“Heads On to the Strawberry Bush” – for the 54 October Salon: No One Belongs Here More Than You exhibition publication

Written March 2014. for the book following the  54 October Salon: No One Belongs Here More Than You exhibition, October 11 – November 17 2013, Belgrade Zepter Expo, Former Department Store KLUZ, curated by Red Min(e)d. Download the exhibition guide here.

Published December 2014 in “No One Belongs Here More Than You. The Living Archive: Curating Feminist Knowledge” by Red Min(e)d / Cultural centre of Belgrade. Download the book here.


“Heads On to the Strawberry Bush”

For some reason, it seems almost impossible to resist the pathetic need to start this article at the end (cue in a memorable soundtrack from “Grlom u jagode”, a popular Yugoslav series launched in 1975[1]), and in the signature style of the oft-cited serial, to say something like: “On the week that ended 17th of November, the famous writer Doris Lessing died in London, the art market in NYC made the headlines with some formidable new records – the most expensive work ever was auctioned, the highest grossing auction ever took place – and in Belgrade, the exhibition ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’ came to an end.”

This need can somewhat be explained by the fact that all these things actually did happen as stated, but also as the consequence of the very peculiar sentiment – as that day, visiting the final hours of it while a farewell concert took place, despite my belief that the exhibition did not resonate with me very much, I also realized that I did not want it to end. This does appear pretty odd, as I am also not the biggest “Grlom u jagode” fan either, despite the fact I started the text with it, although most people find the series irresistibly cute. But “cute” would not be the word to use in describing this exhibition and its wider context, its social affairs.

Like with most things for which we can still not say much about what they are, or were, it seems that we can learn a lot by trying to understand what they are not or cannot be; the project of the Curatorial School was there to apply these and other principles to what was being exposed during the several weeks of “No One Belongs…”, which was presented in the magnificent setting of the Kluz department store, a building that could easily be accused of being a potentially show-stealing venue in any situation. And adding the allegedly “controversial” introductory panel a few weeks ahead of the exhibition opening – more on that later – everything promised that there would be no easy way to launch “No One Belongs…”.

But however much things got a bit emotional for me on the very last day of the exhibition (now, can we stop with that “Grlom u jagode” music, please? thank you), it would not help much in trying to understand what happened there by starting at the end, so let’s rewind to the very beginning.

Now a significant tradition of the city, the annual event launched in 1960, unlike most of its contemporaries, has somehow survived to its latest, 54th incarnation; and precisely this tradition, or rather the lack of similar or comparable events, following the decay of the “age of prosperity” of the regional cultural and artistic scene, is partial fuel for the fire – a great weight is put on the Salon to remain “the last exhibition standing”, if we take the perspective of generations of (critical and experimental) artists from the region.
Now a significant tradition of the city, the annual event launched in 1960, unlike most of its contemporaries, has somehow survived to its latest, 54th incarnation; and precisely this tradition, or rather the lack of similar or comparable events, following the decay of the “age of prosperity” of the regional cultural and artistic scene, is partial fuel for the fire – a great weight is put on the Salon to remain “the last exhibition standing”, if we take the perspective of generations of (critical and experimental) artists from the region.

The Curatorial School is on a mission

Everything followed the sense of being slightly disoriented from the very beginning, starting with “Coping Mechanisms for Endangered Species”, the opening performance by Alexis O’Hara.[2] Her potentially vindictive and witty history and contemplation of the historical and current embodiments of feminism probably got somewhat lost in the performance, as it was conceived so to be elaborated in a play of spoken words and sentences – this slight case of confusion is perhaps to be found in the opaqueness of the allusions and allegories used to actually “name” the protagonists of her speech. But this curious mixture of conceptual and performative did produce some artifacts to mark the entire exhibition – a pair of red high heels to point to sudden absence (mostly of the artist, who ended the piece by leaving her clothes on the very scene), and a small red dress suspended from a handful of white balloons that was descending gradually from the ceiling, day by day, where it had been launched to the opening night as if to announce some sort of presence to come. But we’re waiting for the return of who, of what? Could it perhaps stand for a flag lowered to half-mast instead, so as to announce a loss and defeat? Will the dress touch the ground eventually? And what happens then?

OS 2013 curatorial school investigates
Out of 37 works inspected, 5 were found to contain a lot of humor, in 11 some humor could be found and used for interpretation, while 21 had to be described as “very somber”. What’s so funny? Curatorial School investigates.

During the introductory days of the exhibition, there was the feeling that something definitely did happen or started happening, but no one seemed to be sure as to exactly what that was, and as the days passed by, the little red dress was closer and closer to the floor. This particular feeling of longing for “something more” is again of a particular kind, as neither I nor most of those I spoke with had any clue as to what we thought should be there, what exactly our expectations were, what should happen. Usually when there is a sort of anticipation like this one was, there is at least some awareness of the kind of image, perhaps just a vague shape of what one is waiting for – but not this time. The unruly alliance of local and international artists and critics who were for this purpose banded together into the project of the Curatorial School did their best to investigate the matter; the artists and curators were being interviewed, the local experts were consulted, and no stone (that is, no work) was left unturned. And the results of this investigation seemed to narrow down the possibilities to several topics through which we could further pursue our dilemma: who the public was of (and for) this exhibition (in this case, it appeared to be “the scene”), what the focus was of the expectations, the actual subject of the exhibition (“contemporary feminist art”), and then especially the kind of approach to the subject matter (here, it could be marked by expressions such as “archive”, “plural” and “plurality”, “community”, “affect”, “somber”, “post” and “feminist”). Finally, the issues of the very terrain of contemporary society through which we are able to observe the causes and effects of such an event had to be considered.

The general sense of waiting for something else, for “something more” to happen, started to gradually acquire it’s “weak resolution”, as each day there was usually a very interesting program of debates, lectures and events, and a kind of “community” started to be shaped by the exhibition itself. But this stubborn state of waiting for the essence of the exhibition to reveal itself appeared as the dominant atmosphere lingering over the superheroes of the Curatorial School, who were determined not to give up before decoding “No One Belongs…”. So, to understand this exhibition became the quest to understand this “something more”, this something perceived as must being in existence but not (yet) there, to discover the reason for this state of waiting; the Curatorial School was on the case.

OS 2013 curatorial school

Here, you can observe the relative position of the Little Red Dress to the floor: A: LRD position on 11 October after the performance by Alexis O’Hara. B: LRD position on 17 November, during the performance by Lala Raščić
Here, you can observe the relative position of the Little Red Dress to the floor:
A: LRD position on 11 October after the performance by Alexis O’Hara.
B: LRD position on 17 November, during the performance by Lala Raščić

All nice people here, so no ceilings broken

Also, it felt important to be aware about what this art was not, and that was at least partially clear – it was not the kind of art that made historical records on the art market that week. November 2013 brought the world some new all-time market achievements, as Francis Bacon’s 1969 piece “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold for $142 million, Jeff Koons’ “Balloon Dog” grossed a record for a piece auctioned by a living artist – $58.4 million, and there was the Christie’s auction that happened in, I believe, New York City, worth a record-breaking $692 million (perhaps worth noting here is that the entire annual budget of the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts was $138 million). And, this was way back in November: ever since, it appears that the market has started to “break its own records” every other week.

But most of the artists of “No One Belongs…” were probably mostly unaware of all that. It seems that today there are (at least) two completely distinct art worlds, both in the local as well as the global sense, that are so distinct that they have not even shared a common history for decades now, and nor do they care much about each other; market-oriented artists and experts will pretty much have no clue about even the “stars” of the critical art scene (unless they’re “having problems with inspiration”), while the said scene considers the news on the latest developments in sports and in the art market with a similar lack of interest. A very very tiny intersection of the two could encompass some interesting names, but most artists are, and have been for quite some time now, in an “either/or” position considering the funding. One’s choice of the particular aspect of funding became, then, the choice about the entire future universe of where that particular art would or would not exist. Such and similar “new” divisions seem to be at the core of where “No One Belongs Here More Than You” is located.

