“It Rains Differently”
FOREST: “I was born in Yugoslavia. The countless hands of Youth Work Actions built the new country’s transport infrastructure, its bloodlines; they planted the forest so that its young body could breathe, its blood circulate, to strengthen the heart, stimulate the body to grow, regenerate itself, rejoice. I came out of a notion of natural and social revival by using the power of the collective body that shaped the body of the new federal state.” (It Rains Differently by T. Šljivar, D. Dražić, and M. Dragosavljević)
There she is, evergreen Forest*, on the karst Pešter plateau in southwest Serbia. Thick and dark and remote. Forest is surrounded by meadows. In summer, the grass in the meadows dries, becomes yellow, blends with the color of the soil from which it grows. Meandering dirt roads – stones and earth. The ride is bumpy and slow. We get out of the car and walk toward Forest. The trees form a wall. The beginning and end of the wall cannot be seen. The massive curved wall rises before us. It is as old as we are. Our gaze cannot penetrate its surface. It resides in the depth of its mass, deep within the darkness of Forest.
We drive away. The same road winds through a scattered mountain village toward a hill that faces Forest. We get out of the car again. The hill becomes a viewing platform from which we observe Forest. She seems more solid when regarded from a distance, presenting herself as an immense man-made structure. Forest is both known and new to me. I was here before, when I was a child. There was no Forest then. The hills were crowded with young people carrying pine seedlings. They planted and tended the seedlings. State-organized (re)forestation actions took place every summer from 1978 until 1988 throughout the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
The first location visit to Pešter took place from August 22 to 30, 2023 as part of my artistic research and development of the film entitled It Rains Differently. I was joined by Hannes Boeck (DOP), Bojan Palikuća (sound designer), Tanja Šljivar (dramaturg), and Mirjana Dragosavljević (art historian and activist) to work on a portrait of the forest as a fictional character.
The film is a meditation on collective labor, on an imaginary that fulfills itself through the form of Forest, who is in constant creation and thus manages to persist throughout all the changes. Forest – a transnational, political, social, and cultural collective body.
Written by Dušica Dražić
*In Serbo-Croatian, the grammatical gender of “forest” (šuma) is feminine.
Visit to still active nursery Uvac. Ivan Kaličanin, forestry technician, shows us a one-year-old pine seedling produced here and explains the technology of production and reforestation.
Hannes Boeck (DOP) – location hunting and test shoot for the film It Rains Differently.
Bojan Palikuća (sound designer) – location hunting and test shoot for the film It Rains Differently.
Remains of the kitchen used during the 1978–1988 reforestation actions with writing on the wall “Ovde se kuju novi ljudi” (“New people are forged here”).
Mirjana Dragosavljević (art historian and activist) recording Forest.
Tanja Šljivar (dramaturg) with Mirjana Dragosavljević during a research trip to Gutavica.
Dušica Dražić (artist) and Tanja Šljivar during a research trip.
Photographs by Drušica Dražić and Mirjana Dragosavljević.
It Rains Differently is produced by Escautville/BE, co-produced by Out of Sight/BE within the Forest Encounters project co-funded by the European Union, and Diasporama/RS. It is co-funded by the European Union, the Flemish Audio-Visual Fund, and supported by a.o. Forest Institute Belgrade, MORPHO, KAAP…
Special thanks to: Ljubinko Rakonjac, Ivan Kaličanin, Željko Kaličanin, Enis, Murat Tarić and his son Asmir, Milutin and Dragana Dražić, Rade Rakonjac, and the many others who shared their memories and personal stories about Forest.