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Film Bulletin “Four Faces of Omarska”

Working Group Four Faces of Omarska »

Four Faces of Omarska explores the strategies of memorial production from the position of those whose experience and knowledge have been subjugated, rejected, and excluded from public memory and public history. In short, it is an ongoing investigation of a complex vortex of historical dynamics in a particular site in the former Yugoslavia. The title Four Faces of Omarska comes from four constitutive layers in the history of this mining complex in northern Bosnia. It was established in socialist Yugoslavia as an iron ore mine (Prijedor, Omarska); at the beginning of the 1990s wars, Bosnian Serb forces and local authorities transformed the mine into a concentration camp for ethnic Muslims and Croats; after the war, in 2004, ArcelorMittal, one of today’s largest multinational companies, assumed majority ownership of Omarska mine and resumed commercial mining operations; finally, in 2007 it was used as a film shooting location for Saint George Slays the Dragon, the historical ethno-blockbuster (First World War) co-produced by film companies from Serbia proper and Republika Srpska.

Omarska remains off-limits to survivors and the public. The Omarska camp is a target of multiple erasures from memory: through further transitional plundering of workers by the multinational company Arcelor Mittal, through the denial of crime by the leadership of the Republika Srpska, and through revisionist aestheticization of war by contemporary Serbian film production, which uses Omarska as a film setting.

The current usage of the camp hides the original crimes and thus perpetuates the effects of these crimes. Although the functional status changed over time the structuring logic of the concentration camp operates by other means. Four Faces of Omarska, aims to uncover the recent hidden phases of the mine’s history, the documentation of its use as a mass grave site during the war in Bosnia; the refusal to allow for any site commemoration and its current inscription into global economies; privatization of public good; multinational corporate rhetoric and the role of cultural production.

However it is not sufficient to work out these continuities only on the level of the local and to think of places exclusively in relation to their locality. Today we must think the concentration camp in relation to multiple places, forms of discourse, legal and juridical frames, sets of institutions, cultural habits and practices, influential individuals and foreign governments. In effect, along the lines of what Michel Foucault called an apparatus; a methodological form that extends the network of this research and asserts that in order to understand this or any site, and the relations between them we need to understand a relation between a shifting network of global institutions and places that have stakes in the questions and historical narratives activated by Omarska.

The basic motive and the frame of the work of the artistic/theoretical Working group “Four faces of Omarska” is the critic of the recent cultural production in Serbia and refers to the question: Which politics stand behind the cultural and artistic praxis? as well as the questions of the ethics and the politics of visual.

The Four Faces of Omarska Archive (2010-2013) contains text/photo/video/audio material of jurisdictional and legal documentation of Omarska (Ljubija mine complex), Omarska concentration camp (1992), ArcelorMittal Omarska (2004-2013), interviews, commemoration at Omarska (2010-2013), public working meetings, public screenings of the raw material, and open/closed working gatherings of the working group, archival and media material, library of relevant publications and texts, articles and lectures, etc. Film/video and audio material was produced by the working group, forensic architecture team, and film authors (Nika Autor, Stanislav Tomic, Armin Linke etc.) in Omarska, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Banja Luka, Kozarac, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Ljubljana and London.

grafisches Element