THE VISIBLE MOUNTAIN
Mount Trebević used to be a powerful symbol of the city of Sarajevo. Considered a sacred mountain since the times of ancient Slavs, it was declared a national park by Marshall Tito’s government. So close to the city, but so green and so wild, it became the privileged day-trip destination for Sarajevans’ during the second half of the past century.
With the construction of a popular cable-cab that led directly from the city centre to the first tall peak, the bond between the city and the mountain grew even stronger. Trebević used to be literally a part of Sarajevo. In 1984 the Olympic Winter Games took place there, an event that marked a before and after in the town’s history, the last moment of glory before the catastrophe.
But when war broke out in 1992, the mountain was occupied by Serb-Bosnian troops and became one of the main enclaves the city was besieged from. During the three and a half years of conflict, all the facilities were destroyed and today the landscape still wears the unequivocal scars of what took place there. In 1995 the Dayton’s Peace Agreements froze the frontline, and the mountain was divided by the Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) which separates the Croat-Muslim Federation from Republika Srpska.
After the war, Mount Trebević was almost completely abandoned. Partly because of the presence of mine fields, partly because the sport and leisure facilities were completely destroyed, but above all due to the negative symbolism of a place which was first the frontline, and later an invisible but still powerful border. Nowadays Trebević remains frozen in time, and the ruins of the old facilities wasted by the war still loom over its landscape, turning it into an ambiguous, ghostly territory.
Enhancing the photographic work with the methodological tools of social anthropology (through a close collaboration with Caterina Borelli, PhD in social anthropology at the University of Barcelona), the purpose of this long-term project was to explore the past and present of a forgotten place, to understand the dark side of post-war developments in Sarajevo.
What we found there is not just the abandonment but also the obliteration, in the psychological sense of the word, of a place that embodies a massive complex of painful memories and the infinite frustrations of the present time in Bosnia Herzegovina.
“The Visible Mountain” project was developed in Sarajevo between 2010 and 2011 thanks to a grant awarded by CoNCA (Catalan Council of Culture and Arts).
The close collaboration with anthropologist Caterina Borelli has been the key element in tackling the representation of the mountain, defining the general aesthetics of the photographic work and understanding the unique everyday life of Trebević inhabitants.
FROM THE FIELD NOTES
Excerpts from the interviews conducted by Caterina Borelli