Tragom Rebecce West: Photo-book “YU: The Lost Country” (1)
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Photo: Dragana Jurišić

Jugoslavija, zemlja izbrisana sa mape

September 1991: The story of me as a photographer begins on the day when our family apartment got burned down together with thousands of prints and negatives my father, an ardent amateur photographer, had accumulated. On that day I became one of those 'refugees' with no photographs, with no past. Indeed, my memories of the events and people I encountered before that Sunday in September 1991 are either non-existent or very vague. I learned then the power photography has over memory. The day after the fire was the last time my father took a photograph, a perfunctory snapshot to record the damage for the insurance company. Where he stopped, I started. The act of photographing, of looking at the world through the camera lens, helped provide a semblance of control over an otherwise unpredictable world.

"It is a haunted, as well as haunting book; the fallout of the past buried, rather than faced", napisao je Sean O'Hagan u listu “The Guardian”, povodom knjige YU: The Lost Country.

Deirdre Mulorooney u recenziji za “Vulgo” rekla je: “Go and see how Dragana's and Rebecca West's narratives intersperse and overlap like a symphony”.

Ovo se tek dva od desetina prikaza povodom knjige koja se bavi sećanjem na zemlju koje nema. O tome je Dragana Jurišić govorila za portal “Libela” i sarajevsko “Oslobođenje”:  YU: The Lost Country je bio pokušaj da razmrsim konfliktne emocije i misli koje sam imala prema tome što se kod nas dogodilo u zadnjih 25 godina. Po nacionalnosti sam bila Jugoslavenka – majka mi je Srpkinja, otac Hrvat. Ta nacionalnost je izbrisana kroz svojevrsni birokratski genocid – u tom radu htjela sam saznati što se dogodilo s milijun i pol ljudi koji su se identificirali kao Jugoslaveni. Gdje su nestali? Gdje je ta zemlja nestala i što ju je zamijenilo? Kroz taj rad pokušala sam rekreirati neku metafizičku zemlju, u koju bih mogla smjestiti svoj identitet.

Ispostavilo se da je to uzaludan posao, država više ne postoji, tako da sam shvatila da mi nacionalni identitet zapravo i ne treba. Vrlo ugodno se osjećam uz činjenicu da posjedujem dva pasoša, hrvatski i irski, pri čemu se ne osjećam ni kao Hrvatica ni kao Irkinja. Slobodna sam od svih prtljaga plemenske ili nacionalne identifikacije. Potpuno se slažem sa riječima koje je napisala Dubravka Ugrešić: “Danas, živeći u egzilu, ne ‘kupujem’ tezu da je svaki egzil traumatičan. Naprotiv, smatram da je odluka da posjedujem samo kofer jedna od boljih u životu. Represivne domovine su daleko više traumatične”.

YU: Lost Country (Serbo-Croatian)

Jugoslavija se raspala 1991. Sa nestankom zemlje, najmanje milion i po ljudi, kao stanovnici Atlantide, iščezli su u carstvo imaginarnih mesta i naroda. Danas, u zemljama koje su nastale nakon dezintegracije Jugoslavije, potpuno se poništava jugoslovenski identitet. Sad, više od dvadeset godina nakon ratova, osećam sa sigurne udaljenosti da prizovem i ispitam sopstvena sećanja na mesta i događaje koje sam iskusila.

  “Where do you come from?  From Yugoslavia.  Is there any such country?  No, but that’s still where I come from.”

Sebe zovem izgnanicom, ne iseljenikom – jer se, čak i kad bih htela, ne mogu vratiti ‘kući’. Za vreme popisa 1990, uskraćemo mi je pravo da budem Jugoslovenka, nacionalnost s kojom sam se identifikovala od rođenja. Budući da sam dete oca Hrvata i majke Srpkinje, popis me je ostavio u konfuziji. Odgovor popisivača na moje pitanje zašto je nemoguće biti Jugoslovenka, bio je jako sličan onome što je jednom Musolini rekao: “Jugoslavija ne postoji. To je heterogeni koglomerat koji ste vi kaldrmisali u Parizu”. 

Ključna za ovaj projekt jeste knjiga-remek delo “Crno jagnje i sivi soko” (“Black Lamb and Gray Falcon”), britanske spisateljice Rebeke West (Rebecca West).

Zagreb, Croatia. Easter Eve. Walking around the abandoned city like a stranger. Everything is so familiar but very distant. It feels like I have been given a new pair of eyes to see that things are not as one remembers.

