When State of Emergency Becomes a Constant
During the very preparation of the exhibition World-Information.Org in Novi Sad, Serbia, on the March 12th, 2003, 10 days before the opening, Zoran Đinđić, Prime Minister of Serbia was assassinated. The same day, state of emergency was declared in the country, with the aim to investigate his assassination and to arrest the perpetrators, followed by greater authority of the police to act, in a period of over one month. It was the event that deeply shook up Serbia, which, in many different ways, pushed all other events taking place at that time to the background, including the exhibition itself. From the present perspective, it could be said that this event in a certain sense accentuated exactly those elements of the exhibition dealing with certain aspects of laws which constrain people's lives, by introducing contemporary control mechanisms aiming towards the primacy of the private over the public and of collective responsibilities over individual freedom.
According to some opinions, the power to declare the state of emergency defines a country's sovereignty. But political theorists such as Giorgo Agamben have criticized this idea, arguing that the mechanism of the state of emergency deprives certain people of their civil rights, producing what he terms homo sacer ("the sacred man"). Agamben investigates how the proliferation of laws within a state of emergency or crisis can become a prolonged state of being, operating to rob individuals of their citizenship. In Serbia, the state of emergency was declared, the state took power to act beyond law, but instead of revealing the political background of this assassination and acting on it, it prolonged this continuous state of being. Different laws and legislations were introduced and implemented, such as the law on piracy, which directly pointed to one of the side-effects of such a condition, which is to endanger peoples' civil liberties.
The whole state of emergency and the long trial of Đinđić's assassins, which is still ongoing today, are marked by both engagement of the police, secret services and the government, but also by their genuine inability and unwillingness to cast light on the political motivation for such a violent act. The assassins were sentenced in 2007, but the complex net of accomplices and certain political figures in the background of the assassination remain unrevealed.
At the opening of the World-Information.Org Exhibition in Novi Sad, director of the Public Netbase t0, Konrad Becker, stated that it seems that the whole world is in a state of emergency and that in Serbia people seem to be aware of it – partly the people of Serbia and partly the Serbian government. Agamben claims that the difference between oppressive regimes and democracy is indeed thin. Concentration camps, Guantanamo Bay, and the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers are created as entire zones of exception, and the state of exception becomes a status under which certain categories of people live, whose lives are captured by law. In Serbia, the state of emergency failed to permanently capture those responsible for the assassination of the Prime Minister, while "softly" keeping all its other citizens in captivity, not by implementation of specific behavioural acts, but through making it generally impossible for people to comprehend the political stances of this criminal act. There is a tendency in today's society to extend such processes to all citizens, treating the entire population as a suspect – except those who actually represent the criminal body.
|Projects||World-Information.Org Serbia (Novi Sad / Belgrade) 2003
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