‘In the past decade memory and the manipulation of memory have been posited as one of the central aspects of Balkan conflicts.’
Maria Todorova, 2004
The project Balkanising Taxonomy has developed from working with memory that I started in spring 2008. The discourse of memory then dispersed around all the possible fields of research on the Balkans that I had started conducting years ago. I always expected to explore Belgrade’s protest of ‘96/’97 through the joint lens of culture and politics, but the sites of memory I begun to tackle called upon more interests around the subject of investigation and reached far beyond my expectations, mapping a vast framework which I now see as crucial to operate under if to offer an adequate representation of this event.
I dived into the archive of garments and images, dating from the beginning of the 20th century and generously given to the centre by Jane Page in 2007, getting lost in the wealth of history held by the objects in front of me and the surge of memories I carry as both an individual and a part of Balkan peoples’ collective. Both these positions are of significant importance as Maurice Halbwachs (1950) notes – every individual memory is a social phenomenon – hence my own memory input is situated within, and has resonance for, a collective memory.
As the journey through objects’ likely locations, dates and authors progressed, I realised that it would take another researcher to deal with this process and I found comfort in her advice that provided a totally different solution to this problem – keep the archive as mysterious as it ‘is’, because no amount of information would truly disclose its nature.
The archive simply has too many layers and thus it is difficult to grasp it because it is different each time you immerse yourself in it. You start looking for one thing and quickly get distracted with a new found item forming a novel path of the investigation over and over again. Memory is the same: every time you go on a journey to the past some other information pops up, leading you on unknown routes and to seemingly real remembrances. This is because, as Boltanski’s theatrical installations point out, ‘memories are continuously recreated events, based on the past, but understood through the present (Rebecca Caines, 2004).’
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