Funding granted for a Srebrenica Memorial

I am excited to have had Funding granted for a Srebrenica Memorial by Oxford City Council.

Funding granted for a Srebrenica Memorial For this project I will print 8372 business cards, that will be individually numbered/editioned 1/8372, 2/8372 etc on one side. The other side of the card will have a brief paragraph explaining the history of what happened at Srebrenica in 1995 as well as an explanation of the piece of  work.

These business cards remind us of each of those people killed without actually naming them. Business cards represent identity, status and the ability to make contact, many of those who died still remain missing.

The process of numbering will be an important act. I intend to host a two day event within the project space at Magdalen Road Studios and invite artists and members of the public to participate in the numbering of each of the 8372 cards. Each of these volunteers will conceptually represent the perpetrators, condemning each of the individual victims. This process will engage each volunteer to consider more deeply the events and actions of 23 years ago.

Srebrenica Memorial week runs from the 8th to the 15th July. I am hoping to exhibit all of the cards in their entirety at the Town Hall in Oxford from 8th to 11th July. Then from the 11th July  I will begin to hand out these cards within public spaces metaphorically exhuming each of the individuals and acknowledging their existence. This will be an act of remembrance that will help to raise awareness and remind us all of the consequences of hate.

I will continue to document the process here as well as on my social media channels.

‘Lie Down’ installation at City of Oxford College

Every year “White Armband Day” takes place on 31 May, the anniversary of the start of the campaign of ethnic cleansing which took place in the town of Prijedor, northern Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Bosnian Serb authorities issued a decree on local radio ordering all non-Serb citizens to mark their houses with white flags or bedsheets and to wear white armbands when leaving the house. This began campaign of extermination.

To mark this anniversary I have been given the opportunity to exhibit ‘Lie Down’ within the entrance to the art department at City of Oxford College for 4 weeks during their end of year shows and the run up to the end of the summer term.

This is a fantastic opportunity to reach a new audience some of whom may have been around in 1995 but would have been too young to know anything about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is on display until 22nd June.

Srebrenica Memorial public art ideas

I have really exciting ideas that I would like to work on for Srebrenica Memorial week and am currently looking for funding to enable me to produce this piece of work.


Between 1991 and 1999 war broke out across the former Yugoslavia. Thousands of people were killed and many more were internally displaced or forcibly expelled from their countries. During 1995 in Srebrenica 8,372 mostly men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. The victims, predominantly Muslim, were selected for death on the basis of their identity. This was the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.

To commemorate the genocide at Srebrenica in 1995 I plan to create a piece of public art that will remind and inform the public of the events in Bosnia 23 years ago.

I propose to print 8372 business cards individually numbered 1/8372, 2/8372 etc on one side. The other side of the card will have a brief paragraph explaining the event with a link to my website for more information. These business cards remind us of each of those people killed without actually naming them. Business cards will be selected because they represent identity, status and the ability to make contact, many of those who died still remain missing.

The process of numbering will also be an important act. I intend to host a two day event within the project space at Magdalen Road Studios and invite artists and members of the public to participate in the numbering of each of the 8372 cards. These people will conceptually represent the perpetrators, condemning each of the individual victims to their death.

During Srebrenica Memorial week (8th – 15th July) I will hand out these cards in a public space metaphorically exhuming each of the individuals and acknowledging their existence. This will be an act of remembrance that will help to raise awareness and remind us all of the consequences of hate.


On 11th July I have been personally invited to The Remembering Srebrenica Memorial event at The Guildhall in London. I will be one of 11 carefully selected community champions who will light a candle of remembrance in recognition of the work I continue to do to remember Srebrenica.

Bullet Trajectory

As part of my exploration of borders as a source of conflict, I am looking at the moment between life and death.

I recently captured the trajectory of lead shot within ballistic soap at a firing range in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire

The visualisation of the moment of impact captures for me both the before and after of death, and the briefest of moments between the two.

Lead is heavy and alludes to the weight of memory or responsibility. It is used to make bullets and is a poison.

In Kosovo after the war, many Roma were internally displaced. With none of the surrounding countries prepared to take them they were eventually placed within a ‘temporary’ refugee camp on a disused lead mine. Over 20 years later they are still there, slowly being poisoned by their surroundings.

The weight of memories within the minds of loved ones who have lost someone during conflict, who must replay that moment of death in their minds even if they do not actually know what happened to them. Never free.

Community Champion

Last month I was selected as the Remembering Srebrenica Community Champion of the month for February. I am really excited and extremely proud of this recognition.

