On Trial Together at NYLA

"On Trial Together" Photo by Madjlana Sujic

“On Trial Together” Photo by Madjlana Sujic

On February 20 – 22 NYLA will present Serbian artists Ana Vujanović and Saša Asentić’s participatory performance project On Trial Together. Led by the artists together with collaborators Milka Djordjevic, Boris Radujko and Jen Rosenblit, On Trial Together combines strategies of theater, choreography and game structures to create a social space where the audience is both complicit in the construction of the performance and, potentially, catalysts for change.

The title On Trial Together seems to refer to the prematurely concluded trial of former president of Serbia Slobodan Milošević, later president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Milošević, indicted in May 1999 for crimes against humanity in Kosovo, died in 2006 before the trial could be concluded, thereby escaping being found guilty of the charges brought against him. Those charges included (according to Wikipedia):

…genocide; complicity in genocide; deportation; murder; persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; inhumane acts/forcible transfer; extermination; imprisonment; torture; willful killing; unlawful confinement; willfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly; cruel treatment; plunder of public or private property; attacks on civilians; destruction or wilful damage done to historic monuments and institutions dedicated to education or religion; unlawful attacks on civilian objects.

The ICTY indictment reads that Milosevic was responsible for the forced deportation of 800,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, and the murder of hundreds of Kosovo Albanians and hundreds of non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia.

Following Milošević’s transfer, the original charges of war crimes in Kosovo were upgraded by adding charges of genocide in Bosnia and war crimes in Croatia.

Milošević famously used Socialist rhetoric to advance a Nationalist agenda, delivering speeches to huge crowds who, in “performing the public” under his guidance, collectively constructed a xenophobic national identity. Milošević is said to have opportunistically exploited and exacerbated ethnic tensions, killed political opponents and tacitly, if not overtly, facilitated the Srebrenica massacre. He also established the “Milošević Commission” comprised of Belgrade’s leading neoliberal economists to implement “free market” reforms.

One imagines this project will explore the links between Milošević’s Nationalist Socialist politics, neoliberal economics and exertions of power in relation to group mentality, asking questions of participants about the nature of personal agency, individual responsibility and complicity in a state governed by political terror.

The performance was funded in part by New York Live Arts’ Suitcase Fund international cultural exchange program with support from The Trust for Mutual Understanding. It comes after a two-week research residency which will result in work-in-progress showing Feb 7 at 6:00pm of a new project, Dance of Precatiat (working title), focusing on the work of The Workers Dance Movement in New York City in the 1930’s. The movement was a specific phenomenon in modern dance in the U.S. It was formed by working class and immigrant dancers who were attracted to both the modern dance world and radical political activity. The research will examine the work of the Workers Dance League, New Dance Group and other groups and individuals whose focus was on political choreography, human condition, and struggle for social change.

Ana Vujanović and Saša Asentić
On Trial Together
Feb 20 – 22 at 7:30pm
New York Live Arts Theater, New York Live Arts
Tickets: $15, $20
T: 212-924-0077 | www.newyorklivearts.org
219 W 19th Street, New York, NY 10011
Box Office hours:
Monday-Friday 1 – 9pm | Saturday-Sunday 12 – 8pm

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