Light of the Fireflies, a new Free Zone project aims to address one of the neglected Holocaust locations in Europe – Staro Sajmište (Belgrade) and to introduce young people to historical events that happened on this location and emphasize the importance and necessity of the culture of remembrance in Serbia.
Together with historians and artists from Serbia and Germany, 15 high school students will develop a mobile application and a multimedia walk on the grounds of the former Old Fairgrounds (Staro Sajmište) in Belgrade on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Semlin concentration camp.
The project aims to give a new perspective to Stari Sajmište and revive the memory of it. The application created during the project will offer a different approach to learning history, will deepen the interest in the topic of suffering in the Second World War, and will enable the use of the application on the spot during (school) trips to Belgrade.
Within four workshops (theater/drama, video workshops, performance workshops and lighting installations workshops), participants together with four artists from Germany and Serbia will design, record and edit audio-visual collages, write texts, play drama scenes in small groups, perform performances and design light installations and interventions in space and through them reconstruct the history of Stari Sajmište as a place of suffering but also a place of memory and hope for the future.
The theater-drama workshop will deal with the stories of the upcoming mobile application at the text level and short drama and audio-visual scenes. With the help of photographs, letters and testimonies, the participants will become guides through the time and space of Staro Sajmište. They will meet people, biographies, objects and places from the past and enter into a dialogue with them. An event, a historical figure, a building or the smallest object can be the key to meeting the Old Fairground. Thoughts will be turned into texts, texts into stories, and stories into scenes that will be played in different places on and around the Fairground, weaving a network of memories, moments and human destinies.
The workshop will be led by Susanne Chrudina / Spreeagenten Berlin.
Spreeagenten is a group of professional artists who create innovative theater projects in Germany and abroad. The focus is on theatrical productions, but they are also open to other art forms, intercultural dialogue and an interdisciplinary approach. Susanne Chrudina as a theater director and author often works with documentary material, developing bilingual and multilingual productions for non-theatrical locations (site specific art). For several years, Susanne Chrudina and the troupe agent have been regularly collaborating with young people on art and theater projects and performances based on documentary material and testimonies of Holocaust victims and alternative forms of culture of remembrance.
The performance workshop will deal with the body as an instrument of memory. The stories that hide the space of Sajmište will turn into a movement, the memory of its victims will come to life, but also the people who lived and created in it or still live and work there. Through a series of exercises and improvisations in space, one will listen to one’s own body, its reactions, feelings and limitations and then create a series of short performances through which participants will tell (their) history of the Old Fairground and thus become bearers and guardians of common memory.
The workshop is led by Elana Katz, a conceptual artist who primarily deals with the art of performance. Her work calls into question the cultural convention, critically examines the complexity that lies in the contradictions and aims to provoke the experience of “unlearning” the superior. Since 2011, she has been researching and creating works of art specific to a certain locality in Romania and the region of the former Yugoslavia. As part of the Spaced Memory project, she dealt with forgotten and “erased” Jewish sites in the Balkans, including Staro Sajmište. Memory, “postmemory” and “presence of absence” are some of the main topics that Elana Katz deals with when it comes to the locations of historical “erasure”.
Katz has exhibited at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Belgium (2011), Diehl CUBE, Berlin (2013), P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York (2013), DNA Berlin (2015), ROCKELMANN &, Berlin (2016 -19), IEEB 7th of Bucharest (2017), Gallery KWADRAT, Berlin (2017-20), DFBRL8R Performance Art Gallery, Chicago (2019), and at the Sundsvall Museum, Sweden (2019-20), where her work has recently become part of the museum’s permanent collection. She is the winner of the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art Scholarship for Performing Arts (2011), and her work based on research in the Balkans was supported by: Israeli Embassies in Belgrade and Bucharest, Goethe-Institute in Bucharest, Goethe Institute in Cluj and Iasi and Trust for Mutual Understanding New York City. In 2020, in cooperation with the KWADRAT gallery, she founded the Berlin space of contemporary art HOUSE FOR THE END OF THE WOLD – House for the End of the World (HEW). Elana Katz has been living and working in Berlin since 2008.
The video workshop will deal with the topic of memories in time and space, participants will use film as a tool to discover fragments of memories that were “remembered” by the walls of the remaining buildings in Stari Sajmište, but also to project their own memories, wishes, dreams and visions of the future. Together the participants will follow the traces that Sajmište offers us, we will collect impressions, images, sounds and fragments of the past and present and then design, record and edit video works and design video installations in the Old Sajmište and thus transform them into spaces of (shared) memories.
The workshop is led by Branka Pavlović, editor and video artist. She graduated in film and TV editing at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade and MA Kunst im Kontekt at the University of Arts in Berlin (UdK Berlin). She works as an editor, video artist and educator on projects related to documentary film, theater as well as participatory projects dealing with the culture of memory and (video) performance. She currently works as a film and digital media educator at the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) at the Freie Universtät in Berlin, Germany. Co-selector and artistic director of the Free Zone Film Festival in Belgrade since 2009. She lives and works in Berlin and Belgrade.
Light installation workshops will make the memories of the survivors visible. Through work with different light sources, connecting historical facts with the students’ own impressions and experiences at Sajmište and its surroundings, through installations and interventions, some dark parts of the history of this neglected place of human suffering – the former Staro Sajmište camp – will be illuminated. With the delicate language of light, with the help of flashlights, projectors, standard and non-standard light sources, the existing space will reveal its forgotten memories. With this project, we will illuminate some lost human voices in the great darkness of oblivion – like the light of fireflies.
The workshop is led by Milica Komlenić – Vukić, a Belgrade designer. She graduated in 2002 from the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Applied Arts, Department of Interior Architecture. Milica holds a master’s degree in lighting in architecture from the University of Wismar (Germany). In Berlin, Athens and Belgrade, her professional engagement included lighting design in theaters and architecture. She is a co-author of many urban lighting projects in Belgrade and was engaged in the realization of several student lighting workshops. Her thematic orientation includes both photography and video production.
All materials created during the workshops will be performed, shown and recorded in the premises at the location of Stari Sajmište, but the final form will be given within the multimedia mobile application Light of the Fireflies. The work of participants will be available in the form of a multimedia walk to students throughout Serbia and their teachers and professors, and future visitors will be able to see, get to know and experience the tragic past of Staro Sajmište from the perspective of young people here and now.
The Light of the Fire project is implemented by the Free Zone Film Festival with the support of the Memory, Responsibility, Future Foundation (EVZ) and the cooperation of the B92 Fund Foundation (Free Zone Junior Program), the Center for Public History, the European Association of History Educators – Euroclio, the independent theater troupe Spreeagenten in Berlin and Center für Digitale Systeme with Freie Universität Berlin in the period from 01.04.2021. to 01.01.2022.