Nina Mihaljinac, the professor on the Faculty of Drama Arts, University of Arts Belgrade.
We have selected a segment of PhD thesis in which Nina discusses the works by Goran Stojčetović and the Art Brut Serbia Association: “A small number of art pieces pertains to the group of art works that are the testimonies of “paralysed witnesses” of NATO bombing,among which are the following: Apartment, basement, accommodation, a series of drawings by Goran Stojčetović, Slender 1999,a series of photos by Ivan Petrović, a war journal in a comic book form – NATO bombing of Yugoslavia by Zoran Jović Letač, Somnus Ambulare, prints by Tijana Kojić and Natural mystic, a video work by Anri Sala. The main theme and the motivator of these works is fear of (immediate) death whether the fear itself is supressed, whether it dominates or it is directly presented. It is significant that the narrators – the witnesses, spectators (real individuals – the artists) or personas (real personas who found themselves in the same situation) are close to the location of trauma and their capacity to defend themselves from the trauma is considerably dimished.
The works by Goran Stojčetović, Ivan Petrović and Danijel Savović were created in Kosovo, the territory on which the entire nationalist mythmaker was founded – the national consciousness described in national epic poems, that is the feeling of national pride, martyrdom and sacrifice and where, at that moment, the armed conflicts occurred and areal war was waged. By having spent time in war, in military or civilian objects which were open to attacks, and that were on the territory which had been encumbered symbolically with the ideas of bloodshed, murder and death (of Serbs, Albanians, Roma and other minorities alike), the artists – witnesses were exposed to the trauma of potentially stronger effects than trauma that could have been inflicted on the citizens of Yugoslavia outside Kosovo. Goran Stojčetović comes from Uroševac (Kosovo), while Danijel Savović and Ivan Petrović served the army there. The case is similar with the video works by Anri Sala in which a man accurately imitates the sound of the tomahawk missile. In order for him to be able to reproduce the sound, he had to be in the vicinity of the bombed location several times, i.e. his life must have been in danger more than once. The story of bombing in the prints of Tijana Kojić is set farther from the place of danger – in the rooms of Belgrade shelters, though, Tijana was not capable of distancing herself critically towards the events the reason being is the fact that the artist was only eleven, and as a child she was less resilient to the trauma of bombing; the case is similar with the drawings by the artist Mirjana Jelić. The works of paralysis were created in the moments of great danger when the need to create arose.
It took Goran Stojčetović fifteen years to start the project of collecting artworks by professional artists and amateurs alike who dealt with the topic of bombardment. In 2014 project titled The Breakup of Yugoslavia,Goran Stojčetović, along with other artists (Danijel Savović, Joškin Šiljan, Nenad Bračić, Zoran Popović Zanko, Nikola Šindik, Srboslav Ilić, Mirjana Jelić)for the first time had presented and publicly talked about his drawings made during the bombing (the series under the title Apartment, basement accommodation). Although the topic of the collected pieces is focused on bombing, the title of the research project places the event into a broader political context by which a more objective approach to understanding the entire problem of bombing is achieved. Owing to the title, the bombing is not presented as an isolated event, as the former government of Yugoslavia tried to portray, but as a result of policies conducted in the region of former state. However, the title has a tight and clear connotation for the author: The SFRY is a metaphor for paradise, peace and utopia, and the bombing presents the end of said utopia. ‘‘The Breakup of SFRY – is an enormous subject, but I am not interested in the past, this (bombing) is my interest’’. On the other hand the name of the series of drawings by Stojčetović Apartment, basement, accommodation creates shear intimacy, a private history of retreat, the displacement from reality. „After 15 years of their creation, I have exhibited them for the first time. They were formed in the atmosphere before, during and after NATO bombing in Uroševac, the town in which I used to live prior to 1999. I have never seen them as valuable, but rather as products of self-treatment in insane time and space in which I was living. The days filled with fear, paranoia, disinformation, theft and murders, before and after the bombing in Uroševac, which was, back then, the town holding the biggest armed and police forces,they weren’t interwoven into my works. I couldn’t face the reality. If we leave out daily drinking, all I have left “to blame” is my incorrigible imagination and childishness. That was why I made drawings with other kids in the basement and in front of my building… Now, observing these works, I have hoped to see the general truth, some kind of testimony of those times, however, all I can find are the drawing games WITH MYSELF, INSIDE OF ME… I had a slightly different state of mind than the girl (5 years old) who drew pictures with me in the basement. She was drawing pretty girls, the sun, flowers, jewellery… as if she hadn’t been with her parents in the basement of the building, under the lights of flashlights, being surrounded by the noise, drunken