Ethnographers argument

The work “Ethnographer’s argument” plays with the idea of transferability of the experience of “Jewishness” in contemporary Serbia as a sub-branch of “otherness” in cultural, religious, and neocolonial, ethnographic terms.

The current dynamic between the state and the Jewish community does not allow for the autonomous “culture of memory” to be independently formed. Therefore, this work is an attempt to re-set the tone of the Jewish culture from the socialist period, but seen through the contemporary prism of privatization, nationalist utilitarianism and cultural neglect. The work is asking whether the internal colonization has deprived the once-thriving cultural force of the power of its autonomous voice, or its remains still have the potential to resonate through the memory scapes of Serbia.

The “Ethnographers argument” is transitioning through once culturally important literary and autobiographical passages, juxtaposed with breaks in the form of politically disruptive images, forming a distorted mirror, or rather, a possible personal version of “Jewishness” as seen by the majority raised on the state-media with alliance-building vocabulary of inter-ethnic friendship and nationalist political kinship. The work is intertwined with the common points of cultural identification and mutual recognition, while still noticing the illiberal hierarchy imposed by the still relatively new, single nation, state majority.

As the public image of the Jewish community is by now predominantly media-derived, the images and audio are chosen to convey the subtext of the mutual relationship of the cultures. The choices of directional audio and the evidentiary vs associative imagery are to project the alienating experience of being a minority to the visitor, as he/she will be spoken to directly. Just as in political speech, the subjects will be exposed to the messages “in public isolation”, never to be fully certain if that same content is what the others are hearing.

Mento is short, stunted, but still young man, with a single wandering eye, his face red and bloated. He is always drunk and hungover,  but neither of these fully.  A son of a small merchant, himself also a pupil at the merchant school, this Mento, since he was a schoolboy had started out with vagrants like himself, drinking and gambling in bars at the outskirts. Of gay disposition and a drunakrd, better known among his companions as Herzika, than by his proper name, he is a Sephardic Jew. In Sarajevo Sephardic community, Herzika is considered a lost man, a scabeous sheep, an exception and a degenerate, long time not seen among the Jews. Herzika never cared much what Jews think. He had distanced himself from family, while meddling with police and financial authorities, entartaining his guests with his humour and singing, bickering, fighting and makeing amends with his Agatha, and everything he would make, he either drinks up, gambles away or lets it go as unpaid fare.

Ivo Andrić, “Buffet Titanik”, 1950, Emir Kusturica, 1979. (Andric’s wartime apartment balcony, in Prizrenska st, Belgrade, with direct view over Sava to the camp at Sajmište / Judenlager Semlin).

We were moving through the Dalmatian villages that had to feed us while having no food left for themselves. Still, somehow, we made it to the coast. We came atop a hill where we gave our weapons to the local partisans, as there were enough guns on Vis. On that hill we were to wait for a boat. We looked around, there was nothing and noone. It was raining, and we had spent several days in that rain, with very little food. Like the abandoned, we would descend to the shore, waiting for the boat. When the boat would not show up, we would climb back up to wait for the next evening.

Andreja Preger, pianist, “ A century with music”. (Andreja Preger’s piano, donated to the Jewish community).

“…translating, I didn’t go for the beauty, and especially not for the beutification. I tried to follow, intentionally letting the roughness and forcefulness of the original expression be, in the measure that can be achieved in transposing the material from one idiom to the other, from the age of antiquity to our own time.

Eugen Verber, from the preface to his translation of Talmud, 1990.

“… I  answered that I will rather let myself be baptized than to be killed, because, in spite of everything, the temporary suffering of lasting is more valuable than the final emptiness of the nothingness. Then, they have grabbed me and shoved me out of the house, not allowing me to change my house robe into some more appropriate clothes, taking me as I were to the Saint-Etienne cathedral. “

“…They said to me: “Take the path we all have and we shall give you a hand”; and more they said: “Do not seek other path aside from the road everyone is taking”. And still they said: “Following your path, many were killed.” Then I answered: “Let us go back to the church.”

Danilo Kiš, Tomb for Boris Davidovič

„I would like it if the need for the monuments as I make them would end; I wish for my students to lose my subject matter; I would like it if they, the masters to be, would raise monuments to life and not death.“, … „A man does not die when he passes away, but when he is forgotten”.

Nandor Glid, “Menorah in flames”, 1988-1990, Belgrade, Dorćol. The sculpture, at the site of the demolished Jewish neighborhood, is without author’s, or donor’s names. 

The blunt axe – “…if the paths of destiny wouldn’t be unpredictable in their intricate architectures, where the end is never seen but only presaged, it could be said, despite his horrible end, that Karl Taube was born under a lucky star. (if our thesis is accepted in claiming that: the temporary suffering of the continuance is more valuable than the final emptiness of nothingness): those that sought to murder the revolutionary in Taube, those in Dachau, as well as those in distant Kolima, did not want, or could kill the doctor, the shaman in him. ”In connection with that, we will not indulge here in developing the heretic and dangerous thought that could be deduced from this example: that the illness, and its shadow, the death, are, especially in the eyes of a tyrant, only forms of emanation of the supernatural, and that shamans are magicians of sorts”: the logical consequence of a certain worldview.”

Danilo Kiš, “Tomb for Boris Davidovič”, 1976. Tenement housing in Tabanovačka st, across the Concentration/ death camp on “Autokomanda” in Belgrade. Kiš used to live there during the writing of “The Anatomy lesson”.

The work was produced and exhibited within the framework of the AEPJ exhibition “Parallel traces“, and shown in Girona, Wroclaw, Belgrade, Sighet and Tbilisi