“Nastavlja se s tog mesta stalni tok događaja koji su izvor opasnosti za mene”, pisala je 1937. “To mesto” bila je Jugoslavija, zemlja u kojoj sam rođena. Shvatajući da je ne znati ništa o području od kojeg je osećala strah – nesreća po sebi, odlučila se za putovanje Jugoslavijom. Rezultat njenog rada koji je trebalo da bude kratki vodič, pretvorio se u pola miliona reči. To je portret ne samo Jugoslavije već i Evrope na ivici Drugog svetskog rata, koji se smatra remek delom XX stoleća.

"I have learned now that it might follow, because an empire passed, that a world full of strong men and women and rich food and heady wine might nevertheless seem like a shadow-show." (Rebecca West)

Rebeka Vest smatrala je Jugoslaviju svojom domovinom. Možda zato što je po svojoj prirodi Jugoslavija bila zemlja izmeštenih ljudi. Rebeka Vest delila je njihovu sudbinu. Rođena u anglo-irskoj porodici, nikad se nije osećala da stvarno negde pripada: “U svakoj klasi osećam se kao kod kuće, ali nikad nisam prihvaćena zbog tragova koje nosim iz mog drugog porekla”.

“Where I to go down into the market-place, armed with the powers of witchcraft, and take a peasant by the shoulders and whisper to him, “In your lifetime, have you known peace?” wait for him to answer, shake his shoulders and transform him into his father, and ask him the same question, and transform him in his turn to his father, I would never hear the word ‘Yes,” If I carried my questioning of the dead back for a thousand years. I would always hear, “No, there was fear, there were our enemies without, our rulers within, there was prison, there was torture, there was violent death.” (Rebecca West)

Govorila je da može da pamti stvari jedino dok drži olovku u ruci, pa je s njom pisala i igrala se. Razlog što je napisala pola miliona reči o zemlji za koju je znala da će uskoro biti samo sećanje, jeste što nije želela ništa da zaboravi i što je htela da to sećanje sačuva  za milione Jugoslovena koji će kasnije živeti u izgbeglištvu. Proživljavati iskustvo – za nju je to bila umetnost.

YU: Izgubljena zemlja (YU: The Lost Country)  bila je originalno zamišljena kao ponovno stvaranje domovine koja je nestala. Bilo je to putovanje u kojem sam ponekad crtala čaroban krug oko nekad moje zemlje i, radeći to, sledila tvrdnju Rolana Barta (Roland Barthes) da je fotografija srodnija magiji nego umetnosti. Ispostavilo se, bilo je to putovanje odbacivanja. Moje iskustvo premeštenosti i osećaj izbeglištva bili su jači “kod kuće” nego u stranom gradu u kojem sam odlučila da živim.

  @ 15.34 hours. Stari Grad, Croatia. In a small village along the coast, a 10-year-old boy is killed by a passing car. Waiting for someone to take him away.     @ 18.38 hours,  we’re still waiting. Family howling in a house by the road. And the father ... If pain had a sound. I did not know at first if they were people or wolves. The older onlookers wince; they know that sound well. It comes with the territory, it seems. Younger people laugh nervously... They will not remember the inappropriateness of their behaviour, when their time comes to experience pain like that. There's a dandelion by the road. I take a picture. Don't know what else to do. More screams. The old man standing in front of me bends over and picks up the flower. Gently, he blows.

Fotografija poseduje element kao što je nestalnost, što omogućava  da se lako hvataju osećaji neukorenjenosti i dislokacije. Izgnanstvo i fotografija, zajedno, pojačavaju našu percepciju sveta. U obema je sećanje – temeljac. Obe karakteriše melanholija.

“Blood flows, and life goes on.”

Za Uskrs 2011, u traganju za nestalom zemljom i nestalim identitetom, krenula sam koracima puta Rebeke Vest kako bih reinterpretirala njeno delo koristeći fotografiju i tekst u pokušaju da ponovo proživim svoje iskustvo Jugoslavije i ponovo ispitam kofliktne emocije i sećanja na zemlju koja je “bila”.

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YU: Lost Country (English)

Yugoslavia fell apart in 1991. With the disappearance of the country, at least one million five hundred thousand Yugoslavs vanished, like the citizens of Atlantis, into the realm of imaginary places and people. Today, in the countries that came into being after Yugoslavia’s disintegration, there is a total denial of the Yugoslav identity. Now, more than twenty years after the war(s) started, I feel at the safe distance to recall and question my own memories of both the place and the events I experienced. I am calling myself an exile, and not an expatriate – because I can’t, even if I wanted to – return ‘home’.

