artist and artist's statement
Višnja Sretenović works as a freelance director, performer and actress. She studied acting at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. Shortly afterwards she received the MA of Arts degree in Performance Studies in Hamburg, Germany and focused on her own artistic work in the fields performance, film and artistic research. Višnja creates fragmentary forms placed between fiction, documentary elements, essayistic texts and moving images and hence develops genre blurred pieces. As an actress she performed at various theatres, films and television productions in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Serbia.
active remembering as a strategy of resistance and responsibility
I came across the topic of the female political prison camps a few years ago when I run into the radio interview by journalist Svetlana Lukić with Marija Zelić Popović, a woman who − as a 25-year-old − was the main investigator of the secret police in the women's prison on the island Sveti Grgur in Croatia. The interview took place 38 years after Marija finished her duties in the secret police. Even after all this time she is firmly convinced that everything had to be like that − given that the prisoners betrayed not only the party but also their own country, thus part of her job was to re-educate them. And she had simply performed her duties.
As I knew nothing about women’s labor camps until that moment, I was deeply affected. I started collecting not easily accessible literature about or by former prisoners as well as their testimonies.
I was deeply touched by the book “Sve sve sve” / “All All All" by the writer, feminist, cultural worker and political prisoner Milka Žicina. Žicina writes about her time in prison with enchanting authenticity, at the same time raw and subtly depicting both the circumstances and her own feelings.
As Katažina Tačinjska − a humanities scholar from Poland, expert in gender studies and literary discourse concerning Yugoslav women’s political camps − wrote: The publication of Žicina's memoirs will certainly encourage the analysis of the author's literary oeuvre, redefine her status in the history of literature and inspire essential researches into the women’s camp experience.*
In my case exactly this urge has arisen and this project is both my artistic praxis − active remembering − as well as my modest contribution to creating a place for these silenced women’s voices.
I want to thank the journalist Svetlana Lukić whose interview with a labor camp supervisor Marija Zelić Popović expanded my horizons; to Nataša Nelević ahead of Muzej žena Crne Gore and to photographer Simon Bučan who both generously shared with me their materials; to Dunja, Dušica and Nikola who helped with the translation and transcript, as well as Majda and Zlatko. Big thanks to Helen who helped creating this web page.
I want to express my great gratitude to all the women who’ve worked on making this topic visible for doing such an important and great work.
My special thanks goes to Croatian artist Andreja Kulunčić, anthropologist Renata Jambrešić Kirin and psychotherapist Dubravka Stijačić whose work I highly appreciate and who in 2020 put first notice boards on Sveti Grgur about female prisoners − 64 years after the camp dissolution.
* original: “Objavljivanje sećanja Žicine sigurno će omogućiti analizu književnog dela autorke, redefiniciju njenog statusa u istoriji književnosti i inspirisaće važna istraživanja logorskog iskustva žena” in Diskurs o logoru Goli otok – ženska perspektiva / Discourse on Goli otok from a female perspective