There was another related affair, attributed as being one of the several “fake scandals” around “No One Belongs Here More Than You”, the one concerning its very location in an “absolute sense”. It definitely is a problem that the great building of the Kluz department store somehow became a private showroom that wanted people to call it the Zepter Expo now; but the four curators of “No One Belongs…” can definitely not be held responsible for that, as some sharply critical voices seemed to suggest. What happened here is of some significance, as the new owners of this historical place (built in 1908) decided that they would host the exhibition, but wanted something in return – to use the occassion to also exhibit their own collection. According to my knowledge, despite the long and painful recent history of “official” cultural events supposedly funded by the City or State but usually dotted with logos of “supporting” businesses and corporations, this is the first time that a private sponsor tried to intervene into the very program of the Salon, in what works would be on display. A worrying trend, by all means, but, judging by what happened in the case of “No One Belongs…”, at least in Belgrade, the critical art is safe for the time being. Besides this private collection being in a clearly separated space, the selection of (was it cutlery?), fine china and canvases on offer could in no way be mistaken for anything connected with the program of the Salon. If it were not reflecting all the bizarreness and brutality of contemporary reality, this situation could be even comical in a way: the clumsiness with which the private collection attempted to “sneak in” into a bigger exhibition produced the expected effect of its becoming utterly invisible for whoever came to see “No One Belongs…” This is not to say that the situation is “funny” in any way; clearly, it was a “space for space” kind of a deal, where capital offered the physical space in exchange for a bit of a social space of recognition. Somewhat odd may be the perception of such powerfull capital offering such confused programme compared to independent initiatives, but only until there is the belief that same categories apply to both; in reality, capital will be quite uninterested in how the critical art scene evaluates their agenda – from this scene, not even a nod of acceptance is needed, and their customers, their markets are somewhere else.

At worst, it felt like walking by a random shop window, but it mostly went absolutely unnoticed. No one was tempted by anything to pass through that entrance, as the fine china and whatnot there was clearly visible from far away; perhaps they will consider employing a curator in the future.

Anyway, both during guided tours and in the media, the curators did clearly state what was happening and what their position was, and the walls of Kluz were entirely under their control during “No One Belongs…”. If there is perhaps something to take a closer look at here, my nomination would be observing the mechanism through which the presence of a creeping number of corporate “support” for this and that in art events over time eventually resulted in “suddenly” private interests asking to be represented in the programme – it seems to be what is to be expected in all similar “public-private formulas”, gradually being imposed as “the solution” to replace what used to be sovereignly public before.

OS 2013 bizgow

Volumes could be written about the Salon on the basis of counter-Salons alone, on the exhibitions and events reacting to it, in most cases, against it – the now famous October 75 being the prime example. All that happened at a time where things were not “confused” – a big and glittery expensive Salon was the annual condensation, the outcome of the battle for canonization and prestige within what is recognized as mainstream art, while avant-garde, critical and experimental art were in a way temporarily “united” in their various responses and challenges addressed at the Salon. It was only later, after this transition started, that “non-mainstream” art began seeing the Salon itself as its own place rather than its “negative inspiration”, and most of the change have had to do with the issues of funding and visibillity.
Volumes could be written about the Salon on the basis of counter-Salons alone, on the exhibitions and events reacting to it, in most cases, against it – the now famous October 75 being the prime example. All that happened at a time where things were not “confused” – a big and glittery expensive Salon was the annual condensation, the outcome of the battle for canonization and prestige within what is recognized as mainstream art, while avant-garde, critical and experimental art were in a way temporarily “united” in their various responses and challenges addressed at the Salon. It was only later, after this transition started, that “non-mainstream” art began seeing the Salon itself as its own place rather than its “negative inspiration”, and most of the change have had to do with the issues of funding and visibillity.

You know, you know all these people

A “general public” (however abstract, vague or simply untrue that term may be, standing for the fantasy that never exists) decided to start giving up on the concept that art is relevant for life quite some time ago – sometime around the break of 90s, perhaps – and not without reason; the forces of a variety of frequently mutually opposed interests but united in the idea that the world must be rearranged, actors local and global, big or small, that took all the power in the turmoil of dismantling Yugoslavia, decided that the accent would be put not on galleries or concert halls or film festivals anymore, but on TV, not on what is being reflected in public venues but on what was being reported in the yellow press. In short: the importance was now placed not on where anything actually happened but on the places from where people might learn that something happened, and about what it was. But let’s not credit these people even with the idea – they’ve seen it in operation earlier and elsewhere. It simply works.

