PAINTINGS EXHIBITED IN THE LOBBY // 07. 1992.
MIROSLAV BILAC // PAINTER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

July 1992

Miroslav Bilac
Painter
PAINTINGS EXHIBITED IN THE LOBBY

‘That summer our life was mostly spent in entrance halls. We lived in the cellars and the entrances because the shelling was so bad we couldn’t be in our flats still less go out and move about the town. But there was a very enterprising man called Janez Tadic who before the war had an agency called Stela Media, and he wanted us to organize an exhibition through his agency. The opening was 24 July at 12 o’clock. The exhibition was very well attended. Invitations went out in rather a rush done on computers because we didn’t have any other means, and even if people couldn’t get in from town, people came from neighboring entrance halls, they all came to the exhibition. We couldn’t do anything about the destruction of the town but we could keep its pulse alive. If we let the town die spiritually then it truly would be dead. But thanks to people who felt that spiritual need, that it must not die, for the whole period of the siege Sarajevo was very much alive.’

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JULY 1992


• In order to protect against sniper fire, Sarajevan drivers drive through the city’s streets at great speed.


• Yeast arrives to “Velepekara” for the production of bread.


• Herzeg-Bosnia is proclaimed within the territory of BiH.


• The resale of humanitarian aid begins in different places in the city at high prices.
• A number of countries offer to participate in the air bridge for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the besieged city.


• At a meeting of the Presidency of BiH the decision is made to replace the Public Prosecutor because of his attempts to ban the nationalist parties SDA and HDZ over six common infractions .


• Munich, July 7, 1992. Summit in Munich: The seven most-developed countries in the world adopt a special resolution on the Yugoslav crisis that places pressure on Belgrade. The seven countries supporting the EC conference on the former Yugoslavia call on all sides to continue negotiations, while at the same time demanding that all sides not impede humanitarian efforts. The resolution also states that “in the event that peace negotiations fail, the Security Council will consider other measures, among which the use of military force will not be excluded. It is also emphasized that Serbia and Croatia must respect the territorial integrity of BiH.


• The new member of the Presidency of BiH from the Serb people, Nenad Kecmanovic, flees Sarajevo.


• Student Josip Capelj gives 200,000 dinars of his savings to the Armed Forces of BiH: “I want them to liberate me.”


• Juka Prazina, city guerilla leader joins the Armed Forces of BiH with his own unit.


• Cellist Vedran Smajlovic plays on the street in the center of the city.


• The Representative of the Jewish Community in Sarajevo, Ivica Ceresnjes, says that the Jewish cemetery and chapel can be destroyed in the interest of defending the city. The Jewish cemetery is among the most dangerous strongholds of Serb snipers firing upon the citiziens of Sarajevo. Serb terrorists aim at buses, trams and passersby.


• In the neighborhood of Dobrinja, which is being attacked on two sides, a teacher, “Aunt Faiza,” soothes children with games, classes, costume parties and dances.
• Collectors try to collect TV subscription fees.
• Cellist Vedran Smajlovic sends an invitation to musicians across the world to protest against the agression against Sarajevo and BiH by playing Albioni on July 17 at 12pm.
• London, July 16, 1992. A peace conference begins in London. Lord Peter Carrington presides over the peace conference. Participants at the conference include: Haris Silajdzic, Radovan Karadzic and Mate Boban.
• Developer Mirko Mer makes a protective mask against poison gases.
• Cellist Vedran Smajlovic plays for Douglas Hurd, Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom on Vase Miskina street.


• London, July 18, 1992. A ceasefire agreement is signed in London. All sides sign a ceasefire agreement placing heavy artillery under the control of the international community. They also sign a document guaranteeing the right of refugees to return to their homes and securing the free movement to all civilians.
• The new President of the Yugoslav Government, Milan Panic, arrives in Sarajevo.
• Pharmacies in Sarajevo receive humanitarian aid in the form of enormous quantities of medicines with expired dates, as well as inadequate or irrelevant medicines, such as anti-malarial agents.
• Louis Mackenzie, UNPROFOR Commander, resigns under pressure from the media for misconduct and bias.
• A convoy of mothers and children, through the organization Children’s Embassy, leaves for Italy.
• Pension payments depend on electricity.
• 27 Olympians leave Sarajevo for Barcelona.
• Armed Forces of BiH attack the chocolate factory “Zora” with the aim of disarming guerilla units of the HVO.


