European Spaces of Culture

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Archipelago [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] - a transnational archive platform for public space
[ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ], Un-War Space Archive, raw footage of the film “Sarajevo Diary: From Bad to Worse” (1993), courtesy of Dom Rotheroe and Bill Tribe.
The Archipelago [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] app was road-tested by a group of young people from across former Yugoslavia, walking past hidden but historical spots in Sarajevo. Photo: EUNIC
The Archipelago [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] app showing micro-stories in neighbourhoods that play an important social role in Sarajevo history. Photo: EUNIC

2022 marked the anniversary of the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992 which was a result of and led to a series of separate but related wars on its territory from 1991 to 2001. In the realm of wars, ethnic nationalist interpretations of history formed their war-mongering propaganda, which encouraged war crimes up to and including genocide.

Against this political background, dealing with history in multi-perspective ways is of utmost importance for our present democracies. [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] is a transnational site-specific archival platform for public space in the post-Yugoslav space that brings together war document collections. Thirty years after the wars that led to and followed the break-up of Yugoslavia, many dedicated archival initiatives collectively offer a rich multi-perspective view of the recent history of the region. But they rarely come together and often struggle with repression in their respective local contexts.

Traditional ways of engaging with history often ignore all available interactive media. This is where [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] comes in, turning a smartphone into an easily accessible archaeological device independent of local political restrictions while bringing together a multitude of archival voices. Historical audio-visual documents tagged with GPS data will be available via an augmented reality (AR) app. Diverse archival holding can be made topographically and interactively accessible at places they are linked to and encountered in a low-threshold way.

Exploring a multi-perspective view on the region's history through Augmented Reality

The digital art and research project connects different archival initiatives exploring the technology of AR as hands-on participatory archival practices within the post-Yugoslav space. It will introduce a carefully curated multi-perspective view on the region’s recent history that encourages audience interaction via a mobile AR app, a website archive as well as accompanying public events such as exhibitions, workshops, and film screenings in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, and Croatia as well as internationally as part of its dissemination strategy.

Its main objective is an open-access, archival and exhibition platform crossing digital and public space for trans-territorial learning on war destruction and trauma within the Post-Yugoslavian space to share memorial spaces for non-violent, inclusive conversations where personal testimonies get voice attached to locations where war experiences occurred. Every result will be produced in an accessible format for the ordinary public and academic researchers and professionals - filmmakers, artists, and journalists. [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ]’s concept and infrastructure including the app and its entangled website can be transferred easily to other regions as it is based on open-source technologies.

When preparing the final proposal, the project team worked with all involved key and local partners on the further development of [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ]. In several online meetings and during the [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] workshop on the island of Brać, Croatia the team discussed further fundraising as well as the budgeting and contribution of each partner. Subsequently, we assigned tasks, specific needs, and broader aspects i.e., forming local hubs by key partner), technological implementation, international embedding, as well as educational programmes.

I must say I'm surprised in a good way. I lacked a little imagination about how we bring this together, the different places, experiences, and points of view. But we came together here, and I think with [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ], something special is emerging that will have an impact even beyond our specific goals.

Nihad Kreševljaković, Library Hamdija Kreśevljaković, Video Arhiv

Archival research hubs

At each site an [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] archival research hub is set up, focussing on the respected local case studies and how they can be linked back to the broader structure of the platform. Their commonality lies in linking personal memory with history as well as oral history with various archival documents in AR: In Belgrade (Serbia), a collection of counter-memorialization to the "General Stab'' will be built up, the former military headquarters of the YNA that was destroyed during the NATO bombardments. In Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), there will be a focus on microstories, visual collections from different neighbourhoods, and public spaces that traditionally have an important social role in Sarajevo, including life during the siege in the earliy nineties.

In Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the river Neretva will be in the centre as an archive of war and a testimony to the present environmental destruction. In Prizren (Kosovo), the collection of amateur videographers, who documented pre-war protests, public manifestations and the transformation of the urban landscape of Prizren, is the starting point for the collection of further comparative archival material.

Road-testing the app

In August, [ˌɑːkɪˈpeləɡəʊ] joined forces with the “In Youth Eyes – Dealing with the Past/Present” programme taking place during the Sarajevo Film Festival. “Dealing with the Past” programme and through their eyes tell the story of intercultural dialogue, youth cooperation, diversity and peace building. The "Dealing with the Past" programme during the festival annually offers an opportunity for young people from ex-Yugoslav countries to visit Sarajevo, meet with their peers, discover, watch and learn about the communities and others through movies, discussions but also physically interacting with the city.

The interactive workshop brought together young people from the region to get to know the project’s objective to explore a multi-perspective view on public space through Augmented Reality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo. More importantly, being a prime target group of the project, the group road-tested the specially designed application, turning their smartphones into accessible mobile archives.

The Archipelago walk and the app testing emerged as one of the participants' preferred workshops. Their appreciation was particularly noteworthy due to the unique opportunity it provided to explore Sarajevo using their mobile devices while gaining fresh insights in an innovative manner. A significant highlight for them was the engaging conversation and interactions with the developers and visionaries behind the projects. This interaction offered them a deeper understanding of the project and the underlying technological aspects. They hold the application in high regard for its utility and user-friendliness, as it empowers them to freely navigate and connect while also delivering previously unknown information about events during the Siege of Sarajevo.

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