However, art did not stop being produced, and the making of various exhibitions and events went on – actually, the number of artists, artworks and art events rose exponentially during the 90s and started to diversify more and more, perhaps a bit more around here than in some other places, as to be expected in times of crisis; what was different was this almost complete lack of publicity, of “publicness” – both in terms of “common” people and media, and, of course, of funding, as it evaporated at the speed of light.

The first problem, the one of publicity, found its solution in a manner that is pretty much a global characteristic of today – for the lack of public and media interest in critical art, the artists compensated by creating “the scene”, or “scenes”, and by joining together in numbers with different activists, rebel academics, alternative musicians, odd urban types, writers and their circles and a lot of young and not-that-young people who were “just around”, so that they all became the new audience for each other and a kind of a mutual critique. As already noted, this was already seen happening elsewhere and on a larger scale – yet there are some important regional and urban specificities, but that topic is best left for some other occasion.

So “the scene” – not small, by any means – became the entire universe. This was the place where things like subjectivities, ideas and artworks and actions would be born, this would be their stage to play out whatever their play was, and a place to die – that is, a place to remain for posterity, to inscribe a certain history, or at least a place to be battered by a severe mutual criticism that goes for granted in such circumstances and frequently represents a kind of a badge of honour. There was also a certain, distinctive and largely non-financial, economy of the scene. For better or for worse, but that became the living and working environment of many of the ambitious and curious who would not accept the fate prescribed, and of course, as seen elsewhere, it established itself as the only (semi-)public territory of contemporary society able to operate with certain concepts such as critical art or any form of critical thinking, including feminism. But it also became the place where a lot of people previously enrolled in such battles, deeply concerned about the issues they researched and advocated, worn out and battered by the struggle, came to as a sort of resort. With them came the experience, but also a sense of cynicism, and the awareness of temporary defeat – but it is good to have this question checked here and there, the one of “where are we?”, provided that there is enough grounding to use this tiny word “we”.

This “scene” is where the kind of activism as outlined by this exhibition comes from, and the “scene” is the primary addressee of the exhibition, because, as witnessed in this process yet unfolding, it stands now for the entire audience. Worth noting is that this scene, although perceived as being in a sort of retreat itself today, is not small at all, and that over time, it, in a somewhat “organic” way, became part of a larger, growing global scene of similar actors.

To understand who could perceive “NoOne Belongs…” as “ours” may perhaps help to better understand what the pressures were involved in making the exhibition; and important to note is that the figure of a random member of the “general public” walking through the door waiting to be fascinated and possibly transformed in an unsuspected encounter with art objects and concepts is after a long process of transition now being entirely replaced by the figure of the “member of the scene” instead, possibly being precisely the artist or critic or activist herself, and the one quite aware of the problematic to be discussed well before entering the space, with her own already accepted interpretation of its complexity – for better or for worse.

This would mark the first “first” connected with this exhibition – it is, perhaps, the first Salon to admit, to canonize this contemporary situation of a vanishing public and addressing the scene instead; and the authors may agree or not with the observation that it is the first Salon exhibition to do this in a formal way, through its very programme, and especially through language.

OS 2013 flight cancelled lounge

On 7 November, I was only the 21st to watch on YouTube the allegedly controversial and polarizing debate held on 5 October. Months later, the number of views rose to 143, which is, I believe, hundreds or thousands of times less than the number of people who would have a strong opinion on the event. Perhaps the reason for this is that those genuinely interested in what was happening, be it a debate or the exhibition, were there as it was happening, and so have had no need to watch it again; and this probably supports the claim that the “general public” may have a secondhand opinion or two but no longer has any connection with these or similar kinds of events.
On 7 November, I was only the 21st on YouTube to watch the allegedly controversial and polarizing debate held on 5 October. Months later, the number of views rose to 143, which is, I believe, hundreds or thousands of times less than the number of people who would have a strong opinion on the event. Perhaps the reason for this is that those genuinely interested in what was happening, be it a debate or the exhibition, were there as it was happening, and so have had no need to watch it again; and this probably supports the claim that the “general public” may have a secondhand opinion or two but no longer has any connection with these or similar kinds of events.

