Derived from a true story, Prizren, Kosovo, SCG (2002)
The following work has been made in 2002. I traveled to Kosovo in 2001, where I was exploring if the stories about Kosovo differ from what the general opinion, or the official news was writing in the media in that period in Serbia or elsewhere. Many contradicting stories went around and most of them were very negative. Especially when I was hearing the general opinion of people in Belgrade I decided, that none of the information I heard or read could be trustworthy and that I needed to see for myself what the real situation was over there. None of the information was correct. The situation in Kosovo was completely different. I spoke with many people over there, and the complexity of the situation was evident everywhere. Even the reasons of war were questionable, and seemed more and more based on different interests, than what the media in Europe and the US were writing. High grade uranium mined in Prizren was apparently an important factor of war, especially considering that this uranium was traded by Serbia to the Soviet Union. Cutting this line was of paramount importance to western powers, for whom the cold war allegedly had never finished.
The place where I stayed was hosted by an elder lady, who told me a story about a young girl, and this story made great impact on me, so I decided to make a work about it.
A girl is living with her grandmother in a former Serbian neighborhood in the old Town of Prizren in the south of Kosovo. They are the only Serbs still living there. Others who could leave, gradually had left for some time. The houses in the surrounding were occupied with new neighbors. They live in an old small townhouse, where once a garden surrounded it with flowers and trees. Now their garden is enclosed by a wall of 2 meters height. On top of this wall, a roll of razor wire is connected, a more heavy type of barbwire. In the wall perpendicular the entrance of the small one floor house is a gate towards the garden, which is connecting the outside world to the house. A small and clumsy looking door protected with barbwire is hung in the gate. The lock is every week sabotaged and demolished. Between those entrances there is an anti-rocket wall positioned, constructed by the Belgium army. The approximate height is 2.00 meter and is about 3 meters wide. Its made out of reinforced steel, located one and a half meter distance from the entrance of the house.
On top of this barrier, a meshed wire structure is connected to the base of the roof. This is done to prevent Molotov cocktails, or grenades to enter the house through the main entrance, they are supposed to bounce of by this contraption. Further all windows are covered by knots of razor wire, for the same purpose. In the garden all trees, little bush or flowers are cut down, to ensure visibility and a clear view for what ever will be going on in the small garden. The place was transformed from an idyllic farmer styled little cottage into a heavily protected bunker style structure.
Daily stones are thrown over the wall with messages like; ‘Tomorrow you die’ or ‘this night we burn the place down’. This type of houses are secured and declared as protected. However the gaps within all these clumsily contraptions supposedly protecting them are easily bypassed by guns and snipers, and are only falsely providing a sense of being safe.
They are NOT planning to leave.
The girl is 24 and works for an international organization. She is developing a program to keep the in Kosovo living young girls out of the hands from human traffickers. Prostitution and human trafficking in young inexperienced girls is increasing heavily in this area. The poverty exacerbates this even more and some families are willing to receive some money in exchange of a daughter. She does not distinguish between ethnic Kosovo Serbian girls or ethnic Kosovo Albanian girls. She is not affected by the difficult situation she lives in. She takes care of her grandmother, and can not go to work or out of the house unescorted by a security transport. She does not want to leave and feels belonging to that city and the area. She works everyday to improve her and the lives of many vulnerable girls.
5 hours without electricity followed by a maximum of an hour with. When it rains everything quickly turns muddy, when not it is dusty. When the power is off, the small diesel generators in the town area are all turned on. The air rapidly envelopes into a thick hazy blanket of suffocating gasoline exhaust. The power plant in the area is seriously out-dated and malfunctioning. The limited moments when it is functioning, heavy fumes of dark toxic clouds are released, which inevitably irritates everybody’s respiratory system. Regardless the heavy pollution, the authorities cannot provide the power demands of the area. The people in the so-called ‘protectorates’ are waiting. I quote a Kosovo Albanian man, with whom I had a long discussion, and he told: “Nobody knows anymore for what exactly they are waiting. Tears have been dried up anyway. Today is the same, as yesterday or tomorrow, unless you get killed, which would end the suffering and hope anyway!” People lost their hope and their dignity. Enslaved by the international organizations and NGO’s, while the real reasons have been carefully kept out of the local and international media. A war to control the uranium.
The work forms a metaphor of these false protectorates, full of holes, reminders of anti-tank barricades, but accessible at every moment.
The windows have been sealed up by construction wood, representing the houses left behind in a hurry, where the owners were trying to make access to their properties more difficult, also it would help against shock waves by incoming rockets to not shatter the windows. The patterns which are formed symbolizes a striking resemblance with the stained glass in church windows. The light filtered and formed in architectural shapes.
A pile of wood at the highest part of the installation forms a reminder of the destruction this war generated. The dust and the light in the space coalesced into a serene looking scenario, which simultaneously deceives this impression of peace and forms a grim reminder of the tragedy of war.
The material of which the installation is constructed is simple wooden planks, Reclaimed from the construction industry. The way how the small planks have been extended are generating associations with makeshift crutches as they could have been used by war victims.
The work was exhibited in a space called Konkordia in Vršać, northern Serbia. The room of the exhibition was one of the biggest spaces in Serbia at that moment and the installation required to be in proportion with this space. Dimensions were approximately 7 meters high and 20 meters long. It contained 3 containers of reclaimed wood and buckets full of nails.
The show was Curated by Gera and Nada Grozdanić