• Only Sharp Dogs Can Keep You From The Wolves

  • My Story

    At the end of last year, on the occasion of the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory in Barcelona, I met a great friend. He is one of those I don't need to see a lot and not even speak to regularly, but somehow knowing that whenever we meet it will be like we have seen each other yesterday. Since quite a while I have been thinking of the clue that keeps or holds people together, and the more I have been digging in the subject the more it seems that the answer lies in the question of how we see the world and feel about it. The greatest connectors for our commonness are actually our moral standpoints or our emotional intelligence. (1) The nationality, race, gender, age, social status, … are kind of first thought concepts with which the i.e. institutional, mass media and educational systems are trying to explain our connections and relations. But this, as we all can experience it on a daily basis, never works on a personal / individual level. I am even sure these concepts don't work on a societal level, on the contrary, I think they are enabling and at the same time perpetuating misunderstanding of human priorities as well as most of the society’s malfunctions in general. Anyone can tell, especially in the age of online social networks, that she has close friends all over the world, or at least in all places anyone has ever visited (either offline or online), regardless of nationality, race, gender, age ...

    Last summer when I temporarily moved to Sarajevo for one year, where even after more than 15 years the war is still somehow present. Quite soon I became aware that the presence of war or the constant transitional phase, the so called post-war period, is ironically enabled by the peace treaty, the famous Dayton Peace Agreement, signed in 1995, representing the one and only national constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In short, the Dayton Peace Agreement nurtures institutional and economical dysfunctionalities, mostly on the basis of nationalism and allows direct international control. (2)

    While living there it often crossed my mind that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a kind of mini-mundus of the global political satire, where east and west collide with north and south. The constant presence of war equals the existence of humans, so actually our history is a history of conflicts and wars and the first dated wars are noted since the invention of writing, already in 3000 BC (3). The particular mass graves and weapons, which were not used only for killing animals, were discovered even from the neolithic period.

    The whole point in seeing and feeling the world doesn’t only lie on the presence and on our present beliefs, but is actually also the result of interpretation and analysis of history. The now is formed through the experience (and interpretation) of the past on which the vision of the future is based.

    So, to come back to Barcelona, where a typical neo-global de-colonialist situation occurred between two “ever on the verge of possible” friends. A Slovenian and Slovak were talking about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The friend told me about his trip to Sarajevo in early 1996. “You know, Dunja”, he starts, “One guy gave me an interesting answer why the war happened.” “Why?!?”, I ask, my whole body feeling as a one big ear. “In the late eighties and in the beginning of the nineties, people or raja (4), among which were also intellectuals, were gathering in many čaršija (5) cafes and bars. It was them who started to talk about the concepts like individual needs, dysfunctional community goals, specifics of differences - also in the sense of nationalism - in ever more decaying communist Yugoslavia. It was in the kafana (a bar) that the war actually started”, he ends the story about that under-discussed responsibility of the intellectual elite. We both kind of nod and simultaneously think out loud: “So – always take care what you talk about! Because when you talk about it, you get closer to materializing it.“ No matter what you say, write or think always be aware of consequences. Spoken or written words, as well as formed thoughts have a magic power and while some would go for magic, the others would just go for the power of a change.

    A Short Story

    Although the narration about the war is the main referential background of A Short Story, this film is not about the war. It is Ibro Hasanović’s devotion to the particular magic that all mythology posses. As mentioned, the so called magic is an inexplicable, fairly indefinable, but the directly experienced power of certain words and (moving) images, stories (6) and art. It is the work of art or rather the film, in which the form – be it photography, scene change, editing or sound – precisely, but kind of unconsciously and unpretentiously follows the content. The references to the specific works of art and film history are serving to straightforwardly represent the power of the spoken words – be it an interpretation of the history, a vision of the future or a diagnosis of the now.

    The film starts with the apocalyptic scene in a minimalistic way, far from any spectacle we might think of when imagining the end of the world. Initially the scene represents a canonical view of nature – the high mountain forest on the horizon. A peaceful moment, just that one soon realizes the horizon is melting from heat while few seconds after same scenery of the globe loudly starts cracking and breaking down. The quirky nature is a unique metaphor of our personal and societal reality where everything seems perfect but at the same time all is submerged to either break or decay. Beneath the perfect surface there is always some wicked, unpredictable imperfection which sometimes turns out to be a tragedy, or simply a dead-end.

