Emergency Aesthetics: The Case of the Four Faces of Omarska

This article examines how contemporary artists from the Western Balkans have sought to engage with the legacy of ethnonationalist violence. While attempts to examine and openly discuss war crimes that occurred in this region during the 1990s have largely been undermined by populist politics in successor states, the domain of art has provided a critical platform for disrupting the official erasure of these atrocities. This investigation focuses on the Four Faces of Omarska art collective, whose members examine the war crimes that occurred following the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia by studying the transformation of the Omarska site in north-western Bosnia – a location that has variously served as a mining complex, a death camp, and a set for the filming of an ‘ethno-blockbuster.’ In providing a comprehensive (art) historical analysis of their practice, the article considers the collective’s public engagement strategies by invoking Santiago Zabala’s concept of ‘emergency aesthetics’ as a method for countering the political erasure of urgent issues. This analysis reveals that the significance of the Four Faces of Omarska project extends beyond its immediate post-socialist context, and indeed provides a model of creative practice fit for our era of planetary crisis.

ARTMargins Online, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp. 54-75.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00363

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/12/3/54/118290/Emergency-Aesthetics-The-Case-of-the-Four-Faces-of

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