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Blood of my Father

Music Composition: Pamela Z.
Produced by Elahe Massumi

My hands were full of my father's blood,” says the doctor in Elahe Massumi’s video testament to the war in Bosnia. Massumi was in Mostar, Bosnia, researching footage of the war, when she came across a clip of a doctor’s account of her treatment of her own father’s wounds, which had been used in a BBC documentary on the war.

Occupying the central panel in a three-screen installation, it is part dispassionate clinical report, part quietly agonized personal testimony.

The video installation presents three screen in which wartime news and this documentary footage is intercut with scenes of children playing with broken dolls and make-believe guns, bearing the sinister intimation of history threatening to repeat itself. The shots of the children were taken by the artist and her cameramen Amir Maslo in Mostar and Tiberio Bascila in Pristina, Kosovo, during her postwar visits. Juxtaposed with war news footage of sniper victims and the scenes of ominous child’s play, the doctor’s testimony is emblematic of Massumi’s attempt to address the worst of human history at the irreducible human scale, at the level of individual and personal experience.

Massumi makes concrete and specific what is usually represented on a large scale, or through the depersonalizing prism of journalistic dispatches and warfront statistics—or indeed not represented at all: She has addressed notonly the Bosnian war, but, in other recent video works, child prostitution, genocide, and female ritual circumcision. The woman’s recollection, the news footage of people dying and dead on the streets, and the silent testimony of children playing at war, trace a continuum of violence:

Violence calling out from the past, waiting to be addressed and redeemed, coloring the present , and, through children's experiences, staking its claim on the future. This work is an answer to questions that Massumi has asked herself as she saw the specter of genocide rise again over Europe less than fifty years after the Holocaust: “During the 10 years of war, I was always curious about the reality behind the scenes and true nature of this conflict. How could such barbaric behavior repeat itself? I feel we are responsible for everything that happened in history and whatever is happening now. I feel if we take responsibility for what has happened, then the same pattern will not happen over and over again.”
Robert Knafo is a critic and curator. He lives in New York

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