Words in the war, or about the (im)possibility of testifying
The Museum of Yugoslavia, in cooperation with the comics author Saša Rakezić alias Aleksandar Zograf, is organizing the exhibition “Words in the war, or about the (im)possibility of testifying”, which will be opened on March 16, 2023 at 7 p.m. in the Cultural Centre of Serbia in Paris.
The exhibition brings together two groups of artefacts that speak from completely different positions on singular experiences of individuals in Yugoslavia during the Second World War. The concept stemmed from the collection of Zograf’s comics Stories from the Second War, which the Museum published in cooperation with the publishing house Popbooks in 2022. Out of a total of thirty issues, ten were singled out for the exhibition, which indirectly bear witness to different writing practices, thus providing an insight into the linguistic articulations of the mentioned experiences, recorded exclusively amid the war years.
According to the “source” on which Zograf relies, i.e. the “linguistic form” produced by the main actors, which is the backbone of the “story”, comics are arranged into three thematic groups. The first includes intimate notes in the form of letters and war diaries, the second group introduces significant examples of written artistic production, while in the third group, Zograf uses partisan political and propaganda publications. As a follow-up to these three groups, selected objects from the collections of the Museum of Yugoslavia are displayed at the exhibition.
By providing insight into the mentioned writing practices – through the attempts of individuals to symbolize the traumatic experiences of life in the camp or under occupation (letters, diaries and written artistic creation), and through the efforts of organized groups of partisans to mobilize fighters and spread political resistance through the distribution of propaganda articles, speeches and slogans (newspapers, leaflets and partisan textbooks) – this exhibition aims not only to encourage the thinking about the function and scope of language as a means of articulating the various experiences of war, but also about its performative power to “make the absent present”, and to subsequently enable these experiences to be transferred particularly to those who have not experienced them. What are the conditions that make this transfer possible, to what extent and in which form and, finally, what is the role of art and museums in the transfer of those experiences? – these are the questions the exhibition is organized around.
Bearing in mind the war traumas, not only in the context of the Yugoslav experience but also of current global events, it is of tremendous importance to understand how to employ the insights and affective dimension of the preserved testimonies.
The exhibition will be open until April 1, 2023. The author and curator of the exhibition is Ms Simona Ognjanović.
The Origins: The Background for Understanding the Museum of Yugoslavia
Creation of a European type of museum was affected by a number of practices and concepts of collecting, storing and usage of items.
New Mappings of Europe
Starting from the Museum collection as the main source for researching social phenomena and historical moments important for understanding the experience of life in Yugoslavia, the exhibition examines the Yugoslav heritage and the institution of the Museum