• The city no longer has water. Serb terrorists hold control over all reservoirs.


• At Stup human trafficking and black marketing arises through cooperation between HVO units and Bosnian Serb forces.


• Bernard Kouchner becomes the patron of a former JNA hospital, bestowing it with the name the “French Hospital.”
• Painters exhibit their paintings in the stairwells of apartment blocks.
• Haris Silajdzic, Foreign Minister of BiH, refuses the Cutilliero plan, which in March the BiH delegation had given its approval in principle.
• Athlete Mirsada Buric trains for the World Cup in the streets of Sarajevo amid sniper fire.
• Juka Prazina, with his own unit, creates a border at Stup and halts trafficking on the way between Stup and the city.

Exhibitions

Once a week in the partially destroyed Red Cross building in the “Sniper Alley”. Exhibitions by the local sculptors, painters and “conceptualists”. Hot tea is also served. The gallery owned by “Scena obala”.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.

Cultural Survival

Sarajevo, boyishly astounded, is beginning to realize that it is exactly it – wrecked, wounded and grieving – that is the first city of the 21st century and now centre of European spirituality
Towards the end of his life, in 1949, Klaus Mann wrote: „A wave of suicides to which the most extraordinary and distinguished spirits would fall victim, would awaken the nations from their lethargy so that they would understand the deadly seriousness of the trial that man with his stupidity and selfishness has drawn over himself.“
This impassioned anti-fascist, calling for a campaign of suicides among European intellectuals, killed himself a short time later in Cannes. A little more than ten decades later not even an organized suicide campaign of whole nations would arouse European intellectuals from their lethargy. Instead of political suicide, they have because of their stupidity and selfishness decided on total destruction, on a long dying on warm rugs in the scent of cheap decadence. To the holocaust in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that famed European spirit of the end of the 20th century postures pitifully in its powerlessness, but does not move an inch from its self regarding, insensible egocentrism which makes it, however powerless, also evil. Corruption and hypocrisy make no attempt to hide themselves, individualism has turned into pettybourgeois narcissism. The Faust myth produced in the garrulous chancelleries of Europe is a useful cover-up for the last remains of conscience that can be as irritating as a blow-fly. „The Faustian thirst for knowledge“ is best quenched in symbols with nationalism. In 1993, a new key-word came into the salons of Europe: Sarajevo is dreadful enough, mysterious enough, and near enough, to whet and encourage a feeling of charity. Sarajevo has become an ideal digestif for the European stupidity that calls itself, in all seriousness, the European intelligentsia.
At the same time, in the real Sarajevo, a New European Spirit is being born, which does not look even in pity at the grotesque European salons. The new European spirit arises from a new discovery of meaning, from the redefinition of the world and life, death and suffering. And this could have happened only in Sarajevo the centre of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian tragedy and the end of Old Europe. In Sarajevo in the last 17 months, people of special kind have appeared, of a specially altered physiology because of the special course of(mal)nutrition through which they have passed and the sublimated mental life that has transcended the physiological. It is natural that this new spirit should have first manifested itself in young people, in the most intelligent and vital part of the population. The mystical spleen of the new European spirit is in its simplicity, and ethicalness.
From today's Sarajevan perspective, Klaus Mann looks like a good old romantic. His suicide, in the light of idea of his quoted at the beginning of this article, was the optimistic act of the lover of certain idea about the world. In the city in which the idea about the world has been changed, the feeling for the romanticism has been changed too. Klaus Mann was convinced that there were still intellectuals of his calibre when he called for an organized campaign of politically motivated suicides. It is true that he was alone from the simple reason that he was particular. Sarajevo is beginning to learn that it is not like other European cities, that it is special, unique, incomparable. Sarajevo, boyishly astounded, is beginning to realize that it is exactly it – wrecked, wounded and grieving – that is the first city of the 21st century and the new centre of European spirituality.

HARIS PAŠOVIĆ

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