About the making of Balkan wars: The game


   The idea of The Making of Balkan Wars: The Game project came from one of those discussions within the Personal Cinema group about the reality (or virtual reality) presented through official narratives and industrial entertainment, about war games and epic strategy video games, about the primacy of an American Californian industry in the production and complete control of this specific market, which engages millions of people, worldwide. In a desperate search for the creation of local heroes and imagined zones of conflict, the creators of these visually realistic virtual games, very often present a simplified interpretation of human history and culture. As a consequence this form of virtual reality does not adequately describe the experiences of the people who are caught within the actual war games, and by entering homes all over the world threatens the character of national identity and any kind of democratic principles and rights to free opinion. In the live real-time/real-war videos of CNN and in video games, this simplification of culture and history is itself a form of violence.

   Personal Cinema reacts and responds to this significant phenomena. The Making of Balkan Wars project uses the formal characteristics of the epic adventure video game to critique the real historical game that transpires on the plane of geopolitics and everyday life.

   The idea of our project is to create a game like platform based on real time historical facts in which the chosen storyboard territory is the Balkan Peninsula … this for a few reasons:

- because the best and the most known Balkan products are war (some 55 counted in the history books), conflict (religious, political, social, gender…), nationalism, hate, ethnic cleansing, which means there is a real structure necessary to create an epic strategy war game in which no imaginary situations or heroes are necessary

- because this region is completely neglected by the epic strategy video game production, so we offer a completely new point of view

- because we propose to change a long time Balkan status of being an object to the status of the subject in international relations, even though we approach this through virtual means


  What are the topics of this territory? In comparison to the rest of the world the Balkan peninsula is characterized by:

• A Remarkable linking and "transiting" function.

Great ethnic, cultural and civilizational heterogeneity. We have here the cultural and civilizational systems of Eastern Christianity, Western Christianity, Islam and Hebrew.

Political fragmentation. If all recognized and non-recognized political and territorial units are taken into account, there are 13 of them, 8 different languages are spoken.

Low levels of economic development, particularly when compared to Western, Central, and Northern Europe.

   And so the specific process of this area is termed "Balkanization", meaning political and geographic fragmentation, quarrels and intolerance among the Balkan peoples, and foreign domination. Today, there are still 21 regions of acute and potential conflict and political clashes within the Balkans. Almost each state has at least one unresolved issue with its neighbors. Almost each state "is at war" with the others. Such political relations hardly exist anywhere else in the world.

   As you can see, here in the Balkans, we are unfortunately living constantly in some situation of war and tension. It is foolish neglect that pretends that such a thing doesn’t exist anymore and that it belongs to the past. It is useless changing the term Balkans because of its’ negative connotation in the Southern East Europe Region. We feel that only by showing and putting into dialogue these cultural, political and religious differences in the region, national beliefs and different interpretations of the same common history, can we have a better and more complete view of the situation. Only in this way can we understand and learn to except these differences and free our minds of many existing prejudices. We aspire to show to the world the real and not the usual interpretated, dinner time served media news story. This is the ideology of the Making of Balkan Wars: The Game project.

   We are calling on artists, who are or were directly or indirectly involved in this Balkan experience to participate in the Making of the game: making to indicate a kind of work in progress that can develop and change, game, to indicate the entertainment issue, the didactic issue and the concept of win/vanity. Entertainment issue (even if based on real and sometimes cruel facts and situations, something that is very common in the media, especially television), the didactic issue of the project (as a response to educational video game programs, controlled by a one sided interpretation of global culture and history). Win and vanity issue – this is actually what the epic strategy war games are all about, your goal is to win, but in the real wars there are no winners, everybody looses. In our game, everybody participates, our players and spectators only receive the messages and we offer them the opportunity to learn how to behave and act in a simulated Balkan reality. We are giving the possibility to the artists to express and to show the other parts of the story, the story told in Balkan terms using images and the codes of new technology as a common language within the high tech societies. We encourage nationalistic poetics and political art proposals on the one hand and the new media technology on the other. This is something that is very unusual since technology in general follows the highly developed and tolerant societies. In the Balkans we are still working on both – on the technological and on tolerance development. Participating artists are called to provide alternate representations of Balkan history and identity, to depict the reality of the Balkan Wars from a Eurasian perspective. They are encouraged to use humor, parody, ‘’detournement’’, and irreverence to bring to light themes related to The Making of Balkan Wars: The Game. We aim to put these very strong messages into a continuous and constructive dialog creating different virtual and real levels of conflict. The project addresses itself to the specific knowledge, abilities, resources, and creative practices of the participating artists, in order to re-imagine a future in which the people of the Balkans are something more than victims of history. It offers space for dialogue based on history and on personal experience. It is an opportunity to articulate new narratives that resonate with the memories and experiences of the artists, many of whom have faced first-hand the contradictions of the dominant media representations.

   The Making of Balkan Wars: The Game, is not going to be only a video game. It will be a virtual event, in the form of an Internet site, which will host the images of selected works offering a virtual exhibition preview during the entire period of the project, and a real event, in the form of exhibitions hosted at different spaces in different countries and supported by local institutions during the period from Autumn 2003 through 2004. Some of the proposed sites are Thessalonica, Skopje, Belgrade, Athens, Tirana, Bucharest, Brussels and Karlsruhe. The number of participating artist will be 30 or so, along with an unlimited number in the web art section, mostly, but not exclusively, from the southeastern region of Europe.

   How will we select the artists and art works? There are two ways. Thanks to a large number of our international collaborators, institutional supporters and our personal research and contacts, some of the artists have been selected a priori and invited directly. In addition, we have distributed a large number of promo cd-roms and e-mails with an open call for participation. This is part of the Personal Cinema continuous research in the area of new distribution systems. Plus, at the Personal Cinema official web site you can find all the details on the project. In this way, the submission is open to everybody and project curators will make the final selection.

   In the era of preventive wars, The Making of Balkan Wars: The Game is intended as a first preventive ‘’art war", in which the character of the game offers the opportunity for serious inquiry into the matter of preventive strategy.

 Nina Vagic