But some people you just don’t know until they arrive and say “Hi”

Two weeks before the exhibition, it was announced by a panel discussion held at Staro Sajmište (Old Fairgrounds), the site of a Nazi concentration camp from WWII – the event titled “Living Death Camp” aimed at drawing parallels between what happened there and what was happening during 90s at the time of the war in Bosnia, when Serbian forces held and executed numerous citizens of mainly Muslim population, today recognized as Bosniaks, in the camp known as Omarska. As to be expected, the connotations were strongly leading towards the notions of “war crime”, “genocide” and the like;[3] and, as to be expected, it experienced a strong opposition from the side of war veterans, survivors or just apologists from the “Serbian side”, who would rather see the Omarska camp outside of this comparison – often, it appears, they want to believe that what happened in Omarska was “provoked” and was a “defensive operation”. This is now a rather old (never “tired”, but old) debate, and one, it seems, that will only end when a common language is established to gauge the arguments – not unlike, but also not quite the same, as was the case in regard to the WWII debate.

OS 2013 mic speakers feedback chamber
A perception of a “scandal” still remains, as the consequence of both the countless “echo chambers” of contemporary media as well as the disorientation caused by the new configuration: if “The Scene” replaced “The World”, then whatever is happening on the scene can easily produce the feeling that “the world is watching.”

This, however, is not the occasion on which to enter into a deep discussion about whether this panel was really really well thought out and programmed (it appears perhaps not) or whether it had anything to do with the exhibition (certainly it had) – what is of interest to us here is that it was immediately, before it even unfolded, proclaimed as a “scandal” of a kind. Since I was traveling, I was not aware of the big fuss from it’s very beginning – but a week later, “certain circles” were still vibrating in debate filled with fierce comments and predictable opinions.

But it turned out to be a sort of a “fake scandal”, once again, at least judging by how many people felt the need to actually see what was happening there in videos that were immediately published on YouTube and at anybody’s disposal – on 7 November, I was only the 21st to watch the allegedly controversial and polarizing debate held on 5 October. Months later, the number of views had risen to 143, which is, I believe, hundreds or thousands of times less than the number of people who would have a strong opinion on the event. True, right wingers had their own and much shorter video of the event, which is now at the 3,400 views mark, but all this can hardly be the evidence that a region of millions is being split in half over a much talked about event. Also, in the second week of November, I was the 12th visitor to watch the guided tour of the exhibition – and although the viewership of these materials does count in the few dozens now, there is no reason to believe that it will see a sudden surge in interest. Perhaps the reason for this is that those genuinely interested in what was happening, be it a debate or the exhibition, were there as it was happening, and so have had no need to watch it again, and, as said before, this probably supports the claim that the “general public” may have a secondhand opinion or two, but it no longer has any connection with these or similar kinds of events. As for the reasons outlined above – it is the domain of the corresponding scenes to now cater to the social debate or to the matters of art. A perception of a “scandal” still remains, as the consequence of both the countless “echo chambers” of contemporary media as well as the disorientation caused by the new configuration: if “The Scene” replaced “The World”, then whatever is happening on the scene can easily produce the feeling that “the world is watching.”[4]

OS 2013 snajper
We need the images of suffering as the incentive to act now, and as a historical justification later; we need the images of celebration now in order to believe we have the future, and we need them later so we know what to do once we get there. Both kind of images always exist in one another as well – the celebration of life is the function of its improbability, but the hardship and loss are only measured as a deduction from the perceived whole. Does every critique always already contain a certain proposition, however vague it may be formulated, however complex its deduction may be? Admitting this entanglement, and getting back to “No One Belongs…”, it seems that there was a certain asymmetry in action there, and that the images depicting loss and hardship prevail; apparently, most of the authors believed that it was more important to point to all the suffering and violence of today.