jokes and songs, the news over the radio.” (Stojčetović, Interview, 2015).The themes of Stojčetović works are immediate, physical reality, as well as exteriorisation of inner states of psyche – the room where the artist was sitting and drawing (auto-portraits), the sky with bombs, bombs falling onto Uroševac; portraits-grimaces which resemble the Scream by Edvard Munch, thus forming a transtextual connection with war drawings and paintings;among other works there is the portrait of Saint Sava presenting the link between the Trauma and Kosovo mythos (the founding of nationalist state and the fight between Christians and Muslims), or the portrait of a punker (the picture of escapism); Serbia in metaphors (chicken – hen, but also a dumb hen); religious – devotional themes (Jesus on the cross and beneath him lie the living dead curled in fetal positions). Most of the drawings have dates on them(19th April 1999, 22nd June 1999etc.) – this makes it possible to perceive them as a chronologic story of the bombing, a diary in pictures of the artist’s psyche. In the works by Goran Stojčetović the link between the external events and the mental state, the treated subjects, as well as the style and auto-referral expression is unbreakable. The expression of the artist – infinite drawing out of circular lines with a ball-pen, which in his own word developed during the bombing, presents a form of auto-hypnosis self-treatment. “My expression was formed before the bombing. Nowadays I draw pictures in exactly the same way. After the bombing I was living in Rogača. Until 2000 I didn’t stop, I was constantly drawing. Silly drawings. In Niš I used to draw everything… Refugees…” (Stojčetović, Interview, 2015). Since they show the ugliness – hideousness, cancer or death as impressions originating from immediate reality (the phenomena of war such as bloody Tuesday or bloody Friday) which have pharmacopoeial, liberating effects, they also express rebellion, heroism, liberation, hope and truth. Such poetics Stojčetović calls the “Frozen Romanticism”, and being frozen in time is the key symptom of paralysed testimony. In the case of drawings Apartment, basement, accommodation, this halt presents the need to confront and overcome the trauma. “They say- why do you deal with war, let it go. But I need to know what happened. When I crossed the border I was relieved. In the name of that specific idea many massacred happened. Nobody else is going to deal with that. It doesn’t necessarily have to be political, it can also be an anthropologic observation.” (Stojčetović, Interview, 2015). The key principles of Stojčetović’s art are freedom of speech,self-understanding and self-treatment. While talking about how the topic of NATO bombing is under presented in the contemporary public discourse, he notices that speaking about war may present a problem to other people, as it implies the revelation of political attitudes or the possibility of labelling – a dangerous and careless segregation into preformed, hardened political categories. However, his position is that artistic expression, independent of socio-political context, comes from a necessity and it serves as auto-reflection and therapy. “People will only find art meaningful when it is curative to them. There is no historical context which can reach the future empty souls.”(Stojčetović, Interview, 2015). These are the postulates on which Art Brut Serbia was formed, whose goal is the social integration of marginalised groups through art – regardless of the group be it “developmentally challenged children or youth, children without parental care, psychiatric patients, refugees or convicts”. The mission of the association is being practiced by “ the people from various professional fields who with their experience and empathy want to contribute to the development and promotion of arts and craft made by those who can’t make it in life by themselves.” The mission is partially based on the idea that through art work the communication with the audience if established, the audience are the secondary witnesses and by participating in the trauma they potentially diminish its effects. The principle of group therapy, transported onto the field of art work and production/ rehabilitation of narrative on trauma (artistic testimony), fulfils one of the conditions for trauma treatment – and that is empathy (secondary testimony). The example of the Breakup of SFRY project verifies the thesis that the process of collecting and presenting memories – the stories of past events, is one of the key elements of the development of healthy identity, that is self-understanding and treatment of an individual in a community. Directly related to this is the issue of social, cultural, historical, and even political role of museums and archives. The fact that the topic of the 90’s era has not been treated in any public museum in Serbia is indicative of the ruling politics of oblivion, and that art groups and organisations of civil associations fight against it for the right to keep their memories. In the case of Art Brut Serbia association, the accent is more on discovering, reconstructing and unifying the memories of many marginalised voices, and thus with their public display (web site, Sudent’s City Cultural Center in Belgrade, Cultural centre in Niš, Cultural centre of Gračanica…).
Post on BBC – www.bbc.com
NATO bombing of FR Yugoslavia
GORAN STOJČETOVIĆ / HALLE SAINT PIERRE
Serbie : l’art brut, exploration en profondeur de la psyché
JOŠ NE SVIĆE RUJNA ZORA
2014 - Crafted By Art Brut Inside Team