Center for Cultural Decontamination
(2000 - 2001)
JUST WAR is a tragic musical comedy - written by Marty Pottenger and Directed by Ana Miljanic is to be produced at Belgrade's cultural and political gathering place for opposition and anti-nationalists - the Center for Cultural Decontamination (CZKD). With an international reputation, CZKD's Executive Director is Borka Pavecivic, the former Director of the National Theater of Yugoslavia and a key leader in political and cultural policy for a democratic future for not only Yugoslavia, but for all of the Balkans.
JUST WAR has grown over two years of interviews from my travels throughout the former Yugoslavia and here in the United States. Over that time, I met with soldiers and veterans -- from the FRY army who participated in the siege of Sarajevo, Serbian paramilitary units, Kosova Liberation Army (KLA), the Croatian military and paramilitary units, the Bosnian Muslim army that defended Sarajevo, personnel from the Army, the C.I.A. and the U.S. Stat Department, Italian KFOR, SFOR, the C.I.A., politicians and Defense Ministry officials from Croatia.
Additional interviews in the Balkans include citizens, activists, leaders of political parties in Kosova, independent trade union organizers in Croatia, workers and business people throughout the Balkans, veteran war journalists from Europe, Serbian Orthodox monks, Roman Catholics priests in Kosovo, Kosovar Albanian Muslims and Catholics, Bosnian Muslims, agricultur workers, orphans, members of OTPOR, B92, women war victims, families and parents who survived Vucovar, Srebernica, academics and artists throughout the former Yugoslavia. Miners from Mitrovica and their families, various NGO workers from the United States focusing on relief work, refugee support, as well as democracy education, United Nations personnel from all over the world in both Kosovo and the Republik of Srpska.
Here in the United States, I have interviewed native born U.S.'ers about the war, the NATO bombing, their relationship to this and other military engagements of the United States, individuals both passionately for and against. In several cities in the U.S., I have met with Albanian Kosovar refugees; members of the Serbian family whose men and boys were murdered in Kosovo under the watch of KFOR; the lawyers for the Bosnian women who brought civil suit for rape against Radovan Karadzic in U.S. Federal Court; three women who survived rape from Srebrenica, who now work in a jewelry factory in the Bay Area.
Most of my interviews were with people who will most likely never be known by the international community - some heroic, some perpetuating exploitation and violence, the majority in the role of witness with experiences of both heroism and violator, depending on the circumstances. Meeting and interviewing at length on two separate trips, the niece and the nephew of Radovan Karadzic, allowed me get a picture of the familial and cultural roots from which their own and their uncle's actions and official ideological justifications grew. The vast majority of my interviews were with people little known to Western ears, though very much a part of their nation's past and future history.
My research over the last two years has helped me understand the intricate economic circumstances and relationships that led to this ten years of conflict, but I study it so as to understand better the relationship between armed conflict throughout the world and economics as an artist. The IMF in particular has had a huge impact on events in the Balkans, and the U.S.'s monetary relationship with Yugoslavia since W.W.II is critical to understanding the events of the last ten years. As in "Winning The Peace" I will be taking all that I have heard, learned and wondered about and creating a performance piece of humor, compassion and heart. Ana Milijanic will be taking this piece and bringing it to another level with her knowledge and expertise both as an artist and also as a citizen activist.
On its most intimate level, JUST WAR is about how we heal after we have Participated in/observed/been connected to atrocity. It is written for the men who fought, who defended, who stayed low and must now begin a process of accounting and healing if they are to reclaim their peace of mind as husbands and fathers. It is written for many of my beloved U.S.'ers who don't know how to say or spell or find the places where we as a nation have placed ourselves. It is for those of us living here who watch in horror and numbing upset the images on television and do try to make the connections between Kosovo and Columbine, Colorado. It is for the Serbians who couldn't hear the Albanians, who couldn't hear the Montenegrins, who couldn't hear the Bosnians. It is also about the stories of people hearing , risking and losing. JUST WAR is an attempt to make art that might make a difference to the young people in the Balkans who are watching television on TV sets that were looted as they sit and grow up in a home that belongs to someone who fled. The stories shared with me were so different than what we get to hear through traditional media. The realities - both absurd and upsetting - of all that has happened have deep importance and meaning for each of us. It is the perfect home for live performance, for art.