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Post-Conflict Mind Check


Liliana Zambrano
Jenny Lamphere
Jon Jonoski



Post-Conflict Mind Check?

Hi, we are Liliana Zambrano (BA Industrial Design), Jennifer Lamphere (MA History) and Jon Jonoski (MA Media Studies). We have come to MediaLab to work on the Post-Conflict Mind Check project.  The aim of our project is to develop a tool for personal reflection on, and critical thinking about, the Yugoslavian post-war legacy. If that sounds a bit vague, do not despair. We are aware that this is a bit more of a theoretical project, than the usual ones at MediaLab. That does not make it any less interesting though, and on this blog we will do our best to show that in an accessible way.


Let’s start with some background. Since 1946, Yugoslavia was a federal republic consisting of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. On 25 June 1991 Slovenia was the first of these nations to declare itself independent. Soon after, the other nations followed Slovenia’s example, and the Yugoslav Wars started. Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia were most directly involved in these wars, but the conflict affected the whole region in a way that is tangible to this day. The region is now mostly peaceful, but the problems that caused the conflict have not really disappeared. In some ways the situation is currently worse than it was a couple of years ago. While many nations have gone through important reforms, and some have even joined the EU, nationalistic and conservative ideals are re-emerging. Consequently for many people it has become harder to freely discuss their culture and history. Each nation has its own deeply ingrained preconceptions about both itself and the other nations, which often leads to self-censorship and cautiousness.


There are many people who hope to transcend these preconceptions/stereotypes, but cannot do so, because they are so deeply embedded in their society. These people are our main target group. Our project should enable them to freely discuss their past, present and future. We do not yet know how to achieve that, though it seems pretty clear that we should create some sort of interactive, virtual or physical, space, that will allow for personal reflection, critical thinking, and/or free interaction.


Coincidentally, the environment of MediaLab is a good example of such a space. This semester the 18 interns, divided over six different projects, come from all over the world There are only six from the Netherlands. The rest of them come from Italy, Colombia, Greece, USA, Spain, Japan, Germany, England and Brazil. We are all very happy to discuss our cultural differences and similarities in an open-minded way, which leads to a joyously international atmosphere. It must be said though that most of these multicultural conversations eventually circle back to the subject of food. Now we know that Colombians eat omelet five times a week, that in Denver they eat bison, and that all your preconceptions about Italians and pasta are completely true.

We also did some work of course. For example we made a video in which we tried to show/define our target group.  Of course such a video needs to have a suitable soundtrack. After listening to countless of Yugoslavian pop, rock and folk, we eventually decided on an instrumental version of Sting’s Fragile. Was that the best choice? Perhaps not. As the always straightforward Angelo exclaimed our video has the vibe of a 1990’s Spanish telenovela. That’s a fair, and accurate, criticism, we are not greatly experienced filmmakers, and this was the first video we did together. Having said that, we did manage to show in our video what we wanted. We wanted show that your opinion on the war and its aftermath doesn’t matter for our project. All that matters is that you are willing to critically reflect on it, and discuss it. Our video is also a bit abstract, because we didn’t want to show any specific stereotypes/events/nations, which might influence our target group. We want people to be completely free in what they want to think about.

A couple of days after making the video we visited our partner, Creative Court. They helped us define our main research question, which is: How can Creative Court facilitate reflective thinking on current preconceptions inthe former Yugoslavia? Creative Court is a Hague-based organization that develops art projects related to issues of peace and justice. It is a very interesting and inspiring organization, and their enthusiasm for this project is palpable.  During our visit they showed us their project on is on post-genocide Rwanda. Called, Portraits of Reconciliation, the project aims to reflect on the theme of forgiveness. It consists of photographs in which we see a perpetrator and a survivor of genocide being portrayed together. That seems a bit odd at first sight, but not when you consider that these people are often neighbors. For many, forgiveness is not just a moral issue, but also a practical one. They need to live together. This wonderful New York Times article goes into more detail:


This weekend we will visit Rooms of Humanity. Created by De Balie and Creative Court, this is an experimental installation that explores human behavior in war and genocide. We will discuss this further in our next post, in which we will also write something on the Bosnian movie No Man’s Land. 


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