Artefacts from the Protest
Performing Objects – an archive of artefacts from the protest in Belgrade 1996/1997
The Serbian uprising in ’96/’97 was an attempt to overthrow dictatorship of then president Milosevic after he annulled elections because of the victory of the opposition party. Ashamed by the unsuccessful outcome of their protest and subsequent disappointment with political progress in the state, people of Serbian capital have never produced an archive of photos, banners and graffiti, which emerged during these demonstrations.
The narratives of this event known as “The Winter of Discontent” have been locked within the community and there are only odd visual references that are kept neglected in people’s houses or scattered on the various online platforms. My research regenerates the neglected narratives through oral histories, visual ethnography and object elicitation to look at the uprising by analyzing them. The result is a digital archive – a map of images, leaflets, badges, flags, vouchers, cartoons, crochets, etc, the online record of the elucidated protest available to participants, scholars and public. Its complexity reflects the study of the Balkans, the attempt to capture an event and the mantle of archival practice.
It also depicts my own position as a researcher within such history and describes the challenges of the archival practice in reflection. Presented cartographically in the sections of the online archive (timetables, actions, routes) with display of art formats (poems, photos, music), this overview of cultural, political and social circumstances within which the protest’s artwork was produced reveals how this material influenced the actions of the citizens.
Most of the photographs in this map archive are from private collections of my research contributors that I refer to when possible, but even though they were given to me by ‘the owner’, they often do not have assigned authorship as s/he could not locate it.
Belgrade media organisations like B92 provided some of the images via its websites into my archive too, especially the ones that mark 15 years since the protest. Other local professionals that shot images for print media mostly ended up in the repository that Reuters provided to me in a bulk by dates, without authorship. Many authors, out of fear chose to be anonymous contributors to both Reuters and my repository.
Walking Passes by Skart art collective – Walking licenses were delivered to Belgraders in various categories: for voyeurs, walking visitors, amateur-walkers, improving-walkers and professional walkers. Tickets for Street were issued, which stated “Every day I walk out to freedom.”
Protesters found the collective strength in the urban performance, sustained daily by the production of different costumes, objects and actions. Theatre practitioners joined them on the city stage, delivering speeches, acts or simply participating in the creative initiatives like cleaning of the university from the Milosevic’s cronies, delivering flowers to the police or creating alternative monuments from paper.