Archaeology of Body / Anthropology of Violence

November 08. 2012
Gallery Duplex/10m2 ,
Obala Kulina bana 22,Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Artists: Jenny Holzer, Lana Čmajčanin, Sarah Vanagt

The exhibition is devoted to women.
Women we lost, women we love and the women we are.

The Exhibition Archaeology of Body/Anthropology of Violence, considers spatial, temporal, and the evident presence of war, in the absence of war, in its most representative form – the human body. Body as evidence, the still living, missing or the exhumed…

All three artists, namely Jenny Holzer, Lana Čmajčanin and Sarah Vanagt set their work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a particular place that is burdened with omnipresent reference – the war. The war acts as a central component to our existence when we articulate the time, before the war, during the war, after the war. In fact, all human history is built upon violence; traces of civilization are visible in excavated weapons and bones and it is exactly these traces that concern all three works, Lustmord, Nocturno (work in progress) and 20.000. All three works personify the body of crime – present in action, suffering from that action, not being able to react to consequences of that action or observing the action.

In November 1993, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung published 500,000 copies of magazines with the cover printed in a mixture of red ink and human blood, donated by women, including Bosnian women whose blood survived violence and was thereby evidential. The cover and the content of the magazine included the work Lustmord by an American artist Jenny Holzer, who reacted to gruesome rapes of women and girls that were at time being committed in Bosnia and  Herzegovina.  The  word  Lustmord  is  a  German  word  for  sexual  murder  involving  rape  which  Jenny  Holzer “witnesses” right as she begins, “I am wide awake in place where women die, “ inviting awareness of everyone else who touches the blood, the human liquid which is full of life and full of death.

There’s a perpetrator, a victim and the observer.  They can be understood as relational to each other as all of them are to violence. The poetics of three voices, mixed up in seemingly no exact order make us wide aware about who is who in this choir of war, or what is the hierarchy of roles in the violent act.

“She tightens and I hit her – With you inside me comes the knowledge of my death- She smiles at me because she thinks I can help her.”

Simplicity by which Jenny Holzer communicates is firm like marks on skin or on a soul. The three voices cannot be in each other’s place. They’re passive in their determination and exist to the opposite other – as opposite as the victim is to perpetrator or as observer is to the victim.

Lana Čmajčanin observes and witnesses. In her work – 20.000, she addresses the problem of war rape and the problem of  social  ignorance  and  social  marginalization  of  women  who  survived rape.   Music-stands  she  exhibits  bring  a sad melody to binary notes, which count one to twenty thousand, a number which does not end but stays rather indefinite – as indefinite as the silence is. She dedicates her work to all the women who spoke out, but speaks for those who cannot.  The voice  of  the  survivor  is  the  voice  of  the  silent  ones.  Lana  warns  to  inconsistency  of  institutional justice and inability to claim reparation, along with a thought whether any reparation could be satisfying in afterlife or rape.

Voices we hear, or the speaking numbers, are voices of victims prior to, or after the crime – “The room went into a complete dark”, making us imagine the horrifying scene that have happened, before or after the light went off. She makes us imagine the unimaginable; however, the survivor needs no imagination when she speaks: “I would have recognized  him  in  twenty  years.”  How  could  she  forget  her  torturer?  As  long  as  she  lives,  her  torturer  lives  in  her. Likewise, the torturer lives in her surrounding, her family and her country.

“As if someone big, someone knows about this all” – are words used by Radovan Karadžić in a recording that Sarah Vanagt captures in part of her video/work in progress that she calls Nocturno. On a computer screen we see Karadžić reciting Nocturno, for which I am not sure if he wrote or someone else did.  He says the poem is about snow and about fear and I can imagine how well the snow and fear go together. He walks in front of the camera and smiles, while Sarah is putting the paper over the screen and starts rubbing over it with a pencil. Slowly he is disappearing until wecannot see him anymore. The trace left on a paper is evidence to violence.

Sarah  Vanagt  builds  archaeology  of  Tribunal,  finding  which  words  or  images  are  used  as  evidence  material.  She is marking the places where all three voices meet again, be that the chair of the accused, the desk of the judge, or the marble tiles in the main lobby. She collects evidence from evidence, discovering the tiniest details of war. The movement of the hand that covers and uncovers is the gesture of the observer, she makes things both visible and invisible, creating thereby a new place, even an imaginary one.

Andreja Dugandžić



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s