“Each month the team at Remembering Srebrenica selects a ‘Community Champion of the Month’ to celebrate the inspiring work of our fantastic supporters across the UK. Community Champions for the 11 months preceding July will be invited to light a candle of remembrance at the UK Srebrenica Memorial Service in July.

We are delighted to announce that February’s Community Champion of the Month is Katie Taylor!

Katie is a contemporary textiles artist from Oxford who attended a ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ delegation to Bosnia last year. Her work was shown in a recent exhibition, disPLACED, which took place at the P21 Gallery in London, and showcased her powerful and thought-provoking new piece, ‘Lie Down’. Over the course of three weeks, hundreds of people had the opportunity to engage with Srebrenica thanks to her work.

‘Lie Down’ was a thoroughly creative and original way to get people to think about the horror of genocide. The piece, made by rags soaked in coffee, represented the countless ligatures used to detain prisoners and echoed the white armbands that Bosnian Muslims were forced to wear, while its height of 150cm references the height at which boys were sent away with their fathers. Katie said that the act of ripping up material made her ask herself, “Whose job had it been to create the blindfolds and fabric ligatures? Had they considered and known of their intended use?” By examining the genocide in this way, the audience were invited to think about those who are complicit in genocide. Images of ‘Lie Down’ can be viewed here and Katie also plans to mark Srebrenica Memorial Week with a new exhibition.

Everyone at Remembering Srebrenica would like to thank Katie for her hard work in using her talent to bring the lessons from Srebrenica to a whole new audience.”

disPLACED exhibition

I am excited to have had 3 pieces of work accepted for the following exhibition

disPLACED at P21 Gallery, London

Private View: Friday 19th January 2018, 18:00 – 20:00

Exhibition Dates: 20th January – 10th February 2018

 

Curators: CARU | Contemporary Arts ReSearch Unit

 

Artists:  Alissar McCreary, Janice Howard, Robin James, Ray Hedger, Katie Taylor, Alex Newton, Fiona Harvey, Anna Yearwood, Aldobranti andBlanca Rodriguez Beltran …as well as those who participated in the disPLACED workshops.

Contemporary Arts ReSearch Unit presents a group exhibition in the beautiful P21 gallery. The show includes a solo exhibition by Lebanese artist Alissar McCreary, which showcases her practice-based PhD research.

Upstairs on the ground floor, the exhibition brings together artists whose work evokes a wide range of responses to the title theme ‘disPLACED’. The works include photography, video, painting, prints, sculpture, as well as an accumulative installation of small figurines made by the public. Visitors are invited to create and add their own little person to the installation.

Downstairs, Alissar McCreary presents the culmination of her seven-year research into her experience of displacement as a Lebanese refugee. Her PhD, titled “Hybrid Residues/Memories: Utilising active participation within sculptural art practice as a direct form of communication to implicate experiences of war and displacement.”, explores the reciprocity between art, active participation, and traced memories of displacement. ‘The aim of my research is to examine what American philosopher and artist David Abram calls ‘sensorial empathy’. In my thesis I have appropriated the term and redefined it as the ‘silent sense’. I interpret this ‘silent sense’ as a kind of connection or ‘knowing’ that we intuitively recognise but cannot always articulate or express with language. I am interested in how and when sensorial empathy takes place, and how it might affect the viewer’s perception of the displacement which is happening every day to millions of people in the world.’

I will be showing the following three pieces of work:

 

Lie Down

Lie Down Art exploring Bosnian war
Lie Down Art exploring Bosnian war

During the beginning stages of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, many Bosnian Muslims were required to wear a white arm band and hang a white flag/sheet on their houses to set them apart from their neighbours. This piece of work is made from strips of white sheets and tablecloths to directly reference this.

Muslim men from women were later separated, boys were often selected and separated based on their height. Boys smaller than 150cm were allowed to remain with their mothers whilst those above 150cm had to leave with their fathers and were certainly sent to their death. This piece of work is hung at exactly 150cm.

The lower section of the work is naturally dyed in coffee. Coffee is a strong symbol of community in Bosnia and Herzegovina . Before the war, citizens would all drink coffee together whether Muslim, Serb or Croat. After the war many Bosnian Muslims attempted to move back to their homes, only to find another family had moved in. They were often offered coffee in their own cups.

The piece of work is the width of human body and extends onto the floor referencing burial / mass graves / shrouds and death. It is titled ‘Lie Down’, the last words spoken to many, before being shot.

