SANDRA VITALJIĆ (Croatia)
On September 9th 1993 the Croatian army launched a military operation called Medak Pocket, which had the aim of reducing the pressure of the Serbian rebels on the city of Gospić. Medak Pocket is an area 4-5 km wide and 5-6 km long involving villages of Divoselo, Ćitluk and Počitelj. Although the Croatian forces had achieved a tactical victory and temporarily pushed Serbian forces from the area, the operation was marked by controversy because of skirmishes between the Croatian army and UN peace keepers, and the killing of 36 Serbian civilians, most of them older than 60, after the end of the military operation. Serbian properties were systematically looted and destroyed to prevent Serbian population from returning. In 2000 another 11 corpses were found in one septic tank in the part of the town which used to be inhabited by Serbs. Although part of the Serbian population eventually returned to the area, Medak Pocket is still largely abandoned.
*Infertile Grounds (2009-2012)
Sandra Vitaljić’s Infertile Grounds series of photographs are marked by trauma, historical events and human experience. The locations in the photographs are not just beautiful landscapes but sites that have gained strong symbolism due to their historical context and the fact that they have in one way or another, contributed to the formation of Croatia’s national identity. Woods, fields and rivers that are part of Croatia’s folk tales and myths have also become part of a rhetoric legitimizing political discourse and ideology. Some of the documented places are very well known; hence every resident of Croatia, and the neighbouring region, will bring a range of common knowledge and media generated interpretations to their reading of the photographs. Other places have been entirely forgotten or have only recently been discovered. The actual number of victims on all sides has always been manipulated for political purposes. Old victims were revived in political speeches calling people to arms. The recent bloody war in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s was a repetition and a continuation of the events of WWII. Although the bodies themselves are not visible in the photographs, they are nevertheless still present, in the pictures as in our daily lives.
Sandra Vitaljić, born 1972 in Pula, works as an artist and as associate professor at the Cinematography Department of the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb where she lives and works.