Manja Ristić

commissioned radio productions

Manja Ristić – “Nothing Has To Happen, Fortress Europe”

TX: Sunday, 13th Feb, 3pm – 3.40pm + Monday, 14th Feb, 12pm – 12.40pm

Additional broadcast on Kunstradio, Ö1, Austria 20th Feb, 11pm – 12am CET

In January 2020 I found myself in Ljubljana exploring abandoned spaces as a continuation of my obsession with listening to the Third Landscape – Gilles Clément’s concept which considers, among other things, abandoned urban landscapes or those which suffered an explicit human intervention as places good for thriving bio-diversities which are building the genetic reservoirs that an overall Ecosystem is dependant on. I instantly got hooked by the largest city project – The Sport Park Stožice. It was supposed to include sport facilities and a vast commercial area but only the public part was built, the arena and the stadium. Eighty thousand square meters of the shopping centre remained unfinished.

Belgrade January 2017, Photo by Lazara Marinković

As often, politics and economics are inseparable, and as corruptive mechanisms become more obvious, both reveal deep submergence into necropolitics. A capital cumulation on the detriment of basic social rights leading to a radical devaluation of a human life. To cut the story short, most of the “modern” societies “background” economics can be reduced to arms sales, drugs, and human trafficking routes. Beneath them are stock value of oil and lithium, gold and diamonds. 

Please be careful, you’ll be trespassing”, said a dear friend.

The private partner in the public-private largest investment in Slovenia since the 1970s went bankrupt in 2012. 

There were irregularities in the expenditure of EU funds, the then-Mayor pleads not guilty in the latest lawsuit investigating the case. 

There used to be a wonderful pond, and a hilly landscape… now it’s just concrete, wherever you look, there’s concrete.”

It was a crispy January morning, I wore my army boots. The site was enormous. Several concrete terraces were covered in various surfaces, reaching as far as the eye can see. I decided to just walk.

people were falling in the streets
shivering in agony, for what they saw would hit them
like a bolt, scalding them from within,
the Great War was now inside them

A few days before, I was waiting in line at a crowded ticket office at the Belgrade bus station, when two 16-year-old boys approached me for help. They were trying to reach a certain newly established migrant camp in Bosnia but they claimed that the lady behind the counter refused to sell them tickets. So I got into an argument with her, when she finally shouted at me, “The camp is not in that town, it’s in this one, and there is no bus to there, they mixed up the names! You almost sent them in the wrong direction! Anyway, they are completely confused”. I looked at her not hiding my concern about the two boys and I mumbled “…you would be confused too after reaching here on foot all the way from Afghanistan”. 

I took the boys aside, made several phone calls with friends who are journalists and human rights activists, and found them the route to that camp, knowing that I’m only sending them to an even greater uncertainty and potential danger, because the closer you get to the border with the EU the uglier it gets. 

People migrating from the Middle East and Africa spend years in the remote Balkan forests constantly dealing with severe weather, hunger, exhaustion, sickness, violent pushbacks by border police, a landscape full of land mines from ex-Yu wars. They have to face people smugglers and traffickers, and local neo Nazis that proudly call themselves human head hunters. Passing the part of the Balkan route closer to the border with the EU they call The Game. 

Sometimes, after years in the deadly forests, they manage to reach Slovenia and then get violently pushed back or deported. An Iranian single mother of two was illegally pushed back from the Croatian border 22 times over a period of 2 years. In the end, local people in the little border town stood up and hid them, until they found a way to get lawyers, national media and trustworthy immigration officers to help her. She was asking for her legal right to gain an asylum. 

Pushbacks on the borders of EU are violent and illegal.
Pushbacks on the borders of EU are violent and illegal. 
Pushbacks on the borders of EU are violent and illegal. 

Belgrade January 2017, Photo by Lazara Marinković

your voice bounces within narrow memories, leaks down the carvings of space – shame is taped to the frost, limbs darken in the harsh Belgrade winter. blood trails in the snow lead to the great house of despair, as there were different deaths for them and us, for them and them, for us alone.

I was walking across the derelict construction site thinking about those two boys, about Madina, a six year old Afghan girl struck by a train on the border between Serbia and Croatia after being pushed back in the middle of the night by the Croatian police. “Follow the tracks” they ordered. The family was on the road for two years. 

I was thinking about people losing limbs from unexploded land mines in Bosnian forests. I was thinking about war profiteers in the Balkans, how they found a way to gain immunity for their economic crimes through involvement in politics. About the twisted minds running EU member states and building border camps for people on the migrant route that look no different than concentration camps. I was thinking about the dark heart of Europe swallowing lives, unstoppably. 

And the Fortress I was walking on was barren, derelict and intoxicated. Swollen by greed. Cold and deadly.

still landscape soaked & burgeoning
the rainbow is piercing lead horizon
flashed by the beams of fleeting Sun
as it was posing above meadows, hills & forests
for the greatest collodion photo

curled up dog is sleeping
in a derelict bus stop
soon the night will fall
and the migrants will roam by the dark highway
wet to the bones

Every time you think “That is somewhere over there. Nothing has to happen”, a child that dreamed of freedom disappears.

Belgrade January 2017, Photo by Lazara Marinković

The composition is made around an excerpt from my Stožice abandoned construction site field recording archive. Recorded in January 2020 during the reZone residency in Ljubljana.
Poetry excerpts from the collection Stories Untold.
Mastering by La Plant Studio Belgrade.


Manja Ristić is a violinist, sound artist, published poet, curator and researcher. She graduated from the Belgrade Academy of Music (2001) and was awarded a PGDip as a Solo/Ensemble Recitalist from the Royal College of Music, London (2004). As a classical solo and chamber musician as well as a composer and an improv musician Manja has performed all across Europe and the US, and has been involved in collaborations with established conductors and performers, multimedia artists, poets, theatre and movie directors. Manja’s sound related research besides contemporary performance in the field of instrumental electro–acoustics, is focused on interdisciplinary approaches to sound and field recording as well as experimental radio arts.

Manja is the founder of the Association of Multimedia Artists Auropolis (since 2004), that by her guidance developed a distinctive number of cultural events, international projects, cultural conferences and educational platforms in the fields of scene and multimedia arts. She works and lives on the island of Korčula, Croatia.

photo: Nina Pernat

‘Nothing Has To Happen, Fortress Europe’ is a co-commission between Radiophrenia and Kunstradio Radiokunst for Ö1, Austria.