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Jacek
Smolicki

Disrupted Witnessing (2018)

Whilst the conflict constituted an inescapable continuity for those entwined in it, for us it was primarily a distant realm from which we could always opt out. Our witnessing was controllable. It was constructed through the media delivery of fragmentary, disruptive updates, often squeezed in-between other more or less relevant, local or global information.

Disrupted Witnessing was a collaboration with British sound artist Tim Shaw within a group exhibition 'Testimony - Politics or Truth' curated by Noa Treister, and focused on the subject of the Yugoslav wars from the perspective of Serbian veterans. The exhibition drew on an archive of their testimonies and took place in Belgrade, Sarajevo and Vienna in 2017 and 2018.

As a starting point we took the bare fact of being foreigners to the subject in question. To what extent are we entitled to work with a history we witnessed only indirectly, through media and fragmentary accounts? Subsequently, to what extent can we become agents of other people's testimonies? The way we witnessed and kept re-witnessing the war in the years that followed was merely through the media coverage of the time.

In this work we decided to ponder the fragmentation of one's mediated witnessing of a military conflict. We asked whether this fragmentation can become a continuous state. Since sound is the medium that both of us work most extensively with, in this work we revisited various instances of the media coverage of the war and extracted their sonic layers. We spent some time browsing through what is available today in mainstream media platforms and video sharing services, fragmented, remediated, twisted, and disrupted due to the time that has since passed as well as the inevitable media-technological transformations which in the meantime took place. These extracted soundtracks formed the major portion of material that we subsequently worked with. Other sounds came from our personal archives of field recordings made on the occasion of our visits to Belgrade, and Sarajevo among other places. Then, for few days we wandered through these cities and recorded the absent soundscapes signifying the echoes of military conflict, the tension and unrest it caused. Similar to the fragmented material of the war footage, we cut our field recordings into numerous bits and in some cases drastically deprived them of their semantic relevance. We used this material as a substance for a generative composition. Set into ever-changing relationships these various snippets lost their power to represent the single particular point of view from which they were taken, with the benefit of evoking multiple, contradictory associations, meanings and affects. In this way we hope not to represent but rather articulate the feeling and a position of an outsider attempting to grasp the complexity of a military conflict that at the time one got to know only insufficiently, fragmentarily and desultorily...




photo by the Museum of History of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Performance at Vienna's Volkskundemuseum (Folklore museum). Photo: (c) kollektiv fischka/kramar.
Below are images from the visited places when doing the field work in post-Yugoslav countries.


Belgrade


Belgrade


Belgrade


Belgrade


Zagreb


Omarska


Sarajevo


Sarajevo


Sarajevo


Sarajevo


Sarajevo


Sarajevo