The experimental video Zagreb Everywhere seeks to preserve the mystery of the Croatian capital, as producer and writer for the film Gordana P Crnković reveals.
Zagreb Everywhere (2001), an experimental video portrayal of the city of Zagreb, Croatia, is a synthesis of spoken word, audio verité, music and multi-layered video, presenting an unorthodox evocation of the city. In this Croatian-American collaboration, Gordana P Crnković (Croatia), here in the role of writer and producer, reads in voice-over her texts of various genres related to the city, including overheard dialogues, anecdotes, jokes, fantastic tales, impressions and reflections. Composer David Hahn (USA) provides the soundscape for the piece made from ambient sounds that he recorded in Zagreb and some of his own music performed by Zagreb's musicians. By means of digital video compositing, video artist Victor Ingrassia (US) creates a lush and poignant visual landscape from the still images of the city.
—from the publicity for Zagreb Everywhere
"They move too fast," was my recurrent thought when viewing one or the other movie from a contemporary film production, especially American, with its seemingly never-ending speeding up momentum. I wished for a different cinema, in which camera would be allowed to just hold still a bit longer on a close-up of a face or an object, or on a panoramic view of a landscape. Some of the films I most appreciated were precisely those from the previous eras that, for one reason or another, had exactly that quality of letting their single images stay longer on the screen, making an impact quite incomparable to that of the more fast-paced movies. Satyajit Ray's famous Pather Panchali (India, 1955), for example, makes an indelible impression with the recurrent protracted appearances of a close-up shot of a little patch of still water with some water-lilies and a skating insect above them, not directly connected to anything in the story yet contributing immensely to the overall atmosphere of the film.
Saying that the film's still images should last longer may admittedly sound like a contradiction in terms. After all, "motion picture" designates film as a series of moving photographs which are projected one after another at a speed that creates the illusion of motion thanks to our eye's inability to perceive such a quick succession of single frames. And yet, often times the images in the contemporary films seem too eager to move, as if the motion has overwhelmed the images that were moved, and as if the images themselves became important only as the building blocks of a motion. The motion—as succession of images that make the story—has taken precedence over the picture, and the picture has become only a part of its own motion.
Zagreb Everywhere was envisioned as a video piece that reverses the above described dynamics by focusing on a still image over the motion, and by emphasizing the connection of film and video art with painting and still photos. My collaborators and I wanted the images of the city of Zagreb to be released from being solely the building blocks of the motion they're creating, of this or that story or explanatory narrative (as in a typical documentary). We wanted these images to be presented in a way that allows the viewer to contemplate their complex and multi-layered reality, akin to the way in which a gallery visitor contemplates an exhibit before him/her or the way in which someone leisurely strolling through the city may take in or pause before new vistas.
The visual aspect of the video was thus based not on film shots but rather on the 120 photographs of the city of Zagreb taken in 1998-99 by David Hahn and myself, and processed by means of digital video compositing by Seattle's video artist Victor Ingrassia (using Apple's video editing software Final Cut Pro). By slowing down some of the images of Zagreb and really looking at them, the video also attempts to reclaim the city (and by association the wider area) from the real-life and conceptual simplification and "flattening" that was often done in the much of the 1990s by domestic and western politics, media, and scholarly and popular discourses. This simplification reduced that milieu and its inhabitants to one-dimensional spaces and people exhaustible by a reference to ethnicity or the position with regard to the then on-going violence in the Balkans.
Ingrassia used digital video compositing to make the stills alive in unique ways. The movement in the video is not that of a quick succession from one image to another, but rather that which focuses a viewer's attention on an image itself by, say, going towards it or away from it or sideways (all replicating a possible viewer's moving with regard to a picture), by giving different levels of light to the same image, or by adjusting the opacity of images and making them translucent and thus allowing the images to show through one another. The resulting texture of the video is vibrant and the visual movement is rich, but it is that of an eye as it encounters and examines an image, sees the various aspects of the image in changed perspectives of light, distance, positioning, etc., and makes mental connections with other images through similarities of lines, colors, compositions or themes.
The images also reappear in different contexts that change their potential meanings. The "title image" of the video, for example, is that of a woman's face painted in bold black on one of Zagreb's old facades; this black and white image reappears in different moments of the video and creates a somewhat different atmosphere each time, depending on the visual and textual environment in which it finds itself.
The images also interact with the soundscape and the spoken texts. There are sixteen unrelated short texts which I wrote and read in a voice-over, one text for each of the sixteen segments of the video. The texts are written in a variety of genres, including jokes, anecdotes, conversations, poems, fantastic tales and so on. These different genres point at different realms that co-exist in the city—a moment in the relation between a father and his daughter in the poem "Hand to Hand," for example, a grotesque story about one woman's visit to the hospital ("Getting There"), a joke heard in the tram ("Joke"), or a fairy tale in verse (Once Upon a Time). The images are not illustrations of the texts (or a soundscape) and the texts are not explanations of images. Instead, the relationship between the two is that of mutual resonance and dialogue where sides interact with each other but still preserve their autonomy.
As an experimental video that brings back the weight of the images of one city by focusing on them and reclaiming them from a motion that would transcend them, Zagreb Everywhere is at the same time an unorthodox lecture on my home town. It puts into perspective all the many "knowledgeable" and authoritative narratives that were made about this city and the whole wider area of Croatia and the former Yugoslavia (especially in the 1990s with regard to the wars and the violence in the Balkans), by bringing back the violated mystery of a city which appears in any of its numerous complex vistas when they are truly seen. 
Gordana P Crnković
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