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Sanja Mitrovic – Will You Ever Be Happy Again?

Eylül Akıncı

Sanja Mitrović’s semi-documentary work based on the post WWII trauma and identity production of German and Serbian population is an energetic, non-linear, highly personal but not apologetic/accusatory dramatic performance accompanied by German artist Jochen Stechmann. Mitrović carefully avoids being didactic while presenting her criticism of her own national history, yet she subtly asks the question whether a better future is possible.

The performance is constructed as children’s play; Mitrović plays the partisan, Stechmann the Nazi. With this identification both confronts with the shames of their national history while at the same time revealing their personal wounds as the survivors in quite indirect, playful ways. Yet admittedly most of the time this inferential and funny references lean simply on props and objects; they convey a plethora of images and autobiographical marks, but it sometimes feels too exhibition-like and distracting, stealing the stage from the artists themselves whose performing capacity is quite dynamic and powerful itself. Overall, the performance does not make a clear-cut politic statement, which actually reflects the current (im)possibilities of speaking out with a solid position and demanding such and such lives, thus it becomes political thoroughly.

Watching Will You Ever Be Happy Again? In Istanbul also creates different layers of historical awareness on the local audience’s part, which probably could not have been calculated by Mitrović. The authoritarian rule of Tito, the discipline over the minds and bodies of Serbian and German population (remember “The healthy spirit is found in healthy body” versus “The healthy mind is found in healthy body”), the genocide, the aggressive nationalism, the illusion of welfare and solidarity are all too familiar to us Turkey residents. The laughter comes not from an ironic alienation or distance but rather an intense identification that puts the spectator in an unexpected ease, relief and dialogue with his/her own past. The children’s play structure and disseminated presentation allows a space for us to unconsciously enter the scene as another member. The same absurdity is going on here, we feel, and that makes the play all the more enjoyable and readable in spite of afore mentioned weaknesses.

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