“Living Death Camp”, also, announced the forthcoming exhibition as something it will, thankfully, be not – as some even larger and longer-lasting source of attention of right wing conservative activism and idle social violence. But probably one of the greatest successes of “No One Belongs Here More Than You” is precisely, perhaps partially but nevertheless there, a certain fulfillment of the promise from it’s very title – for whoever recognized themselves in these words, the possibility of just trying to be there, to try to be a part of a certain community or to just launch themselves into some sort of “imaginary” one, it was not ruined by fear that the place would without any warning turn into a kind of news report from the warzones of 90s.[5] One of the few things that seem to receive the unambiguous support these days is the agreement that it is more of a focus, and not less, what is necessary.

But let’s challenge this immediately – the title of the exhibition was also the source of some nice confusion and some interesting associations, so let’s lose the “focus” completely, and have some fun for a change in following my attempt to swich your attention to popular African songs.

Where’s “Here”?

Interestingly enough – and, I believe, this alone speaks volumes on some other phenomena to be discussed more about, preferably soon – it was not until the exhibition had already begun to unfold that I became aware that it had a title in the local language as well. For me, from the very start, it was “No One Belongs Here More Than You”, period, and this is how I “understood” it. Now, we can dissect this title in all its possible implications and meanings (and I believe that it would pass through a critical examination with considerably good marks), but at first I was quite confused when I learned that in the local language it was actually named “Niko ne pripada tu više nego ti”. See, instead of a tiny and fragile “tu” to mark the word “here”, I expected one non-ambiguous and much more assertive word of “ovde”. The difference is significant – instead of “here”, this indecisive “tu” could also mean “there”, or a very vague “here somewhere”, and in this configuration – at least in the way I perceive the language – it sits right at the place where usually a more robust “ovde” is to be expected.

“From revolution back to waiting for Utopia”: this is how I can describe best what happened when “ovde” revealed itself as “tu” for me, and, of course, many would disagree; I inquired abut this with curators, with, again, ambivalent results; one said that this distinction was not important (true, some speakers may not even “hear” the difference), and that it was left to translators to do their job, while the other said that a lot of attention was being paid to the translation of the title, that the certain ambivalence was being noticed and discussed, and that to use the “tu” was the final decision. By now, I don’t think it matters anymore – after the initial surprise, I also believe that “tu” was actually a much better solution, “determining the indeterminable”, that is, addressing the individual place of anybody who reads it, the place that no one could possibly know about but that person. “Tu” stands for where you are, wherever you are – this imperative of belonging is actually addressing, in a rather beautiful manner, the ambivalence of not actually being sure where exactly one belongs, and, depending on how much you like your current place of “belonging”, switches the sentiment of the title between the revolutionary imperative and sarcastic “true life” joke. It is, in a way, a rather slippery terrain, as it aims to the individual perception and reflexion of the current place of belonging and it’s “own history”, rather than to aim for a place with a common name, history and structure we can all agree to exist. But I like it more and more with “tu” involved, with this tiny unassertive microcosm of possibilities, especially the “bad”, the “sarcastic” ones, if for one “tu” appears to be a quite undesirable place to be.

This tiny little “tu”, for “here”, or “there – wherever you are”, is a curious place to think about; the closest description of what surfaces after a while is the word “khona”, which comes from Zulu, to which I came across through the music video of the same name by the South African band Mafikizolo & their guest singer Uhuru. The song definitely should improve your life, at least for a bit – so please do watch and listen to it, and best to do it now.[6] This text can wait. Video is here: youtu.be/yhk52GlkhVA.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhk52GlkhVA&w=1280&h=720]

According to Prince Adewale Oreshade from Nigeria and his great and informative analysis of both the lyrics and the dance scenes in this video,[7] “khona” represents a kind of a place, and a kind of a call – a place that is described as the “afterlife”, or “the other side”, unreachable to the rest of us except through the form of a particular call to a particular person who went “there”. Apparently, from this side we can do nothing more, it seems, but to address it. It is not just any kind of call – it is a candid and persistent call to come back by those who do care and are willing to attend pursuing such “blind calling”, however silent each and every time the answer seems to be.

