As a medical term, aphasia refers to the inability to speak or to find the right words. Jelena Jureša’s film ‘Aphasia’ consists of three chapters, each focusing on the collective silence surrounding crime and the compartmentalisation of historical events, and tracing the line between Belgian colonialism, Austrian anti-Semitism and the wars in Yugoslavia.
In ‘Aphasia’, Jureša digs for the roots and preconditions for state-sponsored violence, but also seeks out the reasons why such collective crimes keep being repeated. The film zooms in on processes of objectification and dehumanisation, among other themes, whilst shedding light on the roles played by photography and film.
The media are not shown as mere silent witnesses to a twisted worldview, but as active instruments in preparing and executing different crimes against humanity. However, ‘Aphasia’ aims to show their positive force as well. When law and politics fail to bring justice and facilitate collective healing, these same media (photography, film, television) can break the silence, and art may lead the way to justice.
‘Aphasia’ is a work of art about racism and intolerance, exposing the banality of evil. The film challenges us to look more attentively and to question our own individual and collective position. Aphasia is a call, not for punishment or outrage about the crimes committed during colonial times, the Holocaust or the atrocities in Bosnia during the Yugoslavian wars. Rather, it is a call to break the collective silence and to actually look at the blind spots that seem to have become a fundamental part of our European identity.
Q & A
The screening is followed by a conversation between the artist and Contour 9’s curator Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez. The talk will address the question of the implicated subject and how life-changing events are reflected in the practice of an artist or curator. They will recall how the breakdown of Yugoslavia - which was one of those transformative events for both Nataša and Jelena - governed their interests in contemporary politics and transcultural empathy. Drawing from ‘Aphasia’, they will address several questions. How much home does a person need? How was the experience of being born in Yugoslavia instrumental in comprehending today's geopolitical turmoils? What is the necessity of the feminist gaze and how does the concept of multidirectional memory permeate the film?
‘Aphasia’ is produced by ARGOS centre for audiovisual arts and co-produced by Contour Biennale 9, KASK School of Arts and Zagreb Youth Theatre (ZKM). With the support of the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF).