0. PURE BLOOD / ČISTA KRV
Smirna Kulenović / 2019 / August
ČISTA KRV / PURE BLOOD; Performance and Public Space Installation
Photo: Predrag Milašinović
Drone: Dalibor Danilović
I’ve crawled for 2 kilometers on my knees, manually spreading “pure blood” / red paint in Banja Luka (capital of Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina) inside the Industrial Zone Incel. I've used the brush in the beginning, and only my bare hands until the end.
1. PURE BLOOD
The idea is to visually and physically present the consequences of the rhetoric of the ideology of "pure blood", encountered in the early politics and laws of Nazism, Fascism, and all other movements aimed at explicitly "cleansing" one race or nation from diversity. What the world has encountered through the world wars, including our last war in Bosnia - is precisely the result of such policies that have succeeded in manipulating the masses into believing that one "blood" is purer than another, and that all other "dirty" blood should be exterminated; killed and raped.
Unfortunately, we live in a time when such rhetoric is again becoming normal in the political speech of democratic government officials; both in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Balkans, throughout Europe, and the world. The refugee crisis in recent years has only awakened right-wing policies to tighten their grip on Europe, and so in many cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina we can see migrants trying to cross the border to the European Union. Unfortunately, in Banja Luka, it is currently even legally forbidden to help these people, and the system treats them exactly as the “dirty” blood that shouldn’t “pollute” the city centers of some “civilized” country. The borders on the other side are being kept by soldiers who even started shooting at refugees. This is not only the case here, but also in many European countries. However, Banja Luka has recently been hit by an ecological disaster by spilling poisonous perylene in the Incel industrial zone, and it has been revealed that the workers themselves are poisoned, because their blood contains huge amounts of toxic metals.
For me, this outpouring that happened a few months ago is a symbolic event, an outpouring of poison and everything that has been buried for years - which, after an explosion and fire, spills over to the surface, and why we find that all people who work and live nearby are affected, ie. somehow poisoned.
Politics of fascism is like a disease that spreads, pours on people without them being aware of it - until a catastrophe emerges, in which it becomes apparent. Here it mostly becomes apparent through wars which have already caused a massive spill of blood in the Balkans, every couple of decades.
On the one hand, I also wanted to talk about the truth about numerous genocides and war crimes, truth that is completely suppressed in the Republic of Sprska, where war crimes of the past are glorified as heroic acts that finally managed to cleanse the unclean blood of those "others". Genocide denial is just a continuation of genocide politics, where one particular ethnic group is killed again; thrpugh lying about the past, glorifying murder, rape, expulsion.
The genocide reoccurs in this negation and creation of the image of a war criminal as a hero – as new generations in Bosnia (mostly Republika Srpska) now grow up with similar fascist and Nazi ideas. Because of this, I wanted to show an "apocalyptic" vision of the future, which unfortunately at the moment also a represents a realistic image of a situation we pretend not to see completely,leading the entire world to complete destruction. Both of us and the ecosystems we inhabit.
The original idea was to do this performance in downtown Banja Luka, on the Main Street, which of course turned out to be impossible - both because of the ban on public gatherings and many other factors that are unnecessary to talk about.
I've decided to work in front of the industrial zone “Incel” instead, because it is a symbol of the economy and prosperity of the former Yugoslavia that employed 6,500 workers before the war, and today it looks like a tombstone to the very idea of prosperity, solidarity and workers' self-management. The fire itself, ie. the spillage of perylene occurred as a result of the clumsy handling of these remnants of the former economy, clumsy handling at the time of privatization. To walk the circle of Incel today seems surreal, like an apocalyptic film where we witness the remains of an extinct civilization.
3. DURATION - SUFFERING
I wasn't sure if I would be able to stand on my knees for the entire 2 kilometers, using a manual brush to spread "pure blood" in the beginning, and only with my hands until the end.
In the middle of the performance, I almost gave up because of the fatigue and heat, but I pulled through until the end.
The performance was meant to portray that exact suffering of the body and the psyche while trying to survive in this kind of political climate, following the rhetoric of "cleaning" with pure blood. The body and the psyche suffer in their subordination and obedience to the ruling fascist system, often unconsciously doing the job for them. They are not aware of it while “down on earth”, but only when they analyze the whole situation from a bird's eye view, which I introduce through drone shots.
For me, this has been the deepest psychological and physical test of endurance so far - staying with a firm will to finish the performance despite the heat, the injuries, the open sores on my knees and fatigue.
I was surprised by the number of people who came, and especially by the production ability and seriousness of the organization shown by activists from DKC Incel. Without them, I would not have been able to create such a monumental work. When I got the invitation to open BL ART, the festival they are organizing – I was surprised because until now no one had ever invited me to act in Banja Luka, without censorship. I am amazed at their courage and perseverance that they exist as an alternative collective that addresses all those topics that are otherwise forbidden in such a system.
In addition to those who understood why it was important to talk about this topic at this very moment, there were also many classic threats, spitting and degradation by numerous nationalists and those who saw my work as an attack on something. We cannot attack imaginary creations; for me, everything outside nature is completely imaginary, man's creation - and so is every state, border, entity, nation. I did not attack anything, but on the contrary - I show the banality of all our imaginary creations that cause us to kill each other every couple of years.
5. THE FUTURE
Violence is never a solution, and I believe that the future will look differently; but I hope that for such a future, we won’t be cannibalized globally in the first place. I believe that this is a time when it's becoming obvious that no system based on profit and borders can function, and that people are increasingly interested in other forms of thinking and living.
This should be a century in which nature and technology merge, and post-capitalist life forms are slowly becoming more attractive and accessible to all. We live in a time of transition, which I know is eternal at least during my life, since I was born during the war in Sarajevo. My goal is to help make that transition happen as quickly as possible.
That is why this performance is the last in a series of my reflections on the political and current situation, which I will present as documentation - but since the continuation of this year, I have only been concerned with the development of biodigital technology and its application in the arts. It is now important to also work on developing a collective imagination aimed at inventing a completely different and even “unrealistic” future. Utopia is always on the edge of hell.