OS 2013 mirror
So the answer to where’s “Here”?, in perhaps a slightly funny manner, remains to be beautifully unclear; however, from the context and “who speaks”, it is clear that it is far from “just anywhere”, and it would be hard to think of another title that describes this display and event with such similar precision and slightly satirical perspective.

Of course, such a call is not really “blind”, since all the poses, carefully placed images and objects, especially the dance scenes, do follow a certain grammar and definitely do display all that we at the moment believe could be aestheticized about what a place and situation like “khona” might look like. However, the mystery there, as ever, refuses to reveal itself, it remains a mystery, and then such a call also becomes a kind of “empty call”, one that is not empty of content or of an addressee, but is empty of a response. A response is not really expected, it seems; nevertheless, a call has to be reproduced over and over again until the response eventually happens. And from there, the beautiful sadness of khona, of the entire existence, emerges; we know that a response is not expected, but we have no choice but to continue calling – for if we stop, then we know that any response will never, ever, get back to us. So we continue calling in the most persistent manner possible, as if this response could be provoked, as if it is somehow contained in the call itself. Because somehow we just know it actually is. The situation of khona is not one death – death takes over only once the calling stops, when the side of “here” fades its voice and disappears from communication. It is maybe something like the ending of The Sopranos then[8] – we have simply stopped looking and can’t be sure that anything exists past that point.

The literal meaning of the word, Oreshade explains as being this: “Khona being a euphemism for death’s Hades and the cracks of a broken heart.” Everybody has experienced the loss of somebody particular and something particular – or we know ourselves to be the ones whom somebody deems as being lost; both the people and things lost and those who have remained in their grief can inscribe all those particular bonds and experiences in this one word. That makes it almost revolutionary. Here, however, we digress too far; the point is that Khona is for the future, because of the past, and despite all the odds. The future still bares the potential of overcoming the shortcomings of the past – but only as long as we don’t stop calling it aloud, singing it, dancing it out.

OS 2013 weird light 1

It seems that, for some reason yet to get confirmed by hard science, we are bound to materialize every historical scenario we could ever possibly think of – so all the different futures may and probably will happen and will pretty much look exactly like all of the other predictions made today, the images that will serve as blueprints, as guidelines, as the “logic” of a given future to be. From Utopia to the Apocalypse, it appears that all the different seasons of a rather different series will be broadcasted once as reality shows. So projecting the image of the future as dim, full of hardship and struggle and of consequences is not necessarily untrue; and frequently, it tells a lot about the loneliness of the contemporary, too.
It seems that, for some reason yet to get confirmed by hard science, we are bound to materialize every historical scenario we could ever possibly think of – so all the different futures may and probably will happen and will pretty much look exactly like all of the other predictions made today, the images that will serve as blueprints, as guidelines, as the “logic” of a given future to be. From Utopia to the Apocalypse, it appears that all the different seasons of a rather different series will be broadcasted once as reality shows. So projecting the image of the future as dim, full of hardship and struggle and of consequences is not necessarily untrue; and frequently, it tells a lot about the loneliness of the contemporary, too.

 


[1] Play here: http://youtu.be/s9uB8rgq0tI

The title of “Grlom u jagode” is as hard to translate as a lot of the things around this exhibition are – let’s settle for the rogue but funny “Heads On to the Strawberry Bush” – but the meaning of the expression is interesting: often used to depict a decision or action brought about in haste or without much consideration of consequences, it frequently applies to young people or anyone who is “more willing than ready”, to say, that is, to those who, albeit possibly quite unprepared, will act out of love or enthusiasm. Sometimes it may indicate the lack of wisdom, sometimes a random decision; but its meaning mainly reads as being erratic, being in love, being ready to discover, not being aware of what’s ahead while one pursues one’s own goal yet while still going “full speed ahead” (actually, another nice candidate for the translation of this expression).

Over time, the title tune acquired either a slightly comical meaning – humming it or whistling it means that somebody around just started a long and known story beginning with “On that day…” – and, for a lot of people, it still translates as “nostalgia”.