  @ 11.19 hours. Mostar - Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Left Mostar 19 minutes ago. Felt claustrophobic there. River Neretva on my left. Unreal green.     @ 11.33 hours. Still so many burnt houses. Fuck. The driver is a maniac. It's like being on some mad rally through the mountains. So green and so many burnt houses, but it still makes me smile... Just the idea of Bosnia.     Bridges hanging broken over a great green canyon. Your side. My side. Your side. My side.     @ 12.23 hours. A man and a woman digging. Their faces like dry leather. People selling dark honey by the roadside. A young man mowing a small patch of grass. Dogs on chains. Snow still on mountain peaks, like it was in 1937. A huge man, a salesman in the local grocery shop, riding a bike intended for a 6-year-old girl.

During the 1990 census, I was also denied the right to be Yugoslav, the nationality I had identified myself with since birth. Being a child of a Croatian father and a Serbian mother, this left me somewhat confused. The census taker’s answer as to why this was impossible mirrored very closely something that Mussolini once said: “Yugoslavia does not exist. It is a heterogeneous conglomerate which you cobbled together in Paris.”

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The corner where Franz Ferdinand met his end.

Central to this project is British writer Rebecca West's masterpiece Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941). “There proceeds steadily from that place a stream of events which are a source of danger to me”, she wrote in 1937. “That place” was Yugoslavia, the country in which I was born. Realizing that to know nothing of an area that threatened her safety was a calamity, she embarked on a journey through Yugoslavia. The resulting body of work, initially intended as a snap book, spiralled into half a million words. It is a portrait not just of Yugoslavia but also of Europe on the brink of the Second World War, and is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.

Belgrade Zoo. Serbia. The memories of my mother throwing an ice cream into the bear enclosure in 1990. The poor animals fighting over it. My role model.

Rebecca West thought of Yugoslavia as her motherland. This may be because, by its very nature,Yugoslavia was a land of displaced peoples. Rebecca West shared their fate. Born to an Anglo-Irish family, she never felt as if she truly belonged anywhere. “In any class I feel at home, and I am never accepted, because of the traces I bear of my other origins.” She said that she could only remember things if she had a pencil in her hand, so she could write it down and play with it.

“… one of the children in the crowd lost grip of its balloon, and we all saw it rise slowly, as if debating the advantages of freedom, over the wide trench of the cleared street. Then we all laughed, and laughed louder, when as usually happened, since the wind was  short of breath, the balloon wobbled and fell on the heads of the crowd on the other side of the road, and was fetched back by its baby owner.” (Rebecca West)

The reason she wrote half a million words about a country she knew would soon be only a memory, is because she did not want to forget anything about it, and because she wanted to preserve this memory for millions of Yugoslavs who would later live in exile. She thought of art as a re-living of experience.

YU: The Lost Country was originally conceived as a recreation of a homeland that was lost. It was a journey in which I would somehow draw a magical circle around the country that was once mine and in doing so, resurrect it, following Roland Barthes’ assertion that photography is more akin to magic than to art. Instead, it turned out to be a journey of rejection. My experience was one of displacement and a sense of exile that was stronger back ‘home’ than in the foreign place where I had chosen to live.

  “... in wonder at the unique architectural horror which defiled that spot.” (Rebecca West)     Skopje, Macedonia. The whole country is wi-fi central. Completely covered. I've taken up smoking here. It's difficult not to.     Main square littered with ridiculous  ‘wizardof Oz’-like sculptures. Disney art vs. infrastructure. It’s very clear which has taken precedence. A nation in crisis. Flags everywhere. ‘We are Macedonians, whatever that means.’

Photography contains elements such as fleetingness, which allow it to capture that sense of rootlessness and dislocation with relative ease. Both exile and photography intensify our perception of the world. In both, memory is in its underlying core. Both are characterised by melancholy.

Skopje, Macedonia. Strolling through neighborhoods that smell of chewing gum and underage sex.

In Easter 2011, in search of both the lost country and a lost identity, I started retracing West’s journey and re-interpreting her masterpiece by using photography and text in an attempt to re-live my experience of Yugoslavia and to re-examine the conflicting emotions and memories of the country that ‘was’.

(Nastaviće se/ To be continued)

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