the war again, Fargfabriken, Stockholm, 2011, photos by Rena Raedle

Exhibition view I will never talk about the war again, Kibla, Maribor, photos by Rena Raedle

This and featured image: exhibition view Bedtime Stories, Gallery 90-60-90, Pogon Jedinstvo, Zagreb, photo by Jasenko Rasol

“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 view 51st Zagreb salon of visual art, photo by Jasenko Rasol, 2016

Link to exhibition photos Fargfabriken
Link to exhibition photos Fargfabriken
Link to exhibition photos 51st Zagreb salon of visual art, 2016

Exhibition view Stories of Traumatic Pasts: Counter-Archives for Future Memories, Weltmuseum Wien, 7.10.2020 – 3.4.2021

Collection Besieged Sarajevo

Established: 2003
The collection about the war from 1992 to 1995 consists of material collected for the purposes of the permanent exhibition “Besieged Sarajevo”, which opened in April 2003. Museum curators began to collect material from all relevant institutions (hospitals, ambulance services, humanitarian organizations, theaters, festivals, and others). The Museum invited citizens to donate objects they made for everyday use; the collected material has exceeded the capacity of the exhibition, and grown into a special collection. This is a collection that witnesses human ingenuity, creativity, improvisation, and functionality, and consists of exhibits, such as war lamps, stoves made of cans, clothing, posters, and photographs. The museum has collected a considerable number of valuable artifacts from the period 1992 to 1995. The citizens of Sarajevo participated in the process of creating the collection. The exhibition and collection in the History Museum tell about the courage and creativity of the citizens in one of the darkest periods in the history of Sarajevo.

Bedtime Stories became part of the Collection in 2018, as part of the research project Art & Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community, launched by History Museum of Bosnia Herzegovina, in collaboration with the University of Arts in London.

Exhibition view, REconciliations, Collection Besieged Sarajevo, History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2018

Adaptation and solidarity were essential as people shared their food, clothes and had to invent solutions, find alternatives and pull together to survive. Čmajčanin and Jušić collected stories from people they knew and met with and the interviewees were free to tell the first story that came to their mind relating to these basements spaces during the war.  The final testimonies are overlapped with music and audiences members lie down within the enclosed bed cubicles, comfortable and peaceful, to listen to the stories that tell of the bare struggle of basement war life and testify to the resistance, resilience and creativity that people harnessed to survive day to day life in besieged Sarajevo.

Read the full text on Art and Reconciliation Website

Download catalog of Bedtime Stories created in the frame of Art and Reconciliation: Conflict, Culture and Community project

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