This blog is a partial record of a conversation between the students and faculty of the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (UCL), the local residents of the London Borough of Camden and the ex-Yugoslav diaspora and myself.
This project is part of the residency that ran between February and November of 2010 at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (UCL) and has been made possible by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust. The pricipal grant holder is Dr Ger Duijzings, the author of ‘Religion and the Politics of Identity in Kosovo‘, and my co-author of the movie lebensraum | living space (80 min, 2009).
In the past few years I have been exploring London and trying to understand how we are influenced by spaces we live in, how we understand and produce them. Space is a common medium and we share ideas, feelings and uses of it. The immigrant experience of space (which I share) provides a fruitful starting point. Expressions which sound complicated and theoretical are to the immigrant commonplace: ‘diasporic space’, ‘the multi-local’, ‘the transnational’, ‘the geopolitical everyday’. It provides a counterpoint to the way the indigenous community see their home and homeland. Together with the indigenous experience of space, the immigrant experience clashes with the way the State and capital try to determine the layout of our lives.
I have also been exploring the break-up of Yugoslavia not from a historical point of view, but as a cross between the personal and collective, between the geopolitical and the everyday. I am interested in expressing how the very different ex-citizens of a nation which have been scattered throughout the world, live and work in London, how they construct their allegiances, how they choose to remember their lives and the lives of others and how all of this is played out in the metropolis and megalopolis that London is. I am interested in how these processes change London and the Balkans.
Generation after generation of students and teachers at The School of Slavonic and East European Studies have been trying to understand some of these questions from the standpoints of history, economics, anthropology, linguistics, politics, journalism, cinema studies, urbanism… All of this accumulated knowledge and evolving understanding is a treasure that mostly remains hidden due to its technical nature and the role of higher education in our society. I am interested in taking this knowledge for a walk in the surrounding streets of London. I would also like to explore the potential for staff and students to embody, perform and challenge their academic work in different ways, through making movies. The School resides in the Borough of Camden and as such shares its local and metropolitan history.
The experience of the Borough of Camden by local residents is unique and is an archive that cannot be found in books or films. It is a living space which is produced, preserved and modified by generations of immigrant and indigenous communities, by passers-by, plants and animals. In trying to trace how this space has changed, I want us to also try and envisage a shared vision of it for the future.
For some time now, I have been making movies as a spatial practice. To make movies as ‘spatial practice‘, means to use moving images to try and understand the space we live in (the space in front of the camera) and the space we are represented in (the space of the screen). It also supposes that there is a relationship between the two, which I believe goes both ways. It is a striving to understand and perfect the mechanisms that we use to translate from one space into the other.
As outcomes of this process, we created 4 #films:
Whose Fitzrovia? (4.19 min) WATCH
Whose Fitzrovia? Interview with Anna Minton (8.14 min) WATCH
Ripples (45 min) – a film entirely shot within 1 square mile of the BT telecommunication tower, which explores the tower and the surrounding area from different perspectives: the quotidian comings and goings, the local architecture, the changing of the seasons, urban redevelopment, a tarot reading, an account of local history, macroeconomic and metropolitan processes, critical geopolitics, a mantra chant and science fiction elements. It counterposes London’s BT tower with Belgrade’s Avala tower to explore our fascination with these structures, their military and civilian use as well as the imaginary space they create, be it national, psychological or as a local landmark. WATCH
April Showers (45 min) – a film exploring the everyday activities of a student terrorist group. Revolutionary rhetoric is mixed with boredom and house chores. Interviews with scholars question the motivation and the exact nature of the group’s activities. The film explores the limits of liberalism and student radicalisation from an everyday perspective. WATCH