Publication: Bedtime Stories

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Reconciliations
King’s College London
London, UK

Bedtime Stories is an artwork that responds to the experience of the siege of Sarajevo. Created in 2011-2013 by artists Lana Čmajčanin and Adela Jušić, the work had been exhibited globally (in Stockholm, Maribor, and Zagreb), but never in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This booklet tells the story of the adaptation of the work for the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it was installed as part of the exhibition, RE-Conciliaitons, in June-August 2018, and is now part of the Museum’s permanent collection, Besieged Sarajevo.

The work seeks to reproduce and represent, through the voice of youth at the time, the experience of everyday life under siege. It is at once an intimate telling of individual stories, including the artists’ own, and a political statement of resilience. The siege of Sarajevo lasted from the outbreak of war in Bosnia in April 1992 to February 1996. For 1,425 days, the city was encircled by Bosnian Serb forces, blockaded and under constant bombardment from artillery, tanks and sniper fire emanating from the hills surrounding the city, where Bosnian Serb forces were stationed. It was the longest siege in modern warfare. Just under 14,000 people were killed during the siege, including over 5,000 civilians. Life was unbearable at times, with the search for clean drinking water a daily game of roulette. Unable to remain in their homes, people retreated to their basements as relative places of safety, but these were small, confined spaces, where families crowded together, occupying space that had previously been used to store unwanted or unused items. Some measure of justice has been achieved with convictions by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) of military commanders and political leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Stanislav Galić, and Dragomir Milošević of the Sarajevo-Romanija Corps of the Army of Republika Srpska, and their political and military leaders, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, but while necessary, this was hardly sufficient to address the pain and suffering, particularly of children who were deeply traumatised and in some cases, brutalised, by the experience.

The work recreates the sanctuary of the basement spaces, and contrasts the apparent safety and comfort of a ‘bed’, which is reproduced as a ‘sanctuary’ with the wider context of deep insecurity. In that sense, it probes the un-reconciled nature of dissonant experiences, but also seeks to reconcile the past with the lived experience of the present. The effect is profoundly discomforting.

Excerpt from the text by Rachel Kerr and Paul Lowe, Publication: Bedtime Stories