[2] Watch the performance here: http://youtu.be/a6F5i4Ucw1Q#t=287

[3] The problems of the language are today, maybe, among the most important tasks to solve in order to hope that events like critical public debates might affect their topic of observation, of critique. It seemed to be possible before, when the language was clear, when there was no ambivalence in this regard, and when the question, disturbingly present in some conversations of today, the one of whether the victims may have somehow provoked the horrors done to them under various Nazi regimes and are partly responsible themselves for was to follow, could not be – as it is not – a question. Today, the circle of violence will just spin around endlessly, and to whomever it is convenient at the moment it is possible to take a particular snapshot of a certain situation and say “clearly, they started it first”. This is the essence of any standpoint denying the horrors of Omarska, and it is a classic example of a false argument. Also, this is perhaps the place to pay attention to all of the difficulty from the feminist perspective; women are frequently the victims of the violence from those who are closest to them, and often, the violence is justified by the “snapshot of the spinning wheel” – so, as anybody “can see”, she was just “asking for it”. Such a circle of violence appears as almost a subject of some weird kind of physics, which requires a greater or equal violence for the wheel to be stopped. Feminism asks, “Can the wheel of violence can be stopped without an act of violence being involved?”, and for a reason – why try jamming the wheel by breaking one’s own arms and legs if the engine behind just needs to be shut down, once and for all? Couldn’t we just think long and hard, talk as long as is necessary, and decide that it is over? There is always hope, as we could witness similar attempts being temporarily materialized before – not today, but before – and perhaps this is especially problematic. For such an idea to materialize, it is necessary that it will be conducted through the process that presupposes that the arguments are being formulated and thought over, discussed thoroughly, and finally decided upon. But, what to do with language, what language should be used to talk about violence today?

[4] Just to avoid a possible misunderstanding, this certainly doesn’t mean “that no one is watching”; in this new constellation, it is very likely that whoever is watching is somebody already known, or somebody of a certain “profile” that is already known. Compartmentalizing the world into “scenes” also meant a certain professionalization of issues that before were deemed to be of interest to all – for example, although problems about what happens with the food supply should raise the concerns of the entire population, it is “food activists” who are expected to notice the news and call for the appropriate reaction.

[5] This is, perhaps, somewhat cryptic without the reader being aware of the recent history of other exhibitions with similar topics and similar people involved that were the target of right-wing violence – in all of the incidents so far, the conservative attack managed, along with, in some cases, damaging the works or closing the exhibitions, to successfully divert all the attention to the violence itself and to the issues of their own, and not on the intended topics envisioned by the artists and authors. More about the atmospehere and circumstances of how an exhibition can turn into a war zone you can find, for example, in Lab For Culture: “The interruption of the exhibition ‘Exception: Contemporary Art Scene from Prishtina’ – Two eyewitness account” (http://bit.ly/1pcJPsN), or Red Thread Journal: “Exception – The case of the exhibition of Young Kosovo Artists in Serbia” (http://bit.ly/1nEN6Wn).

[6] Play here: http://youtu.be/yhk52GlkhVA

[7] In his text “Lyrics of Khona by Mafikizolo Featuring Uhuru, and Its Literary Meaning – A Nigerian’s Perspective”, which can be found at http://citrusmusiclive.com/?p=329, Prince Adewale Oreshade of Nigeria writes: “Before one goes into their personal experiences, it is pertinent to understand or have an idea what Khona means. Khona means ‘there’ or ‘at that place’. So the song is more of a dialogue-type song. So for every persons mentioned in the song; Khona is a rhetorical call to them to ‘come back. So all of them that are ‘there’, at that ‘other side’ or ‘that place’ should come back. Its kind of a sad plea. Khona being an euphemism for death’s hades and cracks of a broken heart. Even Theo’s dance of throwing his arms and thighs in the forward and then backward direction portrays the come-back-Khona message.”

[8] In the much anticipated ending of the final episode of the popular series about the imaginary American mobster Tony Soprano, director David Chase decided to suddenly, during the close up shot of the main character, indicate his death by a screen blackout, and without further explanation, to roll the credits of the show.