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Victims' Symptom - Participating artists and theorists

Curated by Ana Peraica

Victims’ Symptom focuses on the concept of the victim as it is practically used in politics and journalism, but also as it is explored theoretically in victimology and in psychiatry and psychotherapy, as well as in the field of cultural studies.

Exploring different concepts including self-victimisation, “collateral victims”; “ideal victims”, the bureaucracy of death and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but also “cultural engineering of victims”, Victims’ Symptom delves deeply into our misconceptions of culturally engineered victims and actual victims.

Artworks commissioned specifically for this project approach the topic in specific ways. In the work by Mauricio Arango – Day After Day– the public is able to examine critically the geographical and political production of victims in the news. Andreja Kulunčić’s project – Bad News – investigates and determines the role of the victim in the news in three critical phases arising from clinical psychotherapy and with the assistance of a psychotherapist: determination, definition and (cyber) therapy. On the other hand, Marko Peljhan in his project Landscape 1995 reconstructs a specific case of news production, the case of the largest European massacre after World War II – Srebrenica – where victims were used, though not supported by the media, and which was even denied by some theorists.

There are two other works created for this project: one is by Martha Rosler, the author of the art history classic – Bringing War Home – and the other is a recreation of a classic – Olia Lialina’s My boyfriend came back from the war. In the Web 2.0 version of Lialina’s work, artist Alejandro Duque is going to build a specific and individual storyboard of collateral victims, with the assistance of a psychotherapist, to demonstrate that victims are not just numbers, but individual stories.

Some critical texts address these topics directly. For example, Stevan Vuković writes about reliable witnesses (PTSD and victim), confronting us again with the Srebrenica massacre. Meanwhile, the former curator of the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah, Palestine, Adila Laïdi-Hanieh, reflects upon how to reconstruct an individual story of the victim, who is only a number in our media society.

Other texts connect the topic directly with the new media relationships of the victim. An article by Sezgin Boynik researches how activist e-mailing networks influenced the production of the Kosovo art scene in the late nineties, while Geert Lovink addresses the issue of blogging as therapy.

There will be the opportunity to comment on and discuss these texts in a live debate with their authors in spring 2008.

In a series of interviews carried out in advance of the project – Victims’ Symptom – a number of specialists are asked key questions from the curatorial statement:

Why does the mass media prefer to talk in terms of numbers of corpses, calculating them morbidly, with apparent disregard for the victims’ status? Do numbers matter? Or is each loss a single one?

Does the number of victims reported by the media’s “truth speaking” make any real difference or is it perpetuating the media myth that cannot report on few? Who profits from death? Is there a bureaucracy of death? What is the dominant exchange rate between civilians and soldiers, our victims and their victims?

Is the cultural production of victims preventing us from seeing the actual victims? Are we able to see what happened only after a sufficient number of movies, novels and theses published on massacres? Is earning a degree on a massacre ethical? Furthermore, how can denying a massacre lead to no consequences?

Are we losing our capacity for empathy? Are we victimised ourselves? Is there a therapy for such a world?


Mauricio Arango (Colombia/USA), Day After Day

Alejandro Duque (Colombia/Switzerland), WDWTW? (Who Did What To Who?)

Andreja Kulunčić (Croatia), Bad News

Marko Peljhan (Slovenia), Landscape 1995 pokrajina 1995 (A project of the resolution series)

Martha Rosler (USA), Dust of the Office

Go here for descriptions of the artworks and bios of all of the artists.


Sezgin Boynik (Kosovo), Force of Trauma

Adila Laïdi-Hanieh (Palestine), Regarding One's Pain: The 100 Shaheed-100 Lives Memorial Exhibition

Geert Lovink (The Netherlands), Blogs as Self-Management Tools

Stevan Vuković (Serbia), Niemand zeugt für den Zeugen (“Levi’s paradox”, cultural and political representation of the victims, and the secondary witness problem, from Auschwitz to Srebrenica)

Go here for descriptions of the texts and bios of all of the theorists.

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