In Garavice, a few kilometers outside Bihać in north Bosnia-Herzegovina 12.000 ethnic Serbs, Jews and Roma were killed by the Ustaše regime in the summer of 1941. After the invasion of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers earlier that year, the puppet state of the Independent State of Croatia was founded, which adopted the racist ideology of Nazi Germany against Jews and primarily Serbs. Forty years later a memorial park commemorating the victims of the massacre was erected at the extermination location. It had been designed by architect Bogdan Bogdanović who was forced into self-imposed exile in 1993.
In March 2015 I was filming a pile of tires in the backyard of a car service station in the town of Bihać. For someone growing up in Cyprus truck tires are always subconsciously related to a borderline, a buffer zone. The sky was overcast, and some rubbish was burning on the bordering plot. As the wind was blowing from the north the smoke was carried through the frame. Shortly afterwards the sky cleared and the Garavice memorial was rendered visible. The erratic rays of sunshine gave the background a two-dimensional aspect, transforming it into a backdrop, as it were. It was only weeks afterwards that I had the processed film in my hands and its images on screen. The tires, the smoke, the dotted light like paint dabbed onto the hill, the stone blocks: all these elements came unintentionally together to create a scene that viewers of the film would later call evocative. True, maybe, but evocative of what?
From 1992-1995 Bihać was again the site of severe war crimes and atrocities. The town turned into an enclave that was under a three-year siege; surrounded on the west by the secessionist Serb Republic of Serbian Krajina and on the east by the proclaimed Republika Srpska, both cooperating in order to capture the Bosniak population living in or having been displaced to the region since the outbreak of the war. Forms of displacement that have inscribed themselves in physical space demonstrate one thing, after all: the growing incompatibilities in contemporary life. In Days In Between the narrator ruminates on this:
I have the feeling that I am stepping into Zeno’s ‘Achilles and the Tortoise’ paradox – moving, yet motionless, always a step behind in my attempt to comprehend. Is plurality and change an illusion? I begin to ponder asynchronicity and different speeds, that of the traveling observer and that of the protagonists between the takes, who in turn have their own tempi. I am reminded of Amel, who lives in a brick hut in Bosnia with his small family. ‘There is no work here,’ he says, ‘if the system doesn’t take you in, take another path.’ He tried it in Qatar, his body couldn’t cope with the heat. To begin all over again, continually – is that the characteristic feature of the whole region?