The working group, Four Faces of Omarska, is concerned with a specific geopoliticised site that has passed through four distinct phases, overlaying it with multiple co-existing narratives. Omarska is simultaneously:
- a metal deposit in a region of former the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina that emerged after the war as part of the (ethnically cleansed) Republika Srpska.
- the site of the Omarska concentration camp which lasted from May–August 1992, facilitating the genocide of thousands of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) whose remains are still on the site.
- a current mining complex operated by the steel manufacturing conglomerate ArcelorMittel.
- a film set for the World War I ‘ethno-historical blockbuster’ St George Slays the Dragon (2009), which received significant funding from the the governments of the Republika Srpska and Serbia.
- Does film have to be exposed?
- Does film have to be screened?
- Does film have to be tape (celluloid)?
- Does film have to have a story?
- Does film have to exist in order to be a film?
If cinema is understood to be the definitive language of the twentieth century, the idea of ‘film by other means’ suggests another approach to cameraless film making, based on the deconstruction of the common language of film itself. Departing from the formalist notion of film making as sculpting light in time and space, cinema might also be understood as an articulation of actions, affects and duration. As such, the camera is no longer the principle device (or signifier) that brings cinema into being, but rather it is the artist-audience as an apparatus that frame, edit and co-produce the unfolding cinematic event.
The previous day’s exercise, Following Piece and Looking and Listening, effectively instructed the participant to behave as a camera and concluded by linking the act of observing to speech. The working groups formed for the Four Faces of Omarska were informed by a notion of ‘collective editing’, or rather the act of speech that drives the cinematic event, suggesting a discursive form of cinema. This understanding of cinema as a practice emphasises acts of translation, interpretation, debate and consensus.
The results of our workshop with the Monument Group’s Four Faces of Omarska were presented to the public as a set of separate, but interrelated vignettes. These encompassed interviews that veered towards interrogation, a concept for an actual film, performative actions and discussions of very specific aspects of the archive that as a group we had accessed very fleetingly. Furthermore it became apparent that this ‘act of cinema’ could only be realised with an audience — those outside the processes being presented, that nevertheless played an active role in the event’s becoming. The exchanges between the co-producers of the event — the sociability between performer and audience — is then the material of a discursive cinema.
Continuing to think through a discourse of cinema, what might a notion of discursive cinema bring to bear on the opposing and diverging threads of film history and praxis; as documentary, as drama and representation, and as investigations of its material and structural qualities?
Milica Tomic. 2010. Four Faces of Omarska: Memorial as a Social Sculpture – Artwork as Common Good and Property.
Pavle Levi. 2009. Kapo from Omarska.
Published no-w-here Open Studio Blog, 6 July 2013.