    The Yugoslav Black Wave (orig. Crni val or Crni talas) was the most eminent film genre in Yugoslavia. The movies of the Black Wave don’t have any formal common agenda, there are as many styles as there are directors. The only thing uniting all of them is how the surrounding world is seen and felt. To paraphrase Sergio Grmek Germani (7), who said how all those films share disillusioning visions of communist Yugoslavia, they all portray extremely pessimistic reality embraced by visions of future. In the artistic sense they managed to turn the dark into sparkle as well as in the socio-political sense prepared the general mental terrain for the end of Yugoslavia.

    So beside the given place and family of birth, every artistic self-reflection includes constant re-consideration of the power of art. What it means today and what it meant in history, how it, beside the family roots, affects the individual and society. In Yugoslavia it was the art and culture impact (Black Wave, Laibach / NSK, strong feminist movement) which resulted, as believed by many scholars, in the empowered individual, consequently bringing an end to a certain political system. With or without mythology, every one of us, besides the most amazing family stories remembers these powerful cultural icons. The story in A Short Story is one of those which once heard, especially if as a kid, simply got stuck in your head.

    Hasanović chose two protagonists for the film – individual story teller and a group of children listening. The story teller on the one hand pictures power and stability, and on the other loneliness and insecurity. He represents both power and its irony. With a reference to early 19th century romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich - when we see the back of the story teller looking towards “nature’s nowhere” - the viewer is drawn into feelings of melancholy and identifies with the ever lonesome, rather powerless observer. The two protagonists, the children and the story teller are like symbols of conflicting emotions - a monumental pessimism inherent to each living soul. Whenever past, present and future are veiled by the one and only constant in the form of conflict and war, reciprocally the bizarre senselessness is always recognized.

    There is one more eye-opening detail not to be missed – as Jean Luc Godard would change the format of the film for the sake of the story, here the same happens. When the scene takes a turn from one adult to many children, when the camera moves from the speaker to the listeners, from those who create to those who will react, the film changes from regular format to wide screen. It seems like a formal metonymy for “one cannot perceive what is not already perceptible” (8). This might show us the turning point which happens when the one who reacts turns into the one who creates. Nevertheless, in both ways it is possible for monumental passiveness to be turned into steady activeness. We are all responsible for finally daring to assert the simple world of equal access. Lets again think of 99% as a future of common sense where decisions are understood as emotional acts based on the logic of empathy.

    Our Story

    Our present and future depend on interpretations of a history which is actually a long story about the war. There is tragedy and violence accompanied with the list of heroic acts. If these individual cases were interpreted as an objective fact of immense collective empathy - the world might not be falling apart as it is. Definitely, it is our turn. Again?

    Dunja Kukovec
    Ljubljana, November 2011.

    1. At this point I don't refer to the official meaning of the term Emotional Intelligence, neither to its theory background. Unfortunately none of the sources on emotional intelligence explain emotions through emotions, morals or empathy, but strictly through ratio. In my opinion emotional intelligence is a catchy term, but it should definitely be reclaimed and discursively restructured. As an interesting reference see The Secret Life of Brain, part IV, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_-2IAHvfxE, or read some texts of macro-economist Jeremy Rifkin on empathy. One of the best history references on the subject I wish to point out is also Friedrich Nietche's On the Genealogy of Morals first published in 1887.
    2. An interesting article about the Dayton Peace Agreement can be found online, written by Florian Bieber: After Dayton, Dayton? The Evolution of Unpopular Peace, 2006.
    3. For amusement check the beta version of http://www.conflicthistory.com/
    4. The term “raja” can be translated into something like urban crowd, a whole bunch of people who are lets say “in”. An amazing PHD thesis on “raja” before, in the time of, and after the war was written by Nebojša Šavija-Valha. See Nebojša Šavija-Vajha: Ironijski subjekt svakodnevne komunikacije u Bosni i Herzegovini – Raja kajo strategija svakodnevnog života, ISH Ljubljana 2010. (title in english: Ironical Subject of Everyday Communication in Bosnia and Herzegovina – The Urban Crowd as a Strategy of Everyday)
    5. čaršija as in Baščaršija – the historical - Turkish style, part of Sarajevo with many shops, bars and restaurants.
    6. The story, in Bosnian language priča, has indeed a particular and peculiar position, meaning and power in this country. An extremely interesting conception of the meaning of priča can be found in Ivana Bago & Antonia Majača: Where Everything is Yet to Happen, Spaport Biennial catalogue, Protok Banja Luka 2010.
    7. Found on http://www.novossti.com/2010/06/uzavrela-kinematografija/
    8. Maurice Marleau-Ponty: The World of Perception, Routledge New York 2004.