SPEECH OF EDITOR IN CHIEF OF FERAL TRIBUNE (SPLIT) PREDRAG LUCIĆ ON THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION OF WORKS BY BOSNIAN ARTISTS IN REMEMBRANCE ON THE VICTIMS OF SREBRENICA CARNAGE, EXHIBITED IN MILESI PALACE IN SPLIT
8372 DIDN’T COME
This exhibition is showing that the story about the crime in Srebrenica is possible to be expressed in the language of art and without taking out even a small seed of truth from it. And, that the right on telling that story is in the hands of people who are conscious that they survived the carnage with pure accident. The people who are conscious that if they were born in whatever Bratunac or Konjević Polje, whatever on 1923 or 1979, whatever if they get name Nermin or Sead, will be punished for that sin of their birth. And if art will not talk about death punishment for the sin of birth, about what it will talk? And who will talk about it, without delay and calculations, if not art?
In March 1945, Jorge Semprun with group of survived concentration camp prisoners that was just liberated, is waiting return in the reality different that the one in the concentration camp. He is waiting return in what is called life behind the wire that surrounds the death factory.
Semprun and his camp comrades fear from that return. Because, even on the faces of the Allied soldiers who liberate Buchenwald, they perceive regards of not understanding. The soldiers are avoiding regards of the camp prisoners. Semprun understands also why.
He understands that actually, he didn’t outlive death, that he didn’t avoid it, and that he didn’t escape from it. He understands that he passed through death, from one end to the other one, that he passed all its rails, loose him on them and that these soldiers are watching him as he is still lost on those rails and that they don’t think that he can rise from the dead.
Dead to be told
Jorge Semprun and his camp comrades are asking how to tell to those people outside of that labyrinth of death, what they survived and if there will anyone who will listen? The stories have to be told well. What means that “to be told well”? It means that it has to be understandable. And that will not work without enough skills so those stories can become art.
Tonight, twelve year and a half after mass crime, crime of the genocide that Serb army did on captured Muslims in Srebrenica, here in Split, we are faced with something that - beside scream of Srebrenica’s mothers, as my colleague Sena Kulenović said - can be called also truthful art of remembrance. Remembrance on 8372 and more, who didn’t come, who were killed on scaffolds around Srebrenica, and their story must be told.
Who has right to told this story? And is it possible to be told by someone who didn’t rise from the death? The one who, on that July 11, 1995 was not in Potočari and be able to watch how the soldiers of the international peace forces from the Dutch Bat are letting so many Ahmet, so many Adnan, so many Faruk, so many Idriz, so, so many people on disgrace of killers under the command of Ratka Mladić?
What we see tonight is showing that this story can be told with language of art and without taking out even a small seed of truth from it. And that the right of telling this story is in the hands of people who are conscious that they survived the carnage with pure accident. The people who are conscious that if they are born in whatever Bratunac or Konjević Polje, whatever on 1923 or 1979, whatever if they get name Nermin or Sead, will be punished for that sin of their birth. And if art will not talk about death punishment for the sin of birth, about what it will talk? And who will talk about it, without delay and calculations, if not art?
Maybe somebody is irritated that I am talking so much about art, art this, art that… But that art this, art that… I am pointing and pointing out, because I was tantalized by the question how after Auschwitz is possible poetry, as much as I am questioning myself, how after Auschwitz, is possible Srebrenica.
And also because the of juristically or politic speech and bad journalism, even after Auschwitz and even after Srebrenica was often offensive to the victims, it was putted on simple numbers, if it’s possible round number, where among those zeros there was not enough place for David or Rebecca, or for Mensur or Meho who didn’t come, neither for Zejna or Rabija, who didn’t welcome them.
If there is no the kind of art that we are facing tonight, the art that it’s not about artism, then about human being, who will think among us, on those 8372 who didn’t come? Honestly, I don’t think that here does exist anyone who doesn’t think sometimes on Srebrenica, who don’t feel compassion, sorrow and anger for the crime that stayed unpunished and incomprehensible. I don’t think that here does exist anyone who cannot mention the question, is it in any way possible to talk about horror that those 8372 fall through. Because, whatever on that July 1995 we were far from Srebrenica, we were also witnesses of the time in which that carnage happened. And as witnesses, we want to give our testimony about that time. Or maybe to forget that we are survivors. And that some are not.
To forget kills
On contrary, Andrej Đerković is saying that, oblivion kills. It kills also those whose names are written here. And those who think that because they don’t read the same, it is protecting them from the possibility to be read. Even if we ache for forgetting as we do the same for the cigarette. If you think that this is not art then just inconvenient joke, just try to forget.
Art sometimes is taking us, in its most crazy shapes, out of our usual way of seeing or reading the reality. That could be perceived in earlier showing of this expo on Ðerković’s list of those who didn’t come, written on, for most of us, not understandable Braille letters. His work “Missing” unfortunately is not here (it is selected by Beral Madra in ARS AEVI contemporary arts Museum in Sarajevo), but if it is, you will have a specific experience of reading it with closed eyes, but with open heart and mind. Maybe, this try of reading will bring you also to the question: “What is actually my name? Is it also my name made by these, same, to me unknown letters?”
At the end a few words about art act of Šejla Kamerić who put her portrait under the graffiti find in Potočari, where some unidentified Dutch soldier define Bosnian girls like something toothless, with mustache and stinky. It is the act of uncompromised facing with insolence that allowed the crime like Srebrenica crime to be done, because the crime is actually definitive expression of insolence.
I don’t know which significance for you will be this exhibition created by Nedžad Hrelja and coordinated by Sena Kulenović, I don’t know with which thought and feeling you will go home or to have one drink after, how you will be when you return in that life outside. I would be happy if I could use the power of those in front of whose works we are standing now, to look into the pupil of the evil and to be able to endure that look. Into the pupil of the good, also.
Need of humanity
I would like if I can change something, even if I look ridiculous after, while I am walking around and talking how in the schools programs, we need to established lesson “Protection of war prisoners” and to teach kids to ask prisoner - because unfortunately, there will be more wars and prisoners of the same - to ask prisoner if he is hungry or thirsty, does he need anything, or is there is any way if he can help… I would like to know that because of somebody educated in that way; at least one man didn’t finish on this list. That at least, one from that list came. That at least, one will ever come.
I am sorry that I take you so much time. I know it was not easy to listen to me. And I know that even it is not easy to be here, that it is not easy to be a human faced with this kind of truth. But that is not, as it sad often, that to be a human being is our duty. I believe that being here in front of those pictures and those 8372 names of human beings, that is our need that we are becoming to be aware.
Predrag Lucić (Feral Tribune, Split, January, 2008)