Gabriel Peveroni's Sarajevo esquina Montevideo

Image from Teatro Puerto Luna performance of Sarajevo esquina Montevideo (2003)
This week my reading has focused on transnational advocacy networks that allow citizens to pressure their own governments by appealing to other countries for assistance.  While transnational advocacy networks have proven to be effective in terms of local groups getting international leverage in order to effect policy change, one of the downsides is that these networks tend to resurrect colonial relationships (See Keck and Sikkink’s Activists BeyondBorders, 1998.)  This view of transnational networks influences my reading of Gabriel Peveroni’s Sarajevo esquina Montevideo.

Gabriel Peveroni’s Sarajevo esquina Montevideo, subtitled, El Puente is a play about Bora Parzic, a Croatian patient in a psychiatric hospital in Sarajevo during the siege of the city between 1992 and 1996.  The actor who plays Bora, a Uruguayan of Yugoslavian decent, is also a character in the play that explains his identification with Bora and, for this reason, his desire to play the part.  The story of Bora takes places in Sarajevo and the story of the Actor takes place in El Cerro, a traditional neighborhood in Montevideo known for its Yugoslav community.  The play premiered in Montevideo in April 2003 at the Teatro Puerto Luna, a theater located in El Cerro, the neighborhood featured in the play itself.

In Imagining Human Rights in Twenty-First Century Global Theatre (2013) Brenda Werth argues that by linking Uruguay and Yugoslavia, Peveroni dismantles the standard binaries between North and South and East and West that have historically constructed the South and the East as “other.”  Werth argues that Peveroni’s work is not defined primarily through a relationship with a dominant imagined geographical area (See Imagining Human Rights in Twenty-First Century Global Theatre, Hernández, Werth, Becker, 90).  Instead of being hierarchical, Peveroni constructs the transnational relationship as a parallel one that draws out the similarities between two contexts and does not pose the moral or cultural dominance of one country over another.  The logic of the play pushes back against traditional understandings of historical violence based on representations of the “otherness” and the “barbarism” of the South and the East.  

Similarly, the play can be read as a criticism of transnational networks represented in the figure of the Photographer/ Film Maker who Bora calls a buitre, a scavenging vulture.  Bora is incensed at the way that the Cameraman seems to chase after bloody images.  The Cameraman insists that he is just doing his job and that his images denounce what is happening in Sarajevo before the world.  Bora responds that international aid is a façade that only calms the guilty consciences of people in London and Paris.  In reality, Bora says that international “aid” is the root cause behind the deaths, tortures and rapes of thousands and the construction of concentration camps.  Cameramen, he adds, are always looking for scraps of flesh (For more on the ethics of representing pain, see Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag.  Throughout the play, the cameraman is positioned outside of the barbed wire along with the audience who is drawn into the role of a public hungry for images of war and atrocity.

Gabriel Peveroni’s work expands the vision of transnational networks to include relationships between countries based on global flows of people that do not necessarily resurrect colonial relationships.  In an interview with Brenda Werth, Peveroni says that this work is not about memory, but rather about the present and how performance can provide a space for working through the traumas of the present.  By staying away from standard binaries of North and South and East and West, the violence in Sarajevo esquina Montevideo is not represented as the problem of a barbaric people, but rather as a global problem of humanity as a whole.