I met Susana Mendes Silva in the autumn of 1998 in Sarajevo, in a workshop integrated in the preparation of a Young Artists Biennale and whose works would be exhibited in Rome in the spring of 1999. An exceptional situation in which all participants were suffering the impact of the city of Sarajevo, a city with an immense symbolic charge and a strong physical presence, and at the same time they were managing the intensive interaction within the group of nearly twenty young artists from very different origins, from the Balkans to Israel, from the Nordic countries to the island of Cyprus. The potential confrontation of experiences and sensibilities, exchange of information and opinions, is immense but to the artist to whom is asked to react and present a project in a short period of time it is not easy to find the concentration, the intimacy and the self-centeredness that are needed to the elaboration of a personal point of view.
The work accomplished by Susana Mendes Silva seems to us exemplar in the way it handles the evidences and the complex and contradictory emotions imposed by the city.
Everyone saw the images of the siege and the bombing of Sarajevo. But beyond it all they were images and it was a feeling, a feeling of indignation. Today the concrete experience of the city confirms everything with the disturbing physical addition of reality. It was right there where the tanks were. It was right there that the bodies felt down. These were the holes made by the bullets. These were the craters opened in the streets. These were the destroyed buildings. This happened. It was real. It is real. What happened can not have happened. It is there. But the inadmissible has to give place to the plausible. The impossible reality has to give place to the possibility of reality. Edin Numankadic, a visual artist that lived in Sarajevo during all the siege period, insists: "Time is needed. Time is needed". That's it: life needs time, life is time.
The work that Susana Mendes Silva made for the Rome exhibition is directly related with the concrete reality of the city physical destruction. Images of buildings with bullets are printed in fabric, later applied in embroidery frames. The holes made by the author are in the same spot as the images of the bullet impacts, and after she roughly mended them. It is literally about to suture, to re-bound, to heal, to restore the surface of a brutally forced physical body, the body of the city.
I talked with people from Sarajevo that speak about the city as they spoke about their own body. One would say that they know it like each one of us knows his/her own body: weaknesses, beauties, ruins, splendors, details, relives, scars, sparkles. They tell a clinical story like a history of the events once diagnosed, identified, that has left signs that can be shown, commented. They also evoke what was not still identified, the symptoms that have not found their systemic frame. They approach from terrible or wonderful things that are just about to be able to be said: there are only a few missing words, that are still only almost available, a little bit more time. They do not speak about what cannot be said, like we don't speak about certain things in our bodies, just because we cannot speak. We do not know what to say. Sometimes we strongly feel the presence of things that we do not know what to say about them.
It is here that the work of Susana Mendes Silva presented in this book, the series of photographs "Delicatesse
" gains all its meaning. Apparently it is the reverse approach to the spectacular evidence of the martyr city, made in the work described before. But this is a complementary reverse, we could almost say indispensable. It is a work of silence, of wait, of the suspension of proclamations. A work that is mostly based in searching time, finding time, giving time. In order to reconstruct an intimacy. In order to reconstruct a habitability. A silent and lonely work. It is here that the word "delicacy" gains all its sense of being.
The reflection about intimacy and domestic space, characteristic of the author work responds here to the circumstance and specific difficulties of her Sarajevo's experience and maybe to what might be considered a vital imperative suggested by the city itself: more time, paused time after the massacre.