During the discovery of mass graves and the search for individual identity within them, Forensic teams exhumed cloth ligatures and blindfolds across all of the mass grave sites at Srebrenica. These ligatures and blind folds were often from the same fabric source and this evidence was used during the Hague trials to show a level of organization and proof of Genocide. All the strips of cloth here are tied as if used for this purpose.

The process behind this work:

Exhibited

‘Lie Down’ exploring the Bosnian War

This piece of work, still unfinished, explores the process of the Bosnian war.

  1. Muslims were expected to wear a white arm band and hang a white flag from their houses.
  2. Boys 150cm or below allowed to remain with their mothers. Above 150cm they were sent with their fathers, almost certainly to their death.
  3. Coffee is a symbol of Bosnian community, but here symbolizes the break down of community.
  4. The piece eventually spreads across the floor as a reference to mass graves / shrouds / death.
  5. The title ‘Lie Down’ refers to the last words spoken to many Bosniaks before being shot.

 

Lie Down Art exploring the Bosnian War Blindfolds

Artistic process

Whilst working on this current piece, I have been aware that the artistic process itself has become as important as the initial ideas and the finished piece. Almost like a performance piece the act of making has added meaning to the finished work.

Tearing fabric strip

Whilst tearing the strips I considered who had actually torn the fabric for the Serb army. Whose job had it been to create the blindfolds and fabric ligatures? Had they considered and known of their intended use?
I do know that some of the blindfolds and ligatures were possibly scraps from a manufacturing process, these were collected and used in bulk. Others however would have had to have been produced.

 

Exhuming the work

To dye and stain the knotted fabric, I have used waste coffee from a local cafe ‘The Missing Bean’ along with a combination of other dye stuffs and rusty iron. The whole piece was left for a week and was then uncovered to discover the effects.

This uncovering had a very visceral sense of exhumation. The act of burial was an important aspect of the process for this piece of work, but the uncovering too became important as well.

It is these aspects that often only become apparent during the artistic process itself and aren’t always part of the planning.

For this piece, particularly, the importance of these elements is poignant. A whole new level of conceptual meaning has been added.

Bosnia’s blindfolds

Developing ideas from research I have started to tie ideas about Bosnia’s blindfolds together.

  • The arm bands lead to blindfolds
  • Coffee brought communities together but later dove them apart.
  • Distant images of mass graves can look like knots

 

Bosnia's blindfolds research and experimentation
Left: Bosnian Mass Grave image Right: knotted cloth dyed in coffee

 

Bosnia's Blindfolds Knots Planning
Mind map of ideas

I want the ideas to act rather like a timeline within the piece:

  • Men and boys over 150 cm separated from women and boys smaller than 150 cm.
  • All Muslims required to wear a white armband and hang a white flag or sheet from their homes, so that they could be identified.
  • Blindfolded and with hands tied behind their backs the men and boys were executed, and buried in mass graves.
  • Intermingled and piled together these bodies / parts needed to be identified.

 

Bosnia's blindfolds Knots Planning
Sketchbook thoughts for finished piece of work

Bosnia's blindfolds sculptural textile installation
Initial coffee and rust dyed sample next to a sample of knotted white cotton

Bosnia's blindfolds sculptural textile installation detail
Knotted white cotton with details

Bosnia's blindfolds sculptural textile installation
Knotted section created from looped (blindfold) sections

Bosnia's blindfolds sculptural textile installation
Test photo in studio space to assess size and visual impact

 

  • The piece is fixed at 150 cm high as a reference to the height point for boys being selected to stay with their mother or not.
  • White loose arm bands start the piece with details of whitework embroidered family initials. This addition gives a reminder of the personal nature of events.
  • Body width as a reference to a grave, coffin or shroud.
  • Knotted from loops of fabric strips as the blindfolds would have been.
  • Knotted together, intermingled creating a mass of knots each individual. reference to a mass grave.

 

Within Mass graves, forensic anthropologists found many blindfolds and ligatures. It was noted that many appeared to be very similar. Sent away to a forensic lab in  The Netherlands, Chemist S. E. Maljaars drew up a report for the Criminal Tribunal in The Hague.

http://icr.icty.org – item no: ACE70222R2000312540

In her analysis, the Dutch forensic expert showed that the bodies from the primary grave, where the victims executed at that location were initially buried, were transferred to several secondary graves. The pieces of the same fabric were thus found in two or more locations.

The evidence also helped to prove a level of organisation during events and therefore was part of the evidence that proved Genocide rather than mass murder.

http://www.sense-agency.com/icty/blindfolds-tell-a-tale.29.html?news_id=15175

This piece is ongoing as I develop it further. I intend to continue with the knotting as well as dye it with coffee grounds and iron.