A screen showing the image of an outdoor children playground with painted soldiers, flags, Mickey Mouse and Cyrillic writings on the walls

Anna DasovićBefore the fall there was no fall & Grounds for denial

Installation view Anna Dasović, grounds for denial (2022), Stroom Den Haag. Photo Franz Mueller Schmidt. All rights reserved by Hartwig Art Foundation. 

With a background in photography, Anna Dasović now uses an interdisciplinary approach that includes archival research, fieldwork, and interviews. Her work is often the result of long-term engagements, resulting in installations, video montages, photography, sound or text-based works.

Through her work, Dasović raises questions such as: What are representations of such extreme violence intended to communicate despite their original intentions? Or: What ideological narratives do such representations participate in on a structural level?

Central to her work is the exploration into the figure of the bystander and the ways in which the unimaginable and the unrepresentable—categories produced by the discourse on genocide—are evoked to reject the responsibility of witnessing through representation. Dasović is interested in that rejection and in the exclusion of knowledge that is held in the body but denied by society’s authorising structures.

Her work has been exhibited at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, Framer Framed, Stedelijk Museum and SMBA in Amsterdam, Survival Kit Latvia, Bergen Assembly, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Kunstverein Braunschweig, Museum of Modern Art of Algiers (MaMa) and the Museum of Yugoslav History in Belgrade. She has previously been artist in residence or held fellowships at Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen, Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, MaMa Algiers, Celeia Centre for Contemporary Arts Celje, Casa Tres Patios in Medellín and Residencia En La Tierra in Montenegro, Colombia. She is a member of Collection Collective, Template for a Future Model of Representation.

Before the fall there was no fall

Episode 01: raw material (2015 – 2020)
3 elements:
– 4:3 two-channel video installation 47’ loop, colour, stereo;
– Single-channel video 9’27”;
– Trilingual text piece in Bosnian, English and Dutch (or another third language of the host country in which the work is displayed), 60 x 285 cm
1/4 + 2AP

Episode 02: surfaces (2020)
One-channel video installation, 21’19’’ loop, colour, stereo
1/4 + 2AP

In the midst of the Bosnian War, Srebrenica had been declared a ‘UN safe area’ and was under protection of battalions of Dutch UN peacekeeping soldiers. In July 1995, the town was taken by the Bosnian Serb troops who separated the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men from the women, with the Dutch ‘blue helmets’ looking on. The women and small children were deported, and 8,372 people men and boys were murdered in a massacre that the International Court of Justice would later declare a genocide.

After long negotiations, Anna Dasović was granted access to 100 Super VHS tapes from the Dutch Ministry of Defense archives that document the training of the Dutch soldiers before their deployment. In the installation Before the fall there was no fallEpisode 01: raw material (2015 – 2020), she combines the tapes with excerpts from the 1994 Former Yugoslavia Handbook (Handboek voormalig Joegoslavië) and demonstrates how the soldiers in training engaged in role-playing exercises in a way that racialized and ‘othered’ the Bosniak population. By doing so, the artist raises a pertinent question: To what extent did these implicit reinforcements of racialized representations of the Bosniak people influence the (in)actions of Dutch UN soldiers in Srebrenica?

In Before the fall there was no fallEpisode 02: surfaces (2020), the camera tracks across the walls of the UN military compound of Srebrenica, 25 years after the genocide. Footage of drawings and other traces left by the soldiers on the walls of the compound are juxtaposed with the raw archival material of Episode 01. Through this act, the artist exposes the military culture and the racial bias of the Dutch soldiers and subsequently calls their claimed position as neutral bystanders during the genocide into question.

Before the fall there was no fallEpisode 01: raw material was commissioned by the Van Abbemuseum and Framer Framed. Episode 02: surfaces was commisioned by Framer Framed and Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen.

Grounds for denial (2022 – ongoing)

Single-channel video, 18’22’’
1/4 + 2AP

A screen showing the image of an outdoor children playground with painted soldiers, flags, Mickey Mouse and Cyrillic writings on the wallsInstallation view Anna Dasović, grounds for denial (2022), Stroom Den Haag. Photo Franz Mueller Schmidt. All rights reserved by Hartwig Art Foundation.

Grounds for denial is part of the artist’s ongoing research in which she focuses on structures that make genocidal violence (in)visible as well as on the deployment of those structures to obscure the politically inconvenient aspects of such conflicts. The work refers to a growing historical revisionism of the systematic genocide of Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The title is a legal term and refers to the reasons for denying a claim. Dasović uses it as a metaphor for historical revisionism: the notion that history—as it is usually told—is not accurate and can therefore be subject to revision.

In the video, the artist depicts the growing representation of Serbian nationalism in the public space of the entity of Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina through graffiti, murals and daubed monuments that represent the denial of the genocidal violence that took place in the 1990s. These visual landmarks also symbolise the mythologisation of the political ideal of a Greater Serbia, which ignores and denies the genocide. Dasović raises the paradoxical question whether—and how—it is possible to sketch an image of something that is consistently denied and therefore invisible.

Anna Dasović: grounds of denial at Stroom Den Haag (3 Sept. – 16 Oct. 2022) was the final exhibition of the Special Project 2020/21. The exhibition culminated in a public programme on 15 Oct. 2022, Seminar on reenactment as an artistic strategy, with contributions by filmmaker Didem Pekun, artists Bassem Saad and Sanja Grozdanić and forensic researcher Maksym Rokmaniko.

Grounds for denial, together with the two episodes of Before the fall there was no fall, were acquired through the Art Production | Collection Fund.