UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIONS. WHAT ABOUT BOSNIA?: A Bosnia exploitation performance

Direction: Konstantin Dupelius

Cast: Nedim Zlatar, Jonas Urbat, Konstantin Dupelius, Olivia Ronzani, Donia Sbika, Crispoher Buehler, Anna Renner, Viola Schmitzer

The last evening of the International Theater Festival MESS, at the Academy of Performing Arts Sarajevo art collective Unconscious Collections e.V. performed a performance Unconscious Collections. What about Bosnia?, their first stage work that explores political discourse in Bosnia and Herzegovina through music, dance and documentary videos.

The performance was held on the chamber stage at the Academy, where on one side a large canvas was set up, alternating footage of Bosnian landscapes, national liberation monuments, war videos, and interviews recorded by the collective, which mainly concerned the war and post-war experience of several actors, during which the recordings of musician Nedim Zlatar dominate, and who is playing drums in this performance. On the other side of the stage there is a set for three musicians and composers: Nedima Zlatar, Jonas Urbat and Konstantin Dupelius.

During the performance, the audience stands, or sits between the projection and the musicians, while Olivia Ronzani and Viola Schmitzer dance between them, producing with their work pictures or etudes that associate the audience with particular periods of Bosnian society. The most striking of these scenes are certainly their recreation of the landing and the separation of the audience into those who have red and blue ribbons on their hands. These images are the most recognizable, but they remain at the level of banal illustration above all because they do not develop further and produce no deeper meaning than what they represent.

What makes it even more difficult to keep track of this performance is that no clear code for its reading was established at the beginning, leaving the audience visibly confused as to what they were attending? A concert accompanied by a dance performance and video projection, a dance performance accompanied by live music and a video projection or video projection accompanied by live music and a dance performance. The center of attention was located between the videos on the one hand, the musicians on the other, and the two dancers moving between people, making direct contact with them, without giving them clear indications of what was expected of them. The audience continuously struggled to understand why the dancers were constantly dragging them from side to side, whether they needed to sit or stand, whether a leg of the two dancers would hit them over the head during a crowded stage performance, to what meaning their action produced at the given moment. The dance performance was not characterized by extreme precision, which is understandable given the choice to dance in such a small space, and the control that the dancers tried to establish over the audience and its distribution in the space did not always go as expected.

The best quality part of this performance seems to have been the music itself, but given my lack of expertise in the field, I would refrain from going into deeper analysis. It is evident, however, that the musicians were able to create a great atmosphere which the audience would surely enjoy if they happened to find themselves at their concert by chance, rather than a performance which was very arbitrarily framed by the context of the tragic Bosnian politics.

And that’s where we arrive at the biggest problem. The treatment of the topic which the collective in this work decided to address – BiH politics and its society from the beginning of its stat establishment unti today. Pages and pages of theoretical texts in the field of politics and sociology have already been written on this topic, hundreds, if not thousands of films have been filmed, and also that many performances, many more debates, congresses and round tables have been held and all this would not have been a problem if these artists were able to contribute by thinking about the subject in some aesthetically innovative way or to articulate something new thereby. Instead, we are given a series of arbitrary fragments that merely illustrate the problems and happenings, with the director’s endlessly banal and almost offensive speech at the very end about how Bosnia is, after all, a wonderful country whose artistic scene does not cease to delight him.

Apart from obviously not sharing enthusiasm for the art scene, it is also difficult to share enthusiasm for observing someone from a position, almost tourist-like, who has a half-assed observation about what the situation in Bosnia looks like and who tries to bring a touch of optimism through the logic of injecting morphine into the body of a dying patient.

When about fifteen years ago there was a flood of films on the subject of the Bosnian war and its aftermath, mostly by directors and productions who came from other countries, fascinated by all that amount of tragedy and our willingness to talk about it in an articulate way, but not quite ready to enter the complexity of the problem, but utilizing only that which represented a dramatic potential for them, someone coined the term Bosnia exploitation films in the local art scene, which very quickly became unofficially used to effectively express an opinion on the work being seen. Extending this definition to include works in the field of stage performances, I can only conclude that this work can only be classified as Bosnia exploitation performance.

Written by: Asja Krsmanović



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